Loneliness of Leadership

August 27th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we learn about the loneliness of leadership:

Great leaders are often required to stand alone. They must make difficult decisions and stand by them, sometimes facing immense opposition. Many business owners confuse popularity with good leadership. In truth, as you learn to make the hard choices and have the courage to follow through, popularity may be one of the first things you sacrifice.

Do you remember your most inspirational teacher?  I do: Coach Tuft. He was tough! Coach Tuft taught with a unique structure and approach, and always expected significant effort for the results he expected.

He may not have been the most popular, but he truly exemplified great leadership. Coach Tuft was honest, straightforward, demanding, and cared enough to give me relevant and, at times, piercing feedback. He held me to a higher standard than I ever dreamed of holding myself to.

But don’t be such a strict taskmaster that you make enemies at every turn. My mentor, Dr. Peter Horne, told me something very important: “Be nice to the people on the way up because you’re going to see them again on the way down.”

What about your easiest teacher? Remember her or his name? I can’t! I do, however, remember his face, and the shenanigans I used to pull in class from time to time.  The same principle holds true as you lead. Leaders need to be honest, straightforward, and able to elicit an individual’s best work far more than they need to be popular.

Consider an example found closer to home. What happens when parents attempt to win popularity contests in an effort to be best buddies with their kids?  Anarchy! Children want and need their parents to set boundaries, provide structure, and elicit excellence.  They neither need nor want parents to win popularity contests, even on their grumpiest of days.

The same is true of a business leader. A strong front may leave you out of the fun lunches from time to time, but know that the line you are guarding is an important one. The success of your business hinges on your ability to motivate and inspire, not your ability to make your team laugh at the Friday afternoon get togethers.

One of the greatest leaders to walk the earth did so two thousand years ago. His life exuded loneliness from birth to death. This is how Jesus Christ expressed his understanding of this principle: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”  Bible (King James Version). Matthew 8:20.

Porter’s Points – Loneliness of Leadership

  • Do not fear to stand alone. Popularity does not make a great leader.
  • Hold yourself to a higher standard.
  • Set high standards for your team in order to elicit each individual’s best work.

Trusting Your Gut

August 25th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

As an entrepreneur, you can’t just rely on textbook solutions: you need to learn to trust your gut.

Want to make a really big mistake? Don’t follow your gut. I can’t say enough about that little feeling known as “intuition.” Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in business resulted from following pure logic and ignoring intuition. Yes, it is important to do your homework and know the numbers, but don’t put yourself through hours of effort and then ignore your gut.

I remember one occasion when I ignored one of those “gut feelings,” and, as always happens, regretted it later. I grew up in southern Utah and still travel south down I-15 every so often to visit home. On one specific trip I had a thought while driving down the off-ramp headed home: this exit would be a perfect spot for a McDonald’s. I knew that it was the stopping point between Las Vegas and Salt Lake. However ingenious the idea, I didn’t follow my inclination. Two years later a McDonald’s went up on that exact spot. Last I checked, it was one of the highest dollar-volume McDonald’s in the state of Utah.

Learning to let logic and intuition work together is an integral component of the art of entrepreneurship. It may feel a bit loosey-goosey. It may go against the grain of the MBA classes you took. It may fly in the face of your nature. Nonetheless, I’ve learned not to argue with results. Some of the worst hires I’ve made were after reading the resume, checking the GPA, calling all the references, and matching the best candidate to the job description. On paper, one particular candidate was the most qualified, but my gut was screaming to go with the next guy.

I first internalized this concept from a seasoned entrepreneur, Ladd Christensen. Ladd is a successful businessman who co-founded Huntsman Chemical and Huntsman Christensen Corp, founded Vinca Corporation, founded Petrosource Corporation, and was a founding partner with Deer Valley Resort’s primary partner, Edgar Stern.

While I was working for Ladd on a project, he became frustrated with my “economist” mindset. He accused me of being excessively and exclusively logical. At the height of his frustration, he challenged me to provide him with an accurate definition of entrepreneurship.

