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Five keys to achieving entrepreneurial excellence

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Five Keys to Achieving Entrepreneurial Excellence



   Personal advice from some of EO’s most successful Members, on
    ...
2
Five Rules of Better Business
                             By Carol Frank, EO Colorado

As a long-time entrepreneur, I’ve ...
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Five keys to achieving entrepreneurial excellence

  1. 1. Five Keys to Achieving Entrepreneurial Excellence Personal advice from some of EO’s most successful Members, on what it takes to be the best Presented by Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Canada Contents Five Rules of Better Business.............................................................................. 3 The Commandments of Business Growth ............................................................ 5 Learning to Embrace Change ............................................................................. 7 When the Rubber Hits the Road .......................................................................... 9 The Absent Entrepreneur ................................................................................. 11 For more information on EO Canada visit: http://www.eocanada.org
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  3. 3. Five Rules of Better Business By Carol Frank, EO Colorado As a long-time entrepreneur, I’ve endured my share of highs and lows in business. The analogy that running a business is a lot like being on a rollercoaster is dead on, as you never really know what direction work will take you. Throughout my topsy-turvy business journey, I’ve discovered five critical things an entrepreneur should never do: 1. Believe bigger is better. When selecting a public relations firm, it may seem natural to assume that bigger firms with hefty fees and impressive client lists are a good bet for entrepreneurs. But, you could make out better by selecting a smaller, hungrier firm that will be as eager to have you as a client as you are to have their services. That’s the lesson Amilya Antonetti of Soapworks learned when she hired a big public relations firm to help turn her all-natural, soap-based home cleaners into a national brand. The big PR firm devoted its attention to its bigger clients and generated no results for Soapworks. Instead, it sapped several years of the company’s cash growth. Amilya later found a younger, more aggressive firm to handle her account, one that got her the results she craved using cost-effective marketing, consumer and corporate education, and guerilla techniques. 2. Put all of your eggs in one basket. Businesses that rely on a single supplier, vendor or type of customer are only one move away from disaster, as Gary Hoover discovered when his retail travel store, Travel Fest, took a dive because it was too dependent on the airline industry. Travel Fest took off in the early 1990s as customers embraced its travel superstore concept, but things began to fall apart when cost-cutting airlines drastically cut travel agent commissions, an important part of the company’s revenue. At the mercy of an industry he could not control, Gary never saw the fatal blow to his company coming. 3. Neglect your best employees. Jeff Taylor lost many talented people when he started Monster.com. Before developing the largest job and recruitment site on the Web, Jeff owned an advertising agency called Adion. Not wanting to dilute the strength of Adion, he invited only young, up-and-coming employees to join the fledgling Monster.com. Months later, he learned that many key employees at Adion were leaving because they felt left out. Jeff was able to woo about a third of them back with offers of jobs at Monster.com, but it was too late to save the rest. Jeff realized that he kept his key employees in the dark about Monster.com and erred by not asking them to get in on its development. 3
  4. 4. 4. Trust everyone. Remember— it’s not personal, it’s business. For a lesson on what not to do, ask Judith Briles, whose venture as a hotel developer with a “friend” cost her more than US$1 million. Looking back, Judith realizes she missed several red flags about her partner because she was too trusting. To make things right, Judith had to sell her house and her family’s clothes to satisfy her creditors after her partner declared bankruptcy. The experience changed her career direction and taught her the importance of knowing exactly where the money is going. 5. Ignore your finances. When Susan Jones Knape and her husband started their advertising agency, Knape and Knape, they hired an in-house CPA and fired the outside CPA firm they had been working with. Susan devoted all her energies to growing her agency’s client base and let the CFO watch the money. She was unaware of his history of mismanaging money at other companies, and with no outside CPA firm to check up on him, he proceeded to make poor decisions on her behalf, including choosing to pay media vendors instead of the IRS, which eventually cost her US$350,000 in penalties and interest. These five tips have helped me learn and grow as a business leader. By applying these lessons learned to my company, I’ve able to position my business toward sustainable success. What’s more, I’ve learned how to be the best entrepreneur I can be. Carol Frank was a 14-year member of EO and is now Managing Director of SDR Ventures, an EO Colorado sponsor. She is the author of, Do as I Say, Not As I Did! Gaining Wisdom in Business through the Mistakes of Highly Successful People. 4
