The Urgently Patient Entrepreneur

We entrepreneurs are a pretty restless bunch. Most of us have an ultra-high sense of urgency. I know that I certainly fall into this category. I plead guilty to always wanting things to happen a lot faster than they do. And I do realize that this creates a level of stress for the people I work with. But I’m also one of the most patient people you’ll ever meet. Huh? Does this seem like a complete contradiction? Let me explain.

My urgency meter moves quickly into the red zone when I encounter bureaucracy or if there are delays in implementation. I guess I feel like we’re all living on borrowed time and there’s a lot I want to accomplish before my time is up. Thus, anything that wastes time or energy causes anguish for me. Recently I worked with a state agency on a particular matter that took two months to finally resolve. I had a pleasant conversation with the government employee and suggested that there must be a faster way to conclude the matter. She explained that two months in government time is “lightning speed.” Unfortunately, she’s probably right. In the private sector the matter would have been handled in a matter of days or perhaps even hours. Fortunately, I have a great relationship with the head of this agency. I went on to work with him and his team to create a more expedited manner in which to deal with issues of the kind I encountered.

Here’s a key point. My sense of urgency is with the process. I want things to be efficient. I want things to be cost-effective. I want the manner in which something is accomplished to happen quickly. In my world there’s no place for analysis-paralysis or indecision. We don’t need a committee to make decisions. It’s important to get input from different members of the team and their buy-in is critical. But someone must then step-up, take charge and lead. Poor communication is a killer of initiative and creates bottlenecks. If communication isn’t clear and concise, time is wasted when clarification is sought. All of this is process related.

I said I’m a patient individual as well as having a high sense of urgency. Here’s another key point. I am patient when it comes to results. I’m in the type of business where results don’t materialize overnight. I have come to realize this after more than 45-years in the trenches. My philosophy is that if we take care of the basics and fundamentals through well-designed systems and processes, the results will take care of themselves. I can wait months or even years for the results because that’s often what it takes.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Suppose you and I are farmers. We must get a crop in the ground by date certain or we’ll have to wait an entire season to plant again. We know the steps that must be taken. The soil must be tilled, the seeds drilled into the furrows and covered, fertilizer must be applied, and the crop must be irrigated. We’re racing the clock to get in and out of the field. There’s no time for a committee to decide what crop we’re going to plant and where, when or how we’re going to plant it. We work our process with precision and complete the planting with days to spare. Now we wait patiently for the crop to grow, nurturing it as required by our process until it’s ready for harvest.

We can have a high sense of urgency and be patient, all at the same time. Our urgency lies with developing and implementing an efficient process, and our patience comes in waiting for the results.

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 Enemy

As entrepreneurs we place a great deal of value on flexibility, creativity and efficiency. We thrive on developing new ideas and managing risk. Our fires are stoked when we find ourselves in situations where we must be quick and nimble. We succeed because we are positive, optimistic and passionate, and because we persevere. So what could possibly rain on our parade?

Bureaucracy is the enemy of entrepreneurship and innovation. It doesn’t matter if it’s government bureaucracy or corporate bureaucracy – both are stifling and unrelenting. We entrepreneurs are in a constant struggle with bureaucracy and our frustration grows by the day. Bureaucracies are inflexible, inefficient and slothful. While entrepreneurship is a dream catcher, bureaucracies are dream-killers. So what is an entrepreneur to do?

Government bureaucracy is a subject unto itself. Entrepreneurs can do two things to combat government bureaucracies. One is to figure out how to maneuver and work-around them. I’ve made the mistake of trying to fight government bureaucracy in the past and it was always a losing battle – primarily because they have no accountability. Rather than fight, we can choose to become innovative involving not only our business initiatives, but also in the way we interact with a government bureaucracy. And of course the other thing we can do is support political candidates who believe in streamlining and/or eliminating bureaucracies.

Corporate bureaucracy is almost as maddening as the government variety. They generally exist as a result of the implementation of systems and processes that are cobbled together over an extended period of time. Many corporate bureaucracies are never intended to be so. They simply evolve. In the absence of a well-defined strategy a vacuum exists. Business people tend to do a lot of “firefighting,” constantly reacting to issues that are presented on a daily basis. The sum total of this reactionary approach to doing business; the vacuum that is present with the absence of a strategy, and the hodge-podge of solutions that are produced, equals a greater and greater entrenched bureaucracy. Conversely, a well-thought corporate vision wrapped in strong strategy and precision tactics, does not allow this vacuum to see the light of day.

To ensure that innovation and entrepreneurship flourish we must focus on creating a roadmap that is clearly defined for everyone on our team. When we see “firefighting” beginning to occur this is our danger signal that bureaucracy will ensue. This is our opportunity to step back and re-examine our vision and our strategy. It’s a time when we can tweak and modify our operations to be totally aligned with our entrepreneurial spirit.

For the sake of our customers, our team members and everyone who comes into contact with our enterprise, it should be our goal to avoid the establishment of bureaucracy at all costs. When we succeed, we’ll enjoy an abundance of happy customers, happy team members and prosperity at all levels.

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.

firefighting

A Bucket of Blue Leaves

Question: It seems like everywhere I turn there is more bureaucratic nonsense to deal with. I have to fill out endless forms and jump through hoops to get anything done. What can I do to bring down my blood pressure?

Answer: People who know me will attest to the fact that bureaucracy makes me crazy too. And over the years I could have easily filled 100 volumes of books the length of War and Peace with my rantings about mindless, spirit-crushing bureaucracy. But recently a friend of mine told a story at a business conference we were attending. He called it “a Bucket of Blue Leaves.”

It seems as though he had experienced many of the same frustrations as had I, with a particular federal agency. Someone told him he needed to get a Bucket of Blue Leaves. He of course said, “There is no such thing as this. Blue Leaves don’t exist.” But after thinking for a moment he realized that all he needed to do was go to the Home Depot and buy a bucket and some blue spray paint. Then he would simply find some leaves and paint them blue. Ultimately he delivered this “Bucket of Blue Leaves” to the federal agency and got what he wanted.

What a perfect metaphor. We can do as I have done in the past which is to fight, stew, get angry and undoubtedly make other people mad. Or, we can be smart and figure out how we can deliver exactly what is being requested regardless of how ridiculous we believe the requirements to be. Often, what is being requested in such situations may seem completely illogical. We entrepreneurs generally want everything to be neat, orderly and logical. When this doesn’t happen our world can turn upside down. But it doesn’t have to.

I’m still working on this one. When things get in my way – especially bureaucrats – I want to bulldoze over them. However I’m now realizing that the idea of getting past an obstacle doesn’t always mean I have to go through it. So every time I have an encounter with another bureaucrat, before I get mad I get a Bucket of Blue Leaves. I suppose if this doesn’t work I’ll have to get a Bucket of Purple Leaves . . .

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.