Monday, December 24, 2012

The path you choose

The word entrepreneur is not of modern vintage.  It is about about three centuries or so old, and not of English origin.  According to Wikipedia:
"Entrepreneur is a loanword from French and was first defined by the Irish-French economist Richard Cantillon as the person who pays a certain price for a product to resell it at an uncertain price, thereby making decisions about obtaining and using the resources while consequently admitting the risk of enterprise. The term first appeared in the French Dictionary "Dictionnaire Universel de Commerce" of Jacques des Bruslons published in 1723."
In the original definition -- a reseller or middleman -- the word entrepreneur hardly conjures up the glamor and symbolism that are associated with it today: a world of Valleys, Alleys, start-ups, venture capital, IPOs and potential riches.

Despite the pop culture mythology attached to modern entrepreneurs, life for most business owners is more mundane than commonly portrayed. They are a practical lot, more concerned with making payroll than the size of their bankroll.

And even though Americans like to think we are the masters of commercial risk-taking, we aren't even the most entrepreneurial society.  Be that as it may, both the uncertainly and the "risk of the enterprise" surely remain the same as it ever was.

For many, the difference between success and failure comes down to how well they "make decisions about obtaining and using resources." In other words, the path they choose to get what's in their head (vision) into operation (execution) in their business in a way that allows them sufficient sustained profitability to endure.

Last week, we wrote about the vision thing. While vision is the firmamental yin of business, execution is the foundational yang.  Below are some lessons on execution from business leaders with whom I have worked. 
  1. Invest in proper routines and good habits:  I do not know a business owner who is not motivated to make their business better.  But like New Year's resolutions, wishing does not make it so; doing does.  Whether you are "Chuck in a Truck" or the CEO of a multi-million dollar organization, systems and process are what enables any organization to grow beyond its leader.  You need to invest in the critical systems to manage the planning, HR, sales/marketing, finance and customer-facing aspects of your business.  It is time to start working on the Owner's Manual for your business. There are many resources available, find one that suits you and get going.
  2. Learn to say "no": For some, instilling accountability is like the search for the Holy Grail.  It needn't be frustrating or painful.  In his book "No More Excuses," Sam Silverstein describes five precepts for building personal and organizational accountability.  Several business owners I work with are utilizing his approach.  And guess what: accountability starts with you! 
  3. Do not try to replicate yourself:  Ever said "if only I could clone myself"?  Think about it, do you want another you in your business?  Same strengths, same weaknesses, same emotional profile?  Or would someone who complements you be a better fit?  Someone who can do what you can't (or more likely won't.)  To grow, a business needs  a combination of skills, competencies and attitudes that form a cohesive whole.  Not a set of Replicants.
  4. Always be upgrading:  The talents and skills that got you to where you are may not get you to where you are going.  The good news: Talent is everywhere.  The less good news: you must compete for it.  Many businesses who invest time and energy in building a customer-facing brand and USP, fail to take a similarly active approach to developing an "Employment Brand."  To attract the best candidates, you must treat them as discerning employment consumers.  The best skills and attitudes will always have more options to choose from; you need to take action to make your business one worth consideration.
  5. Take charge of change:  Albert Einstein once said: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”  With change being a constant in life, it is better to plan for it, to actively choose the course, speed and equipment that will take you to the destination you choose.  It doesn't take an Einstein to know that business owners won't settle to be told what path to take or to be confined to the passenger's seat. 
As you focus on what's most important for your organization in the year ahead, I hope you take the time to reflect on and celebrate your progress this year.  Enjoy the holidays!

Thanks for reading. See you on 1/7/13.

1 comment:

Nancy Drumm said...

Great timely thoughts, Al as we enter the new year--focus on the future!