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Being Entrepreneur

November 14, 2017 Leave a comment

58842029-Dan+Weedin+Unleashed-43 copyIt takes a special kind of crazy to be an entrepreneur.

It requires a rare blend of risk taker, visionary, creative thinker, resilience, perseverance, confidence, and tenacity to even start a business, much less run one successfully. It’s not for the faint of heart. Since the week of November 13-17 is Global Entrepreneurship Week, this month’s column will offer entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs ideas on growing and protecting a successful business.

The dictionary defines entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” With all due respect, I would revise that to “always” with considerable initiative and risk to health, wealth, and sanity. While entrepreneurs built this country, it’s never been the easy way to go in creating a way of life. As both a former employee and an entrepreneur, I can confidently say that employees rarely lack the full understanding or empathy for what it takes to start and build any business. It’s the ultimate risk and reward situation. To that end, let’s examine a few thoughts I have for both starting and growing a business:

Starting Out:

  1. You have an idea on how to create a business out of your skill set? Great. You’d better also have a passion for it because you will be tested. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you will die on a hill for it, and sometimes that’s what it might ask you to do. It’s a two-sided sword you must wield: competence and passion.
  2. You need boldness and confidence. This is no place for the meek. While humility is a personal virtue, nobody wants to hire a humble consultant, attorney, IT expert, contractor, CPA, or brain surgeon. I’m not suggesting arrogance, which is aloofness with no care for the well being of others. Confidence is believing that you are highly skilled and able to improve the conditions of others with genuine concern for their improvement. You must be able to boldly project and communicate that confidence.
  3. You need to line up enough financial reserves for six months. While it may not take that long to get going making money, you don’t need the stress of a financial burden to cause desperation.
  4. Create a marketing “process.” Business plans look good on a shelf, but often don’t ever get looked at. What you need to focus on in as acquiring clients. That means picking up the phone, setting meetings, and solving problems for them.
  5. Plan for obstacles. Bad things happen. Whether in your control or not, you need to create a strategy and plan for being resilient. It’s a combination of adequate insurance, strategic planning, communications, and practice.

Current Entrepreneurs:

  1. Have a board of advisors. Too many entrepreneurs go the “lone wolf” route. The smartest business owners are the ones that surround themselves with experts and sages. Executive coaches, technical experts (finance, IT, Human Resources), and peer groups are crucial for assuring you don’t get caught breathing you own exhaust.
  2. Constantly reinvent. Don’t become stale; rather constantly seek ways to build the better mousetrap; to differentiate yourself from the competition; and to find new ways to help your clients. Business (and life) is about changing realities. Be on the cutting edge of change.
  3. Hire strong people. Building a strong team is paramount to growing and transitioning out of your business. Don’t settle for warm bodies; rather demand excellence from your team. That starts with you. Modeling and mentoring is required to build a top-flight team of employees.
  4. Plan for obstacles. Look familiar? Let’s just say “ditto” for the suggestions from above. Entrepreneurs may be resilient by nature, but often get bloodied and bruised in the process. Make it easier for yourself with proper pre-planning of crisis and critical systems.
  5. Remember to have fun. I’ve met too many entrepreneurs that work themselves to a frazzle. They become a worse boss than the one they left to start a business. Entrepreneurship is supposed to be fun. If it’s not, then you should go get a job working for someone else. It’s not worth the sacrifice if you’re not enjoying the journey.

Bonus: Vibe Coworks in Poulsbo will be offering an exciting lineup of events, activities, and workshops to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week. Check out their schedule at www.VibeCoworks.com. What an opportunity to learn more and engage with fellow entrepreneurs.

Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are the engines that run our communities and country. You are responsible for hiring and developing more people that the Fortune 500 companies. You’ve taken a huge financial and emotional risk, with hopes and dreams of making a better life for yourself and your employees. For all of you, I leave you with three final words of encouragement as you end one year and prepare for the next:

  1. Don’t listen to the haters. You know who they are. They are energy suckers and will only harm you and your business. Stay positive and focused on the next step in the journey.
  2. Don’t be one of the haters. Positivity starts with self-talk. Worry is a bully; it gives you nothing and only takes. Keep your confidence and boldness up.
  3. Utilize help. There’s no glory in being stubborn and trying to do it on your own. There are colleagues, experts, and friends that can help in a multitude of ways, be it emotional or financial. Find those friends that believe in you and always keep fighting the good fight.

It takes a special kind of crazy to be an entrepreneur. Go be crazy!

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 My November column for the Kitsap Sun/Kitsap Business Journal.