Caught off guard, I rattled off a somewhat lame textbook answer. His response: “Wrong!” Then Ladd shared this thought: “Entrepreneurship is the courage to wander into the fog when you are not sure where you’re going.”

Ladd went on to explain what he meant, and his metaphor showed me I needed to course-correct. I had parts of what was necessary to be successful, but I was missing something big. Ladd explained: initially, when you set a goal, you look to that goal in the distance like a beacon. After understanding where you want to go, you shift your gaze to analyze how you’re going to get there. After surveying the terrain, you set off through the foggy swamp, desperately attempting to keep your feet going in the right direction.

Every so often you find a clearing in the fog, and you have the opportunity to get your bearings and reassess where you are in relation to your beacon. The respite does not last long, however, and you must jump back into the mud and press forward, your confidence in yourself and trust in your gut as your only solace and inspiration.

Ladd told me that while I was out there wandering I would have feelings, thoughts, and insights. He warned me not to ignore them. I came to realize that it was my intuition that would bring me to the clearings where I could take my bearings, apply logic and analysis, and dive back into the fog.

Why does the gut matter? Why does the gut work? We all have enormous amounts of information hitting us on a continual basis. Some of that information remains in the realm of consciousness and some settles into the subconscious. It’s the subconscious data that guides us without our being fully aware that it’s happening.  But the information we process intuitively is just as valid as the data we search out.

Intuition and entrepreneurship go hand in hand.

Following your gut will allow you to create, mold, and model things that have never been created, molded, or modeled before.

Porter’s Points—Trusting Your Gut

  • Unite focused preparation and analysis with the power of intuition.
  • Because the entrepreneurial path is not always clearly laid out, you must develop the ability and courage to follow your instincts.
  • You will wander in the fog—don’t fear the occasional detour.

If you have much experience as an entrepreneur, you know there is a certain amount of loneliness in leadership.  We’ll talk about that idea next time.

 

The Race Seldom Goes to the Fastest

August 20th, 2009 by admin

Today Rich will key you in on what is needed to win as an entrepreneur.

There is a man named Minesh Doshi who lives in Ahmedebad, India. He wanted his own computer hardware company, but didn’t have the capital for a full-scale start-up. Despite daunting obstacles, he began to work toward his goal, slowly.

He bought all the components he could afford from the local market, put computers together on his own, and then sold them to local business owners. All the transportation of parts and machinery was literally done on his bicycle. He worked aggressively, providing stellar service and support until he became well-known and well-respected in this local area.

As a result of his reputation and hard work, he got a hardware contract from the Indian government. Now, Minesh’s company, Semaphore Software, is a major engineering outsource resource in India. I prefer to work with him and his team of almost 400 employees over any other team in India. When you deal with Minesh, there is no question; you are doing business with a doggedly determined individual.

John Adams, American patriot and second President of the United States described his position with respect to the fervent fight for independence as “unalterably determined.” He could not and would not be swayed from the defined objective, freedom. This mettle, this unalterable determination is also the foundation of your entrepreneurial success.

Let me impress upon you this truth: the race very seldom goes to the fastest, the prize to the smartest, the award to the most beautiful, or the brass ring to the cleverest. The individual who simply refuses to die and continues to press forward will eventually get the win. That is unalterable determination.

In the 2004 Olympics, Puerto Rico played America in basketball. On paper, America was the “A-team,” Puerto Rico falling far behind, the B-team. Were you shocked as you watched the underdogs school the more talented Americans? I wasn’t. It was a classic occurrence of A players giving B efforts and B players giving A efforts. Larry Brown, USA’s coach, commented on the B team’s win: “I’d like to congratulate Puerto Rico… They played so much harder than we did, so much better as a team… From our perspective the only thing we can do is to find out what we’re made of.”

I’ll take a B team giving A effort any day of the week.

