Freedom – Stage 5 of the Entrepreneur’s Journey

6-Stages-Entrepreneur-Journey

 

Freedom — that’s what we strive for when we embark on our Entrepreneur’s Journey.

The dream of freedom is why we didn’t give up when times were tough.  It’s what keeps us going when we’d really prefer to put our feet-up and watch TV.

It’s what we all believe will happen a lot sooner and a lot easier than it does.

I liken Entrepreneurship and growing your business to raising children.  When we are first pregnant we imagine how amazing it’s going to be to have a baby.  Then with heartburn, back-aches and little feet kicking our ribs we wonder what we were thinking!

When the baby arrives we’re elated — until we’re so sleep deprived we can hardly remember how to brush our teeth or what it felt like to have time to ourselves.

Then before you know it, the child has grown and you’ve got a teenager — and you sometimes wonder what possessed you to have children in the first place!

And then the child moves out.

You try to remember what your life was like when you didn’t have a child at home and it hits you — you are no longer needed.  Cue the tears!  I know this all too well as our youngest is now in university — this is the child who has only ever known her Mom to be an entrepreneur (as I started my business while on maternity leave with her).

And so, while my journey as a Mom was relatively straight-forward — with the usual twists and turns along the way, and it has resulted in my Personal Freedom — my Entrepreneurial Freedom was fleeting.  I had a taste of it when I was able to go to Europe for a month with my family and, hindsight being 20/20, I should have been satisfied with the freedom I had.

However, I wasn’t ready for freedom then and that’s when I made my fateful decision to pursue the software development that was in the original business plan.  Long story short is that the project failed 3x with 3 different development teams over a period of about 3 years.

My Freedom dream disappeared at the same time our two best clients declared bankruptcy in 2008 and 2009 — right around the time when I realized that the software project was not going to work again.

To say I’ve learned a lot as I went from a good solid stage 4 with a toe dipped in stage 5 back to stage 1 would be an understatement.  I mentioned this in another post, that I teach from my mistakes — and since I’ve made my fair share, I have a lot to teach.  I’m not yet at Stage 5 again myself, although now that the momentum is picking up again, I can “taste it”.

Freedom_Chains_500To Move From Stage 4 to Stage 5 You Have to Be Mentally Ready to Let Go

You have been the center of your platform all along.  You likely have been the person leading the charge to make ripples and create impact.  You’ve succeeded when others have failed and you are warranted to be incredibly proud of yourself.

As in the story above about having your child move out, it’s a time of mixed emotions.  Firstly, your freedom is yours for the taking but when you realize you aren’t needed, it can be emotional.

Most entrepreneurs have worked so long that they see themselves and their business as one.  I know I do and I know it’s why I took the downturn of my business so hard.  My identity — in my mind — was so intertwined with the business I didn’t know how to be without it.

If you completed the “ideal day in your ideal lifestyle” exercise, which is recommended as part of understanding yourself prior to starting your business,  your freedom may be connected to it and you’ve been preparing for this moment all along.   If you haven’t yet done it, now is a perfect time.

If you are finding that you are having a challenge to break free and enjoy your well-deserved freedom I suggest exploring the reason why.  Is it because you won’t know what to do with yourself?  Is it because you aren’t absolutely certain that you’ve got the right people in the right roles with accountability and checks and measures well established?  Is something else going on?

If you are handing over the reins to a trusted employee or family member who you’ve groomed and mentored then you’ll still be checking in on a regular basis so you’ll still be needed.

If you sell your business, you are free to do whatever you want of course.

However, if you decide to keep your business you obviously need to be sure your foundation is strong.  You need to know you’ve got the right people in the right roles, with the right tools and skills and experiences.

If  you are part of the Enlightened Capitalist™ community you already have the tools to do this and if you have used them your transition to freedom should be smooth.

Warning_400As I mentioned in another post, I witnessed a mega-disaster with a franchise in our community a number of years ago.  The founder had — by all accounts, from the outside looking in — built a highly successful franchise.

The founder was living “the good life”, which seemed to have gotten to his head.  It started with some questionable decisions he made which were clearly in violation of bylaws and then it got worse.

He put his business in the hands of one of his team — presumably someone he’d groomed (I am just guessing) — and he took off for a very extended vacation.  While he was gone, he obviously took his eye of the ball, because the business came crashing down.  Firstly, because there was a switch in consumer behaviour but more importantly, I suspect it’s because he hadn’t built the foundation strong enough and his definition of freedom was hands-off the business.  He most certainly could have been hands-off if he’d sold it but he hadn’t and without him there to ensure the team was doing what it should have been doing, it imploded.

As you are on the verge of Freedom and as you step strongly into Stage 5, remember that your role is to oversee — you are “policing” your business to be sure nothing goes sideways.  However, you aren’t needed in the day-to-day operations, which is just fine for many of us.   Remember to constantly monitor your Impact Performance Measures and check in with your team to be sure they are doing ok.

ControlsAn Entrepreneur friend of mine was in the process of preparing for his freedom when things came crashing down and he, too ended up back in stage 1.  For him it was because he trusted the wrong person — his controller.  By the time he realized that something was wrong, she had embezelled a large sum and had vanished.   He ended up closing the business as he couldn’t recover.

I learned from his lesson and set-up financial controls to ensure this didn’t happen in my business.  One day I spot checked the petty-cash and discovered that the bookkeeper was using it as her personal fund.  Always keep your eye on the numbers and have checks and measures to safeguard against a disaster.

Even though you are no longer working day-to-day in your business, maintain those close relationships you’ve built with your employees and your customers.  You need to hear when things are slipping.

Ripple-Graphic-8-01

Our Role Is To Guide You On Your Journey

My personal purpose is that I’ve been Chosen to Reinvent Lives Globally.

The purpose and higher purpose of my brands is to Reinvent Business to Transform Lives.

My vision includes changing the dialogue about how business is conducted.  As the leader, I am passionate about bringing humanity back to business by tapping into the desires and potential of people so that they willingly support the purpose, vision, core values, strategy and goals of the business.  With engaged people profit increases and it’s that profit (or a percentage of it) which transforms lives.

I’m leading a movement to bring Enlightened Capitalist™ concepts to the mainstream.  Our planet, our economy, our communities and we, personally, need this to happen sooner rather than later.   Join us…

Getting to the next stage of the Entprepreneur’s Journey will be an easy one for you if you are an Enlightened Capitalist™ because you’ve been working on this throughout your journey.

Continue Reading the Sixth Stage of the Entrepreneur’s Journey

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Leveraging and Letting Go – Stage 4 of the Entrepreneur’s Journey

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Stage 4 of the Entrepreneur’s Journey is where you work to leverage and let go so you remove yourself from your business.  To me, this is one of the most exciting stages in the journey.

So far you have built a business, a product line, a customer base and relationships with employees, partners, vendors, supporters, customers and investors.

You’ve created a great network of people who can help you when you need help.  It’s now time to leverage everything you’ve learned, everything you’ve built, everything you’ve bought and everything you’ve attracted.

This is one of the stages where your activities depend on your business and what you’ve already built and what your intentions are for the future.

If you are a solopreneur, it could be where you start building your team, if you haven’t done so already.

If you have a traditional business, you likely hired people when you started your business and you’ve learned what to do and what not to do as an employer.  Now it’s time to ensure you have the right people onboard with job descriptions which challenge them to grow while also tapping into their interests and strengths.

Regardless of where you are at now and how you intend to achieve Stage 5 — Freedom — navigating through Stage 4 successfully requires a good solid foundation, with excellent processes, procedures, Impact Performance Measures and great relationships.

You need to set up your business as if you were about to franchise it.

Lessons Learned As A McDonald’s Manager

I learned the principles of franchising a gazillion years ago as a McDonald’s Manager, my first job after college.  I wasn’t a great McDonald’s Manager — in fact, I was probably one of the low-end of the middle 60% or the high-end of the bottom 20% in terms of my people skills at that time.  However, I excelled at forecasting and planning which is something I’m still passionate about.

Each role you take on during your career leaves something you remember for years.  For me, the biggest take-away from my couple of years at McDonald’s was breaking every single task into step by step parts, which were not to be deviated from.

FlowChart_500I took this practice with me to Whistler Mountain, where I documented every single task we did in the Data Processing Department into step by step guides.

I was so adept at this, I was able to hand the manual to anyone and the task could be completed from start to finish without needing any assistance.  When we were all-hands-on-deck at critical points in the year — e.g. getting the season’s passes printed and sent to the guests or getting the income tax documents to the employees — I was able to bring other managers into my department and they’d be productive almost immediately.

The best part, though, was that I delegated my job away and skied for a couple of hours most days, being an ambassador for the mountain.  (I was filling in for my boss while she was on maternity leave when I did this, which basically made us both partially redundant! Oops)

I use the same practice with my own business — step by step, this is how you do “everything” from processing orders to responding to sales leads and if something comes up that we don’t have a process for, we create it and document it for the next time.

As we evolve and change processes, the manuals are updated by my team — not by me.  Once again, having everything documented enables me to delegate my day-to-day job away.

The biggest benefit to doing all of this, for me personally so far, was when my husband, children and mother-in-law spent 4 weeks in Europe one summer while my team back at the office took care of the business.  Of course, I checked in daily but I didn’t need to work — just check what was going on remotely, coach and guide.  It was a summer to remember forever.  It was also the last big trip we had with my mother-in-law.  I am so grateful for having the freedom to do this.

As you develop your own ways to leverage and let go, remember that you need practices, processes, procedures and guidelines that are followed with no exceptions.  Now is a great time to review all practices, processes, procedures and guidelines to ensure they are customer friendly, employee friendly and financial statement friendly.  Use the T-Form to ask customers, employees, partners, supporters, vendors and investors for their perspective.

Also, identify areas where employees are empowered to make an executive decision without checking in first.  Give them parameters for the latitude and then mentor them for how, when and why to make the decision and expectations about the results.  Furthermore, tell them what will happen if they make a decision which turns out to be not very wise.

Failure is inevitable when we grow — you, as the entrepreneur, need to be sure you’ve powerfully set up the framework so the failures are minor and quickly resolved and learned from.

Once you have everything in place, your role changes to that of a “mentor” and “coach” who oversees rather than does.  It’s a beautiful situation to be in!

Leveraging

Along the way, you have created great value in your business.  You have a great team of people who support your vision, purpose, passion, core values and strategy.   You have  acquired knowledge, experiences and perspective.  You have developed best practices, Impactful Performance Measures, procedures and processes.  You have purchased or leased equipment, supplies, buildings etc.

By tapping into all of these resources, you can add additional revenue streams while you take steps to wean the business from needing you on a day by day basis.

The more you can leverage, the stronger your business can be — provided, of course, what you choose to leverage fits in with your culture, strategy, vision and purpose.

Warning!

Caution_Laptop_400Stage 4 is also an extremely critical stage in the evolution of the business and in your Entrepreneurial Journey.

Many entrepreneurs screw up this process.  I didn’t have an easy time of it myself.  I trusted employees who I should not have trusted.  I gave latitude to employees who didn’t deserve it.  I didn’t have the framework in place with expectations, accountability, Impactful Performance Measures, go-to-resources or standards.  I also didn’t have the experience — or was it guts? — to step in and stop undesirable and damaging behavior quickly and powerfully.

Although my team has many tools you can use to build the framework for a strong business, ultimately it is the people who you hire who deliver performance results, so choose your people wisely and be sure they know what is expected of them.

As Entrepreneurs who are going to the end of this journey, we are constantly weaning the business away from needing us to make decisions and perform tasks but we can never be completely hand-off the business until we sell.  Furthermore, we should never give people more responsibilities than they are capable of achieving.  We have to stay on top of the results and spot check — daily, preferably, weekly at an absolute minimum.

This is where being an Enlightened Capitalist™ is a benefit.  We are able to leverage the hard work we have done along the way to build a strong culture, with engaged employees who know what is expected and how they will be appreciated, recognized and rewarded for their efforts.   It’s where the systems, processes, procedures and honest multi-way communication pays off.  It’s where the effort to build community internally and externally produces results.  It’s where having a higher purpose which is built into our business DNA pays off in spades.

What Not to Do

In addition to my own lessons learned while leveraging and letting go, there are many other examples.  Some are known publicly and used as case studies, others are talked about quietly.

DoThis_NotThatThere was a classic example of how-not-to-do-it in our community.  This entrepreneur had created a franchise and he’d done quite well.  The business had grown by leaps and bounds.  He got a bit of a reputation in the community for believing rules, laws and bylaws applied to everyone but him (which is why I started following what he did).  Eventually, he handed over the business to one of his managers while he went on an extended holiday.  When he returned, the business was in shambles.  I don’t have the details of what happened but obviously the business needed the entrepreneur and letting go, the way he did, was a mistake.

My Dad had a similar nightmare.  In his case, he had a medical issue — he became allergic to what he made.  His biggest problem was that he liked to hire apprentices and when he was in hospital they didn’t know how to run the business.  My Mom, who looked after the administration and helped in the shop, was so worried about my Dad that she didn’t pay attention to what was going on.  My sister, who was in high school at the time was given the role of running the business (I was up in Whistler delegating away my job at the time).   Talk about a case of what not to do but they hadn’t set themselves up with an alternative.  However, that wasn’t the worst part — one of the apprentices had set-up shop after hours and was making product which he sold himself out of his car.   Wholesale clients were lost, retail customers were lost, profit evaporated and the business essentially became insolvent before the doctors had determined what was wrong with my Dad.

If you are intending to leverage and let-go, let these stories be a reminder that it’s a tricky time in the Entrepreneur’s Journey.  Through my experiences, if you are intending to do this at any point — or even if you intend to get your Freedom by selling — you must start your business setting yourself up for this scenario.

Ripple-Graphic-8-01You must have strong pillars for your platform, which is what we teach in the Enlightened Capitalist™ community.  And always, always, always, hire the best people for the job, tell them what you expect, hold them accountable, keep a firm finger on the Impactful Performance Measures they produce, be transparent and authentic, communicate regularly, treat your employees well — help them grow by mentoring them, give them challenges to stretch them, appreciate, recognize, reward and give them reasons to be inspired.  Expect greatness from your team.  Treat your customers like VIPs and never take your eye off what’s happening in the marketplace.

… and yes I do think this is one of the most exciting times in an Entrepreneur’s Journey….  because if they’ve done things “properly” along the way, the right people will be onboard, doing the right things to deliver the vision, purpose, higher purpose and core values even when you aren’t there.  That’s culture, systems and relationships working in your favour!

Our Role Is To Guide You On Your Journey

My personal purpose is that I’ve been Chosen to Reinvent Lives Globally.

The purpose and higher purpose of my brands is to Reinvent Business to Transform Lives.

My vision includes changing the dialogue about how business is conducted.  As the leader, I am passionate about bringing humanity back to business by tapping into the desires and potential of people so that they willingly support the purpose, vision, core values, strategy and goals of the business.  With engaged people profit increases and it’s that profit (or a percentage of it) which transforms lives.

I’m leading a movement to bring Enlightened Capitalist™ concepts to the mainstream.  Our planet, our economy, our communities and we, personally, need this to happen sooner rather than later.   Join us…

Continue Reading the Fifth Stage of the Entrepreneur’s Journe

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Getting By — Stage 3 in the Entrepreneur’s Journey

6-Stages-Entrepreneur-Journey

 

Stage 3 of the Entrepreneur’s Journey is when we finally get to say “Whew, I’m so glad this worked!”

We’ve come a long way — we’ve likely pivoted a few times already.  Our strategy may have changed.  Our products and services may have changed.  We may have decided to temporarily or permanently back-burner some initial ideas.

We’re starting to see the benefits from our dedication, blood, sweat and tears.   Our day to day lives are getting a bit more predictable.

We Can Say to Ourselves “We Are Getting By”

Yes, our business is working!   We have customers.  We are paying our bills.  We are taking an income.  We are paying back our shareholder loan and business debt.  We are investing in our business and our own education and we are feeling relief and excitement because things aren’t quite as hard as they were in the beginning.

For me, this moment came in one big cheque.  After a rather rocky start with one of my vendors, I recommended them to a client.  This resulted in the sale of a very large, single purchase of an incentive program to an agency of record for a major automotive company.  It was a great sale because the cheque enabled me to pay off the second mortgage and all the credit cards.  It also enabled me to hire my first employee, which meant I was able to work more on my business than in my business.  It felt like the lid had been removed from the pressure cooker!

Getting By Puts Us At A Cross-Roads… Or In A Roundabout!

Roundabout_400We achieved what many other entrepreneurs didn’t.  We congratulate ourselves for making it this far.   We may even ask ourselves if we should maintain the status quo and keep our business at this stage or is we should continue on our Entrepreneur Journey?

For many entrepreneurs the answer is a resounding “no” we cannot stay here.  We must continue on the journey.

We know that we have a purpose, a vision, a higher purpose and passions which are far beyond this stage in the journey.   We know we have to keep going, keep scaling and leveraging what we’ve built so that we can leave our legacy and have a great and positive impact.  We’re on a mission and we’re not going to stop now!

For Many People, Getting By Is Enough  

Their end game was to get to the point where they could support themselves financially.  They are often — but not always — solopreneurs, coaches, consultants, outsourcers / freelancers, mom and pop shops, small town professionals or internet marketers.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with having this as your end game and being satisfied with the results, there is a risk.  The risk is that trends change, markets change, disruptors come out of seemingly nowhere and you end up back in the Sink or Swim stage unless you have a plan.

If you choose this option, you stay in the roundabout.  However, your plan needs to contemplate the fast changing expectations of the market, investors, employees, vendors, partners and your customers.  One misstep and you can find yourself trying to get out of the roundabout while everyone else is zooming past you (Chevy Chase driving in the roundabout in London in the movie European Vacation pops into my mind as I type this!)

I was at this cross-roads myself.  I had built a business which had more than replaced my employment income and which allowed me the flexibility to be with my girls when they needed me.  I was able to go to the parent tea and the concerts at their school.  I drove the children on field trips.  I was home to cook dinner, share stories and tuck them into bed each night.

I had created the perfect situation for me, in my multiple roles of wife, Mom, entrepreneur and military wife but I wasn’t finished yet.  I had more to do, more to give, more to accomplish.  I also wanted to have freedom and flexibility to live my ideal lifestyle.  To me, the answer to the question below was easy…

Do We Stay in the Roundabout or Do We Continue On Our Journey?

I knew I had to keep going…

As Enlightened Capitalists™ we’re at a great place when we reach this stage.  We’re able to continue on our journey through the next stages so that we can leave our legacy and live our higher purpose.  We have already positively impacted our family life and now we can and are starting to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

Ripple-Graphic-8-01We’re not confined to a roundabout though.  Our ripples are starting to gather momentum.

However, to have the biggest impact, we need to stop trading our time for money.

We need to review our framework,  our Impactful Performance Measures, the accountability of employees, our product, service and experience line-up, the make-up of our customer list, where the market, economy, sentiment, competitors and expectations are heading and we need to ensure that our trusted advisors are capable of helping us get to the next stages.

Although the Entrepreneur’s Journey isn’t always stage 1 – 6 in chronological order (sometimes we slide back one or more stages), the desire to continue to have the most impact endures in those who are Enlightened Capitalists™.

We may stumble along the way (most likely we will).  We may have set-backs (we most likely will).  We will be faced with obstacles we hadn’t considered and we will still doubt ourselves from time to time.

However, with a strong framework, support system and trusted advisors we can beat the odds.

Our Role Is To Guide You On Your Journey

My personal purpose is that I’ve been Chosen to Reinvent Lives Globally.

The purpose and higher purpose of my brands is to Reinvent Business to Transform Lives.

My vision includes changing the dialogue about how business is conducted.  As the leader, I am passionate about bringing humanity back to business by tapping into the desires and potential of people so that they willingly support the purpose, vision, core values, strategy and goals of the business.  With engaged people profit increases and it’s that profit (or a percentage of it) which transforms lives.

I’m leading a movement to bring Enlightened Capitalist™ concepts to the mainstream.  Our planet, our economy, our communities and we, personally, need this to happen sooner rather than later.   Join us…

Continue Reading the Fourth Stage of the Entrepreneur’s Journey 

We Lost a Friend, Husband, Father, Grandfather and Marketing Legend — Jay Conrad Levinson

Carol-with-Jay-and-JeannieYesterday, on October 10th, 2013, the world lost an incredible man — friend, husband, father, grandfather, mentor and marketing legend – Jay Conrad Levinson.  Jay was the Father of Guerrilla Marketing and author of many books which sold millions of copies world-wide.

He was also part of the creative teams that made household names of The Marlboro Man, The Pillsbury Doughboy, Tony the Tiger, Mr Clean and many other well known brands.

Jay created a movement — guerrilla marketing — while teaching at University of California in Berkeley, where Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were two of his many students.

Jay didn’t believe in retirement, any more than he believed in working more than 3 days a week (something I’m sure many of us strive for).  He lived to enjoy life — and it was evident by the stories he told.

Approximately 20 months ago, an opportunity crossed my path to write a book with Jay.  I had never seriously considered writing a book and yet when I heard I could write with this legend, I jumped at the chance.  I didn’t know why I felt so compelled to take up this offer — an offer that would require a considerable investment in both time and money.  The time, I had — the money, I didn’t.  However, I cashed in a chunk of what was left of my retirement funds and found myself in his home a couple of weeks later for Guerrilla Marketing Intensive.  It was here that I was welcomed into the guerrilla family and we decided that I was going to write Guerrilla Tourism Marketing.

Writing this book with him changed my life.  I became a published author and a best selling author but that’s not all that happened.  I continued to go with the flow and follow a path I didn’t quite understand.   This path has become a lot clearer this year — it’s how I became known to many as the Queen of Reinvention — and it all started because Jay believed in me and my abilities.

I took my family to visit with Jay and Jeannie back in March and we had a blast listening to their stories — the story of how they met, the story of their first date and how they got engaged on their first date.  We heard stories about their travels in their RV, we heard stories of children and grandchildren; we heard stories about Berkeley and we heard stories about his days in the advertising industry.

Jay then engaged in a wonderful conversation with my daughter Lauren about university and writing and making a difference before inviting us into his office to look at his mementos and all the pins on the map that indicated where he’d travelled.

For all the successes Jay achieved one would think he would be “unapproachable” yet he was far from it.  He was a legend, he was authentic and he was an incredible man that I am honoured to have called a friend and a mentor.  Jay, you will be sorely missed by many.

 

Carol Wain is a leadership consultant, trainer, mentor, speaker, best-selling author and Entrepreneur of the Year 2003.  She is the founder of  Marquee Incentives, Marquee Marketing, Marquee Experiences, Marquee Events and Carol Wain International, which provide consulting, training and related products and services that transform businesses.  

Using Carol’s F.O.R.C.E. Formula™, leaders and managers learn how to attract and retain the employees and customers they want, increase sales, reduce expenses and use their strength to make positive changes in the lives of others.  

You can find Carol on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter.  Visit her website at https://carolwain.com and reach her at Carol@CarolWain.com

1 Sink Swim

Sink or Swim – Stage 2 of the Entrepreneur’s Journey

6-Stages-Entrepreneur-Journey

 

Sometime during the second year of the entrepreneur’s journey reality is beginning to set-in for the majority of us — and quite often we say to ourselves “This isn’t quite as easy as I thought.”  It sucks working sooooo hard every day and not seeing the results we expected.  We look at our business plan and our marketing plan and wonder where we went wrong and just how long what we are doing well will last.  Our optimism could be fading.   We make the decision to either stick with our business with renewed energy and more effective and efficient practices or we choose to close up shop.

It’s Sink or Swim Time

In my second year of full-time entrepreneurship, I was fortunate, in a sense, that I no longer had to keep reporting back to the group who oversaw the federal program I was in, as I’d “wasted” 4 or so months going back and forth with them so they could understand and approve my business plan.  That business plan had morphed into a 90+ page piece of fiction by the time it was approved!

Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t start off as fiction — I really did intend to do what I’d outlined.  However, the more they pushed me for details, the more I made them up because I truly didn’t know!  My vision had changed from simply providing incentive rewards to creating software to manage incentive programs — a vision which would come back to haunt me about 10 years later.

With the bureaucracy out of the way and the cushion of the unemployment benefits gone, it was sink or swim time for me.  I knew I didn’t want to go back to being an employee and I also knew that the money was drying up for dotcom companies, so I gave up on my software dream and focused on generating revenue as a reseller.  The success was almost instantaneous — I signed a reseller agreement one week, updated my website and within a week I had attracted a division of Microsoft who ultimately became my first customer!

I knew I was onto something!  I did this quite a few more times over the years and each time I updated the website with my new products or services, I got an inquiry within a day or so.

I was beginning to enjoy this!  I had gone from paying my Visa with my Mastercard (who knew that was frowned upon!) to receiving a cheque which enabled me to pay off all the credit cards, the second mortgage and hire my first employee.

Many Entrepreneurs Have a Difficult Decision to Make

Can they continue on financially, emotionally, physically?  Do they even want to?

The stats for new business show just how many people make the tough decision to close down.  It’s a heart-breaking time for those who choose not to continue.  For many though, the decision was absolutely the right choice —

  • Their idea was bad to begin with;
  • Their market was not hungry for the solution they provide;
  • They had the wrong product;
  • They took the wrong approach;
  • Their timing was off;
  • Their costs were higher than expected and couldn’t be contained;
  • Their revenue was lower than expected with no immediate expectation for it to rise;
  • Their cash-flow was not as free-flowing as needed;
  • Their reach — marketing and ability to attract customers — was too small;
  • The experience they provided to their customers was not better than their competition;
  • Their employees tend to be there for what they could get, rather than what they could give; and/or
  • They did what I did in my initial business plan and relied on incomplete or inaccurate data to make a decision.

Piggy-Bank-on-LifeRingThis stage of the Entpreneur’s Journey is a tricky one.  It’s where most people give up or run out of resources.   While it’s heartbreaking to see your dream die, sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise.

Spoiler Alert!

The Entrepreneur’s Journey isn’t always straight and quite often there is a backwards slide to a previous stage.   This is what happened to me in 2009 — 13 years after I first became an entrepreneur — as a result of a perfect storm of the economic meltdown, our 2 biggest, best and most profitable “A” List clients going bankrupt within a few months of each other and a third failed attempt at the software project mentioned above.  I went from stage 4 (nearly stage 5) back to stage 1 again and it was this stage 2 which was particularly trying for me the second time around.

As I was rebuilding my business and putting myself back together personally, I tried a number of things to find my footing again.

Here’s What I Learned:

  • If the market isn’t reacting positively you need to change quickly and substantially so that you are selling to a hungry audience who is actively looking for a solution to a problem and they are having trouble finding it.
  • The ripples you make with your business start with You, the person.  Revisit what you want, your ideal day in your ideal lifestyle, your vision, purpose and core values.  I realized I wasn’t really engaged in what I was building because it wasn’t in alignment with the core of me.
  • Fail fast and fail forward — failure is an opportunity to succeed elsewhere — but hanging on to a dream if there isn’t a market for what you are selling is a mistake.
  • Remember to start with the end in mind — the end of the journey is having freedom and leaving a legacy aligned with your higher purpose.
  • Keep track of where you are spending your time.  Are you fighting fires all day?  Are you wasting time on social media and other people’s emails?  Are you spending hours each week on webinars which aren’t providing any actionable insights but you sign up for the 6 week course anyway?   Or are you consistently working on your #1 – 5 priorities — your big rocks — which will make the biggest splash and have the most ripples?
  • Relationships matter — don’t be that person who uses and abuses people.  You won’t last long.
  • Become crystal clear with your vision, passion, purpose, higher purpose and your why and share this with everyone — it will attract those who align and repel those who don’t.
  • Revisit the value you are providing and your ideal customer.
  • Ask your customers, your vendors, your employees, your partners, your investors and your trusted advisors what they’d like to see you start, stop, increase and decrease and what you should not touch.
  • Review your Impact Performance Measures
  • Evaluate your customer journey — are you easy to do business with?  How can you improve their experience — which is ultimately how they feel doing business with you?
  • Align yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs — but not struggling entrepreneurs — you need to find successful entrepreneurs.
  • Review why you are losing people — Why didn’t you close the sale?  Why did that employee really quit?  Why couldn’t you secure investment?  Why won’t that company become a strategic alliance partner with you?
  • Identify what you need to outsource. How do you finance it?
  • Critique your processes, procedures, policies and decisions.  Where can you improve to be more efficient while offering a better experience?

If you are truly commited to your business purpose and higher purpose and you intend to keep moving forward you must take your blinders off and answer these tough questions.  There is usually a way — but the path isn’t straight.  You may have come to a cross-roads and you need to go in a different direction.  Or you may need to go back along the path you just carved through the jungle so that you can get to a clearing where you choose another path.

To Ease Your Journey You Need a Few Things I Didn’t Realize Were Important When I Started Out.

StandOutYou need a framework, systems, Impact Performance Measures, great employees, profitable customers, excellent mentors, teachers and professionals along with a valuable product, service and experience mixture which solves problems for a market which is big enough to support your dreams.

You also need to be different — in a good way.  You need to offer a great customer experience and if you are already an employer, you need to have excellent people who you treat well.  You need to be that “breath of fresh air” whenever you share your platform and your message.  You need to be building community and supporting community.  You need to be marketing to those who will align with you — which means you need to be sharing your purpose, vision, passions, higher purpose and your message clearly to as many people as you can possibly reach.

It’s time to sink or swim — and if it’s a sink, you need to revisit yourself — the person and the professional in the ripples below and decide what to do next.  If it’s a swim, then grab the lifeline that your trusted advisors are offering and hold on to it while you continue on your journey.

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Our Role Is To Guide You on Your Journey

My personal purpose is that I’ve been Chosen to Reinvent Lives Globally.

The purpose and higher purpose of my brands is to Reinvent Business to Transform Lives.

My vision includes changing the dialogue about how business is conducted.  As the leader, I am passionate about bringing humanity back to business by tapping into the desires and potential of people so that they willingly support the purpose, vision, core values, strategy and goals of the business.  With engaged people profit increases and it’s that profit (or a percentage of it) which transforms lives.

I’m leading a movement to bring Enlightened Capitalist™ concepts to the mainstream.  Our planet, our economy, our communities and we, personally, need this to happen sooner rather than later.   Join us…

Continue Reading the Third Stage of the Entrepreneur’s Journey

Buying a Job – Stage 1 of the Entrepreneur’s Journey

6-Stages-Entrepreneur-Journey

 

When we first take the leap to become self employed, we often have a vision that we’re going to change our lives and the world, yet the reality for most of us is that we’re buying a job (and one that may not pay nearly as much as being an employee would!)

