About anentrepreneurswords

R. Lee Harris grew up in Manhattan, Kansas and has lived in the Kansas City area since 1977. A 1975 graduate of Kansas State University, Harris began his career with Cohen-Esrey, LLC as an apartment manager two weeks after he graduated. Now president and CEO, he is involved in apartment management, development and investment; construction and tax credit syndication on a nationwide scale. Over the course of his career Harris has overseen the management of more than 27 million square feet of office building, shopping center and industrial space and nearly 60,000 multi-family units. He has started dozens of business enterprises over the past 40+ years. In 1991, Harris wrote a book entitled, The Customer Is King! published by Quality Press of Milwaukee. In 2012 he authored the book, An Entrepreneur's Words to Live By. He has mentored a number of business people over the years and has been a long-time participant in the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program. He and his wife Barb have two grown daughters and one grandson. They are active in their church, community and university.

The Social Media Savvy Entrepreneur

In the old days if a product was lousy, it was hard to get the word out to the public. Short of taking out a full-page ad in the newspaper or standing in front of a store handing out flyers, there really wasn’t an effective way to inform unsuspecting customers about a flawed product or terrible service. Social media has changed all of that in a good way for the most part.

Do you ever read online product reviews? Smart companies give customers the chance to rate a product or service and write a short statement about their experience. And smart companies constantly monitor the ratings and reviews and take immediate action to resolve issues as they arise. I don’t know about you, but I have been paying more attention to ratings and reviews when I make purchases on Amazon and in other internet stores. Social media provides entrepreneurs with a terrific opportunity to “up their game” so to speak. Failure to deliver top quality or resolve customer problems can have severe consequences. In an instant the whole world can learn about a bad experience. And when too many bad experiences are chronicled online, an entrepreneur can lose business in a big way.

I purchased a battery-operated handheld drink mixer for use in mixing a supplement I take daily. The device worked quite well for a few weeks. And then it became temperamental and would only work intermittently. Eventually it stopped working altogether. I had tossed the packaging, so I wasn’t sure how to contact the manufacturer. The easiest thing was to simply post a review on the website from which I had purchased the item. I stated that the product was flawed and presented the facts about my experience.

Within 20 minutes of the post, I received an e-mail from the owner of the manufacturer. He expressed genuine concern that I wasn’t satisfied and said he would send me a full refund, send a replacement item, or provide tips on how I could get the unit to work properly. Apparently, my issue was fairly common, and the fix was relatively simple. I liked the mixer and told him I’d take him up on his tips which he quickly sent to me. He also reminded me that his product had a lifetime warranty. I was able to use his tips to get the mixer working properly and have been able to keep it running ever since. I quickly wrote an updated review congratulating this gentleman on his customer focus and endorsed his product.

This entrepreneur did it right. He smartly monitored his reviews. When he saw a negative one, he quickly reached out to his customer with the singular objective of doing whatever it took to make the customer (me) happy. There was never any hint of defensiveness in his responses. His lifetime guarantee is impressive. What he did was turn a potential disaster (bad review) into a stroke of brilliance by getting a positive re-write of my review – by the way, he never suggested that I do this. Better yet, the way I re-wrote the review recounted my initial dissatisfaction and all that the owner did to resolve my issue. Potential customers reading my review should take comfort in knowing that this entrepreneur stands behind his product and only wants his customers to be totally satisfied.

No matter how hard we try, things can go wrong. Stuff breaks. Customers can be cranky. Social media has created an environment where we are very vulnerable as entrepreneurs. Committing to move with lightning speed and doing whatever it takes to ensure total customer satisfaction will help keep us out of the ditch. The Pony Express days of customer service are over. This is as it should be.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Golden Rule Entrepreneur

A lot has been made in recent times over insensitivity, hurt feelings and words that are seemingly offensive. There are many sociological factors in play – I’m going to refrain from debating them. Our culture is shifting in seismic fashion and where it will end is anyone’s guess. It’s easy for the modern entrepreneur to get caught up in this brouhaha which I can assure you is a losing proposition. Staying out of the fray is relatively easy but requires discipline.

