The Fulfilled Entrepreneur

Here’s a question for entrepreneurs that can actually be a rather perplexing conundrum. What is the value that we are adding to what we do every day? Could a trained monkey do it too . . . and maybe even better? Here’s the thing. We sometimes tend to fall into a rut that’s usually within our comfort zone. And then we go through motions every day – over and over and over. Oftentimes we become very, very good at what we do and so it is really easy to keep doing it – over and over and over. But, is it a truly fulfilling experience?

My father-in-law was a funeral director. He was very, very good at what he did, and it was evident that he liked helping people. But he always said that when he turned 65, he was done and would retire. And that’s exactly what he did. I concluded that while he liked what he did, he didn’t love it enough to never want to stop doing it. I never did get a chance to ask him before he died what value he brought to what he did every day.

Entrepreneurs think a lot about money. Yet, those I’ve known who do what they do just to make a lot of money tend to become restless and bored. Making a lot of money may be great, but after a while it’s really just a way to keep score. And if we’re winning every day and only doing it for the money, how does one keep the “fire in the belly?” There must be something more.

There’s no denying that we entrepreneurs want to make money. And there’s nothing wrong with this – after all, most of us are unabashed capitalists. But just focusing on the money can lead to a fairly hollow existence. Money is a commodity and eventually we find ourselves feeling like the proverbial trained monkey. That’s when the trouble can begin. Being restless and bored can lead to many issues the least of which might be extramarital affairs, drug or alcohol abuse or even daredevil types of hobbies. I’m not casting aspersion on thrill-seeking activities, but we must examine the real reason that we pursue them. Is it because we are feeling unfulfilled in our business and/or personal lives?

All this pondering leads us to conclude that we need to be doing something of substance in order to feel fulfilled. I’ve written before about value propositions where customers are concerned. But we also need a personal value proposition that winds us up and keeps us excited, happy and content. My value proposition is the same as my personal WHY (thank you Simon Sinek) which is to make sense of complexity. This manifests in many ways including consistently developing creative ideas and solutions. If a day goes by where I wasn’t challenged creatively or didn’t become immersed in something complicated, I don’t feel fulfilled. Thus, I try and always put myself in situations where this never happens.

Each of us needs to find our own personal value proposition. Perhaps it’s doing things the right way every single time. Maybe it’s about innovation and doing things a better way. Some of us want to make a contribution or a difference in the lives of others. There are those of us who want to create trust and build relationships, while others just want to simplify things. A few entrepreneurs live for mastering what they do, and others want to create clarity. Of course, there are always a few Steve Jobs types who want to challenge the status quo and think differently.

Discovering our own personal value proposition energizes us and keeps us coming back for more. Being a great entrepreneur hinges on our ability to continually maintain a sense of fulfillment.

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.

Mousetraps²

I don’t want our customers to be satisfied. Put another way, customer satisfaction is not our objective. I also don’t want our team members to be satisfied. There, I’ve said it. I’ll bet you’re thinking that there’s a punchline somewhere in all of this. And yes, there is. But let’s dig a bit deeper before getting to the bottom line.

When we serve others we certainly want them to be satisfied – right? This seems like a perfectly rational objective because we all know what happens when a customer or team member is dissatisfied. So, when a customer (or team member) makes a request, we do our best to satisfy that request. We generally believe that when someone is satisfied they are happy. Here’s an interesting dilemma. Suppose we’ve done everything we can to satisfy our customer; they tell us they are happy, but then they quit anyway. What’s up with that?

One of our companies is involved in managing apartment properties for our own account and for third-party clients as well. I can remember several times over the past many years that a long-time client told us he was perfectly satisfied with our service, only to make a change and hire another firm. We were assured that we’d done nothing wrong and other circumstances stimulated the change. In some cases the client was consolidating the management of all his properties with a national property management firm. In another instance we were told that the client had a relationship with another company and though he was satisfied with our performance, he thought he might do better with the other firm. Naturally there’s a strong level of disappointment when we hear that someone is satisfied and yet they are still making a change. What in the world are we to do?

