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CLOUDS AND DIRT
The clouds don’t just represent the big picture; they represent the huge picture, the everything. They are not goals. Goals can be achieved and set aside or moved. I’m Going to Buy the Jets is a goal. It drives me, too, but it’s not at the core of how I run my businesses.
The dirt is about being a practitioner and executing toward those clouds. It’s the hard work. On a personal level, my dirt is making sure I communicate well with my loved ones, that I show up and stay present. You know, the stuff of being a good spouse, parent, son, sibling, and friend. Professionally, it’s knowing my craft. It’s noticing changes and trends and figuring out how to take advantage of them before anybody else.
Execution and prioritisation
The vast majority of people tend to play to the middle, which is why they usually only succeed up to a certain level and then plateau.
Alternatively, they get stuck in one or the other, getting so bogged down by minutiae or politics they lose sight of the clouds, or so into the clouds they lose the appetite or neglect the skills they need to execute successfully.
Ideas are worthless without the execution; execution is pointless without the ideas. You have to learn to prioritize properly and quickly identify what’s going to move you further ahead and what’s going to make you stall.
Get your hands dirty
There are too many people who are average at what they do, and then confused by their average results. Everyone has their own definition of clouds and dirt, but if there’s one thing that will change the entire trajectory of your career, it’s to start pushing on both edges.
Raise the bar on your business philosophy, dig deeper into your craft. You want to be an equally good architect as you are a mason. You’ve got to be able to simultaneously think at a high level and get your hands dirty.
If you have pages and pages of notes, but no product, you’ve got nothing.
If you can’t tell me how you’re going to build your product, you’ve got nothing.
And if you are only thinking three years into the future, you’ve got a huge vulnerability.
That’s what people in the middle are doing. The middle keeps everything going the way it always has. The clouds and the dirt break things.
All the best apps, companies, and products have broken the way we live life, transformed how we communicate, and changed our day-to-day. Good products evolve us. You’re surrounded by the middle for 99.9 percent of your life. Most things are unremarkable. Lose yourself in the clouds and the dirt and figure out what you can make that changes the game.
Vagueness sucks. Lack of drive sucks. Half-assing things sucks. And so does the middle.
Cash is oxygen
In the beginning of any venture, it can be difficult to predict your cash cycle and know what to prioritize because everything feels imperative. Customer satisfaction is huge, as are issues like establishing company culture, budget, marketing, and hiring.
But there is one thing that always transcends everything else: Cash. It is the oxygen of your business.
You can make the greatest cup of coffee, the greatest sneaker, the greatest TV show, or the greatest work of art ever, but if you can’t sell your product you are out of business. So your first priority is sales because it generates cash, and cash is what allows you to do everything else. Without it you’re a fish out of water, gasping for breath.
Focus on your strengths
So let’s say you’ve got a good handle on your cash flow. How do you figure out what’s next?
Focus on your strengths. What else are you really good at? Design? Growth hacking? Nail these skills down, and then drill deep with them. If cash is your company’s oxygen, your strongest skills are its DNA. Develop and cultivate them because they will be the hallmark of your company.
This moment when you decide what to focus on next is crucial not only because it’s going to help you grow, but also because it could be what allows you to bring in more key players, people who may not be great at selling but are overwhelmingly talented at something else—something else that complements your own talents.
Bet on your strengths. It’s an underrated business strategy in a world where so many people are obsessed with fixing their weaknesses they give short shrift to the skills they were born with.
Finding a job that’s the right fit
If you can’t find a quality company to pay you to work for them, apply for an internship so you can prove your chops.
Many internships pay, but if you can’t find a paying position, consider working pro bono and turning that into a great opportunity.
Don’t want to work for free? Well, if you’ve been struggling to get a job for three or four months, it’s a lot more productive than sitting around doing nothing. I mean, who’s paying you to do that? Take a pro bono half day in a place where you can pick up skills, network, learn your craft, and get an employer’s attention (or at least guilt her into recommending you to someone else).
Unless you are literally sending out résumés and interviewing eighteen hours straight per day, you’ve got time to volunteer your professional talent somewhere. Find a place where you think you can make doors open, and put your skills into action. We have become too entitled. Go out and earn that job.
Choosing a name
There is no science to choosing a business name. People will agonize for hours, weeks, months, trying to figure out the name for their start-up, hunting for that perfect, zingy, creative name that allows them to “stand out” and “disrupt the category.”
