Wednesday, January 30, 2019

It Takes Courage In Business To Change The Status Quo

According to recent articles, more than half of the businesses that once appeared on the Fortune 500 list have disappeared in the last twenty years, and the rate of departure is increasing. I’m convinced this is happening because most companies don’t have the courage to keep up with the escalating rate of change in the market today. Business as usual is no longer good enough.

From my years of experience in big companies, as well as startups, I can attest that the courage to promote change is not something often seen, or even encouraged, in most employees or executives. Rather, the opposite is usually true; it’s better to play it safe, rather than risk being wrong.

The problem is that most business people associate the word “courage” with excessive risk, to be left for individuals who are impulsive, foolhardy, or even crazy. I like the more appropriate definition of courage, and how to use it in business, in a new book, “Return On Courage,” by Ryan Berman, whose leadership consultancy has trained many brands how to do it right.

He outlines a five-step process which I recommend for every business leader who wishes to train himself, his team, and his organization to take thoughtful, calculated risks, whether it’s about developing a new product, implementing an innovative strategy, or simply voicing an opinion that upsets the status quo:

  1. Utilize your core values as decision-making filters. To survive these tumultuous times, you must first look deep within to find your guiding principles. These will help steer you away from decisions that might look attractive for short-term success, but detrimental for the long term. Courage is being able to live these values, and stick with them.

    For example, if you and your company profess and live a commitment to environmental sustainability, like Patagonia, you will only add products that won’t harm the environment, even if other options appear to be available for a lower cost or quick availability.

  2. Use your leadership to create and rally believers. Every strong company has leaders who create believers, by setting the vision, garnering trust, and speaking the truth on all issues. You need to make believers out of your board, employees, prospects, as well as customers. These people will then solidify your courage and support needed changes.

    The alternative is fake believers, who may appear to support you in good times, but will challenge every change decision, or work against you behind your back. Fake believers will erode the motivation and productivity of all teams, to the detriment of your company.

  3. Transform business fears into courageous solutions. Proactively seek out product, service, industry, and customer perception fears rather than suppressing them. This will allow your company to conquer the most complicated change requirements in a timely fashion with solutions that eliminate many of the difficult progress-halting hurdles.

    For example, most experts believe that Blockbuster knew and feared the movement to streaming movies, but suppressed it. They marched firmly ahead with their existing model, rather than reinvent themselves in the face of customers demanding change.

  4. Commit to an authentic and memorable purpose. Showing a commitment to a unique rallying cry, such as SpaceX with Elon Musk “putting a man on Mars,” will make your company memorable and increase acceptance, both inside and outside the company, of courageous changes and innovations that seem to be consistent with this purpose.

  5. Demonstrate a consistent propensity toward action. There is no stronger element of leadership than demonstrating the courage to take consistent and regular action on your ideas and innovations. Some people and companies are prone to extended studies and slow implementations of change. Time is of the essence in the business world today.

From aspiring entrepreneurs, I often hear lengthy dissertations on a “great idea,” and how much this idea could be worth. I have to remind them that investors see ideas as worth very little – the value is all in the implementation and delivery. The same is true of required innovations as the market evolves.

With the steps outlined here, you too can build and lead a culture of courage in your organization and your company. It will allow you keep up with a dynamic market, and stay ahead of the host of competitors that are less courageous, more risk averse, and prefer a “play it safe” strategy. That’s the real definition of courage in business.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 01-15-2019 ***



Monday, January 28, 2019

10 Collaboration Myths No Entrepreneur Should Believe

If you listen primarily to the popular press, you could easily be convinced that all successful startup businesses are built by one smart person, such as Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, or Jeff Bezos at Amazon. In reality, it takes a collaboration of many good people to build and run a business, even though the original idea probably did come from that innovative entrepreneur.

Thus a key skill and focus for every aspiring entrepreneur is the ability to collaborate with others who have the complementary skills in delivering the many decisions required in business, including marketing, financial, operations, and support. Solo or autocratic entrepreneurs usually don’t survive, due to required skills and a workload far beyond the capacity of a single human.