As you read the following sections, analyze your mental and emotional foundation. If you’re not the strongest man or the cleverest woman, know that it has nothing to do with your promise as an entrepreneur. Your unalterable determination can and will carry you to victory.

Porter’s Points—The Race Seldom Goes to the Fastest

• Approach each endeavor with “unalterable determination” – and if you don’t have any, get some!
• Continually press forward and course-correct as required.
• So you weren’t MVP or valedictorian. Focus on what you are! Make a list of the qualities in your heart and head that will get you where you want to be.

Besides having unalterable determination, you also need to learn to trust your gut – more on that next time!

Porter’s Preface: The Heart and the Head of the Entrepreneur

August 18th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we begin Chapter 12 of Bootstrap Business: The Heart and the Head of the Entrepreneur.

How many “do-it-yourself” books have you read?  Of those, how many did you pick up a second time?  And what about chapters you’ve read multiple times? 

Scan your bookshelves. Invariably, you’ll come across a book with tattered pages and cover, a dog-eared and underlined favorite. Your favorite book naturally falls open to “the best part,” a chapter that fills you with motivation and confidence. This chapter is one of those chapters. 

If you want to run the entrepreneur’s race you must understand this truth: the attributes and skills required to experience success deal directly with what you have in your heart and in your head. Nothing else is more important. The stamina essential for entrepreneurial success springs from your mental, emotional, and spiritual reservoirs.  In this chapter, Rich discusses some of his favorite principles and topics for getting your heart right and your head on straight.

WHAT’S IN YOUR HEART?

The Race Seldom Goes to the Fastest

Trusting Your Gut

The Loneliness of Leadership

Embracing Failure

 

WHAT’S IN YOUR HEAD?

The Secret

Abundance Mentality

Breaking Through the Mental Barrier

The Zone

Do the Hard Thing

 

We’ll dive into these sections next time and you’ll see why it’s a favorite chapter for anyone starting a business….

 

 

Cross the Line

August 13th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

You’ve probably never had someone tell you it’s a good idea to cross the line, but Rich will today.  You’ll find out why…

Maintaining a perfect life balance as an entrepreneur is impossible. I’ll confess to anyone who asks, I live my life constantly and consistently out of balance. But, along the way, I’ve learned an invaluable principle: cross the line of balance as frequently as possible.

It’s unavoidable; you will have ups and downs depending on the dynamic demands of your business. There will be times when you can play golf in the mornings and have family picnics on the weekends. Other times you will lose sleep and go weeks without swinging an eight iron. I’ll say it again: find the line of balance and stick to it as often as possible.

If you find yourself at work constantly for a week, make time to be at home for a long weekend. Entrepreneurship occasionally requires you to live your life in extreme conditions. Make sure you’re switching back and forth between work and the rest of your life. You’ll cross the line of balance between extremes often enough to feel some sort of normalcy. Use your time wisely, and make sure your priorities are in order.

Another important note: when you must go out of balance at work, communicate to your loved ones that your schedule is a deliberate choice, not an uncontrollable accident. Help them understand that the effort is critical for a specific time period. Then ensure you stick with the time period.

Your conversation might look like this:

I’m going to have to spend a lot of time at the office the next two weeks. We have some critical milestones approaching, so I won’t be around much. At the end, though, let’s celebrate by going on a long weekend to the lake house.

Ed Viesturs made this statement about climbing and life, epitomizing the balance he maintains:

“The fact is, even before I was married, I made a commitment to myself to be smart when I climb in the Himalayas. What I’ve learned is that life is a balancing act, you can have a family life but you still have to work, you have to do what you do. Climbing big mountains is what I do, I love it and I’d say I have been fairly successful. But my personal style includes avoiding stupid mistakes. The life I live now shows me every day that there is more to life than climbing.” (“Viesturs Returns to Annapurna,” GreatOutdoors.com)

In keeping with the principles of “Reward Yourself,” don’t “forget” this reward! It’s the spirit of the adage work hard, play hard. It just so happens in entrepreneurship that the sentiment ends up looking more like work harder, play harder. The time to play hard is a freedom granted to entrepreneurs who are able to manage their time effectively.

Porter’s Points – Cross the Line

  •  Cross the line of balance into a balanced life as frequently as possible.
  • Talk to your family and trust relationships. Let them know that your going out of balance is a deliberate choice, not an uncontrollable accident.
  • Make The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey required reading and then live it. At our company, we do.
  • Schedule important life events in your calendar. Stick to these commitments unapologetically.
  • Schedule a long weekend every month or so and leave every respect of the office behind.

 That concludes Chapter 11: Climb High, Sleep Low.  Next time we’ll begin Chapter 12: The Heart and the Head of the Entrepreneur with an introduction from Ron Porter.

Climb High, Sleep Low: Achieving Balance

August 11th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we learn how to avoid burnouts as an entrepreneur.

One of the most important concepts in high-altitude climbing is “climb high, sleep low.” At higher altitudes, less oxygen is present in the air. In order to compensate, the body fills up with fluid. Altitude sickness, displayed as headaches, nausea, or vomiting, results from this is a caution to slow your ascent. If these warning signs go unheeded, altitude sickness can progress into HAPE, or high-altitude pulmonary edema, as the lungs fill with fluid. A similar problem referred to as HACE, or cerebral edema, might also occur in the brain.

These conditions are among the deadliest conditions associated with high-altitude climbing. If a person were dropped on the top of Mount Everest without giving the body time to acclimatize, he or she would die within five minutes. If you want to get to the top of a high mountain without experiencing the dilemmas of HAPE or HACE, you must sleep only 1,000 feet higher than the previous night: climb high, sleep low.

This mountain climbing metaphor translates directly into entrepreneurship: while you must be diligent, you cannot be reckless. My dear friend Pema Dorje Sherpa told me a story about a marathon runner who considered his physiology to be above and beyond that of high altitude climbers. Flying out of Katmandu at 4,000 feet he landed at Lukla, at about 10,000 feet. Jumping off the tiny Otter twin-engine he proceeded to attack the trail, running the entire distance to the 16,000-foot lakes of Gokyo, an amazing and seemingly impossible feat. In just one day he gained 12,000 feet in altitude.

Mountaineers take upwards of ten days to make that high of a climb, not because they can’t do it in two days, but because they know their bodies must acclimatize to ever-increasing altitude. The marathoner achieved his goal to cross the finish line at Gokyo in one day. The next morning he was dead.

Balance is an essential attribute of mountain climbing. When you climb 8,000-meter peaks, a four- or five-day rest period is part of the proven training regime. You need an ample reserve for the final assault on the summit. So it is when starting and growing your business. You cannot use this principle as an excuse to hang out at base camp. Be smart, and pace yourself for times that require gut-wrenching effort.

As I’ve built and grown businesses, I’ve often turned to different books on entrepreneurship for guidance. More often than not I’ve found examples of successful businessmen or women who sacrificed their families, social life, and personal goals to make their business successful. Early in my corporate career I was fooled into thinking that this kind of sacrifice was necessary. As a result, too much time was spent out of balance. The following consecutive events occurred, which changed my incorrect thinking.

While General Manager of Mitsubishi Electric PC Division I was summoned to Birmingham England for a chat with Dr. Peter Horne, my mentor and boss. As I arrived at Peter’s office he sat me down and offered sincere congratulations. He said, “You made marked progress; the USA division is starting to come together.” He continued:

“Rich, I want you to remember this: you can replace anything in life. You can replace a job, a car, money, anything, but you can’t replace your health, your trust relationships, or your family.” With that statement, he excused me from the meeting.

The 20-hour plane trip home gave me ample time to consider this practical, wise, and invaluable advice. The previous year I’d spent three weeks out of each month traveling, resulting in excess of 100,000 air miles. I was determined to “earn my stripes” at all cost.