We have high hopes for ourselves and our little business and we are full of anticipation, excitement and passion.  Our drive gets us up each morning and inspires us to continue along our path to success.

We have no idea what we don’t know — which is probably a good thing — because it’s not usually as easy a journey as we think it’s going to be.

My husband recalls how excited I was way back in 1996 when I started my first business.  I started it in an industry I knew nothing about.  However, I was excited because this industry — the incentive industry — was a perfect fit for my beliefs about treating people well, win/win relationships and my passion for travelling in luxury!

My motivation to take the leap to become self-employed, was to have freedom to do what I wanted, to be near my children and to build something so I could retire young and wealthy!

That first year was a blast as I was on maternity leave when I started my business — so I was bringing home some money.  I was also blessed with a very mellow child — one who didn’t mind amusing herself while I worked.   After maternity leave was over, I reluctantly went back to work.  However, I was able to go back in a job-share situation — which meant I worked 2 days one week and 3 days the next.  It was perfect for easing out of my “employee role” while learning the ropes of this new business in this new industry.

BTW, I don’t recommend teaching yourself the ins and outs of a new industry as a new entrepreneur unless you have a really good risk tolerance, financial cushion, strong support network and an unwavering belief in yourself.

Open-for-Business-400I was thrilled when the opportunity to get a buy-out was presented about 2 years after I had started my business.  By this time I was sure this was the right industry for me and I was sure I didn’t want to work for that company any more.

So when I took the leap with both feet into the world of being my own boss, I had a toddler, a child in school and a buy-out package.  Also, because I had been laid-off, I was able to apply for to be part of a federal program where I would receive unemployment benefits while I was getting my business off the ground.  I had essentially bought myself a job — just like most other entrepreneurs.

In the past 20 years, I’ve learned there is an easy way to do things and a hard way and I tended to do things the hard way, which gives me all sorts of stories when I teach!

I’ve gone down many paths along the way — some of them were great, others weren’t.  However, even when things didn’t work out, the lessons ended up serving me.

Changing the world, living your dream, achieving success and leaving a legacy are challenging and the sad reality is that most entrepreneurs fail.

If you are just starting out and you’d like to avoid some of the pitfalls, I recommend following what we teach and joining us in the Enlightened Capitalist™ community.  In this community you will learn how to create a business which transforms lives — yours and those around you.

During your Entrepreneur Journey, you, as the business leader, will be challenged in ways you’ve never been challenged before.  You’ll have amazing successes and sleepless nights.  You’ll constantly be learning.  You’ll have to learn very quickly who to trust and who to stay away from.  You’ll have to protect your business from those who try to destroy it.  You’ll do soul searching along the way.  You’ll have great days too and — fingers crossed — you’ll be one of the minority of entrpreneurs who survive and thrive throughout your journey.

Stage 6 of the Entrepreneur’s Journey is Higher Purpose

Purpose_SignTraditionally, entrepreneurs spend years getting to the Freedom Stage (stage 5) and then they start to consider their legacy and higher purpose.  Enlightened Capitalists™ do things differently.  They start with the end in mind and they create and grow their business with a higher purpose which aligns with their personal higher purpose.   By doing so, not only do you build the purpose into your business DNA but you’ll have more of an impact.    You’ll also eliminate Stage 6 because you’ve been working on it all along.

How do you stay motivated during your Entrepreneur Journey?

When you first start out there is so much to learn and some days it’s overwhelming.  Even with an unwavering belief in yourself, you’ll still be asking, “Am I doing this right?”, “How do I do this better?”,  “Why is this so difficult?” “How can I make a  leap?” and so on.

Obviously, you need a great deal of intrinsic motivation to keep going when the going gets tough.  You need to have a very strong “Why” to keep you going.  You need to believe in yourself and your purpose.

While optimism is necessary, so is practicality.  If the market isn’t buying what you are selling you need to make changes.

It also helps to have a great support network.  When I first started, my husband was my sole support — now I have many people who support me and my work.

I strongly suggest that you look outside your immediate friends and family circle to get a fresh perspective.  Sometimes friends and family are too kind, when what you really need is useful and constructive criticism and suggestions.

Celebrating!I also celebrate a lot!   I celebrate when I solve a problem.  I celebrate when I finish a task.  I celebrate when I sign a contract and I really celebrate when I make a sale.   These celebrations varied (and still vary) in scope and size but I am sure to include those who help me along the way.

I also give myself goals and rewards to keep me going.  For me the reward usually includes some form of travel and entertainment.  In fact, it is these rewards — the carrots I give myself — which keep me going when I want to stop.

If you are having difficulty with your own motivation, consider ways to incorporate your strategic plan and your goals with rewards and celebration.

If you are still having difficulty with your own motivation, check out the Quadruplets of Discontent.  Perhaps one of them is messing with your success.

Finally, if you are still struggling with your own motivation after trying these suggestions, perhaps your intuition is telling you to make some changes.  Spend time exploring what these could / should be.

To ease your Entrepreneur Journey you need a few things that I didn’t realize were important when I started out.

You need a framework, systems, Impact Performance Measures, great employees and/or outsourcers, mostly “A” List customers, excellent mentors, teachers and professionals along with a valuable product, service and experience mixture which solves problems for a market which is big enough to support your dreams.

You need to be different — in a good way — with high-value products, services and experiences which are delivered better than your competition.

You need to have the 5 new P’s to marketing down pat.

You need to be able to sell…

… but before all of this, you need to start with YOU, the person, and you the Professional, if you intend to become a successful Enlightened Capitalist™ with a platform which makes a positive impact on the lives of others and our planet.

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Your Entrepreneur Journey starts with knowing yourself

  • What do you want?
  • What are your passions?
  • What is your vision?
  • What is your WHY? and is it strong enough to keep you going during the tough times?
  • What are your core values?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses (personality, attitude, skills, experiences and perspective included)?
  • What resources can you tap into?
  • What does your ideal day in your ideal lifestyle look like?

Our role is to guide you on your Entrepreneur Journey

My personal purpose is that I’ve been Chosen to Reinvent Lives Globally.

The purpose and higher purpose of my brands is to Reinvent Business to Transform Lives.

My vision includes changing the dialogue about how business is conducted.  As the leader, I am passionate about bringing humanity back to business by tapping into the desires and potential of people so that they willingly support the purpose, vision, core values, strategy and goals of the business.  With engaged people profit increases and it’s that profit (or a percentage of it) which transforms lives.

I’m leading a movement to bring Enlightened Capitalist™ concepts to the mainstream.  Our planet, our economy, our communities and we, personally, need this to happen sooner rather than later.   Join us…

Continue Reading the Second Stage of the Entrepreneur’s Journey

 

What People Don’t Know About Carol Wain

What People Don’t Know About Carol Wain

As part of the video challenge I signed up for, I was asked to tell something that no-one knows about me. Wanna know what it is? Watch this quick video to find out!

… and this is me onstage.

Panel Discussion

How to Win The Hearts of Your Customers and Employees

Learn a Customer Experience and Employee Engagement Lesson (While also learning about great PR!)

WestJet knocks one out of the park for its customers and its employees!

Check out the video and see what elements you can do in your own business to improve your customer experience and employee engagement.  We don’t all have the budgets or the networks to pull off what WestJet did — however, we can all do something special with our employees to make the day of our customers.   By including the employees, they had a lot of fun, yet imagine the trickle effect throughout the whole company.

So, my challenge to you for 2014, is what can YOU do in your company to strengthen both customer engagement and employee engagement?  Tell me below in the comments.  I’d love to hear from you!

Walk on Stage Song

Carol’s Walk On Stage Song

As part of my personal reinvention, I have joined another video challenge.  Check out today’s video which is all about my walk-on-stage song.

What is your “walk on stage” song or your theme song?  I’d love to hear your comments so put them in the box below!

Share your thoughts below in the comments …

My Top 3 Tips For Managing Your Online Reputation

A Reputation That Took Decades to Build Can be Threatened by a Single Event

Reputation

You may find yourself in the unfortunate position as the victim of a coordinated attack on your business using social media, which is a horrific situation for anyone who has lived through it.

Negative reviews are bad for business and no-one disputes this reality.  However, when you understand how to leverage online reputation, and in particular, your online reviews, they can be very powerful and very profitable.

#1 Evaluate your brand promise versus reality.  What are you saying in each and every marketing message?  What do people expect when they shop with you?  Is there a disconnect between the customer experience and your promise?
If yes either change your brand promise or fix the disconnect.  This could mean training, replacing people, investing in upgraded equipment, renovating and so on.

Remember… each and every touch point someone has with your business is marketing.  Be sure it is consistent with their experience otherwise your reputation — both online reputation and offline reputation — will suffer.

#2 Claim your accounts.   If you have not claimed your Foursquare, Yelp, Urban Spoon, Google Places, Facebook, Trip Advisor and other accounts where people are reviewing you, do it immediately and start responding to the reviews.

When you read a great review, thank the person for taking the time to comment, be humble but reinforce your brand promise and ask them if they would like to call out any employees who made their experience so you can properly recognize them.
By doing this it shows you are listening, you care, you appreciate, you are dedicated to a positive experience and you are a good employer that values the great employees you have.

Also respond to negative reviews.  If it is a legitimate complaint, recognize the person, thank them for giving you the opportunity to improve the experience your customers deserve and ask them to connect with you directly offline.

Note:  Always remember that just because you are offline, your conversation or correspondence can end up back-online.

#3 Be relentless in your quest for testimonials and reviews.  Remember, people look at reviews as social proof and many people will choose one business over another because of the reviews, so you want as many reviews as possible.

Many happy customers will say they will write but they don’t because they are busy or because it’s a pain to get an account so they can leave their review.

Tip: Knowing what is being said about you is the first line of defense and there are social media monitoring services, such as Trackur, Social Mention, Netvibes or Topsy. They will track mentions of your business online so  you can see what is being written.

You should also set up a Google Alert (https://google.com/alerts) for your business name but I would not recommend relying solely on that service as it is not as thorough as a social monitoring service.

What lessons do you take from this post?

Share your thoughts below in the comments …