  5. 5. The Commandments of Business Growth By Mark Graham, EO Toronto When I graduated from college in 1997, I started my business career in investment banking. I lasted four months. While the experience was rewarding (I learned how to use Microsoft Excel like a pro!), I found I was more suited for entrepreneurship. I always wanted to build something I could call my own, and it turns out I have a mind for sales and marketing, not finance. Given my time in investment banking, I was interested in how Goldman Sachs—the industry's 800-pound gorilla—grew from a mid-tier firm to a global powerhouse over the course of a few decades. To learn more about this magnificent rise, I’ve been reading Charles Ellis's “The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs,” a book that sheds a lot of light on growth management. Admittedly, I have very little connection to the investment banking industry these days, nor do I endorse modern-day Wall Street. However, what I find interesting about this book are some of the timeless business principles that can be applied to almost any enterprise, regardless of industry or company size. This is not a commentary on Goldman Sachs per se, but rather a look at how one company within one industry was able to grow by applying some surprisingly simple principles. In 1970, long before sub-prime mortgages and credit default swaps, John Whitehead, a co-head of the firm, wrote the following 10 commandments that guided their business development efforts: 1. Don't waste your time going after business you don't really want. 2. The boss usually decides— not the assistant treasurer. Do you know the boss? 3. It is just as easy to get a first-rate piece of business as a second-rate one. 4. You never learn anything when you’re talking. 5. The client's objective is more important than yours. 6. The respect of one person is worth more than an acquaintance with 100 people. 7. When there's business to be found, go out and get it! 8. Important people like to deal with other important people. Are you one? 9. There's nothing worse than an unhappy client. 10. If you get the business, it's up to you to see that it's well-handled. As an entrepreneur, I reflect on these commandments all the time, and many of them make perfect sense, especially for an organization that wants to be outstanding. In my case, I have built my business by putting integrity first, even if it seems at times we 5
  6. 6. sacrifice short-term profits. We have always held the belief that a client relationship is something to be nurtured and encouraged to blossom into a profitable and enjoyable affiliation. However, it is not easy to develop relationships like this if one is always out for the quick sell. Many people in business waste a lot of time chasing opportunities that simply don’t make sense and distract from what really matters: establishing relationships. By focusing on the principles listed above, I am able to create more value within my business, establish stronger connections and become a better, all-around entrepreneur. 6
  7. 7. Learning to Embrace Change By Ravi Todi, EO Kolkata In my quest for greatness as an entrepreneur, I know that accomplishments and changes are just two steps toward achieving life's higher goals. It is the process of continuous improvement that makes success complete and propels me to reach the highest bastions of excellence in my country. The finance business in India is both a challenge and an opportunity. It is a challenge because there are too many players willing to fund nearly anything and everything at the lowest possible interest rates. This makes competition tougher and unbalanced as players start to defy convention to get business. It is an opportunity because everybody is increasingly becoming conscious of their state of existence; they want to have the best of things even with limited resources. That is where I come in. I made the conscious decision of merging my company with another so that I could become a small part of a large pie instead of remaining a large part of a small pie. This merger provided us with a much larger market capitalization. Almost overnight, our joint entity became a force to be reckoned with. We were able to borrow at a much lower rate and our bargaining power increased, thanks to our increase in size. The merger has resulted in the formation of a US$1.5 billion asset company with more than 4,000 employees. Leading affairs and managing the total operation of this newly formed company is a wonderful learning experience. I’ve discovered that technology is a must to grow your business. I’ve also discovered that size matters. I started thinking big, and my whole thought process changed. In all, the two factors that have determined the success of my business are sound management principles and quality human resources. Both need to work in harmony to achieve success in totality. During the years, I have seen how the management order has changed from being one of control to one of delegation. Organizations are accepting this change and gradually shifting over to the “teamwork” model, which allows employees to better integrate with corporate objectives. As an entrepreneur, I have always relied on teamwork, because it provides avenues for a more holistic growth. I keep coming back to the concept of change, since it is one thing that is constant in today’s world. Everything else seems irrelevant. If I hadn’t learned to adapt to and embrace change, my business would have been left behind in the business wake. It is 7
  8. 8. this change that is compelling organizations like ours to look for innovative models of growth. Knowledge and its application are certainly the key elements of corporate growth, which remains the core values of my organization. 8
  9. 9. When the Rubber Hits the Road By John Jankowski, EO Austin Growing up, I was never what you would call a “team sports” guy. While my friends were busy playing baseball, I gravitated toward a single-person sport that has since changed the way I live and work: motorcycle road racing. I started racing motorcycles long before I became an entrepreneur. In fact, it was my desire to race that inspired me to be my own boss. Racing taught me that I could be the creator and master of my own destiny. When my father sold his business and I lost my job, I decided to start my own engineering firm. I knew I could make my own success by applying what I learned from the racetrack to the workforce. 1. Prepare to Stay Competitive.