Upon arriving home from this trip, I picked up my third son, only two years old at the time. He didn’t recognize me and pushed me away. It broke my heart. I reflected, “Why am I doing this? Is it worth it? Dr. Horne is right, I cannot replace this time with my child.” From this point forward I have made a very conscious attempt to guard my health, my family, and my trust relationships.

You do not need to sacrifice family, health, or trust relationships in exchange for entrepreneurial success. I contend that you will be more effective, happy, and successful if you do not.

Porter’s Points – Climb High, Sleep Low

  •  Ensure you build reserves for stretches that require gut-wrenching effort.
  • Don’t hang out at “base camp” longer than necessary.
  • Entrepreneurial success is not an equal exchange for the loss of family, health, and trust relationships.

So as you build your small business, make sure you strike a balance between work and play!  Along those lines, we’ll talk next time about crossing the line….

Porter’s Points: Seven Years of Plenty, Seven Years of Famine

August 7th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we finish the story of Ed Viesturs’ summit of Annapurna and relate his climbing philosophy to business creation.

Now, you have to keep in mind that Ed had already attempted this climb twice, and backed off both times. This was the last 8,000-meter peak he had left to conquer before attaining his goal of summiting all 14 peaks. Annapurna is arguably the most dangerous and most difficult of all of the 8,000 meter peaks, with the possible exception of K2. He had already tried and backed off twice.

Ed’s team chose a route that required them to be above 26,000 feet, the death zone, for an extended period of time. However, taking this route allowed them to avoid the huge avalanche-prone faces of the foreboding mountain. Well into their summit bid they came to a corniced face that “just did not feel right.” Ed and Veikka chose to go back down the mountain, but two other climbing partners decided to press forward.

In an amazing climb, those other two reached the summit successfully. Some people watching the climb called Ed and Veikka weak-kneed. They received an enormous amount of criticism for turning around when their partners summitted. However, they did not waver and offered no regrets. They had the courage and fortitude to “go to the tent” despite receiving peer pressure, despite it being the final summit, and despite the world watching.

I know of a local partnership that exemplified the need for this principle. After experiencing success at the outset of the venture, each partner was able to take huge disbursements rather frequently. Not sure of the upcoming terrain, the first partner chose to invest in some real estate and tucked money away for the future. The other partner built a gorgeous home, requiring him to take out two mortgages. He filled the new house with top-of-the-line furniture and increased his monthly burn to match the increase in the amount of money he was bringing home.

As often happens, technology and the market changed. The business hit a transition period requiring the partners to lay off employees and cut expenses (including disbursements) while they took time to regroup. They determined it would take at least six months to retool the business to a level where the cash flow would allow both partners to take a salary. The first partner had the resources to wait out the tough time and keep climbing: slowly, but steadily. The second partner was forced into the tent at a dead stop. He went back into corporate America seeking a salaried job that would support his new lifestyle.

Different choices have different consequences. There is no way to predict the future, and you must be prepared to accept what changes may come. In the above example, the second partner cannot be considered a failure. He accomplished a great deal and chose his own priorities. However, if you want to experience true entrepreneurial freedom, your priorities need to reflect your goals.

When things are going well, make sure you don’t burn up all the reserves. Put some away for the slow time. A good rule of thumb is to maintain three months of buffer, no matter what. This gives immense peace of mind when times get tough. It’s smart to be a little conservative now for peace of mind later; I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: live like others won’t now so you can live like others can’t later.

Getting to the top is optional, but getting back down is mandatory.

Porter’s Points – Seven Years of Plenty, Seven Years of Famine

  •  Live on less than you bring in.
  • Do not buy the extras on your basic earnings; buy them on your extra income.
  • Get your personal financial life in order and avoid putting your loved ones at risk.
  • Save and maintain a three-month buffer of financial reserves.

As you start your business, make sure you’re saving enough resources that you can survive if things get tough.  Next time we’ll talk about achieving balance, using the mountain climbing principle ‘climb high, sleep low’