OK, here comes the punchline. Customer satisfaction isn’t enough. Team member satisfaction isn’t enough. Customers and team members leave even when they are completely satisfied. Attempting to achieve customer and team member satisfaction is a siren song that will lure us into the rocks and sink our ship. Instead, we need to focus on fulfillment. Fulfillment is a much higher state than satisfaction. It’s a concept that’s similar to exceeding expectations but is even more than that. Trust me – you won’t get any help from the dictionary on this one. It says that to fulfill is to satisfy. I think the dictionary’s definition misses a very important nuance here.

Suppose an apartment resident calls and reports that her kitchen faucet is dripping. If our maintenance technician goes to her apartment and completes the repair, then he’s satisfied her request. However, if he goes and fixes the faucet, and then checks a number of other physical elements in her apartment and fixes other items that he finds, then we’re moving toward a level of fulfillment for the customer. Total fulfillment comes when there’s nothing else a customer could possibly want or need, even if he or she hasn’t articulated it. In other words, we’ve anticipated every possible scenario that could impact the customer and we’ve taken all the steps we could to resolve unforeseen issues and create an over-the-top experience. This was what was missing when we lost a client who told us he was satisfied. We had not gone above and beyond to create the over-the-top experience that achieved total fulfillment.

Customers and team members leave or quit all the time when they are satisfied. Usually it’s because they aren’t aware of a better alternative. But when that better mousetrap is presented to them it’s not hard to understand their motivation for making a change. Changing our focus from satisfaction to fulfillment increases the odds in our favor that we possess the better mousetrap.

Achieving fulfillment for our customers and team members requires a combination of commitment, innovation, understanding, vigilance, appreciation and gratitude. Fulfillment is the best mousetrap in today’s highly competitive entrepreneurial environment.

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.

mouse-trap-helmet

Trained Monkeys

Here’s a question for entrepreneurs that can actually be a rather perplexing conundrum. What is the value that we are adding to what we do every day? Could a trained monkey do it too . . . and maybe even better? Here’s the thing. We sometimes tend to fall into a rut that’s usually within our comfort zone. And then we go through motions every day – over and over and over. Oftentimes we become very, very good at what we do and so it is really easy to keep doing it – over and over and over. But, is it a truly fulfilling experience?

My father-in-law was a funeral director. He was very, very good at what he did and it was evident that he liked helping people. But he always said that when he turned 65 he was done and would retire. And that’s exactly what he did. I concluded that while he liked what he did, he didn’t love it enough to never want to stop doing it. I never did get a chance to ask him before he died what value he brought to what he did every day.

Entrepreneurs think a lot about money. Yet, those I’ve known who do what they do just to make a lot of money tend to become restless and bored. Making a lot of money may be great, but after a while it’s really just a way to keep score. And if we’re winning every day and only doing it for the money, how does one keep the “fire in the belly?” There must be something more.

There’s no denying that we entrepreneurs want to make money. And there’s nothing wrong with this – after all, most of us are unabashed capitalists. But just focusing on the money can lead to a fairly hollow existence. Money is a commodity and eventually we find ourselves feeling like the proverbial trained monkey. That’s when the trouble can begin. Being restless and bored can lead to many issues the least of which might be extramarital affairs, drug or alcohol abuse or even daredevil types of hobbies. I’m not casting aspersion on thrill-seeking activities, but we must examine the real reason that we pursue them. Is it because we are feeling unfulfilled in our business and/or personal lives?

All of this pondering leads us to conclude that we need to be doing something of substance in order to feel fulfilled. I’ve written before about value propositions where customers are concerned. But we also need a personal value proposition that winds us up and keeps us excited, happy and content. My value proposition is the same as my personal WHY (thank you Simon Sinek) which is to make sense of complexity. This manifests in many ways including consistently developing creative ideas and solutions. If a day goes by where I wasn’t challenged creatively or didn’t become immersed in something complicated, I don’t feel fulfilled. Thus, I try and always put myself in situations where this never happens.

Each of us needs to find our own personal value proposition. Perhaps it’s doing things the right way every single time. Maybe it’s about innovation and doing things a better way. Some of us want to make a contribution or a difference in the lives of others. There are those of us who want to create trust and build relationships, while others just want to simplify things. A few entrepreneurs live for mastering what they do and others want to create clarity. Of course there are always a few Steve Jobs types who want to challenge the status quo and think differently.

Discovering our own personal value proposition energizes us and keeps us coming back for more. Being a great entrepreneur hinges on our ability to continually maintain a sense of fulfillment.

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.

trained monkeys