 Racing, like running a business, requires intense preparation. I once kept track of the time I spent working on a motorcycle to remain competitive with the other riders on the starting grid. I uncovered a simple equation: six hours working on the bike for every one hour I spent riding. Tuning my bike, riding practice laps and maintaining a high level of fitness are all necessary to perform at a championship level. Likewise, in business, to perform at a competitive level requires discipline, strategy and preparation that no one ever sees. As a consultant to architects and their clients, I’m never surprised by how savvy they can be. Walking into a meeting and risking being asked to discuss the latest technology—that I’ve never heard of— is no less dangerous than throwing my leg over a bike that’s not been properly set up, checked and rechecked. I’ve learned to do my homework beforehand to ensure I’m on point with my clients. In business, preparation is not a luxury, it’s mandatory. 2. Don’t Let Fear Take Over.
 After decades on the track, I am keenly aware of the risks inherent to motorcycle racing. I approach risk in business the same way: I know the potential problems, look for ways to optimize the outcome and take steps to produce the best and safest results. At the same time, it’s important that I evaluate multiple scenarios without letting fear take over. Recently, I had a veteran employee who was dramatically underachieving. This was causing significant stress to the team, all of whom were picking up the slack. I tried to help this employee improve, but things weren’t getting better. I feared the possibility of letting an experienced team member go, but I had to make a decision. I fired him. Afterward, the attitude and productivity of the team improved. I’ve since learned that my fear of losing an employee, or the repercussions of termination, undermines the efforts 9
  10. 10. and discipline required to build a strong team. 3. Maintain Your Focus. 
 Ultimately, being a motorcycle racer or an entrepreneur does not totally define me. I used to think that being the best at something would make me a different or better person. Years ago, I set a goal to win a regional championship. I wound up winning four and earned pole position based on accumulated points in eight national final races. Once that was behind me, though, I didn’t feel like anything had really been accomplished. What I learned is that the highs in racing are incredible, but they are also fleeting. The same experience applies to business. As an entrepreneur, I have to maintain my focus without giving in to the quick ups and downs. It’s great to revel in success, but once the high wears off, it’s time to focus on the next big project. Only then can I truly reap the rewards that come when hard work and preparation meet risk. 10
  11. 11. The Absent Entrepreneur By Michele Hecken, EO Edmonton Once again, I am traveling, and once again, I am reluctant to leave. Too many things are going on in my company: aggressive growth plans, hiring four additional sales people, implementing new technology … why did I think it was a good time to go on a lengthy business trip? I will be gone for two weeks, and I know the company needs my leadership more than ever. Just as I felt like a bad mom when I left my kids to visit with clients, I now feel like a terrible leader for abandoning my team, wondering if this trip will bring the desired return on my investment and time. Emotions aside, I know traveling is a necessary part of my role as an entrepreneur. Getting away helps me recharge my batteries, and more importantly, it provides me with ample opportunities to strengthen both my team and my performance as a business leader. When I travel for business, it’s a chance for my team to step up to the plate and show me what they’re capable of. Furthermore, it forces me to streamline my communication channels, an important step in ensuring everything runs smoothly without me. On average, I travel about seven or eight months out of the year. Before I depart for each trip, I follow certain rules that help set my team up for success in my absence. Here are some of the steps I take before and after I embark on business travel: 1. Maintain continuity. I set reporting structures and processes in my absence. Daily huddles, regardless of my location, are a must to ensure effective communication with my team. 2. Stay transparent. I share the company’s annual plan and targets with the entire staff, and I make it a point to update them if anything changes while I’m on the road. 3. Stick to goals. Quarterly goals are themed so everyone knows where we are going and can work toward it in my absence. I don’t micromanage from afar. Instead, I try to coach and create incentives so everyone owns their outcomes for the team. 4. Leverage technology. All of our numbers are reported daily and are visible on our online portal. This allows me to have an up-to-the-minute overview of how my business is doing at any time— a helpful tool when I’m negotiating with clients. 5. Stay focused. I never check my e-mails more than once a day. I don’t want to get sucked into the everyday chaos of business life while I’m looking at the big picture or meeting with clients 11
  12. 12. 6. Give freedom. I try to be clear in communicating my desired outcomes for all projects, and then let my employees get creative with them. My job is the “what,” not the “how.” 7. Trust staff. I rely on my COO to be my proxy while I’m away. She takes care of operations, coaches the team and only contacts me when she’s stuck or needs my opinion. In the end, I have found that discipline breeds freedom when it comes to setting up my team before—and while—I’m on the road. It takes a lot of work to prepare everyone properly, but it’s worth it. Staying in constant communication with my employees not only helps the company, but it allows my team to be independent in their endeavors. When it comes down to it, my employees are the real reason why I get to travel for business and do I what I love. Giving them a chance to shine while I’m on the go is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned. 12

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