You want to know how you stand out and disrupt the category? It has nothing to do with your name. Just stand out and disrupt the category.
Stop worrying about coming up with the perfect name. Yes, a good name carries some marketing power, but at the end of the day if the product sucks, the name means nothing. If you have a clever name, people might stop and notice. If you don’t, they really won’t care. They’re going to assign it meaning based on the experience they have with your brand. So please, stop worrying about your name and start worrying about your product.
Full time job to entrepreneur?
If you have a full-time job, you’re not an entrepreneur. You may have aspirations of being an entrepreneur, and you may have entrepreneurial tendencies, but if you are born to be an entrepreneur you will not be able to breathe for more than ten minutes in a “real” job.
If you’ve been going along fine for a few years in a full-time job and not had the urge to gnaw your leg off like a fox caught in a trap, you’re probably doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
But. If you are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine, and you are miserable whenever you work for anyone but yourself, and you feel restless, and you believe in your bones that you’ve got what it takes to run your own show, go do it. Go do it before you take on the responsibilities of a mortgage or a family, before your parents start to need you or you adopt a dog. Do it now while the only person you have to worry about is you.
The best way to become something is to do the work required to become something. Sell, sell, sell. Figure out what it takes to provide value. Learn how to communicate your value proposition. Engage with your customers. Find mentors. Go work for free and under people who can show you the ropes and serve as that point of contact when you need it. Learn the hustle and taste the game. Put yourself in the position to win. You can read as many books as you’d like (ahem . . .) but they’re not going to make you an entrepreneur. What is it Yoda said? There is no try, only do.
Stop waiting for the perfect moment to jump, because it will never come. Start doing whatever it takes. Even if that means selling the very t-shirt off your back.
Be a hobbyist
There are a lot of people who are able to enjoy being hobby entrepreneurs because their joy is in the process, not in the outcome. So they make maybe $10–40K on the side doing something they love, and they’re satisfied with that because they don’t need to make a billion dollars to be happy. If you’ve gotten to a point in your life where you can’t ditch everything to follow your dreams, being a hobbyist can often give you the best of both worlds.
One of the hardest things about making your dream, or your small business, or your blog, or whatever is just doing it. Taking that first step can often be the only thing standing in your way, because once you start getting shit done, the momentum just carries you forward.
There’s no doubt that taking that first step can be terrifying. But, would you be so afraid if you knew no one was watching? See, what really scares people is not fear of failure, but fear of failing in front of someone who matters. Like your mom or dad. Your best friend. None of us wants to disappoint someone we admire.
But if you want to be an entrepreneur—if that’s what you really, really want—you cannot give a shit about what other people think of you. Not even your parents.
Taking a product to market
If you sell fax machines, and your market doesn’t believe in fax machines, don’t try to convince them to buy fax machines! Go find the people who have bought into the fax machine idea and sell to them. Because if you’re too early in a business or a theory where there’s no buy-in, you’ve lost.
Apply your time and energy to where there is fertile ground. It might take a lot of work to find your customer base, but it sure beats wasting your breath on people who are never going to help you out.
The right partnerships
Everyone has something to offer. But instead of asking them to do something for you, ask what you could do for them.
I’m an enormous believer in spec work. I know it has a bad name, but if you’re looking to get something from someone, there are other ways you can pay them besides money, and providing your service or your product for free is a great way to build up points you can cash in.
So when you assess the fifty people you want to reach, you need to look at them and understand their vulnerabilities to see where you might get them at a discount. Now, if they don’t have those vulnerabilities, figure out how to provide disproportionate value by listening and asking directly.
Getting the first customers
To get those first ten customers, you have to grind. You can’t be shy, my friends. Just roll up to every single person in the world who might possibly buy your stuff (meaning who already buys into at least the concept of your idea or product; see two questions up) and ask them to buy your stuff.
Every industry has its market leaders—companies who have done good work in the past and have become the default solution for their client base. Your goal is to become one of those leaders who are automatic go-tos.
So first you have to get over your resentment of the competition and realize that you haven’t done crap to establish your brand. The way you can overcome that, in my opinion, is to deliver great work and start creating word of mouth. It’s just grinding and going through the process.
Lack of time and capital
To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be an optimist. A lack of time is just incentive to be more efficient with the time you do have. Insufficient capital is a game to see who can find the most creative way to get more. You don’t see obstacles—you see opportunities. Optimists accept that obstacles will be in their path, and assume they’ll figure out a way around them. Which is not to say the grind isn’t hard for optimists, too. It is. They just like it.