There are two sides to this coin. Let’s start with our reaction as an entrepreneur to things that are said to us, and actions directed our way. We are going to take slings and arrows from a multitude of constituencies. Customers may say horrible things about us and our product or service. Team members may accuse us of a wide range of transgressions. What our competitors say may be even worse. Regulators, bureaucrats, politicians, and members of the public in general may be generous in taking their shots at us. At times it may seem that we’re a punching bag and a pin cushion all rolled into one.

So, here’s where the discipline enters the picture. It’s 100% our choice whether we let ourselves be hurt or otherwise impacted by what others say and do. This isn’t just a matter of having thick skin and amazing resilience. When someone says or does something to us that is negative, we must be able to dispassionately analyze the words or deeds and look for the truth. For example, suppose we are slammed by a customer for a defective product. A product review is posted online that says among other things, “the ABC Company produces a substandard product, and their CEO is a crook for taking my money.” Actually, this is a pretty mild review but will work for illustrative purposes.

What is the truth here? Does our company really produce a substandard product? We must be able to objectively evaluate this claim. Have there been other complaints? If so, how many? Is there a chronic problem with the product or do we truly have a Six Sigma level of success? Assume for a moment that our extremely low error rate is exceptional which allows us to know the truth . . . we do not produce a substandard product. And the personal statement about the CEO is easily dismissed as an ad hominem attack. Personal attacks like this can generally be completely ignored because they are inherently dishonest. Of course, we want to try and solve the problem encountered by our customer, but we choose not to be hurt by what has been said. Boiled down to its simplest form, this is a case of, “if the shoe fits, wear it.” And if it doesn’t, then don’t.

Now to the other side of the coin. How is what we say and do impacting others? This also requires discipline on our part. But again, it’s really very simple. We practice the Golden Rule whereby we treat others as we would want to be treated. Do we make it a practice to denigrate or berate others? Are we guilty of making ad hominem attacks of our own? Before we say something potentially contentious to someone else, do we stop for a moment and measure it against the Golden Rule? While it’s true that we all make a choice as to whether we will be hurt or offended, it’s important that we as entrepreneurs try and avoid putting others in the position of having to make such a choice. This doesn’t mean we have to walk on eggshells or adopt political correctness. Instead, we must understand our audience and try and be sensitive to how they might react to us. I’ve always found that focusing on the Golden Rule in such situations is usually sufficient to avoid trampling on the feelings of others.

The interpersonal functioning of society today is fascinating but can also be bewildering. We choose not to be hurt by what others say and do, and we practice the Golden Rule when communicating or acting. Taking this approach will help us skirt around the current cultural minefield.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The BIG Leap Entrepreneur

It’s Leap Year! When you check on this statement you may be confused because it might not be officially true – at least according to the calendar. But from an entrepreneur’s perspective, it IS Leap Year. OK – some additional set-up is in order. Let us think about where we are in our lives and in our careers. What have we achieved? Does it seem like we may be putting one foot in front of the other and carefully walking down the street? Is something holding us back from bursting into a full sprint? Do we have a gnawing feeling that we are behind the curve and maybe even falling short?

I would like to tell you a story about a friend of mine. I have his permission to share this, so I am not talking out-of-school. More than 20 years ago he asked me if I could mentor him in a life-coaching sense. He had a great job with a well-known and highly respected company and was climbing the ladder. He had the opportunity to move to another city with the same company and eagerly did so. He continued to excel in the corporate world and was financially secure. But he was yearning for something more.

This individual had a passion for the outdoors and loved to go rock climbing and whitewater rafting. It was his release from the stress of his daily routine. Eventually this passion became a part-time business. My friend began guiding trips for other entrepreneurs that had a similar passion for the outdoors. He became a master at juggling his day job with his new hobby-business. Ultimately, his yearning overtook the conservative, safe side of him and he quit his very lucrative corporate job to work for himself. Today, I am proud of the fact that he has built a successful company providing a wide range of guided outdoor excursions to a variety of destinations.

