Five Steps to Supercharged Results for the Change Agent Entrepreneur
By Lisa Hendrickson
You became an entrepreneur because you knew that you could do your thing better than anyone else out there. You knew that you could make something great because you believe in yourself and have that special magic to bring your idea into reality. With the approaching new year, it’s time to assess and review what is bringing us closer to our ideas and ideals and to do away with what isn’t. Achievement comes naturally to the parts of the business that play to our strengths while we struggle with the rest. Its time to make that “left turn at Albuquerque” like Bugs Bunny said and change direction on what’s not working. Blowing the lid off obstacles will open up a whole new aspect of achievement, excitement and newness that could just be the kind of gamechanger that you’re looking for in the new year.
Entrepreneurs are Masterful Change Agents
Entrepreneurs are masterful agents of change—the premise of entrepreneurship isn’t about doing things the same, it’s inherently about making change. Supercharging your results means that you’ve got to change from your current state to get to the next. This means there are no sacred cows in the business and that you’re able to jettison what’s weighing down the business down instead of lifting it up. It’s the essence of change.
Possibility and Change
As entrepreneurs, possibility is our go-go juice. We love the thought of achieving all the goals on our checklists because then, only then, will we be able to have next level results—more money, more exposure, more satisfaction, more time off. We can imagine an entire office of well-trained employees who can handle the workload while we’re enjoying winter vacations on a secluded tropical island. They won’t ever text or call because they’re so confident and capable of managing things and they simply don’t need us to run the day to day operations. Can’t you just see it? All the things that we wish for when we see the clean slate presented by a new year coupled with the vision of the future where we’ve achieved our great outcomes makes an entrepreneur’s success meter rise up like a terrier’s prance when they have won “best in show.” The possibility of the future is enticing and draws us in every time, the feeling of success is palpable—but how do we get from where we are today to where we want to go?
The Color of Kool-Aid
An entrepreneur has to believe more than anyone else in the change that they are making in the world by creating their company, their products and by bringing their community to the mix. We believe so much in what we’re creating that sometimes we don’t know that we might need to make a change along the way that makes the whole thing better. Think of it this way, its not that you drank your own Kool-Aid and now you don’t believe in it, it’s that the Kool-Aid you drank was one color and now it might be time to introduce another color. Rarely, if at all, past a certain moment in time, a pure vision and the purist don’t stand in step with the outcomes required. Change requires introspection and a willingness to evolve.
Roadmapping for Road Tripping to Supercharged Results
After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Americans were enchanted by the idea of homesteading—leaving the East and to set out West to put a stake in the ground and claim their fortune of land and legacy. Westward Expansion like entrepreneurship means believing more in the vision of what will come rather than what you have now. Just like the settlers of the Western Expansion, entrepreneurs need a roadmap from the current state to the next level—consider this your roadmap to the next level.
Step One: Assess Current State Results.
Getting clear about what you and your team have achieved in closing the year is a key yet often overlooked step for success. Knowing where you are in the growth journey of your company and the results that the current company efforts are putting on the scoreboard will give you a baseline for measuring the improvements for the upcoming year. Assess financial results, operational efficiencies, customer service wins and losses, brand awareness, marketing effectiveness and any other aspects of the business that you seek to improve upon. If you are not able to measure, assess, evaluate and correct current state results because you haven’t made the systems to do so, make it a priority now to devise ways to evaluate your company’s performance in a consistent and timely manner.
Step Two: Define Success.
What is success? So often we assume that success is what everybody expects, not necessarily what we believe makes us successful as an entrepreneur and as a person. Have you spent time quietly thinking and writing down what your personal definition of success is? If you haven’t defined what success means to you, no matter what results you and your team achieve, you might not feel fulfilled. Why? Because success is personal and until you define this for yourself, you aren’t able to pinpoint exactly where you want your entrepreneurial venture to take you personally. As the leader of your team, if you’re uncertain of the definition of success, do you think your employees can align behind the idea? Max De Pree, ex-CEO of Herman Miller and author of many best-selling books on business leadership said, “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” Agreed. Defining creates a tangible state. Tangibility will bring your idea of success from ephemeral to achievable.
Step Three: Turn Your Idea of Success into a Business Purpose.
Outside of making money, what is the purpose of your business? Jack Welsh famously said his mission at GE was to make the company number one or number two in the markets it participated in. I’d challenge the notion that this was a mission—I believe it to be an objective. They are different. An objective is an intended outcome from a project or a plan. A mission or purpose is something that is open ended and has a multitude of ways that it can be enacted upon. Here’s the Starbuck’s mission statement: To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one cup, one person, one neighborhood at a time.” Helping others ensures that you receive the same for yourself. Think of it like the rule of karma or reaping what you sow—helping others through a purposeful approach in business will create meaning and satisfaction for you, your employees, and the people that you serve. Now more than ever, expressing your purpose to a hyper-connected world brings your brand to life and has customers make an emotional connection with you and your company.
Step Four: Align Business Habits with Purpose, Goals and Desired Outcomes.
Entrepreneurs are visionaries. We can see the future when we close our eyes. We turn vision into drive and drive causes actions. Actions produce results. It’s easy for entrepreneurs to connect the purpose to an idea and an idea to action steps but its harder for us to share this process with our employees. Too often small business owners and entrepreneurs expect their staff to just “get it.” Reducing the disconnect between what you envision and what your employees produce can help minimize the risk of failed campaigns and poor business results. By creating company habits like a morning check in or weekly reporting of results, we’re able to take our ideas and see the actions and results in the day to day business efforts. When putting in the right business habits we foster goal-oriented action.
Knowing the difference between a purpose, a goal and an outcome gives entrepreneurs the fortitude to break down the complexity that has us often abandon change agent projects because they get too cumbersome. When we feel the purpose and goals in our bones, then our natural drive towards the outcomes helps us change our personal behaviors. When we make change personally, then we can institute change inside of the business. Aligned actions produce supercharged results.
Step Five: Make Your Business Goals Personal to Your Employees.
In the book “Good to Great” Jim Collins writes about how high performing companies become that way. His keen observation about motivation has stuck with me many years after initially reading the book. To paraphrase Collins said “You don’t need to motivate employees. They already come to you motivated. The idea is to not demotivate them.” So how do we do that as small business owners and entrepreneurs? We create projects that ask employees to align their own goals with our business goals. Let’s say you have an employee who has wanted to ride their bike across the state raising money for charity but have never done it. What if you could bring together a business outcome with this personal outcome? What if you helped her achieve her goal while she helped the business achieve its goals? Do you think you’d create a sense of urgency and connectedness between the business goals and your employee’s personal one? Once the goals are achieved, don’t you think you’d have an employee who felt real ownership of the brand, her work and a sense of reciprocity that will help drive her to step outside of her comfort zone to produce change agent results? (Hint: your answers to all of these questions is yes.).
A few clarifying points to help you navigate your way to the next level. Think of this as a mix of personal and business tools that help declutter your journey as a change agent entrepreneur.
The Connection Between Strategy and Execution is the Plan.
The only difference between a vision and a pipedream is action. Connecting vision and execution are key to having your entrepreneurial vision be realized. Helping your employees move from vision to execution is the project plan. This is an important part of your change map and its often overlooked. If you aren’t using a project plan or project documentation in your small business, you are missing an opportunity to offset work with tools that can help you see potential trouble around the corner. Usually the block for small business owners is learning a new software and implementing that tool inside the business. Know that planning for the amount of time it will take to introduce and implement a new tool will be about twice as long as the salesperson testifies to and that until proficient at using the tool, your team will grumble about it and be slower at achieving the task. Knowing this ahead of time helps you plan for the implementation. Be bold and strike out with new efficiencies. They absolutely will help you to free up time, reduce errors and see problems before they become big ones.
Give Up “The Next Shiny Penny” Syndrome.
Chasing after the next shiny penny is just that, chasing after something that after awhile just isn’t that interesting or valuable to you and your organization, worse it’s a distraction that never seems to fully pay off. It’s a vicious cycle where we entrepreneurs see opportunities everywhere and we wind up chasing the shiny penny because we think it’s the Treasure of the Sierra Madre and this time, this time, it’s the one….we confuse the possibility of the business with the shortcut of the next shiny penny. Giving up the distraction of the next shiny penny brings sanity to the larger idea that we’re striving to achieve.
Following the Five Steps of A Change Agent Entrepreneur roadmap will get you on the pathway to making changes in your business and your business results but just like driving on the thruway, there’s always rules of the road.
Rules of the Road.
Make no more than three big goals per quarter. If you’re a small business where resources are scheduled tight and there’s not a lot of wiggle room in the calendar, you should be hyper-focused on achieving three key goals at most per quarter. Your organization most likely isn’t equipped to achieve more than that given the constraints.
Have a quarterly goal visual display on every project plan or project document. Goals will seem ephemeral or just forgotten if they’re spoken about at a meeting and then not integrated into the day to day work that the business does. Find ways to have team members relate to the goal as something that is top of mind, not something that’s remembered towards the end of the quarter or around bonus time.
You cannot improve that which you do not measure. Having a means to determine what your game is, what is a measure for success helps you and your team understand what is working or what programs or campaigns need improvement. Measuring and assessing in real time allows you and your team to make pivots and adjustments so that results aren’t examined and learned from after the fact.
There is no such thing as common sense. If it was so common, then everyone would have it, no? Do not expect people to understand what you want. You have to show people what you want and then develop that sensibility within your employees. Those are the elements of brand by the way. That special sauce that only your company knows how to make.
What you believe you achieve. If you believe it with passion and know it in your bones that what you’re out to accomplish is achievable, the people will come along. Whether its your employees or the public, if you’ve got the confidence and fire in the belly to make it happen, the world will accommodate you and your personal definition of success.
Hope is not a strategy. Hoping that things will get done or get better without taking an action is like thinking that you’ll be able to run a marathon by watching one on TV. It just takes more than what you’re doing now to make changes.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” (Lao Tzu) and that wisdom applies to any kind of actions made by you, the Change Agent Entrepreneur. Schedule step one on the roadmap in your calendar and keep that appointment with yourself. You will see how the steps unfold for you. Yes, it might feel uncomfortable at first, but making these changes in your business will help you focus on achievement of next level results.
All pioneers and Change Agent Entrepreneurs step out into the unknown and learn a new territory, find ways to overcome obstacles and prevail in a new landscape. Defining your own path and taking it on with whole-heartedness, smarts and a plan in hand will have you ahead of the pack and achieving inspired and supercharged results. Onward into the future!
About the Author:
Lisa Hendrickson sold her first idea for a company to her father when she was five years old for twenty-five cents. Today she is an award-winning serial entrepreneur who has lived an immersive life around start-up ventures. She is president of Spark City, a company that works with purpose driven entrepreneurs to build companies that make a positive impact. Lisa’s expertise is applied to business models that bring new products and services to market. Prior, she was the COO of HCC, an award-winning values-driven luxury interiors company that became one of the fastest growing inner-city companies in America garnering a coveted slot in the ICIC 100. She’s been a featured speaker at both Inc 500 and Inc Magazine’s GrowCo conferences and Smart Hustle with Seth Godin. She is the co-author of the book, Boom! Deciphering Innovation: How Disruption Drives Companies to Transform or Die” and numerous trainings for entrepreneurs. She has appeared on BBC World Business Report, The New York Times, CBS’s The Early Show, ABC’s World News Tonight, Crain’s NY, and other media outlets.