Going at it alone
Be practical. How much money do you have to stay alive, and for how long? Do you have enough money to cover rent, expenses (anticipated and unexpected), and overhead for a year? You should.
Be prepared to sacrifice. The minute you decide to launch a new business, you also make the decision to do nothing else but that for the next year, and maybe even two years, but build your business. Every minute of every eighteen-hour day should be dedicated to this endeavor. Your business success will come at the expense of family time, friend time, vacations, and any other hobbies or activities you once enjoyed. This business has to be your entire life, or it will die.
Here is what young entrepreneurs must do ahead of time if they want to build a business that can weather every storm.
Build solid teams. In the midst of rapid growth, don’t lose sight of the importance of longevity. Invest in your teams, celebrate their victories, listen, and be a good boss so that when rough winds hit, you can rely on their skills, loyalty, and intellectual capital to help you keep the ship upright.
Build good products.
Excel at sales.
Have a hard-core Plan A alongside a deeply practical Plan B. You’d be crazy not to at least consider what you would do should your entrepreneurial venture fall apart. After all, you’ve got to eat. For most people, the solution would be something very ordinary like going back to school, taking a boring day job, or moving back in with your parents. And that’s fine.
One thing is certain: College will not properly train you to be a prime-time player in today’s business environment and anything you might learn there about marketing or social media is already on its way to obsolescence.
The entire market moves at such a speed that even great entrepreneurs have a hard time keeping up. Within a month of your graduation, there will always be a new platform, a new app, a new channel for doing business that didn’t exist before.
Nothing except hustle, prescience, good instincts, time, and patience is going to help you master them. And none of those things can be taught anywhere except the School of Life.
It’s absolutely crucial for entrepreneurs to have as much freedom to execute on their vision as possible. But sometimes when you’re in a relationship or you have family obligations you can only give 70 percent of your time. Or 50 percent. That’s totally fine. Success is not a game of absolutes. You can still win; it just might take you more time than you hoped. Regardless of your situation, building a business is without a doubt a huge time and energy commitment, and you and your spouse or partner need to be realistic about that. However you conduct your life and business, make sure you’re both on the same page. Keep your communication lines strong and open.
If you love someone he or she needs to take precedence over everything else. And that’s okay; it just means your career may have to go at a different pace or take a different path, because otherwise there will always be friction between your two loves.
Family businesses are difficult because of the emotions and history that inevitably come into play. In every family business, you have to create an environment where the family’s love for each other matters more than anyone getting their way.
Here’s the thing to remember if you’re going into business with a family member you love: Be the bigger man or woman. It always works. No matter what the disagreement, no matter how heated the fight, make sure to say “I love you.” Those words are what keeps family businesses alive.
Parenting, like family business, is an intensely personal topic. How we parent depends so much on things that are unique to us, from our financial situation to our partners to our family dynamics. So I’m petrified to give parenting advice, and yet I can’t shy away from it because I feel so strongly that the way we are parented affects everything we do in life, including what kind of entrepreneur we might become.
I intend to pass the same can-do encouragement I received from my mother to my daughter. Right now I tell her that her twirl is the best goddamn twirl I’ve ever seen, and I’ll spend the rest of my life applauding her efforts.
And I’ll do the same for my employees. I know the people I work with every day feel better about themselves than they did before they knew me. We’ll hire new senior staff and after a few days they’ll tell me they’re flabbergasted by the confidence of the youngsters working here. That’s by design. Pumping everyone full of confidence makes for a more creative, risk-taking environment. I don’t do it by praising my staff daily. Rather, I instill it in my leaders and encourage them to let it trickle down.
Technology and kids
We’ve got to stop acting as though tech is an intruder in our children’s lives. Tech is their lives. Worrying that tech will rob them of the pleasures of childhood is akin to previous generations worrying their kids will be soft because they have indoor plumbing, or that rock and roll will make them degenerates, or that their brains will rot from too much TV.
Every generation fears for the next one, but we don’t have to. Our kids will be less informationally smart but they will be interesting characters and they will do great things.
Social media and having kids
I like to tell parents that it has never been a better time to be a parent because all the social networking tools will allow us to spy on our teenagers like never before. Fearing tech and limiting their children’s time on it is not preparing them to live in the future. Parents need to stop playing defense and start playing offense and get pumped about all the opportunities and new discoveries coming this way for the new generation.