Of course, the path taken by my friend was neither direct nor smooth. He struggled mightily to make the final decision to take the Big Leap. But in the end, he did, and it has paid off mightily for him. He is a happy man who is in charge of his own destiny and blessed to be able to provide a good life for his family. So, how did he do it?  

The Big Leap is undoubtedly different for each of us. But it requires some of the same basic elements. First, is the element of Strong Desire. Do we really want it? The Big Leap can happen when Strong Desire becomes overwhelming. We really, really want something to happen. It is stuck in our consciousness every day. It’s a craving. All we can think about is that which we envision becoming a reality for us.

The second element is that of Knowledge. My friend amassed considerable Knowledge by experimenting with his business ideas while still working his full-time corporate job. He did this for a period of years – not weeks or months – and was able to learn what worked and what did not. He achieved a deep understanding of the market opportunities as well as the pitfalls to avoid. And the more Knowledge he gained, the more his Strong Desire became even stronger.

The third element is that of Confidence. I watched with admiration as my friend’s Confidence soared over time. His Strong Desire supported by Knowledge had become a quest. We worked through an Opportunities-to-Fail exercise where we inventoried all the risks we could think of and how he would mitigate those risks. This all unfolded in a measured way. We did not rush but we also didn’t tarry. His Confidence grew as the result of a process.

Finally, the last element of the Big Leap is that of Faith. I am not referring to Faith in a religious sense. Instead, it is a belief that goes beyond the empirical nature of Confidence. In this case, my friend had reached the point where his Strong Desire, Knowledge and Confidence coalesced to produce a belief that he would absolutely succeed. Oh sure, there were still moments of doubt. But they did not shake his Faith that he would be able to make his new venture work.  

We can make every year Leap Year. When we are ready to shake out of the same-old, same-old and take that next big step, we can do so when the four elements of Strong Desire, Knowledge, Confidence and Faith are combined to buttress the big idea that we have.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Puffery and the Entrepreneur

Unique. One-of-a-kind. Award-winning. Leader. State of the art. Cutting edge. Bleeding edge. Next generation. Revolutionary. Robust. Extraordinary. Legendary. Transformative. Groundbreaking. Best in class. Magical. Out of the box. Feature-rich. World class. Dynamic. Premier. Amazing. Iconic. I think you probably see where this is going.

Ah yes, the world of superlatives and puffed-up buzz words. As an entrepreneur, I want to persuade you that my product or service is the best thing since sliced bread – maybe even better! And thus, I tend to use embellishments to convey a certain sense of excitement that will emotionally influence you to buy what I am peddling. Sometimes advertising and marketing that exaggerate are just plain fun. Dos Equis beer uses a spoof in its commercials of The Most Interesting Man in the World. Generally, this sort of marketing is easily identifiable, and the audience goes with the flow.    

What we want to avoid is falling into the “salesmany” stereotype. When I hear entrepreneurs use terms like “crushing it” or “killing it,” I cringe. It is one thing to extoll the virtues of our product or service, but when we cross over into too much puffery our credibility suffers. Is it possible that being more quiet and understated in our approach to marketing and sales could produce the results we seek?

Our customers do not really give a whit whether we are “#1” or provide “world class service.” What they are interested in is how our product or service solves their problem or provides them with real value. Here are a couple of example marketing statements to compare.

Statement #1: “At XYZ Motors we sell more Kias than anyone else in the universe! We’re also number one in service and have won more awards from Kia than any other dealership in the country.”

Statement #2: “At XYZ Motors we are creative and will help figure out a way to put you in a new car that can fit comfortably within your budget. We are also pleased to keep our service department open every weeknight until 10:00 PM because we know that many customers can’t bring their car in until they get off from work.”

Obviously the first statement is full of back patting and chest thumping. The focus is completely on the dealership. The second statement is customer centric. Here, XYZ Motors shows great empathy for both the customer’s pocketbook and his or her busy schedule.

