10 Things Everyone Should Know Before Becoming An Entrepreneur

Today’s guest blogger is Faisal Hoque, a self-professed “devoted student of life, entrepreneurship and humanity. Originally Published at Business Insider.

Business literature is filled with definitions of entrepreneurship. And we often speak of entrepreneurship within a tech or startup space, though surely the family running your neighborhood market is also an entrepreneur. Many people around the globe are forced to become entrepreneurs just to survive. 

Unfortunately, there is no exact formula for entrepreneurship. Rarely one finds overnight success. There are no quick fixes. It is unique for each individual. 

For me, entrepreneurship started with the need to survive, then moved on to fulfill my dream, and finally graduated to a need to make a difference (in whatever small way I can). But in many ways, the challenge remains the same. 

I have learned many things through trials and tribulations:

1. There is no substitute for love. 

The great poet Rumi once said: “What you seek is seeking you.”

Sooner or later, our entrepreneurial journey needs to support what we each love to do. It is only when we find the love of our true calling that we find inspiration to fight for our purpose. Our love drives our passion — gives us the energy for the long haul. 

And to discover such love, it takes self-awareness and connecting with ourselves. 

2. You are your greatest investment. 

In rough waters when there is no one to call upon, it is our skills that save us. Mastering our skills requires utter devotion. It is only through daily devotion that we improve our authentic craft. Devotion is our best sustainable self-investment. 

Devotion is what gives us the daily dose of confidence. You can lose everything, but no one can take your authentic craft. 

3. Mindfulness helps you survive.

Several decades ago, the term mindfulness was used to imply Eastern mysticism related to the spiritual journey of a person, originated by Gautama Buddha.

Today, psychologists define mindfulness as “bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis” (Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999). Being mindful allows us to focus and execute one task at a time.

More importantly, being in the moment allows us to escape from adversity and conserve our inner energy.

4. Suffering needs to be your friend.

I love this Japanese proverb: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

The more things we try, the more likely we are to fail. And that’s very much the essence of being an entrepreneur. 

Failure and adversity inherently invokes pain, suffering, and disappointments. Accepting and growing through our pain is part of entrepreneurial growth. This is hardly easy. Like any other skill, learning to suffer well requires conscious practice and learning. It is only when we learn to welcome suffering, we are able to get up repeatedly. For an entrepreneur, pain is a must — therefore suffering needs be optional.

5. You need to inspire yourself every day.

Inspiration can come from anywhere and anyone. Mine often comes from meditation, cooking, writing, listening to music, or watching movies.

For example, writing allows me to consciously put these positive reaffirmations on paper to visualize my destiny. I have also found writing is therapeutic for coping with my adversities. It allows me to turn my anger, fear, and disappointments into inspiration for myself and my readers. It serves as stress relief when I try to turn negative into positive by finally expressing what I feel down deep inside.

6. Avoid people who hold you back.

We all know that the people we surround ourselves with make the difference between failure and success. If you’ve ever been around someone who leaves you feeling exhausted and drained, you have probably encountered an emotional vampire. These people don’t drain your blood, but they do drain your vital energy. Emotional vampires can be found anywhere. 

It is important to avoid people who bring us down, waste our time, take us backward, and have no empathy in our suffering. Make a deliberate effort to spend time only with people who uplift you and make you stronger.

7. Believing in chance encounters moves us forward.

In any journey — entrepreneurial or otherwise — there are many encounters. Some are planned; some are by accident; and some by divine intervention. I have had many amazing “chance encounters,” where it seems as if the universe rallied to come to my aid when I needed the help most. 

They have occurred when least expected — and many of the people I’ve encountered have become business partners, friends and family. And whenever those encounters initially left me with a “negative” experience, they turned out to be much-needed lessons for me. I believe chance encounters happen to those who remain optimistic no matter what. 

8. Saying “no” and making tough calls is essential. 

It takes more courage to say “no” than to say “yes.” But if we do it, we protect ourselves from making poor decisions. This tactic can help us stay focused and prevent unnecessary complexity and wrong turns. It can also keep us from getting involved with the wrong people.

Dr. Judith Sills in Psychology Today writes:

“There’s a lot of talk, and a lot to be said, for the power of Yes. Yes supports risk-taking, courage, and an open-hearted approach to life whose grace cannot be minimized. But no — a metal grate that slams shut the window between one’s self and the influence of others — is rarely celebrated. It’s a hidden power because it is both easily misunderstood and difficult to engage.”

9. Being intentionally omnivorous allows us to be diverse. 

An ongoing part of identity building — both in our individual working lives and as part of a team — is to practice inviting a breadth of experiences, a pool of experiences from which we can draw on later in life. When journalists ask artists the lazy question “Where do your ideas come from?” the answer can only be this: their experiences.

To gain a diversity of experience, it requires entrepreneurs to be intentionally omnivorous.

10. Treating yourself kindly is a must.

In his book, “The Art of Happiness,” His Holiness the fourteenth Dalai Lama wrote, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Entrepreneurs are often very hard on themselves. For many, even though it may be easy to show compassion to others, it may be hard to accept, embrace, and be compassionate toward ourselves. Some of us blame others for all our miseries and some blame ourselves. Often it’s easy to blame oneself, feel sorry, and/or put oneself down. It is only through being able to let go, have compassion for oneself, and self-encouragement that we can pursue a long-lasting journey.

Learn more about entrepreneurship at Faisal Hoque’s SoundviewPro course How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset.

How to Get Ahead When Life’s not “Fair”

A guest blog with Marshall Goldsmith, twice recognized as the top-ranked executive coach in the world and one of the top 10 most influential business thinkers by Thinkers50.

Have you ever worked with someone who incessantly whined about how unfair things are, how bad, how wrong or how irrational? When people constantly whine and complain, they inhibit any chance they have for impacting the future. Their managers view them as annoying, and their direct reports and co-workers view them as inept.

Nobody wins.

In the words of the late Peter Drucker, “Every decision that impacts our lives will be made by the person who has the power to make that decision – not the ‘right’ person, or the ‘smartest’ person, or the ‘best’ person – make peace with this fact.”

As simple and obvious as this statement may seem, I am amazed at how few (otherwise intelligent) people ever deeply ‘get’ this point. When your child comes home from school and complains, “It’s not fair! The teacher gave me a ‘C’ and I really deserved an ‘A’! We, as parents, should say, “Welcome to the real world, kid! In life you have to accept the fact that decision-makers make decisions – and that you are not always the decision maker.” We will always have bosses, teaches, analysts or Boards who give us ‘grades’ that we disagree with.

What can you change, and what is beyond your control?

On the surface, acceptance—that is, changing what we can change and being realistic about what we cannot change in our lives—should be the easiest thing to do. After all, how hard is it to resign yourself to the reality of a situation?

You assess it, take a deep breath (perhaps releasing a tiny sigh of regret), and accept it. And yet acceptance is often one of our greatest challenges. Rather than accept that their manager has authority over their work, some employees constantly fight with their bosses (a strategy that rarely ends well).

Rather than deal with the disappointment of getting passed over for a promotion, they’ll whine that “It’s not fair!” to anyone who’ll listen (a strategy that rarely enhances their image among their peers or gets them that promotion).

Rather than take a business setback in stride, they’ll hunt for scapegoats, laying blame on everyone but themselves (a strategy that rarely teaches them how to avoid future setbacks).

When enthusiasm fades, the initial cause is often failure to accept what is and get on with life.

A few years ago, a reporter at the Chicago Tribune asked me if managers today are more abusive than any time in history (a logical question in a discussion of executive behavior).

“Are you kidding me?” I said. “We still have many inequities and bad bosses, but life is much better than it was two hundred years ago. We used to have Kings, minimal worker rights, and human beings who were ‘owned’ and had no rights at all. In the developed world it can be bad today, but human beings are making some progress.”

We’ve come a long way. Most major companies now believe in certain “inalienable rights” at work. We have the right to be treated with respect. We have the right to be judged by our performance and character rather than by a fluke of lucky birth. If we’re women, we have the right to be paid as much as a man for doing the same job. When inequities such as these arise, they’re worth arguing over. These are the battles that we should be fighting.

But a lot of small stuff remains. A colleague gets a promotion we thought we deserved. The boss showers a rival division with money, ignoring our area. We’re given a hiring freeze while others get every new person they ask for. This is the stuff that still makes us howl, “It’s not fair!”

Such “equity” moments resemble one another in one clear way: A decision has been made that we disagree with. What’s worse, we believe that we are not getting a good explanation—although that doesn’t stop us from re-asking, which is the same as arguing over it. And when we do get another explanation, it’s not good enough for us.

Arguing that “It’s not fair!” doesn’t change the outcome. It doesn’t help our organizations or our families or ourselves. It only lowers our passion. By recognizing this classic trap, we can better determine which battles to fight—and which ones to avoid. At work, and even more so at home, even if we succeed at winning with this whine, it’s not worth the cost.

Once we make peace with the fact that the people who have the power to make the decisions always make the decisions – and we get over whining because ‘life isn’t fair’ – we can become more effective at influencing others, making a positive difference, and even become the person who makes the decisions!

We can fight the battles that are really worth fighting, and quit bugging the world because, “The teacher gave me a C!”

Learn more about being successful in work and life at Marshall Goldsmith’s SoundviewPro course Engaging Ourselves at Work and in Life .

Herbie Hancock: Get Out Of The Way When Your People Are Learning

Today’s guest blog is from John Baldoni, leadership development chair at N2Growth, first published at Forbes.

If you want your people to grow and develop sometimes the best thing to do is to back off.

Herbie Hancock, the legendary jazz keyboardist, tells two stories about trumpet virtuoso and bandleader Miles Davis that illustrate this point. Hancock was an up and coming player and got an invitation to audition with Davis and his band. Davis was already a legend but Hancock was still cutting his chops.

Told to report to Miles’ house, Hancock met the band and Miles played with the group for a few minutes then as Hancock told an audience on Sirius XM Radio, he threw down his trumpet on the couch and went upstairs. The band kept playing. Miles did the same thing a day later. And after a few days he invited Hancock to cut a record with his band. Hancock says that he learned twenty five years later that Miles’s disappearing act was purposeful. He went upstairs to listen to the group via his intercom. He knew that young musicians could be intimidated by his presence so he removed that distraction.

Another lesson Hancock shared with his audience (in conjunction with his new memoir Possibilities about Miles was his gift of teaching. Miles would seldom give musicians a complete answer when they questioned him about something musical. His strategy was to let the musicians learn by themselves or with the band. Hancock now a veteran performer and teacher himself says that when you learn something on your own you remember it better. The lesson becomes lasting.

What managers can learn from these stories is that young performers, or those new to a team, need to be given a certain amount of leeway to show what they can do. This of course is after you have recruited and trained them. Some may be more independent than others but all benefit when the boss steps away.

Furthermore if the boss is always hanging around, looking over their shoulder, he or she may undermine the employee’s confidence. Or because the boss is present may set himself up as the hands-on tutor ready, willing and able to answer all questions. Support is good; “hovering” is limiting.

There is something else unsaid in the stories about Miles Davis. He had his pick of the best musicians. Managers do not always have that luxury; they often must work with the talent and skills HR provides them. Some of those folks, unlike a Herbie Hancock type, do need more hands-on development. But there comes a time when that initial development period ends. The employee must think and do for him or herself based upon what he or she has learned. If they are unable to do so then they are not a good fit for the team.

“Every artist was first an amateur,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. It is up to the manager to provide that amateur with what he or she will need to become a true professional. Hard work and diligence – coupled with talent – will power the transformation.

Learn more about leadership at John Baldoni’s SoundviewPro course Do-It-Yourself Leadership.

Reinforce your social media brand with visual elements

A guest blog with Cyndee Woolley, APR, an author and public relations consultant. Email questions to cydnee@c2-com.com or visit www.BuildingBrandYou.com.

The power of a strong visual element
Consumers are 80% more likely to interact with a Twitter post that has a photo attached than straight text. Often times, the social Facebook photo albums that I share for clients receive a much higher interaction rate than straight text posts. These visual elements are so appealing because they engage our brain and start to tell the story of your brand before you say a word.

Ideally, the elements of your visual storytelling should include five key messages:

1. Your Vision
Photos and videos should share the big picture of your ideal vision, not the tools that are going to get you there. Working with a client who wanted to appeal to families and children with fun activities, we did an inventory of their marketing photos. Most of the photos were of their activity stations – no kids, just the activity stations.

The average person likely didn’t understand what was in the photo and had no reason to engage. However, we switched the photos to happy children engaging with the activity stations and saw an immediate improvement in their engagement.

2. Establish Credibility
With the increased transparency and record keeping of the digital age, it is easier for watchdog groups to sort through your past and call you out for decisions that they disagree with like former Mozilla CEO, Brendan Eich’s, who was ousted in 2014 for a campaign contribution that he made in 2008.

While watchdog groups will take the time to sort through your past, the average consumer who is overwhelmed with content and short on time won’t. In seconds, your visual aids have to establish credibility in your brand.

For example, do you have a vision of health? Your photo stream should include plenty of healthy, active people making smart choice. If your photo albums have people smoking, drinking sodas, or sloppily sitting around desks, you are giving a contradictory message.

While your marketing materials must demonstrate your vision, the truest test of credibility is in the culture of your company – that is creating this brand message. We are seeing more and more companies take decisive action such as healthcare facilities going smoke-free; CVS is ceasing to sell tobacco products this year; and companies like David Lawrence Center are installing vending machines with healthy alternatives on their campuses.

3. Relevance and “What’s in it for me?” (Wiifm)
If you have ever taken a class in sales, you have likely heard the phrase “What’s in it for me?” The concept of Wiifm is that customers don’t buy features, they buy benefits because of how the benefits will make them feel.

In 2013, a study was released on millennials and their preference of microbreweries over larger brands like Budweiser. Initially, marketers thought that this generation was shunning the idea of being associated with brands. But, they were shocked to find that millennials were choosing specific microbrew beers because the brand label became a symbol of how they felt at that time.

As you are sharing videos and photos on your social media accounts, think about the unique emotional benefits that you bring to your customers. How might they wear your brand as a status symbol?

4. Brand Value
Before setting a price structure on any product or service, I encourage small business owners to look at the value of what they provide. Your business model can succeed as a low-price leader, best value, or as a luxury product.

However, the visual story that you present must match up to the brand value and expectations that you expect. If you chose to be a low-price leader, that isn’t an excuse to use sloppy, fuzzy photos. It just means that your photos and videos should incorporate models that are very approachable in generic clothing.

There was a copywriter who was selling a course on how to write sales letters at a very discounted rate. His initial advertisement incorporated beautifully scripted fonts and shades of green – which didn’t elicit any response. After reviewing the ad, he realized that it was a mixed message. He made the new advertisement look “cheap” in comparison by incorporating different fonts and a bright canary yellow color. The “cheap” advertisement sold thousands of copies of his course.

5. Close the Deal
Unless you are a sales person, “closing the deal” can be one of the hardest things about business. People have an inherent fear of rejection and often forget to end the conversations with something like “That is great, how many books would you like to buy?”

Even though websites and social media take some of the face-to-face rejection out of the equation, there is still a fear of being that jerk who is always selling. Ideally, you are creating a mix of content on your social media accounts, which means you are not the jerk.

There are several ways that you can help close the deal in your visual storytelling:
• Always include your website address your original artwork. You can’t claim other people’s photographs, but you can lead people back to your website by incorporating a simple watermark on your images. Similarly, every video should have a logo, website address and phone number included.
• Embed more emotional calls to action as watermarks. Instead of the generic “for more information…” you can include something more specific like “help us support young entrepreneurs in Junior Achievement of SWFL by…”
• Use hashtags (#) to spark conversation and virality. If you’ve watched Fox and Friends in the morning, the opening intro has a sign where the anchors display #BetterWithFriends. It is a visual cue for people to Tweet about their show.
• Visually show customers how they can engage with your brand by including pictures of customers using your mobile optimized website through a smart phone, logging onto a computer, or leaving feedback on Google+.

Important clarification… Just because we discussed five key messages, doesn’t mean that you should include all five in every visual element that you share. It is more important to get one message across correctly than to create confusion with multiple directions.

Remember, your customers have an overwhelming amount of data streaming at them from multiple sources. If you want to be successful in capturing their attention, you have to cut through the clutter faster than ever to show your relevance. With the ability to clearly demonstrate who you are, what you have to offer, and why people should care, you can build a life-long customer.

You can learn more about building your brand in Cyndee Woolley’s SoundviewPro course Building Brand [You].

The Olympic Sized Power Of Routines

Jones Loflin, an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, is our guest blogger today.

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, USA rifle shooter Matt Emmons was poised to win his second gold medal. He had one shot left, and only needed a score of 7.3. The lowest score on his last nine shots was 9.3, so the gold was certainly to be in his hands soon. Sure enough, Emmons took the shot, and hit a bullseye… on the wrong target. He was awarded 0 points and finished fourth in this particular competition.

When discussing what happened, Emmons explained that he normally looks at the number of the target through his viewfinder on his rifle, and then lowers his gun. Notice what he said next: “On that shot, I was just worrying about calming myself down and just breaking a good shot, so I didn’t even look at the number. I probably should have.”

First, let me say I can not imagine the pressure faced by any Olympic athlete. As a novice rifle shooter, I struggle to hit the center of the target in my own backyard. And to Emmons’ credit, he did recover from the mistake and win a gold medal in a different competition the next day.

What this story affirms for me each time I see it is the incredible power of routines to help me “hit the right target” in respect to my daily goals. I know that if I get the right amount of sleep, exercise first thing in the morning, and eat a healthy breakfast, I can have a productive day. I’ve followed the routine countless times, but when I stray from it, I am setting myself up for failure. And it is sometimes just the day it was imperative for me to be at my best.

Notice that Emmons said his emotions were what got him out of his routine. Ironically, it’s a routine that helps us perform well under heavy stress. It’s why athletes, military personnel, and anyone else who has to perform well is engaged in continuous training. Deviate from the proven routine… and who knows how things might turn out. It could be the difference from being on the top of an Olympic platform, or watching from the crowd.

As you work through your day, reflect on the routines that you know help you to be productive and hit your mark. Look at developing new ones that could take your work to the next level. Most importantly, recognize that straying from a routine that works can have disastrous consequences… in the Olympics and in the game of life.

Learn more about personal productivity from Jones Loflin in his SoundviewPro course The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.

Costs, Managing Expectations, and Value Delivered

A guest blog with N. Dean Meyer, author of Internal Market Economics, as well as six other books on organizational design. He’s a consultant, speaker, and executive coach on how to implement the business-within-a-business paradigm

Tackling budget problems with internal market economics

You don’t need to promise the impossible, like “do more with less.”

You don’t need to accept customer expectations far beyond what your resources can deliver.

You don’t need to live with a lack of executive perception of the value you deliver.

You don’t need to tolerate vague accusations that you cost too much, or unfair comparisons to outsourcing or benchmarks.

You don’t need to engender mistrust for lack of cost transparency.

You don’t need to get dragged into political debates over cost allocations.

You don’t need to hold your breath and pray for year-end money to fund critical infrastructure and innovation investments.

And you don’t need to design bureaucratic chargebacks or complex governance processes to solve these problems.

All these challenges are created by traditional financial processes. As the old paradigm goes, you get a budget to cover your costs. You’re expected to manage your own resources, perhaps with input from your internal business clients on priorities. Meanwhile, to your clients, everything appears free. And when price is zero, what happens to demand? Basic economics tells you this cannot work.

The solution is found in thinking of your job, and your budget, in a different way….

Consider your organization as a business within a business. Its purpose is to serve customers – be they within your immediate organization, elsewhere in the enterprise, or external customers – with your products and services.

From this perspective, there’s a science that explains how to solve your resource-governance challenges: economics. With or without money actually changing hands (chargebacks), the application of market economics inside organizations has profound impacts on the way you handle your budget.

Think of this: As a business, nobody gives you money to pay your costs. People give you money to buy your products and services.

So think of your budget as an escrow – money put on deposit with you at the beginning of the year to pay for your products and services throughout the year.

A common real-life example is your mortgage escrow. You pay money into escrow each month. Then, when you get an invoice for property tax or homeowners insurance, you pay using the money in your escrow.

When you think of your budget this way, resource-governance processes fall into place….

Your budget (the escrow account) creates a “checkbook” that belongs to the enterprise. So your customers must decide what “checks to write.” You don’t need a steering committee to micromanage you. The purser’s only purpose is managing that checkbook.

Of course, all your products and services have a true, full cost to the enterprise. Sure, you may get more efficient over time; but at any point in time, things cost what they cost. There is no “do more with less.” The checkbook only pays for so much.

Your customers manage demand within the finite limits of their checkbook (your budget, which equates to your resources). If they want more than they can afford, customers must find more money to buy more – whether that takes the form of a budget increase or the transfer of money (chargebacks). As a result, customers’ expectations match your resources.

Furthermore, everybody understands the value you deliver for a given level of budget. That perception of value counters many of the complaints that you cost too much.

Of course, this demand-management process is predicated on knowing the costs of your products and services. Your rates becomes a basis for like-to-like comparisons with outsourcing and benchmarks.

With a transparent cost model, you build trust. You can base any allocations on utilization. And you can build into your rates any necessary sustenance activities like training, process improvements, and innovation.

Learn more about how to apply market economics inside your organization with the SoundviewPro course here.

Copyright 2014 N. Dean Meyer and Associates Inc.