It’s maximizing the energy you put into what you are passionate about.
Squeezing every last bit of juice out of your day.
It’s putting all your effort into achieving the goal at hand.
Making every minute count. Every. Single. Minute.
A lot of new entrepreneurs tell me they’re hustling, and then they’ll ask me if I liked the last episode of Ballers. They’re trying to get a business off the ground and they’ve got time to watch TV? It’s like wanting to lose weight and sneaking away to scarf down a Big Mac. It’s just not going to work.
You want to increase engagement around your content? Raise revenue? Gain brand awareness? Become an influencer? Sell more? Then try the following:
Pounce on every opportunity.
Create great content and get it out there.
Work toward gaining exposure.
Keep an eye open to new environments and conversations.
Increase the value you can offer others.
Wake up before everybody else and work into the night.
Hustle until there’s not a single drop of juice left.
Small business owner with limited budget?
Work more. Whatever it is you’re doing, add a few more hours of hustle. It’s the greatest way to shore up the gap between you and a bigger competitor. I promise you Goliath will never work as hard as you.
Make cold calls. Network. Bizdev. Barter with local businesses. Attend Chamber of Commerce events. Get creative! Fight, attack, talk, ask friends for help . . . This is your life!
I’m stunned at how many people think you can just hop onto YouTube and build a personal brand without actually having anything to show for it. You have to know something in order to be a brand. You want to be sought after as an expert? What have you done to make people want to hear you speak? Have you accomplished anything? Have you proven yourself in any way?
No? Then shut up and get to work.
Don’t ever think you can hack expertise and branding by relying on social media and modern tech. There is no substitute for honest hard work. You have to execute and accomplish something before earning the privilege of being a personal brand.
There are people out there who might finance a venture based on ideas alone. It’s happened. But in general, those ideas don’t go anywhere because that’s all they were—ideas. This is why so many businesses are starting to fail in the tech space, and I am sure by the time you are reading this book many more tech companies funded in 2010–14 will be done and finished.
Passion is great and creativity is awesome, but practicality matters more than the current business world values. You’ve got to put the work in before approaching anyone for financial backing. That’s what all the entrepreneurs we look up to did. They didn’t pat themselves on the back just for having a great idea. They hustled and made it come to life first. They made sure their idea actually did what they believed it could.
You need to work harder and faster. Working harder is easy. Drop the hour you’re watching Scandal and voila, you’ve got more time to hustle. Working faster, however, is a little trickier. It takes practice. Train yourself to do a little bit more in each hour than you normally would. Maybe you save checking your emails until lunch. Maybe you turn off your phone. Maybe you work odd hours.
Every day add something more and get it all done. The first few days you may not finish what you started out to do, but keep challenging yourself and you’ll get there. It’s like training for a marathon. It takes time, but once you’ve been at this for a while you’ll see that you can accomplish much more in one day than you ever thought you could.
CONTENT AND CONTEXT
Even as the platforms and distribution channels change, the rules of good storytelling have remained the same for businesses since the beginning of commerce: The quality of a brand’s storytelling is directly proportional to the quality of its content. If it’s not good, no one will pay attention.
What defines quality content nowadays?
It appeals to the heart.
Has to be shareable.
It’s native to the platform on which it appears.
It breaks through the noise.
Which is why it’s so vitally important that everyone from big organizations to solopreneurs to small companies start thinking and acting like media companies. Sure, you’re selling liquor, or tech, or original art, but the very survival of your company will depend on distributing your story through your content as often as possible to as many people as possible. And not just any content, but content that brings value to your current customers while attracting new customers as well. Netflix gets it. That’s why they started making their own TV series.
Creating good content.
Anyone can create good content.
First, respect the platforms. A forty-year-old woman is looking for something different on Facebook than on Pinterest. On the former she’s keeping up with her friends and family, and on the latter she’s probably shopping and searching for inspiration. So you have to strategize around that and adapt your storytelling accordingly.
Second, respect your audience. That means putting out content the forty-year-old woman would like, not the content you would like.
Gaining a following
Put out quality content every day and engage around it.
It really is that simple and that difficult. No one becomes a sensation by accident. The talent to put out content is only one piece of the equation. One percent of the magic. One percent of people who make it big in social media might do it on content creation talent alone, but the rest of us have to work our butts off to bring our community in to see what we’re creating.