Yet there are many myths around collaboration that convince some to distrust or discount its value, or use it ineffectively. Here are some of the common ones I hear, with my view on the truth and the myth antidote:

  1. Collaboration implies consensus and compromise. In reality, collaboration with team members who have different expertise or come from different cultures opens more possibilities for making the best decision in a world of unknowns. It also leaves everyone with buy-in, while consensus and compromise imply win-lose or less than optimal results.

  2. Open-plan offices are required to facilitate collaboration. Open office plans simply squeeze more employees in less space, and often reduce productivity and collaboration, due to noise, distractions, and constant interruptions. The best collaboration is done in a structured team environment, usually a meeting room, and managed by a team leader.

  3. Solutions through collaboration take too much time. Quick decisions may be better than no decision, but arbitrary or autocratic decisions based on no data or no insights may actually cause more damage than no decision. Collaborative good decisions recommended by a well-rounded team can be made quickly and effectively.

  4. Company founders can edict collaboration in teams. Collaboration has to start at the top. The actions of a founder, more than words or policies, set the culture. This has to start with good communication and participation from all executives, as well as listening and providing constructive feedback. Effective collaboration requires trust at all levels.

  5. Technology startups need experts more than collaboration. Technology alone doesn’t make a business. It has to be easily used, personalized, marketed, and supported. This requires innovative thinking outside the box, from a variety of disciplines, all working as peers. Experts working alone often fall victim to myopia and technical bias.

  6. The best new ideas come from leaders and executives. Good ideas come from everywhere, so the more voices and collaboration, the better. Often the lowest level customer-facing team members have a better idea of trends and competitive alternatives in the marketplace. Top management can then manage resources and implementation.

  7. Communications training is required before collaboration. A collaborative culture facilitates improved communication skills, as team members play to their strengths, and learn to be authentic and genuine. The best training is always learning by doing, with mentoring, for understanding alternatives and the ability to reach agreement faster.

  8. Collaboration mutes the ability to recognize and reward individuals. In fact, if you participate in a collaborative process, it become more obvious which individuals are most often suggesting innovative approaches, or make the best arguments for a successful solution. Thus collaborative environments often highlight rewardable individuals.

  9. Deploy the right tools and collaboration will happen naturally. Good tools can facilitate the collaborative process, but won’t create the culture and trust necessary for effective results. Deploying collaboration tools and platforms, such as Slack or Workplace by Facebook, are certainly a part of the solution but they are by no means the solution.

  10. Team members instinctively know how to collaborate. Everyone’s interpretation of what it means to work collaboratively is different, so every organization needs to provide a clear set of guidelines on how people should interact. This should include a clarification of attitude required, cultural guidelines, tools, and abilities and skills to master.

Building a collaborative culture is not an easy evolution from a long-established authoritarian environment, so it pays to get it right the first time in your new business. It also may be a hard concept to accept if you are a fiercely independent entrepreneur driving an innovative vision. Yet in my experience, it’s a required step today for transforming an idea into a sustainable business.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on CayenneConsulting on 01/09/2019 ***



Friday, January 25, 2019

How To Boost Your Selling Skills And Win In Business

Image via Flickr by Alan
Most of you who start new ventures don’t think of yourselves as sales experts. In fact, you may feel on the opposite end of the spectrum, more focused on delivering the perfect solution and managing the finances to grow the business. Yet in today’s competitive and rapidly changing world, top notch sales and marketing skills are critical to the success of every business.

As an advisor to technical entrepreneurs, the most common mistake I see is the “If we build it, they will come” approach with no sales plan, under the assumption that the technology is so spectacular that customers will buy the product. In todays’ rapidly changing world, there are over 30,000 new products introduced every year, so it’s easy to slip into that unseen majority and fail.

