Mindset First. The Business Will Follow.

The transition from a startup to a well-functioning growing business can be tricky. Hence, why I call it the “teenage” phase of business. Some are conscious about the growth of the business, know their worth and adjust accordingly. A good example of this is social media Chris Brogan who wrote an excellent behind-the-scenes post about it called Redrawing.

I see many other businesses who struggle with how to scale their business–especially when it comes to serving clients and adjusting their services or products. It’s a familiar story I hear from founders all the time. An entrepreneur starts a business. Because they’re just starting out they take every client they can get. Typical of this phase of business. Fast forward a couple of years. They’ve been relatively successful and have a steady list of clients. Now comes the tricky part. They’re still acting as if they’re brand new to business. They’re reluctant to raise prices. They continue to act on the whims of their clients rather than setting up a relationship that works for them as well.

Bottom line: They don’t want to demand too much from their current clients. They’re afraid they’re going to scare away that steady cadre of business.

The Transition From Startup to Growing Business Can Be Tough

1133804 sign success and failure Mindset First. The Business Will Follow.This is a common problem for businesses that are past the startup phase and moving into (or further into) the growth phase of business. While their skills and ability provide quality services or products has evolved, their beliefs haven’t. The white knuckle mindset (as I like to call it) will actually cause a business to stagnate.  Or worse, the business holds on for dear life to their customers and existing standard operating procedures–white knuckling it all the way into decline. Business is not only about the tangible things like pricing, marketing, product development and feature sets.

It’s also a mental game. You have to know what you’re worth–and ask for it. If you don’t, you’ll miss growth opportunities. You’ll set your prices to low or allow the client to negotiate the price. You might give away too much for free. You’ll run all over town (or the online equivalent) trying to meet unrealistic demands of clients that serve their needs but not yours.  You’ll be resentful or frustrated. Profits will stay the same–for years. Worst case scenario–you’ll go belly up.

Do the other things matter for a company in the growth phase? Absolutely.  But if your business mindset ain’t right–it doesn’t matter what else you do in the business.

1133804 sign success and failure Mindset First. The Business Will Follow.

So how do you get your mind set for success?

Step1: Know the strength of the business. Figure out what sets you apart (this is also known as differentiation).

Step 2: Plant your flag there. Read: believe in your business. (And yourself)

Step 3: Know what you’re worth.

Step 4: Ask for it.


Do We Need To Play Full Out To Reach Our Potential?

1228124 peacock1 Do We Need To Play Full Out To Reach Our Potential?

This post is a follow-up to my earlier post about living up to your potential.  I’ve also been thinking about playing full out.  You know—really going for it. Taking risks. Not holding back. Not worrying about failing. Not being concerned about how playing full out will affect business.

It’s easy to stay tucked in as a nice safe business going along at a pretty good pace.  It’s going pretty well.  There’s a good foundation of business there.  But what if…The business could serve even more clients?  Serve its current clients in even a more effective way?  That’d be pretty great right?

In order to reach our full potential individually or as a business do we have to play full out?

What would you do differently if you played full out?


How Much of Your Potential Have You Reached?

I recently read an interesting article about Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. Although you can’t read that article here since it’s not online yet here’s another to give you a hint about the caliber of this woman.  This is a woman who has worked for the Clinton administration, the World Bank and Google and now sits on the board of directors for Starbucks.  She’s accomplished immense things in her life and is on her way to even more at Facebook as she is tasked with figuring out how to monetize this rapidly growing enterprise.  She’s close to my age so it makes me think about where I am in my own life in terms of my potential.

1236129 sky and clouds 12 How Much of Your Potential Have You Reached?

Being solidly in the middle part of my career I’m pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’ve worked for some great companies, have created my own company, contributed to extra revenue and expense reduction of about $500k for a company while in an internal facing position, wrote a book, been featured in respected publications and all that sort of good stuff.  I’ve also traveled on my own internationally  and have successfully moved across the country several times with little money, friends and no job.

The funny thing is that I feel like I’ve only tapped into about 40% of my potential professionally.  Given this, something I’ve been pondering on is how do I realize more of my potential?  How do I scale myself?

I have some initial thoughts but I’m going to hold off on sharing them for now.  I’m curious about what other think about this.  What do you think about this?

How much of your potential do you feel you’ve reached so far?

How do you think you can reach even more of your own potential?


The Single Way to Become More Effective This Minute

I recently watched the Jim Carrey movie Yes, Man. Most of the movie spends time focusing on the underlying theme of how saying yes to everything can bring you incredible adventures and results.  By the end the main character finally realizes that saying yes to everything isn’t always an effective method. As Tony Blair once said, It is very easy to say yes.”  Easy—yes.  Smart? Not so much.  It’s easy to get swept along the river of endless requests and to do lists.  It’s easy to go through your day just saying yes rather than making conscious, articulated choices.  The thing that’s often over-looked in all our yessing is that when you say Yes to something you actually say No to something else.  And the thing you’re saying No to might be really important.