You can have a terrific idea for a YouTube show, but if you don’t get that content out you’ll have nothing around which to build your community. And if you don’t put in the work to engage, rarely will anyone see your content. The two almost always work together, especially in the beginning.
Content and Facebook
Facebook is content awareness gold. Post a link to an article or video and if your post earns enough likes, shares, and comments, you can just step back and allow the awareness to grow organically. But if you want things to move a little faster, or you want to hedge your bets, you can actively drive a crapload of views with Facebook ads. It’s absolutely worth the investment.
JABS AND RIGHT HOOKS
Jab: the content you put out that entertains, distracts, attracts, informs, or otherwise engages and builds a relationship between you and your audience. It builds your brand, raises people’s awareness of who you are and what you represent, and opens people up to receiving a right hook when the time is right.
Right hook: the content you put out that brings in the sale. The one that offers the 10 percent off, or announces the new line, or merely says, Buy my stuff.
It sounds so simple, but to make jabs and right hooks land with enough impact requires finesse, good improv skills, and a deep understanding of the psychology behind every platform you use. A jab on Pinterest will look completely different from one thrown on Twitter. A right hook on Instagram won’t work if it’s just something you recycled from Facebook. Each platform speaks to its users in a different way, and you have to learn the language. A short scan on any platform shows me that most people still aren’t fluent. Read Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook for more info!
Ninety-nine percent of salespeople and businesses try to make right hooks feel like jabs, and they fail because people don’t respond well when they feel they’re being conned. Be honest. If you’re going to do something nice for your customer, do it because you want to, not because it will get you something.
Too much jabbing?
Yes, there’s a time where there’s too much jabbing. In fact, I wrote the book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook because I realized that jabbing was all the early social media practitioners were doing. Marketers had gotten so obsessed with creating perfect jabs they had neglected to create a slamming right hook. They were swinging all the time, but they were missing their mark.
Is there ever a time when you shouldn’t be in the jabbing business at all? Absolutely. You know who isn’t?
Apple is in the right-hook business. Look at their social media engagement. It won’t take you long because there isn’t much. Look at Apple’s simple strategy: Make the best crap in the business. And then they did, and then they dominated. No jabs or engaging with consumers on a one-to-one level on social media. They were just the best with the best product, and they knew how to market it.
There are two keys to the success of a social network.
Win over the youth market. The network that makes Snapchat feel like it’s for old people will be the next social superstar.
Be extraordinarily useful. Instagram was just a place to post pretty pictures until people realized it actually made them better photographers. The visual intimacy of the pictures made people feel close to other users, and eventually the social network developed to support that closeness.
If you’re trying to develop the next big platform, create something the youth of the world didn’t know it couldn’t live without.
Experimenting with unproven platforms is definitely worth your time.
That advice goes double if you’re a small business or start-up. The only assets you have against bigger, wealthier competitors are raw talent and time. So use the time from 3 to 7 A.M. if you must to establish yourself on new platforms and over index there before money starts becoming a variable.
You’ll keep making inroads, getting a stronger foothold, and building your connections and brand awareness. Extract the value of the platform before its ad product becomes mature so that by the time it becomes expensive you’ll be ready to move on to the next new frontier.
Influencers have more power than ever because now they’re in a position not only to create content, but also to create meaningful distribution. The two biggest opportunities are product and retail. I could have sold stemware and glassware thanks to my influence in the wine industry. Think infomercials. Don’t laugh. Have you any idea how much money QVC makes in five minutes when they’ve got the right person selling the right product? It’s a $3 billion company. Make yourself the QVC 2.0, and you’ll have something tremendous.
What makes an influencer
You can define an influencer as anybody with a public social profile. That’s it. If you have forty-two people following you, then you are influencing them with your content. You may not be the influencer that BMW needs to impact its sales goals that day, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are influencing someone.
Influencer marketing & product placement
Because of the visual nature of modern advertising, product placement is at the core of the influencer executions. When people think about influencer marketing, they don’t realize just how many different ways product placement can be handled, especially when you consider how the primary platform for this kind of execution, Instagram, is dramatically maturing. I see a brand like Protein World spending a ton of money on Instagram influencers, but it’s always the same old thing. Some good-looking kid is holding up the product. I think we’re past that.
They could be doing it much more intelligently, and seamlessly.
For example, forced product placement like a fifteen-second MTV Cribs-style tour of an influencer’s apartment where the product just happens to be visible in the kitchen would be more honest and natural.
