Business Musings Entrepreneurial Journey learning

7 Lessons from #IncLeadership Forum, June 10-12, 2013

Dr. Brene Brown's autograph inside her book, "Daring Greatly".
Dr. Brene Brown’s autograph inside her book, “Daring Greatly”.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending Inc. Leadership Forum in Carlsbad (San Diego area), California. It was 3 days of learning and connecting, and I cannot thank Inc. Magazine enough for sponsoring my pass. There were many great speakers including Brene Brown, Lewis Schiff, and Chester Elton.

Below are my takeaways from the forum:

  • Lesson 1: Company culture is top priority. Felt like Day 2 (June 11) was so full of talk about company culture; it was definitely a big theme of the conference. If company culture is not tailored to you, the leader’s, style, then everyone makes their own micro-cultures. Make sure all leaders are onboard for compromising an effective company culture.
  • Lesson 2: Make hiring process effective from the very beginning. Vanessa Merit Nornberg rocked the stage during her session; some attendees felt she was “too scary”, but I really liked how straightforward she is about her hiring process. She takes no crap, and I feel more employers should take that route. Have a system in place to screen out candidates fairly; screening questions (your own, not auto-screeners) can help determine if the candidate is the right fit or not.
  • Lesson 3: Make company values & mission statement short and memorable. Chester Elton (among other speakers) talked about how these two components of a company’s credo should be easy to remember. Know your company values and mission well, but have it be short enough so that employees (both current and future) will be able to remember them.
  • Lesson 4: Know your priorities. Don’t get lost in the mess of your day-to-day work; remember your priorities and let those preferences fall into place throughout the day. Be true to yourself and your company.
  • Lesson 5: Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. Dr. Brene Brown was amazing, and really touched everyone with her talk: yes, it is time for us all to stop thinking vulnerability is a weakness. However, also be picky as to who you share your stories of shame/vulnerability to; people have to earn the right to know your stories.
  • Lesson 6: Reset throughout your days & weeks. Bonnie St. John–so inspirational for everyone! She reminded us of how entrepreneurs just go nonstop…when in reality, even pro athletes take time to recover. We entrepreneurs need to make time to recover as well, mentally and physically. Stretch more, meditate more; just take some time to relax.
  • Lesson 7: Recognize your employees for their great work. Employees (and everyone else for that matter) cannot read your mind; communicate your specific needs/tasks for your employees to execute successfully. When they do a great job, make sure to recognize them for their hard work; no general thank-yous. Make things personable. Thanks to Chester Elton for his royally entertaining yet insightful talks!

This summary does not do the whole Inc. Leadership Forum any justice, but it’ll do.

Admittedly, this information is not new to the world or to myself. Still, it was great to listen to so many inspirational leaders and connect with other likeminded individuals. I made some really great connections and genuine friendships. Finally, I know people from Austin, TX!

I was telling my colleague about how going to a conference is like going to an academic class: we can all read/skim as many articles/books online as we can about a subject matter, but listening to speakers in-person really cements the lessons learned.

Then, it is time to apply what we’ve learned. I need more time to process all the information gained, but soon I will be ready to apply the knowledge.

Business Musings Entrepreneurial Journey

6 Lessons Learned In the First Year of Starting Up

Perhaps this is my calling with TAOpivot.
Perhaps this is my calling with TAOpivot.

As you can probably tell from the title, today’s post is focused on entrepreneurship. I have had TAOpivot since February 2012 and only started going full-speed with the business last June. Today, at the pre-conference talk at Inc. Leadership Forum, Norm Brodsky was telling the crowd about how “starting one’s own business is not easy.” Immediately, I heard my parents telling me the same thing throughout my young life.

So, before I gain more insight into how to be a better business owner and overall leader at the Leadership Forum, here are some lessons learned from this past year:

  1. Listen to the customer – No really; LISTEN. I have read this piece of advice many times from different sources, but I had to experience the lesson firsthand. I had originally priced all my services at a large premium because I did not want to appear “cheap”. However, the way my original pricing structure was organized, I wanted clients to pay the total service fee upfront with no guarantee of success rendering services. After getting rejected many times by different prospects over the price being “too much”, I changed the structure (and the prices) at the beginning of this year to include a nonrefundable deposit of a reasonable amount. That change has helped bring in many more clients than my original process last year.
  2. I do not have to do everything alone – Before TAOpivot came to being, I was already working with my idea coach, ideavist. During most of last year, I continued my work with him because I felt I needed help. There were a few periods of time this past year where I did not have help via ideavist nor intern. I was alone, and I thought I could do it all by myself. Nope. Luckily these days, I have more entrepreneurial friends so we can bounce ideas and advice off one another. Having others around for support and company assistance (interns) has helped me out a lot. I want to wear all the hats of the company, but I know I cannot.
  3. Know my weaknesses well & delegate – As mentioned above, I want to wear all the hats at TAOpivot, but I know I cannot. There are areas I have recognized as genuine weaknesses: even though I studied marketing in undergrad, I know I am rusty with different deliverables and seeing the big picture objectively. Also, the fact that I interact with foreign nationals as part of my business is another weakness I have found–sure, I communicate with all my prospects and clients in English. But I understand that my way of marketing to them is not so effective without someone from that same culture. Hence the reason why I have taken on interns from the majority client base’s culture (in this case, China).
  4. Be wise with my time – The entrepreneur’s forever task on the to-do list. There have been periods this past year where I would inundate my schedule with a lot of meetings. Granted, these meetings were set with good intentions: learn about possible partnerships and basically connect with more businesspeople in the community. However–having so many meetings in a short amount of time is so draining…and sometimes, the meetings would have been best done via email or shorter periods. I have learned that I must be more selfish about my time: set how long the meeting will last, have an agenda mapped out, and talk about just that. Lately, I have been shying away from meetings in general due to my ‘overdose’ early last month. Slowly easing back in…
  5. Agendas are important – I naturally like to stay organized, but somehow the part about meeting agendas had slipped through the cracks this past year. This relates to my time management issue above: I go to a meeting without a somewhat clear vision of what I want out of it and then end up babbling with colleagues over insignificant things. Last week, I had a meeting with my intern to check up on how things were going on his end and what we needed to do next. I drew up a small list of topics we were to talk about; the meeting went so much more smoothly (and faster!) with my preparation.
  6. Stay focused and on my OWN path – I admit, I love going to tech events and meeting tech entrepreneurs in Denver/around the country. There’s this electricity that builds up at tech gatherings that I just want to be a part of. However, over and over, I am reminded that TAOpivot is NOT a tech company. Nor will it ever be (at least, it won’t ever have a primary tech focus as far as I can see). Only a few days ago, I was mumbling about the lack of funding TAOpivot had. A colleague of mine put me in my place: “Your business is better off being a SMB (small- to medium-sized business). You want to be 100% in control, right?” That put my thoughts into perspective: why should I keep striving to be what I know TAOpivot cannot be? Play upon the strengths I know for TAOpivot; stop worrying about the tech industry and “not fitting in” with the crowd. Stay unique and focused.

There are many other lessons I have learned, but those can be for another day. For now, I hope these lessons I have learned will help you with your venture as well.

Entrepreneurial Journey jobs life marketing

Nothing lyrical this time; purely updates.

My mind is spinning right now. Clearly, my usual Wednesday post has been moved off to today, Thursday.

Yes, I suppose I have reached a slight writer’s block for this week’s post, but there also have been many ideas whirling around in my mind.

One thing I would like to mention for the time being: I am the queen of winning conference passes via Twitter this year. Folks, you’d be surprised at how you, too, can also win opportunities like that, just by being more aware of who you are following.

Also, the past couple weeks I have been able to finally figure out my asking price for my writing services. Stay tuned for updates on those services, and please spread the word to your friends.

Finally, I am offering some “Pick My Brain” sessions for anyone interested. You can read more about that on a new page soon.

Off to finish the first full week of June. I can’t believe it is already June!

#amreading community Denver Life Entrepreneurial Journey

An Entrepreneur Lending Library

My bookshelves; so many books!!
My bookshelves; so many books!!

I have a lot of books, as you can see from the picture above. Those are all the books I’ve had sent out to me from Virginia/bought/accumulated. Don’t even ask me how many books I have left in Virginia; our family’s collection at home is pretty much a library on its own.

Anyway, what I’ve noticed over the years is how many books are getting published, especially with the option of self-publishing/e-publishing these days. I find myself inundated with book recommendations and not exactly enough money to go out and purchase all the books. This is especially the situation with entrepreneurial/leadership books.

I know I have a good bit of entrepreneurship/leadership/business books. I wonder if anyone would be interested in having a lending library amongst us entrepreneurs? Would be fun to keep us lean and share knowledge easily.

What say you?

Business Musings Donny Deutsch Entrepreneurial Journey television

More Donny Deutsch!

I feel like every time I watch The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch I feel more and more motivated and inspired. Those entrepreneurial feelings have stayed with me since Friday. My creative juices are flowing. Now I just need to try to focus on what I want to start first.