Thus, in my view, it’s never too early to brush up on your selling and marketing skills. Here are the key steps I have found to work from my own experience in large companies, as well as startups:
  1. Practice showing some passion in every conversation. Being positive and excited about what you offer should not be reserved for stand-up pitches and closing large deals. Everyone inside your company, as well as potential customers, needs to be inspired by your message before they believe it. Stand tall - keep your fears and doubts to yourself.

    It always helps to ask questions first, and keying off an element of passion in the other person’s perspective. For example, if they show a passion for fitness and life balance, highlight how your solution shortens the time and pain of solving their business problems.

  2. Work hard on perfecting your value proposition. The value of your solution may be self-evident to you, but everyone has a different perspective. Make sure you engage fully and often with your ideal customer, to understand what will appeal most to their heart, mind, and pocketbook. Then craft an irresistible pitch, and iterate often to keep tuning it.

    Effective value propositions are quantified and personalized for each customer or target segment. For example, “reduces your cost per application by 30 percent” is far better than “easier and faster to apply.” Eliminate the fuzzy hype words from your message.

  3. Hone in and capitalize on your best assets. Your strongest asset may be your personality, expertise, location, or your solution. Highlight what you do best, unique benefits to your customers, and an honest statement of why you do what you do. Make it real for your customers with professionally prepared collateral based on these assets.

    Dale Carnegie, for example, was recently ranked as one of the ten greatest salespeople of all time, by virtue of his presence and conviction, even though his courses on public speaking contained no great innovations or breakthroughs. He was the asset he sold.

  4. Build real relationships with people who can help. Starting and growing a business is not a solo operation. You need all the help you can get, and people will help you if they know and trust you. These may be partners who can complement your skills, mentors who can show you what you need, or customers who can be your best sales people.

    Even the most successful business executives have mentoring relationships with helpful peers. Bill Gates has a long-standing mentor relationship with Warren Buffett, and Mark Zuckerberg openly acknowledges that he was mentored in the early days by Steve Jobs.

  5. Don’t forget to ask for the close with confidence. You can’t win if you don’t ask, and confidently asking a customer for their decision shows leadership on your part. The best sales people look for ways to inspire a customer's emotional involvement, create the urgency to take ownership, and then ask for the decision. Don’t be shy on this point.

    Five basic rules for closing include treating closing as a process, setting a closing objective, waiting for the right moment, wrapping a conversation around it, and then celebrating every victory. If you can’t close deals, you don’t have a business, no matter how great the product.
I’m not suggesting that you as the business founder has to do all the selling, but you do have to be the role model that the rest of team follows. You also have to deeply understand what sells to your customers, or you can’t properly lead the other key business areas of development, finance, and operations. In reality, leadership requires first selling yourself, so these same steps apply.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 01-11-2019 ***


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

How To Take Your Business Idea From Dream To Reality

Image via Pixabay
In my role as a new business advisor and occasional investor, I hear lots of people talking about their dreams of “someday” starting and running a new venture. They can talk with passion about their innovative new idea, and ask lots of questions, but never seem to really get started. The challenge we all have as business founders is to move from the idea stage to a real business.

The solution I recommend is to move forward with a few quantifiable steps, to turn your dreams into specific goals and milestones, and then measure your progress and celebrate each small success in achieving these goals and milestones. I found these bite-sized chunks to be far more achievable and satisfying than making that one big step from your dream to a success business:
  1. Get the idea out of your head and onto paper. Even if it’s only a few PowerPoint slides or typed paragraphs, writing something down is the first step toward making it real. The process will force you solidify the specifics, and mentally commit to them. Always write in the future tense, what you will do, and name yourself as the key person responsible.

    Before you know it, you will have a ten-slide pitch that you can use to gauge interest from potential customers, as well as friends, family, and early investors. Suddenly you will find that writing a ten-to-twenty page business plan with details is easy rather than daunting.

  2. Create a specific plan to network to get the help you need. If you need funding, make a list of people you know who might help, and plan to attend specific business events where you can use your pitch and written plan. Do the same for partners and co-founders that will buttress your strengths. Consult with business peers to learn what you need.

    Take the initiative to join recognized new business support groups and the local chapter of relevant industry associations to meet people you can help, as well as people who can help you. Don’t forget the local Chamber of Commerce and local business executives.

  3. Set target date milestones and metrics to gauge progress. Pick a reasonable desired business rollout date, and work backward, assigning completion dates to all the interim tasks required. Quantify expected results, and the measurements you will use. Your goal should be smaller chunks and more milestones, allowing regular celebration of progress.

    For example, every business needs a company name and logo, incorporation, an Internet domain name and website, social media accounts, prototypes, intellectual property, and key executive positions filled. Set milestones for each and measure progress to success.

  4. Take action on your plan, and finish something every day. You need to build momentum, and every milestone completion builds momentum. Celebrate each step forward, and check off completions to keep the team motivated and moving forward. Don’t get caught up in the crisis of the day, or be satisfied with just working hard.

    Now is the time to build your company culture, and make it one with a can-do attitude, team collaboration, and empowered people with a constant focus on the customer. Also, your culture must be not afraid to pivot and to adapt your plan as things change.

  5. Narrow your focus daily to the key things that really matter. Dilution of focus kills too many small businesses, as they try to attract more customers and counter more competitors. The best are determined to do one thing well, rather than many things poorly, with limited resources. Time is also of the essence, so make your impact early.

    I once worked in a software startup that continually delayed initial shipment to add new features, based on feedback from early adopters and competitor concerns. The result was a product that was bloated and late to market. I recommend the minimum viable product (MVP) strategy.
For aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners, ideas will not turn into businesses, no matter how long you wait, or how hard you work, until someone builds and executes a plan with specific milestones and expected results. If your dream is to change the world in your lifetime, now is the time to stop dreaming and start executing.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 01-09-2019 ***


Monday, January 21, 2019

5 Keys To Starting A New Venture In Your Local Town

Image via Wikipedia
From the advice I hear these days, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be in Silicon Valley, Boston, New York, or one of the few other financial hubs around the world. What does that mean for the rest of us, who reside or grew up in the thousands of small towns that cover most of the landscape? Is entrepreneurship ever viable or recommended in a small town?

I was pleased to see these questions addressed in a new book, “Small Town Big Money,” by Colby Williams, focused on entrepreneurship and opportunity in today’s small towns. Colby is a living example of how it works there, starting with his Parengo Coffee Shop in Sikeston, Missouri. He offers some practical entrepreneurship lessons I most often see talking about Silicon Valley:
  1. You still need a good business plan to start. As an advisor to aspiring entrepreneurs, I’m still surprised at how many people believe the myth that business plans are only required to appease big investors. In reality, a business plan has real value for every entrepreneur, since most people can’t build and retain a complete plan in their head.

    Especially in a small town, for credibility, you need to quantify your plan consistently to local leaders and organizations, as well as bankers and customers. Sizing the market, projecting revenue, and calculating break-even points are critical, even for a coffee shop.

  2. Don’t get too comfortable – take comfort in fear. Don’t expect any entrepreneurship venture to be comfortable. There are too many unknowns, whether it’s a building a coffee shop or producing electric cars. If you are looking for comfort, stick to that nine-to-five job. Being an entrepreneur anywhere without fear likely means your business is at risk.

    For example, in a small town with no other hardware store, you may be lulled into complacency as customers flock in at any price, but soon a competitor will pounce. Work to build memorable customer experiences today, or the store may be empty tomorrow.

  3. It still takes collaboration to build a business. No matter how hard you are willing to work inside the business, you still need external relationships with suppliers, people in your business network, and your community. In small towns, this may mean sponsoring local events, supporting complementary businesses, and community involvement.

    In any business, collaboration is really your ability to move people from customers to fans to friends. This is often more important than your product or service, and it requires letting the “real you” show, really listening, and responding. All businesses require collaboration.

  4. Brands are all about a story and selling an experience. More than a product or service, you are founding a brand when you start a new venture, large or small. You are selling an experience. In today’s world of social media and the Internet, people want to know who you are, what makes you outstanding in your field, and relate to your vision.

    We all know the fate of too many small town restaurants, started by someone who loves to cook and expects the food to do the talking. Every ad, every review, or lack of one, tells a story about how much you care, and what customer experience one might expect.

  5. Don’t forget to stay a step ahead of the market. Businesses that never change are now forgotten. I still remember when every small town I knew had a Sears store and a JCPenny. Even if your town never seems to change, there are always changes in trends, people, and technology. Entrepreneurs not innovating are actually losing ground.

    High-tech ventures in Silicon Valley know they have to constantly innovate, but small town coffee shops can easily forget. Yet the best are always offering new flavors, new specials, new decors, and ways to reach new customers. People flock to the new.
I came away from this book with two takeaways for every entrepreneur: 1) The opportunities are more abundant in a million small towns than in a few sacred hubs like Silicon Valley; and 2) The ingredients for success are the same all around, with a healthy dose of localized flavor.

So for those of you want to be entrepreneurs, but don’t relish the thought of leaving the community that you know and love, now is the time to get started. Small things can easily grow to be the empire and legacy you always dreamed about.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 01-07-2019 ***


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Creating the Next Big Startup Takes More Than Passion

next-big-thingEvery aspiring entrepreneur I know is convinced that his or her idea could be the next big startup, blossoming into a billion dollar unicorn. Yet I find that only a few are able to put their passion aside for a moment, and compare their solution to the attributes that really attract a large market of new customers. Investors, on the other hand, make it their business to look for these attributes.

For example, it’s always smart to start by making your entrance into a hot sector. According to Inc data analysis from industry experts and investors, this coming year offers large opportunities in digital therapeutics and personalized nutrition. Most trend watchers agree that it is time for a revolutionary new category of medicine treatment devices and customized healthcare solutions.

Thus if you need funding to support your efforts, it’s well worth your time to take a hard look at how your offering might fit one of these sectors to appeal today to this new era of customers, as well as investors. In my experience the key attributes in any sector would include the following:

  1. A product or service with depth and a robust set of features. As an investor, I always look for a singular focus to start, but a depth of follow-on that precludes you from being a “one-trick pony.” Customers will remember you and your brand for starting with a point of excellence, but they expect that to broaden as their needs and confidence in you grows.

    Amazon exemplified this approach by first becoming the premier source of books online, and then expanding their scope to having the greatest depth of all e-commerce offerings and features, while still maintaining their lead in online purchasing and delivery services.

  2. Solves a real problem for customers in intelligent new ways. Smart solutions provide benefits that can be quantified, not simply cool or easier to use. Customers don’t want to read instruction manuals these days, or attend a class to learn about features. The best solutions look obvious in retrospect, and you wonder how you ever lived without them.

    For example, the IPhone from Apple, although an integration of complex computer services with telephony and photography, is so easy to use that preschoolers catch on immediately, and most of us can’t imagine surviving without a mobile link to friends.

  3. Provides a complete and memorable customer experience. Customers today are looking for an engaging total customer experience, including shopping, reviews from peers, speed of delivery, and follow-on options, as well as support and service. They expect to be wowed by the product as well as the relationship with you and your team.

    In fact, customer experience can be a greater competitive advantage than your product. Zappos, the popular online shoe store, creates such strong emotional connections with customers through personalized service that people rarely compare their shoe features.

  4. Increase customer confidence and ability to control their life. Both business and consumer customers expect products to empower them to make better decisions, and have more control over their life. If your solution simply reduces the cost of a necessity, or makes things happen faster, it may not be enough to attract a dedicated following.

    In the healthcare arena, as mentioned earlier, people now are looking for new offerings that can be customized per their own unique needs and desires, to extend their lives and maintain healthy lifestyles. More diagnostic tools to fix problems may not be competitive.

  5. Satisfy a “higher purpose” as well as a current need. Customers these days seek out companies that are socially and environmentally conscious, as well as responsive to customer needs. This should be something that matches your values, and can benefit from your strengths, to increase engagement and energy for all stakeholders.

    Chipotle is an example of a company that has capitalized on the benefits of supporting a higher purpose, enhancing their fast food brand reputation at the same time. Their focus on healthy foods and sustainable agriculture motivates employees and customers alike.

In summary, the best product or service is a deep-featured one that innovatively meets customer needs, comes with a great total customer experience, puts customers in the driver’s seat, and has a positive societal impact. Then just build a solid plan, find a great team to implement, and execute well to build the next big startup, have fun, and leave a great legacy.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 01-02-2019 ***



Wednesday, January 9, 2019

10 Ways To Build Trust And Loyalty In Your Business

TrustBusiness trust seems to be in short supply these days. Perhaps it’s because we are reminded daily of scams on the Internet that result from unscrupulous businesses and people. Yet if you run a business, you know things won’t get done, and most customers won’t buy, unless they trust you. Thus, it’s critical to your success that you build a culture of trust in you and your business.

It can be done, as proven by the market leaders, including Google and Amazon. According to current reports, both your employees and your customers have to feel they know you, and you know them, before levels of trust can accrue. In other words, it’s all about perceived relationships and actions. In my role as a business advisor and investor, I see this proven over and over again.

Most business leaders intuitively understand this, but many are not so clear on the specific actions and programs they need to initiate to build a trust culture in their business, and have it projected outward to potential customers. Thus I offer the following prioritized initiatives from my own experience to get you started:

  1. Make sure everyone knows the business, good and bad. As I said in the beginning, people don’t trust what they don’t know, so make sure you communicate personally to the whole team, and to customers, your companies’ vision, goals, and challenges. Hiding in the corner office, or sharing only good news, does not build a culture of trust and support.

  2. Be the role model for trust and consistency in your actions. The most effective business leaders today build trusting cultures by being visible, competent, and approachable, in the office and in the community. They are clearly in charge, but they don’t hide challenges, and are honest and vulnerable when dealing with all constituents.

  3. Commit to a “higher purpose” that everyone can relate too. Find a social or environmental issue where you, your team, and your customers can make an impact as part of your business. Keys to this would be something that matches your values, and could benefit from your strengths. Make sure your team and your customers have a role.

  4. Set high but rational team expectations, and follow through. People respond best when they know what needs to be done, and feel challenged, but not broken, by delivery expectations. Follow-through means paying attention to who is contributing, and fixing problems in a timely fashion when expectations are not being met.

  5. Build real relationships with employees and customers. For employees, showing empathy and respect for their ideas and challenges is key. For customers that you encounter, it means listening to their needs, and being supportive of special needs and situations, exceeding their expectations, and showing appreciation for their business.

  6. Empower teams to build their own work processes. Key to any trust culture is a feeling of control of your own destiny. That means providing the tools and resources to do the job, without defining and micro-managing the exact process. Your role is to provide mentoring and support as required. It also means listening and following-up on feedback.

  7. Recognize and reward individual key contributions. The most effective individual recognition is timely positive feedback from you to them, in front of their peers, for going beyond the call and excellence. Annual bonuses tied to production metrics are nice, but these will not generate the long-term trust and loyalty you need to set the culture.

  8. Provide training and mentoring directed at career growth. Employees need to see career growth and investment in the people around them, and feel all have access to the training and guidance to get the same opportunities. Everyone prefers informal feedback on their own performance daily, rather than be dependent only on a formal annual review.

  9. Focus on the whole employee and customer experience. With employees, the whole experience might include providing access to food and relaxation at work, or the opportunity to work from home. For customers, the buying experience goes well beyond support after the sale, to include product selection, web site layout, and feedback.

  10. Enable employee or customer shared ownership. Several reliable reports indicate that, on average, employee-owned firms perform substantially better, and have a stronger trust culture. The same is true of consumer co-operatives, owned by customers and managed democratically with trust, aimed at fulfilling the needs of their members.

With these initiatives, you too can build a culture of trust with your employees, and with your customers. But be aware - trust is like the stock market. It’s hard work to get it to go up, and it can come down overnight if you make one wrong step. Thus, I recommend that you seek to get it right the first time and keep it there. Very few businesses get a second chance to be trusted.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on CayenneConsulting on 12/27/2018 ***



Wednesday, January 2, 2019

5 Phases of Leadership Growth Lead To Company Success

start-grow-as-a-leaderMost of you aspiring entrepreneurs have no idea how dramatically your own role has to evolve as you develop a solution, start a business, and expect it to scale into a successful self-managed company. You may have a strong product development background, but typically have minimal experience in hiring and leading team members and groups, or managing financials.

Thus my job as a small business advisor really is really more about getting you developed than perfecting the business. I found that role validated and highlighted in a new book, “Scale or Fail,” by Allison Maslan, who has built ten successful companies from the ground up, and consulted with many more in her current role as founder and CEO of Pinnacle Global Network.

I’m a total believer in her five phases of growth and evolution required before the founder can enjoy a successful and self-managed company, rather than being constantly stressed out, in crisis mode, and having no fun at all. Here is an outline of the stages that we both see:

  1. Envision, implement, sell, and manage every step. At this stage, I typically find a solo entrepreneur who creates, manages projects, directs, and oversees every step in the process. Here I often find that you need to seek and work with a co-founder who can complement your technical skills with financial and marketing to start the business.

    For example, I knew Bill Gates back in the early startup days of Microsoft. In my view, Bill failed on an earlier project, despite being a technical visionary, before he teamed with Steve Ballmer, who was trained at Procter and Gamble on business and marketing.

  2. Recruit a bare-bones staff to follow your directions. You likely have hired a few helpers, such as an assistant, a social media coordinator, and a bookkeeper. You probably delegated a few things to keep these people earning their paychecks, but you are still reviewing and approving everything that comes in and out of your company.

    I see this happening all the time, and in reality it may be a necessary stage, while funding and other resources are in short supply. The challenge is knowing when to move on to the next stage, before you kill yourself physically or mentally with the growing workload.

  3. Build a lean team to complement your strengths. By the time your business has really taken root, and you are preparing to scale, you need to be at this stage. Your skill in collaboration with the team, and creating systems and processes, becomes critical. Your priorities must also include communicating the vision, and leading team meetings.

    If you require an investment for scaling, you need to attain this stage, with a prototype and an overall business plan, to assure credibility with investors. Be careful, as investors will also walk away if you spend too much money too early without the right discipline.

  4. Recruit the best talent and promote/train team managers. This is where you realize you need to start trusting others so you can remove yourself from the day-to-day tasks. You now need help, rather than helpers, who can not only do their job independently, but can teach you the finer points of sales or finance, which may not be your strong suite.

    In this phase of your personal and business transformation, your role must take on the strategy and challenges of scaling the business, including creating extended products, offering new services, or acquiring another company. The team must handle daily tasks.

  5. Lead and mentor team members to run all business areas. In this final stage, your business must scale successfully without you cloning or killing yourself. You must have superb leaders, as well as systems and processes that are efficient and constantly improving. All teams must be motivated and engaged by your leadership and mentoring.

    This is the stage you have always envisioned, where you can sit back more and enjoy the fruits of you labor, and see the dream come to reality. I often find that happy founders at this level are ready to move on to their next venture, or start investing in other startups.

In my experience, building and scaling your business will always turn into one of the wildest rides in your life, but will leave you with an incredible sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, if you grow as the business grows. For these reasons, and despite the challenges, I find entrepreneurs to be among the happiest and healthiest workers on the planet. Feel free to join us.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 12/20/2018 ***