One of the reasons that businesses use hyperbole is because they have not figured out how to differentiate their product or service. This is especially true for companies that compete in the commodity space. Apparently, they believe that yelling as loud as they can, will motivate customers to show up and shell out their hard-earned dollars to save a cent or two. And there is no question that some people are inclined this way. But I think that most people are not thrilled to be insulted by such boorish and uninspired messaging. An alternative approach might be for the business to become much more creative in determining its value proposition and then develop a marketing campaign around the benefits to the customer.

Entrepreneurs must also be mindful of how different generations respond to marketing and salesmanship. But as political campaigns have become more and more over-the-top with either fluff or mudslinging, I think there is a carryover impact on the business world. All consumers, regardless of generation, are more skeptical of dubious claims and mindless drivel. Instead, they want facts and substance. They need real data that supports a marketing/sales pitch and explains the WIFM in plain English. And of course, WIFM means “What’s in it for me?”

Laying out the case for how our product or service solves a problem for our customers can be done in an innovative fashion. And we do not have to appear like a stereotypical pushy salesperson to do so.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Affirmation-Focused Entrepreneur

Words, words, words. Research by Louann Brizendine of the University of California indicates that on average, women speak 20,000 words per day and men speak 7,000. I share this to point out how many opportunities we have as men and women to create positive or negative energy with what we say. Our words can be uplifting or demoralizing; they can be helpful or hurtful, and they can be passive or aggressive. In my opinion one of the most important things to remember is that what we speak is an affirmation.

As entrepreneurs and for everyone in general, we want our affirmations to be positive. Affirmations have power. They pattern our conscious and subconscious minds. The seemingly innocent things we say are cumulative and can have a profound impact on our lives. Let us look at some of the “benign” statements that are made every day.

“I didn’t have time . . .” I have been working hard to eliminate from my vocabulary any reference to not having enough time. I realize that I make a choice about how I spend my time and I am not somehow under its spell. Sure, there are things that do not get finished, but I chose which tasks those were. Understanding this has helped me become much more adept at prioritizing what I do each day.

“I can’t do . . .” This one is dangerous. The more we say this, the easier it becomes to admit defeat – and “I can’t” is clearly the flag of surrender. As cliché as it may seem, I try to replace “I can’t” with my childhood memory of the 1930 story by Watty Piper, The Little Engine That Could. I have decided that I would rather “think I can,” try and fail, than “think I can’t” and not try at all.

“I’m sick.” I refuse to acknowledge this. It is true that I may get a sniffle from time-to-time, but I am not about to affirm that I have succumbed to ill health. If I do feel a bit under the weather, I will affirm that I am healthy and whole. That, along with lifestyle changes I have made, powers me past whatever may be trying to ail me.

“I hate . . .” I am guilty on this one and realize that I need to change. I say things like “I hate red lights, idiot drivers and incompetent bureaucrats.” Unfortunately, there is a touch of anger – albeit fleeting – that is present when I say, “I hate.” And anger – even a short and subtle burst – can have a physiological effect on our bodies. A combination of brain chemistry and muscular response can weaken our immune systems.

“Why did this happen to me?” There are a multitude of variations of victim-speak. “He/she screwed me,” or “I didn’t win the contract because my competitor is unscrupulous.” I have been working for years to recognize the fact that I am in control of my own destiny, and I am not about to give my power to others, especially through verbal (and negative) affirmations. If I lose it is going to be of my own doing and not because of someone else.

That which we affirm has a higher probability of manifesting than that which we do not. Why then would we want to affirm anything but positive results for ourselves?

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The First Impression Entrepreneur

Most days are good days for me. Every once in a while I will feel a bit more intense and may have a tendency to behave in ways that are out of character for me. Recently I observed a situation that reminded me of how dangerous it can be to let my guard down in this way. Allow me to set the stage for this story.

We were vacationing with friends and enjoying breakfast in a small outdoor café. A mid-60s couple was sitting at a nearby table. The woman was seated next to a small ledge and unwittingly shifted her chair and toppled over backwards. Immediately my friend who was closest, jumped up and rushed to her assistance. With her glasses askew and an embarrassed look on her face, she got back on her feet with my friend’s help. Fortunately, she was not hurt.

The focus of this story is not on the woman’s accident but on the husband and how he reacted. He just sat there. While my friend came to the rescue, the husband just sat in his seat drinking his coffee like nothing had happened. At one point he joked to his wife that she “looked like a circus clown.” Once she regained her composure, the woman left the café – smiling but humiliated. After a moment, the husband looked at us and said half in jest, “Well, you sure made me look bad.” And then he left.

Now here is the most instructive part of this episode. Once the husband was gone the café patrons were abuzz and angry. People could not believe the husband had treated his wife this way. As she cleared the table, the server exclaimed, “He just sat there. I can’t believe he didn’t get up to help her!” I heard references to “jerk,” and “a**hole,” just to name a few.

This man was being judged by a jury of his peers and he was found guilty. He left a lasting impression on everyone in that restaurant, and it was 100% negative. Just a single action. For all we know, this man might be one of the finest, most generous, and thoughtful human beings on the planet. He might have just donated $100 million to build a new wing on the local hospital and named it in honor of his wife. But at that moment in time, and without any other context, he was an ogre to his jury and will forever remain frozen in that image.

Most of us care about how others see us. We want to be viewed in a favorable light or at worst, in a neutral manner. The husband in this story obviously had enough self-awareness to realize he was wrong as evidenced by his statement that, “You made me look bad.” Unfortunately, that comment probably sealed his fate for the onlookers. He chose to blame my friend for how others saw him rather than taking responsibility for his own poor behavior. I would bet that if he apologized to his wife in the restaurant and admitted that he had a momentary lapse in judgment, the impression he left would have been different.

We all have momentary lapses in our behavior. But it is important to take corrective action to repair the damage as quickly as possible. Failure to do so may result in an extremely harsh and lasting judgment by a jury of our peers.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Servant Entrepreneur

What would you do if you were visiting in another city, fell and broke your front teeth? And what if it happened in the evening and on a weekend? Well of course you would try and find a dentist. Unfortunately, though, it is not that easy.

A friend of ours related the story of her friend who encountered this very calamity. She was carrying a platter of meat at dinner time from the common outdoor grill in the condo where she was staying, tripped on a step and did a face plant. In the process she broke her top teeth and actually pushed one of them back at a 45-degree angle. Needless to say, she was in a lot of pain. A dentist lived in the condo building but was not home, so she began calling dental offices in the city. She contacted approximately 30 practices – presumably, it was an answering service in each case. Only one dentist called her back.

He was a young man and told her to meet him at his office at 8:30 that evening. When she arrived, he opened the office and proceeded to make the necessary dental repairs. She thanked him profusely and his reply was the clincher. “I only hope that if my wife was ever in another city and had this happen, that someone would help her.” I have no idea whether the other 29 dentists even were notified by their answering services, so I am hesitant to make any judgments here. Suffice it to say that she only needed one dentist to respond, and one did.

This dentist clearly displayed an attitude of service. While it may seem like a rather obvious thing, our perception of medical service providers as compassionate and caring is not always accurate. This can be said about most professions and industries. Too often in too many fields, practitioners are focused less on their customers and more on other objectives. Does this person have insurance? Will this person become a repeat customer? I am busy. Someone else will handle this. I just finished a 12-hour day and I am too tired. Get the picture?

At what point do we put the needs of the customer ahead of our own? Do we do this only when it is immediately profitable to do so? A lot of businesses apparently have adopted this philosophy. Or, do we believe in serving every customer, client, patient, etc. as we would want to be served? This is a very uncomplicated subject. We either serve or we do not. It is totally our choice. But there is a natural law at work here. For when we do good for others, good comes back to us in greater and greater abundance.

As entrepreneurs the rewards are enormous for putting the needs of others ahead of our own. When service comes first the profits will be bigger than we ever could expect.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Value Proposition Entrepreneur

Several days ago, I was talking with an entrepreneur about his company. For many years, he had achieved a reasonable level of success with the manufacture and sale of a particular product. But more recently his sales had trailed off and he was becoming worried. He made very telling statement, “the product is the same as it has been for the past 15 years – I don’t understand why people aren’t buying it in the quantities they once did.” Framed in this manner, the problem is obvious. But how often do we march on oblivious to the changes that are occurring around us?

I asked the entrepreneur to explain his value proposition, a question that was followed by silence. He admitted that he really had not thought about it for quite some time (actually it had been several years). The bottom line was that his customers no longer saw the value in his product the same way as they had in the past. Tastes change. Competition is fierce. Customers can sometimes feel like they are being taken for granted. Unless we make an effort to continually understand why our customers buy our products or services, we aren’t in a position to make the tiny tweaks or major overhauls that are necessary to maintain our winning streak.

Conventional wisdom says that a value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered. Obviously, there is a lot more to it. A restaurant where we eat sometimes seems to be having a bit of a struggle with its value proposition. I suppose that the proprietor could say to me the customer, “You pay me money and I’ll cook your dinner.” Technically that is a value proposition – but a pretty bad one. The website for this restaurant references “a special dining experience.” There are some other superlatives in the “About” section of the website, but nothing that would really grab you. There are a lot of little things about this place that demonstrate a lack of focus on a strong value proposition. The prime rib is fatty and gristly; the wait staff is not trained to make sure that a diner’s glass of tea or water is always full – even if it is not their assigned table; likewise, empty plates are not cleared by the bus staff while guests are at the table (only by the primary server), and finally, service can be a bit slow at times.

A value proposition needs to reflect the culture of the organization. In the case of the restaurant previously mentioned, there does not seem to be a culture of attention to detail. This restaurant probably gets 95% of the dining experience right but does not seem to care enough to nail that last 5%. If I owned the restaurant, I would re-tool the culture and become fastidious about the little things. My ultimate value proposition would be something like this: “Most restaurants can cook you a meal. We focus on that last 5% to make your dining experience 100% perfect.” Then I would follow that with a further explanation – “your drink glass will never be empty; we select only the highest quality beef, pork, poultry and fish; our wait staff will always be looking for ways to serve you – regardless of whether or not it’s their assigned table.” Not only does this clearly state what value we will be delivering, but it also defines the points of differentiation with competing venues.

A good value proposition is clear, inspiring, and differentiating. To avoid becoming irrelevant, entrepreneurs must continually review and refine their value propositions.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The In-the-Zone Entrepreneur

“I need to stop and get milk on the way home from the office. I wonder how that new employee we just hired is going to work out. Wow, it is hot in here! I’m hungry. This paragraph I am reading makes no sense. Boy it is sure hard to concentrate right now. The stock market is way down today. Man, I am really hungry. Note to self – pick up wife’s birthday present. Must also remember to follow-up with Smith on the Franklin contract. Blah, blah, blah, buzz, buzz, buzz . . .”

Does this sound like what is going on in an entrepreneur’s mind ALL THE TIME?! Do you recognize the pattern? If you are like me, you have a million thoughts crossing your mind at warp speed and on a continual basis throughout the day. There are all kinds of statistics to be found, but the National Science Foundation provides a range of 12,000 to 50,000 thoughts per day for each of us. Even on the low end, that is a lot of thoughts. As a result, it is easy to become overwhelmed by our own minds. We are constantly bombarded with massive amounts of stimuli – much more so than ever before. I believe that the Internet and technology in general has enabled us to connect with a multitude of people and things that contribute to this trend. Think about a farmer in the 1800s. He might have read a newspaper every once in a while. Beyond that, he was not really in touch with the world outside his own small community. He worked hard physically. His mental challenges were pretty much limited to providing for and taking care of his family.

How hard would it be to just sit quietly for 30 minutes and think of absolutely nothing? I do not know many people who can actually do this. And yet, we need to be able to clear our minds of the clutter that accumulates throughout the day. A friend of mine has some wonderful advice. He says, “Listen deeply into the silence behind the noise.” Yes, much of what we think is just noise. Have you ever tried to talk on the phone with someone while a very loud conversation is occurring within earshot? Have you ever tried to focus and concentrate when there is a loud television blaring in the background? This is exactly what is happening in our minds with all the thoughts competing for attention. So, what to do?

