Practicing What I Preach

This is my 192nd post in this blog and I want to thank those of you who have been reading my thoughts on a regular basis. 

Since I try to practice what I preach, I regularly reevaluate what's working and what's not and where I spend my time, and I've realized I have to put this blog on hold for now. 

This is in part since I'm also writing posts for the Women Career Changers blog and it's hard to do two at the same time, but also because I'm in transition myself and much energy and time need to be devoted to finding the next right opportunity. (I'm looking for a COO or VP Operations role in NY or remotely, in case you know of anything.)

You can still read my thoughts at my other blog, although they're slanted towards transition and not "business common sense" or business books, and you can follow my business book ratings on goodreads.

And you can also reach out via this blog or my website if I can help in any way.

I wish you much success and learning, whether via business books or life.

Bye for now,

Entrepreneurism for the Risk-Averse

Have you been unhappy at your day job and fantasized about starting your own business? Or have you actually tried to start your own business to only miss the stability of the paycheck and benefits the day job provided? 

Yes, the grass is always greener on the other side, but Patrick McGinnis in his book The 10% Entrepreneur: Live Your Startup Dream Without Quitting Your Day Job shows us that there's actually a third alternative.

Patrick was a successful corporate VP on Wall Street who never gave being anything else another thought until he lost his job in the 2008 financial meltdown. He then realized that to be safe, he had to diversify his career—much like his investments—and he became what he calls a 10% Entrepreneur. Basically, he spends 10% of his resources on side ventures that build his equity and cushion towards the future. And not only does this give him a Plan B, but it allows him to work on side projects that he's interested in, meet great people, keep learning, and know that he'll never be caught rudderless again.

And you don't necessarily have to have money to become a 10% Entrepreneur. Patrick explains that there are five types of entrepreneurs: angel, adviser, co-founder, aficionado, and 110%. The angel are for those who do have some money to invest whereas the adviser invests his time and knowledge. Co-founder is someone who actually is willing to devote a lot more time/money to something he or she believes in, while an aficionado is someone who pursues a passion on the side. And the 110% is a full-time entrepreneur who has his own 10% so that even all his eggs aren't in one basket.

Patrick takes us through how to find opportunities, vet them, expand our network and "team," and succeed in the long term. And in addition to just being a great read, it's the answer to what I have been looking for. 

After two attempts at starting my own business and two more attempts at working for early stage startups, I've realized that I need the stability of a steady pay check. I love the culture found at startups and am looking for a senior operations role at a funded and/or proven startup where I can have the best of both worlds, but even if I end up working for a larger company, there's no reason I can't satisfy that yen in my 10%. 

And unlike many of the other books out there about entrepreneurism and following one's passions, Patrick's formula is one that we can adjust to our own particular needs and strengths and above all else, is realistic. It's something each and every one of us could—and should—pursue. 

So are you ready to become a 10% Entrepreneur?

A Business Reflects Its Owner

I just finished reading Derek Sivers' Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur in one day. It's a small and short book but packed with much wisdom.

Derek was a musician who created CD Baby, the largest seller of independent music on the web, when he could not find any store to sell his own CD. Friends then asked him to sell theirs, then their friends asked him...and the rest is a history of phenomenal year-over-year growth.

Throughout this amazing journey, Derek did things in a very nontraditional way. From trying to keep his business small, to doing his own programming until the end, to making sure all were focused on making their musicians and customers happy. He didn't care about the "right" way of doing things or what others thought, only that it kept his musicians, customers, and himself happy.

Two of the points that Derek made really resonated with my own experience.

Derek recommends that if an idea requires effort to gain traction, one should improve on the idea until it sells itself. CD Baby required no effort to grow since it truly served a need and did it well. If your idea does that—and he encourages you test it out first—then keep going; if not, iterate and improve.

He also believes that a business reflects the owner and allows the owner to create his own perfect world. Who but the owner decides what will and will not be tolerated, what should be rewarded, who to hire, etc.? Derek worked really hard to maintain this even as the company grew, and chose to leave once he no longer enjoyed what he was doing. 

The main reason I've tried to start my own startup, and the main reason I'm focusing much of my job search in the startup world, is that I'd love to create something worthwhile from the ground up. As an operations person, I want to create smart, efficient, and scalable systems; but as a people operations person and leader, I want to create a culture where all are respected, empowered, engaged, and set-up for success and further growth.

I want to create a world where everyone is excited to come to work, is at their best at work, and happy to contribute their best. This will allow me to be my best as well. 

What's your vision of a "perfect world" at work? 

The Road Taken

"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost is one of my favorite poems and has been for a long time. Reading about how Daniel Lubetzky consciously chose to develop the KIND bar and brands in his book Do the KIND Thing reminded me of this.

If you haven't read the poem, you can find it in its entirety here, but below is the last stanza and the one that speaks to this point:
I shall be telling this with a sigh/Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
I have written before how everything we do and do not do is a choice. 

Daniel chose not to make the KIND bar the same as any other bar and chose to ignore all naysayers. As he learned firsthand, when you're trying to teach consumers to think differently or to try a new product that is a first of its kind, it's difficult and requires perseverance and faith. But he had no interest in making a bar like any of the others out there and stuck to his purpose until it got traction.

Once they became popular, this same focus was necessary to determine where to invest their limited resources and where to expand to. It required conscious choice on what their brand was and what was in line with its core. Anything that was not, even if it could be a quick win, was ignored.

And ultimately, these choices and focus helped them succeed.

Have you had to make similar choices? Which road did you take?

Success Requires Grounded Leadership

Jeffrey Hayzlett, in his latest book Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless, teaches us to be ourselves and not to be afraid of pushing ourselves, thinking and choosing differently, focusing on what matters, and much more.

Although all his lessons are valuable, the one that really struck a nerve is what he calls "Clean Your Own Bathroom: Stay Grounded and Connected."

In brief, he reminds leaders that they need to remain connected to the work, have done it at some point themselves, and listen to feedback to remain relevant and successful. The reason this resonates is that I've unfortunately worked at companies where senior leadership has lost all grounding, refused to heed the advise of those who knew better, and bullishly continued on the path to disaster. 

And since this has happened both in large and small companies, it's a result of who's on top rather than the size of the company. As Jeffrey explains in another chapter and principle, the company's cadence (aka their flow) totally stems from the leadership, values, culture, and systems chosen. 

So as a leader, if you want to remain relevant and grounded, make sure you occasionally do the work—or at least observe it being done—and be smart enough to ask for feedback from those who do the work and interact with your customers.

One of my earliest blog posts was on feedback being a gift. Nothing in the many months' since I wrote that has changed my mind or made me think otherwise. But to get honest feedback requires a culture of trust and mutual respect, since otherwise staff will be afraid to speak up.

Is the leadership of your company grounded? Do they encourage honest feedback? And if you are a leader, do you? If not, how do you plan on changing this going forward?