To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time. – Leonard Bernstein
Struck by the response I received from last weeks post, Why Motivated People are Waaay More Productive, I asked myself this question, “What does it mean to actually believe that you have everything you need to build something way bigger than yourself?” If you are an entrepreneur who wants to build something great then you need to ask yourself this question as well. This is part one of this series.
Good entrepreneurs intentionally surround themselves with people and activities that motivate them. We know that to win we need to stick with it when the going get’s tough. For some entrepreneurs that means getting good coaches and for others it’s engaging in the stuff that inspired them to get into their line of business in the first place. When you are motivated you work harder, for longer hours and your productivity goes up. This article will discuss your role (as the entrepreneur/CEO) in motivating your employees and why that matters.
I’ve had a crazy week. Steve, Angela and I have been asking ourselves very important questions like, “What are the needs of our customers?” And we have struggled to come up with definitive answers. Last friday we sat around our boardroom with beers and taco chips hashing out the different layers of our customers needs. It was both fun and frustrating. After 2 hours our meeting had come right back to the beginning and our questions remained unanswered. The truth is we weren’t confident we had nailed it.
This week I attended the GrowTalks in Vancouver with Steve. It doesn’t take a genius to become successful, that’s something I’ve learned over the last three years running a startup. What it takes is the ability to remain focused and apply the good things we learn along the way (and a little bit of luck). Our 48 hours in Vancouver at Grow was a mix of learning and luck. The first speakers of the morning came out, they were fired up and told everyone in the audience that they were inspiring leaders, in fact they were visionaries. *Cough, then they spit out what they really thought. “You are not visionaries!”
The crowd kind of laughed awkwardly, hoping they were kidding, but then fell silent after realizing they were not. I loved it, they caught my attention and I knew the day was going to be good. The next speaker spoke about UX/UI. Well she spoke about User Experience actually, and not very subtly drew a line in the sand arguing persuasively that User Experience was very different from User Interface and must not be confused as such. Right now there are UI/UX bloggers rolling over in their graves, I mean their beds, towards their keyboards to differ.
But quickly as the day progressed the talks began hitting closer and closer to home. They were discussing how they had solved the very questions we were struggling to answer. I had this uncomfortable feeling that either every speaker was secretly spying on us and planned everything they were going to talk about by watching what we were doing, or every single company in the room was struggling with the exact same problems we were. Neither conclusion seemed very reassuring. Either we were unique and naked or we were similar and uninteresting. In the end it didn’t matter. What mattered was that we lucked out. We were privileged to be in a room with people willing to talk about how they had solved the very problems we were facing.
There is something magical when luck and learning line up. Ultimately, though this magical week of learning would be useless if we did not apply it. Upon arriving back in the office today, Steve and I shared our new found insights with the team, drew up a simple strategy based on what we had learned from the conference and started executing. It’s true, I’m not lying. We have drawn up a two week discovery strategy and have already started implementing it. After many attempts at trying to implement status-quo shattering strategies we have discovered that habits form quickly, but significant shifts in behaviours and patterns only take place when we are intentional about executing the strategies we form. Learning is great, but it is useless unless we apply it. We, as a team, don’t want to be the hard ground that good words fell on and then died. For soil to grow good crops the seeds need to be planted and the work needs to be done.
I wrote this article a couple years ago and thought it was worth posting as my first post on this blog because I still find this very relevant to my success in business.
Not that long ago I learnt an important lesson: know what inspires you. With regards to business there are a lot of books on the topic of motivation, but not too many on inspiration. When starting a clothing company a few years back I began reading lots and lots on business. I read books on leadership, economics, small business, marketing etc. Being the keen student I was I began to follow the rules to success religiously (as they were outlined by the numerous books on the topic). Obediently I developed product workflow, marketed my products, studied my customer, found a niche, and developed the brand. As the sole designer for the clothing company its identity and ‘edge’ was hinged on my design ideas. And then one day, out of the blue, the ideas stopped. I worked harder to come up with new ideas, but it felt like I was squeezing water from a stone. WHAT HAPPENED? I had done everything right hadn’t I?
In short I had lost my inspiration. As I was personally funding the company I began to shop less, focused on redirecting any income I had back into building the company. Shopping less meant I wasn’t buying as many clothes for myself. For me buying clothes inspired me, I would look for a shirt and then start thinking, ‘Oh if only they made it this way, or with a different design’. Ironically the thing that I had stopped doing was the very life blood of the ideas that spurned on the company.
I began to refocus the direction for the company as my ideas for new designs had all but disappeared. During this process I took some time off and started shopping more. Then a lightbulb came on. Ideas began flowing quickly again and I realized what had happened. Fast forward to the present, I have since moved on from the clothing industry, and am working on a few internet related businesses. I have come to the conclusion that for myself inspiration is as important for every business endeavor I work on as is the motivation that keeps driving them. For this reason I am somewhat surprised that there isn’t more written on this topic.
In summary I have learnt that for me to remain successful and creative I must find what inspires me. And then using this knowledge, create situations where I am inspired. For some that might mean taking more time to walk in a forest and for others it could mean simply reading a book or a magazine, whatever it is, find what inspires you and make a point of doing it, it may mean the difference between success and burnout.