To listen deeply into the silence behind the noise means that we must clear and quiet our minds. There is probably nothing harder for us entrepreneurs than to slow down and turn off our thoughts. But I think you will agree that when this is accomplished the flow of creative energy becomes even greater than before. And of course, creativity leads to better products and services; a more acute awareness for solving problems, and stronger interpersonal relationships. Whether you meditate, practice yoga, take long walks, or engage in some other daily mind-clearing activity the important thing to remember is to be present. Most of us are either thinking thoughts about the past or the future. When I take a walk, I try and focus on where I am and what I am experiencing in the moment. I observe the color of the sky, the shape of the clouds, the birds I am seeing in the trees and the sounds that are cascading around me. Above all, I am able to push all of the thoughts about past and future out of my head and live for the moment during the time I’m talking my walk.

We must be intentional about clearing our minds of the clutter that accumulates. Only then will our creative energy be heightened in positive and rewarding ways.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The WUONPS Entrepreneur

Have you ever found yourself in what I call a “wired-up overwhelmed near-panic spiral – WUONPS?” You wake up at 3:30 AM with this gnawing feeling – you are not worried about anything in particular, but that feeling is there. You cannot go back to sleep, so you get up and make some coffee. You surf the internet while drinking three cups of coffee. Then you hit the drive-through at Starbucks on the way to work and get a Triple Frappasomething with an extra double shot of cappuccino. It has been consumed before you reach the first stoplight. By the time you arrive at the office the feeling is welling up. With few more cups of coffee, a glance at 75 new e-mails and a minor crisis dropped in your lap, you have now reached the pinnacle of WUONPS. Oh, and it is only 8:11 AM. What to do?

The first step is to recognize the state that we are in. The quicker we can do this the faster we can move toward resolution. When we push on without stepping back our feelings cascade and we end up in a spiral. In aviation parlance, we are now in full-fledged crash and burn mode. When we recognize that we are headed into WUONPS we need to stop what we are doing IMMEDIATELY. Then we need to go and find a quiet place for decompression.

Once in our quiet place it is important to sit with our feet flat on the floor and hands in our lap with our eyes closed. We take a deep breath and let it out slowly. We do it again and again. Focusing on our breathing is a sure-fire method of calming ourselves. Deep breathing delivers increased amounts of oxygen to the brain. Livestrong.com says this: “Breathing slowly and mindfully activates the hypothalamus, connected to the pituitary gland in the brain, to send out neurohormones and trigger a relaxation response in the body. The hypothalamus links the nervous system to the endocrine system, which secretes the hormones that regulate all activities throughout the body.” Scientific explanation or not, this process definitely works.

Once we have begun to “unwire” through deep breathing, we might undertake the ROY G BIV exercise. ROY G BIV is an acronym for the seven colors of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. In our mind’s eye we see each of the colors of the rainbow traveling from the center of the earth through the bottom of our feet, up our leg, across our midsection, down the other leg and back to the center of the earth. We do this slowly and intentionally with each color of the rainbow. The purpose of ROY G BIV is to ground ourselves. I know that when I have been in a state of WUONPS, I have a weird free-floating out-of-control feeling. ROY G BIV eliminates this feeling.

After spending ten or fifteen minutes deep breathing and grounding ourselves, we are now ready to move back into the day. But first we should review our goals and objectives for the day. We spend a few moments with our “To Do” list and make sure we are clear on what we intend to accomplish for the rest of the day. Then we move forward with a new purpose and a new attitude. And . . . we avoid any additional caffeine for the rest of the day. We can also eliminate WUONPS altogether if we exercise regularly (daily for me); limit our consumption of caffeine and maintain a daily practice of meditation or quiet time.

Recognizing WUONPS is critical. Breaking the spiral with deep breathing and ROY G BIV is paramount. Recommitting to the day with a clear understanding of what we intend to accomplish puts us back on the calm and productive path we desire.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.