Hero

June 29, 2017 3 comments

I help people and organizations with crisis management planning. What we should all know is that we have it within us to be heroes…just like this Major League Baseball umpire – John Tumpane – was in Pittsburgh yesterday. Watch this 3-minute video. You’ll be glad you did.

https://players.brightcove.net/1105443290001/19b4b681-5e7c-4b03-b1ff-050f00d0be3e_default/index.html?videoId=5486357870001

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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Veterans Day Special

November 11, 2016 Leave a comment

Dad_DonWeedinIt was February 11, 1942. Just lightly over two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Don Weedin – who celebrated his 17th birthday just the day before – dropped out of school at Bremerton High School.

That morning, he boarded a ferry with his parents and enlisted in the United States Navy. He needed his parents permission because he was under 18 years old. He wanted to go on his birthday as he was eager to enlist; she made him stay and celebrate his birthday with his family. His older brother Max Jr. was already in the war. Grandma feared that neither would come back to her.

Dad served in World War II and for a total of 30 years. He loved the Navy and would have stayed forever if he was allowed to. Growing up as a youngster in the 1970s, the attitude towards veterans and those serving was very different. It was post-Vietnam and at least in my memory, being in the service didn’t have the same level of gratitude. I never could understand why Dad didn’t have a diploma, but rather something called a GED. It wasn’t until I became an adult that the immense nature of his sacrifice began to sink in. Fortunately for me, Dad lived a long life and I was able to express to him my sincere gratitude for his service. He was part of “The Greatest Generation” that Tom Brokaw wrote about. Where once I was ambivalent as a child, today I’m proud.

We all have stories like this to share. My family has deep ties to the armed forces – my father-in-law and sister-in-law were Navy; my brother was Army; my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were Coast Guard; and I have a nephew currently serving in the Air Force. Dad was able to trace our family lineage back to three direct descendant grandfathers that served in the Revolutionary War.

Veterans Day is unique because it’s a day to honor all veterans. Dad was always strong in his belief that Memorial Day was to honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. Veterans Day is clearly a day to celebrate everyone that ever served.

So for those family members that served or serve – thank you.

To my friends from high school and college that served or serve – thank you.

To those that I will never meet but know that because of you, I get to live in a free country and be able to raise a family and run my own business – thank you.

God Bless America and all veterans….

P.S. My most special thanks to Don Weedin, my dad, who finally got to graduate with his granddaughter Mindy and get the diploma he so richly deserved in 2007.

high school grad

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Speaking of Swinging…

October 27, 2016 Leave a comment

cubsAs a lifelong baseball fan (and a novice baseball historian), I LOVE this World Series. The Chicago Cubs are appearing in their first World Series since 1945, and haven’t won one since 1908. The Cleveland Indians have been in two World Series’ in the past 25 years, but haven’t won since 1948.

While there are certainly no players (or even managers and coaches) that were even alive when the Cubs or Indians last won a championship, there is a exponentially heightened air of pressure on both teams to finally break through, especially the Cubs. The weight of decades of failure and futility for the respective cities and fan bases are on their backs. These aren’t robots; they are humans and they fully understand this. For both teams, that extra pressure can cause one to subconsciously try too hard, and those results are normally bad.

The very best athletes know how to slow the game (and their mind) down. They are able to reduce or even eliminate pressure by focusing on the job at hand in the moment. They stick with the process that got them there; they don’t allow one failed at bat or pitch carry over into the future; and they ignore outside voices.

Can you do the same in your business?

Have you ever felt the pressure to perform? We all have. Certainly when times are tough, you might be getting external pressure. Creating new revenue, exceeding sales goals, getting work out faster, etc. Whatever your stress, you are compounding it by adding too much pressure and altering your performance. You’re not letting your own skill shine through.

To stick with the baseball metaphor, you’re trying to hit the curve ball instead of waiting for the right pitch. Curve balls are hard to hit. Rather, stay with your process and force the fastball.

Bottom line – we all feel pressure. Sometimes it’s external; often it’s self-inflicted. In either case, stress can take you out of your game by making you try too hard. This gets compounded by failure. To avoid this, stay in the moment, slow down your brain, have confidence in yourself and your team, and lay off the curve ball. Instead, hit that fastball over the fence!

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

A Tribute to Arnold Palmer

September 26, 2016 Leave a comment

thIf only we had cell phone cameras in 1987…

The GTE Northwest Classic was being played at Inglewood Country Club outside of Seattle. The GTE was the senior tour where all the legends of golf (over 50 years old) played. My brother-in-law worked for GTE at the time and got me passage into the tournament to watch. I followed Arnold Palmer for 18 holes.

I started playing golf at 13 years old in 1978. Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros were my first golf heroes. Mr. Palmer by that time was nearing 50 years old and wasn’t a regular on the PGA Tour anymore. However, if you golfed, you knew Arnold Palmer and I was no different.