While it’s true for everyone on our little ole planet it’s especially true for entrepreneurs and growing businesses.  It’s where it’s toughest since start-ups and growing companies want to get every client they can and have a million things to do—all while on a budget fit for less than a shoestring. As Chris Brogan outlines in this great post it can all become a blur.

Buckle Your seat Belt It’s Hard Truth Time

Saying yes too much to the wrong things will not lead you down the primrose path to a successful business.  In fact, it’s one of the biggest reasons new or expanding companies fail. They Yes their way to the wrong clients.  Or to a price for services that doesn’t really give them the margin they need to be in the black.  They Yes their way to obligations that have diminishing returns.

Stop this.


I mean it.

No Yeah…buts.

To be successful in the business world you need to say yes only to the right things. What do I mean by  the“right” things?

Let’s Do A Little Exercise

Take out a piece of paper and a writing utensil.  Yep—right now.  I’ll wait while you do it.  (Jeopardy theme song playing in the background) Now that you’re ready you have 30 seconds to write down the top 3 priorities for your business/work. These are the things that help you make good on your vision for the business.   Yes—only 3.  Ready, Go!

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Done?  Good.

To illustrate what I mean I’ll share with you the Top 3 priorities for my business

1. Serving clients

2. Making strong connections with entrepreneurs in my area

3. Writing books and sharing thoughts on blog

That’s it. I know–it’s seems so simple.  Maybe you already know this.  So why are you still saying Yes when you should be saying No? Do you have your Top 3 written down?  In ink?  Doing this it will not only allow you to get more done—it’ll allow you to get done the things that matter the most. Hint: If you’re not focusing on them every day–you should be.  What are you saying yes to that isn’t on that list?

One more time.  Just. Say. No.  And then Yes. To your Top 3.


Leadership: One-Size Does NOT Fit All

You know how there are shirts that say one-size-fits-all?  Well I don’t believe them.  I don’t think I’ve ever bought a piece of clothing that was one-size-fits-all.  There are few things in life that truly fall into this category in my opinion.  This includes leadership.  New leaders often ask me what their leadership style should be or how to develop a way of leading.  They’ve often seen all the books and articles that try to distill leadership down into one way of being that is Right (that’s right–with a capital R).  What these authors often point to is a very stereotypical way of leading.  Usually having to do with being an Alpha or by using command and control.  The reality is that there are a vast variety of ways to successfully lead a company or organization.

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moz screenshot 1 Leadership: One Size Does NOT Fit All

Leadership isn’t one-size-fits-all. That’s right.  There isn’t ONE right way to be a leader.  It really depends on a number of different things: Who you are–your personality traits and values. What talents and experiences you bring. What the company needs at this particular phase of business. These are just some of the factors that go into determining your leadership style.  The key is to have a style that is true to who you are and produces results for the company or organization you are leading.  So…

What’s your leadership style?

How do you know when you’re being effective…and when you’re not?

Who is the most effective leader you’ve experienced and why?


Business Partnerships: More Than Just The Legal Mumbo Jumbo

Recently there’s been a spate of conversation in my world about issues related to the ownership of a business and partnerships. In most cases the actual agreement was done or in process.  The founders thought they had settled everything but suddenly found themselves mired with gray tinged situations the agreement didn’t address.  They hadn’t realized that when they went into business together that it’s very akin to a platonic marriage.  There will be inevitable disagreements.  It will get messy.  And the legal paperwork won’t cover all situations.

It’s Not All About the Legal Mumbo Jumbo

Most of the time people enter into agreements regarding equity and the ownership of the business focusing on the legal aspects.  This is perfectly reasonable and absolutely necessary.  What I often find is that they typically step over some of the more tough conversations about the interpersonal stuff.  In other words—they don’t talk about the talking.  They assume that the legal agreement they’ve drawn up will solve any issues around partnership that will come up.  Nope.  It’s actually just a starting point.

In fact, there are many questions that aren’t covered in these agreements.  Most of these will be of the interpersonal type.

Who makes the final decision? (Especially important in times when there’s a big disagreement—which will inevitably happen).

How do we handle disagreements in public? (“Mommy” and “daddy” fighting in public is hard for staff…and clients)

What are our roles and expectations (This is always important but even more important when there’s a large discrepancy in the percent of ownership by the partners.)

Who will manage the people we hire? (Because let’s face it–two bosses never works.)

You Gotta Talk About the Talking

Talking about the talking is something most people avoid—even more than the plague (if that’s possible).  Most people try to avoid these kinds of conversations hoping that if they ignore them the issues will just go away.  This is a business version of peek-a-boo.  What I don’t see doesn’t exist.  This only makes the issues grow in breadth, depth and severity.  Not good.  This just makes the mess get messier.  And uglier.  And harder to resolve easily.

Business peek-a-boo is a high stakes game—one with diminishing returns.  It robs you of valuable time and energy—taking the focus of the founders away from important tasks like: obtaining and maintaining strong client relationships and improving the revenue producing part of your business. In other words: The leadership of your business is essential to get right.

Here are three steps to get you started.

Step 1: Make sure you pick the right partner.  As or even more important than picking the right technology or business.

Step 2: Be willing to address the scary, ugly issues and have messy conversations.  Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Step 3: Communicate some more.