The best influencers are so creative, they can make the product feel totally seamless, like it’s a natural part of the event. It’s why GoPro has done so well. Their product is, by its very nature, a seamless part of the scenarios with which they want it to be associated.
Influencers and the content
When you contract with an influencer, do you instruct them to continue to make the kind of content your brand is already making, or should you let them speak with their own voice and on their own terms?
This is the biggest debate that I see going on between brands, entrepreneurs, and influencers. I am a humongous believer in letting the DJ do her own thing. That DJ is famous for a reason. She knows what she’s doing. No brand is going to know an influencer’s audience the way the influencer does. And to be honest, influencers have to bring that context to their audience for the sake of their own brand, not only so that they can continue to monetize, but for the sake of making your content.
It is in your best interest for them to put your product in their own context. Now, you may not like that. There’s typically a huge disconnect between the talent and the decision maker on the brand side. At the end of the day, it’s your business, and you always have the option to say no. In fact, I think you should absolutely have approval.
STOP WITH THE EXCUSES
It’s stunning how many remarkable reasons and circumstances people can come up with to explain why they haven’t met with success. Of course, the problem doesn’t usually lie with the type of industry or job. The problem lies with the individual who can’t see opportunities when they’re right in front of his or her face.
Boring products or industries
There is no boring if you tell your story right. If you’re asking this question, your problem isn’t your content; it’s your mind-set. You have to shift your thinking immediately. You cannot change your output unless you change your input.
One way is to think outside of your industry all together. If you’re launching a fitness app, pay attention to what’s happening in the food industry, the rock climbing industry, even hip-hop or sports. Think completely left field. The best way to stagnate is to pay attention to everyone else because they’re doing the same crap over and over. And guess what? The same old crap sucks.
Taking an open, optimistic attitude will keep your content fresh and exciting, and allow you to change the world’s perception of your “boring” product.
No one ever said content had to be fun or light. You have to respect your topic and contextualize it for your platform. Though you probably can’t make your content light, you can certainly work on keeping it simple and easy to absorb. Create narratives through infographics, slide shares, videos, pictures, and quote cards that get your story across without requiring people to dig too deep. Make sure you pay attention to the colors you use and the music you choose.
Everything in business stems from the top, whether you’re the boss of two people in a three-person team or the head of a Fortune 500 company. And everything that happens in a company is 100 percent the CEO’s fault. After all, the CEO is the person who puts people into a position to make good or bad decisions. It’s no accident that when some companies change their CEO they go from winners to losers or vice versa. It may be the most important variable for success in running a business.
One hallmark of a good leader is to ask questions. It’s the best way to show your team you recognize they’re more than just cogs on a wheel. “Hey, how are things going?” “How’s the new baby?” “What are you excited about lately?” “Do you have any ideas you’d like to discuss?” It’s also the best way to solve problems. Don’t ever start offering solutions before asking tons of questions: “Why are we two weeks behind?” “What do you think is the issue?” “What do you need?” And then for God’s sake, listen. Be compassionate. Be fair. Hire people who embody those characteristics, too. Celebrate successes, and when you have to reprimand, hark back to all the times you screwed up and remember that those mistakes have everything to do with who you are today. Great leaders aren’t born; they’re made.
Surprisingly, moving into a managerial or leadership role can be more of a challenge than actually executing the job once you get there. Not because you’re suddenly delegating orders whereas once you were just executing them, but because when everyone starts looking for answers, they’re going to start by looking at you.
Learn to rely on empathy and emotion as much as your executive skills so you can empower your team to become leaders themselves and take ownership of their work. That’s a much harder thing to do than just ordering people around, but the end result is far more rewarding and productive.
In addition, accept that now everything is on you. That means sometimes you’re going to have to take the hit if your team isn’t performing the way you hoped it would. But no one likes a boss that passes the buck to an employee when things go wrong. Back your team up and don’t pass blame, and you will earn their loyalty and their best efforts.
failure doesn’t kill you, and that the earlier you do it, the easier it is to recover. It’s not the failure that’s so important as how well you ride after you get knocked on your butt.
You have to quantify your failure, of course. If you fail and you can’t get up again, that’s not a good thing. But if you’re made of the right stuff, failure will just compel you to get back up and try harder. Any failure from which you can recover is a learning opportunity that will only make you stronger.
Don’t fail too often, but don’t be afraid of it, either. Yes, failure is really important. Failure makes you better.
Management is almost synonymous with mentorship. We all probably have our own opinions of what makes a good manager, but in this one man’s point of view it’s the ability to reverse-engineer every person that works for you and put him or her in a position to succeed at the task for which they’ve been hired.
The quality of management in any venture is, like its cousin leadership, one of the core determinants of whether a business will succeed or fail. You want the people working with you to want to be there, to feel challenged, appreciated, and valued. People always respect and like the manager who’s thinking ahead and guiding them to places they’d never thought of, but they love and admire when that manager stays with them until 2 A.M. working that deck or stocking the shelves.
Hire from twitter?
Go to Twitter Search and start looking for the people who are talking about what you do for a living. Search the terms that would line up with the responsibilities inherent in the kind of job you’re trying to fill. If you need a Web designer, find people who mention website design, or graphic design, “landing page optimization,” or any other term that might indicate they’re talking about or interested in the kind of work you need done.
Find the most promising candidates, click on their profiles, click on their home page, click on their portfolio, and see which ones look like they have talent.
Email them and find out if they’re interested in looking for a new position. Most will probably say no, but maybe one will say yes, and the other three would probably give you referrals.
Interview five people and hire one.
Building a strong internal culture is one of the best ways to ensure success for your company. Sales matter, profits matter, customer relationships matter, but every one of those pieces of your business—in fact, every piece of your business—is affected by the culture. Culture is a product of people, and when people aren’t happy and instead are constantly thinking of a way to get out, their work will reflect it. Wouldn’t it make sense, then, to make your culture a priority? And given that people shape culture, wouldn’t it make sense to keep it at the forefront of your mind every time you hire?
Because that’s how you build a strong internal culture—you hire one. A great company is grounded in great culture, and great culture begins and ends with whom you hire, and how they leave.
Transitioning to management
Use your ears more than your mouth. Take the time to understand everything that’s going on in your department, and listen before trying to take control. If you see a problem, let your team explain to you what they think is the problem, and then instead of coming up with a solution, guide them to coming up with it themselves. That may require you pitching in, but you’re not above getting your hands dirty, are you?
Values to look out for when hiring
Word is bond.
Pushing your team
A good boss is doing his employees a favor when he or she pushes a team beyond their limits, because otherwise they’d never know what they were capable of. But you have to make them believe they can do it before they actually do it. If you want people to overdeliver, you’d better overdeliver for them, too.
Some people don’t delegate because they’re positive no one can do as good a job as they can. That may be true, but not every job needs your level of perfection anyway. You’ve got to know when good enough is enough. Let the bright, interesting people you hired do their jobs and make yours easier. It takes humility to accept you’re not as unique or indispensable as you think, but it’s also freeing.
Partners and communication
When you’re having trouble with a partner, don’t get aggressive or nasty. Win them over with kindness. Go for a drink together if you can. Build a real relationship and you may just find that they know they stink because their company stinks. When you can find some common ground and a way to align yourselves it can take some of the venom out of the situation and make you feel less resentful.
Communicate with your team, with your partners, your clients. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Knowing how you come across to others can often give you an advantage as an entrepreneur. Take sales, for example. You can set the tone in a scenario, anticipate how other people might react, and thus be prepared to address their concerns and questions even before they’ve been able to articulate them. It’s a really valuable tool to have in your communication tool belt, and it’s something I look for and admire in others.
Become more self aware
Ask people straight up to tell you your strengths and weaknesses. These people have to be the five to twelve people who know you the best or work with you the most. You have to create a safe zone within which they can do this, of course. No one is going to be honest with you if they think you’ll make them pay for it later or if they love you too much.
You also have to be prepared for them to tell you things you may not want to hear or that you disagree with. That’s why you have to gather a diversity of opinion. If you hear enough people say the same thing, whether it’s that you’re too kind or too aggressive, you’ll eventually have to accept that it could be true.
If you’ve done a good job of building your brand, there is a good chance someone will ask you for an interview, or to sit on a panel, and eventually, if you’re really good, to host a conference or deliver a keynote address. When this starts happening to you, you’ll know you’re on your way.
The benefit of doing keynotes or talks is tremendous. You can reach new audiences you might not have encountered. Build your credibility. Take time to articulate your ideas in a longer format. And public speaking opportunities often give you the chance to meet other influencers and cool people, as well as learn a bit more about yourself by seeing how you communicate differently in various settings. Take the first opportunity you can get. It’s a great experience.
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