So when I had a chance to watch The King in person, I devoted the entire round to him. I followed tee to green for all 18 holes, stopping at every shot behind him to eagerly watch him in action. Had I only had my iPhone, you’d have seen a few selfies!

My favorite story of him came midway through that round. Mr. Palmer had hooked a ball a little to the left and found himself stymied by a tree. He stood behind the ball and pensively considered his options. The crowd was hushed in anticipation. Then suddenly breaking the silence, a woman exclaimed, “But Arnie, I’ve seen you hit these in your videos all the time…” The crowd nervously chuckled. Mr. Palmer turned around, made eye contact with the woman, then reached out his club to her and replied, “Okay then. Here, you hit it for me!” He smiled and the crowd erupted. He then on cue hit a beautiful shot right at the green.

Arnold Palmer – like Muhammad Ali who passed earlier this year – transcended his own sport. His dedication to fans, to the game, and to people was an unmistakable hallmark of the man. He touched everybody in the game in some way; and his list of accomplishments and awards outside of golf is impressive, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Honor. I even noted in reading his biography today that he’s a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow, which adds a common bond with me.

Arnold Palmer was a brilliant businessman, basing his entrepreneurship and philanthropy on helping improve the lives of people. He will be sorely missed, however it’s clear his legacy will continue and help others though what he’s made sure to leave behind. The game of golf, the business and philanthropic community, and the world will miss him.

I’m thinking a toast in his honor, lifting a cold Arnold Palmer, is in order…

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

Thoughts about Río

August 11, 2016 Leave a comment

20 Under 40 20_3There was certainly a whole bunch of hubbub heading into these Olympic Games in Brazil. Río de Janeiro was being castigated as the worst ever venue before it got started. Certainly, there was much ado about polluted waters, politics, and Zika carrying mosquitoes.

It’s not quite been a week and what’s happened? The games have been nearly flawless to watch. Great athletes performing incredible feats; terrific stories about real people overcoming obstacles; and remembering how much sports can unite people.

Is it perfect. No. No Olympic Games – summer or winter – that I’ve ever seen have been. There’s no need for them to be. While the concerns had aspects of seriousness to them, the anxiety they created is the equivalent of the mountain and molehill axiom.

Take a look at your life – business and professional. How many times do we make mountains out of molehills, but can’t seem to be as resilient as Río appears to be?

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

What’s the Alternative?

February 10, 2016 Leave a comment

IMG_5108_2I’m headed out today for the annual Mentor Summit hosted by Alan Weiss for all the consultants around the globe in his mentor program. It’s always a fun event…last year in Washington D.C. and this year at Las Vegas.

(I’m traveling to Vegas on the first day of Lent…I guess discipline is the first test for this year!)

I consistently learn a lot from Alan, and one of his most recent newsletters contained a brief article that resonated with me. I’ve printed it out and glance or read it every morning for perspective. I thought on this day that I travel to see him and many of my colleagues, I’d share it with you. I hope it has the same effect.

My friends, I have a question: What’s the alternative?

We are living on a chunk of space rock traveling at 80,000 miles per hour around an exploding star. We influence and control none of that, and scientific and religious argument notwithstanding, we don’t actually understand very much of it.

Hence, it’s rewarding to be optimistic each day, canine-like in our eagerness to exploit the new morning, because it’s the only sane way to live. If you oppose suicide, then why throw your life away piecemeal by worrying about every conceivable issue and assuming and fearing the worst? Every day those of us who drive engage in a huge display of positive faith by driving on roads at 60 miles per hour or more with those around us – distracted, on phones, angry, having consumed alcohol or drugs, daydreaming, depressed, stressed – doing the same within mere feet of our cars.

Ergo, we all exhibit at least a cautious optimism. We believe we can avoid accidents and are willing to take the small risk of someone acting recklessly around us. Our portmanteau is actually filled with reasonable assumptions and safe predictions. One of my favorite apothegms is: “This, too, shall pass.”

I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt until and unless they prove unworthy of it. I’d like the same favor extended to me. I believe in temporary setbacks and not fatal mistakes. I’m an opportunist by nature, and if something unanticipated is in my path, I don’t avoid it, I think about what I can do with it. (A dog will try to eat it and, failing that, play with it and, failing that, urinate on it. My hierarchy is somewhat different.)

Therefore, what choice do you really have? Are you going to face the morning as another long, slow, crawl through enemy territory? Or are you going to sprint into what light we have?

If the latter, that figure out there ahead of you would be me.

~ Alan Weiss (from his newsletter, Balancing Act ®)

 

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved