The Up and to the Right Entrepreneur

Damon is an entrepreneur. He runs a small but growing company that recycles old computer equipment. Damon is very frustrated right now. Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom. She has two small children under the age of five and produces marketing materials for three companies, working from a spare bedroom. Stephanie is very frustrated right now. Why are Damon and Stephanie so frustrated?

Damon’s company has been growing at a rate of 25% a year for the past three years. He’s doubled the size of his team and his margins are increasing. If you looked at a graph depicting his business, the line would be up and to the right.

Stephanie has two beautiful and healthy children. Her husband is a physician, and the family is financially secure. Her marketing venture is flourishing. She’s landed a new client each of the last three years and the type of work has become much more substantive. By all measures, Stephanie’s graph looks the same as Damon’s – up and to the right.

Why in the world would these two individuals be so frustrated? Damon has chosen to reinvest a major portion of his profits back into his company. As a result, he hasn’t seen his personal cash flow increase in any meaningful way. Intellectually he knows he’s doing fine, but it still rankles him that his bank balance has remained fairly static.

Stephanie loves her marketing business, and she is ecstatic over motherhood. She worries that her two primary roles may someday collide (at times they already do) and she feels guilty that she may fail to do justice with either. Stephanie wonders how she can possibly achieve her personal and professional goals with the juggling act that she is managing. 

Here’s a simple but powerful truth. Damon and Stephanie have not yet learned how to celebrate their success. To those of us looking in from the outside these two are ideally situated. Everything seems “up and to the right” for them and yet they are frustrated. Damon and Stephanie are trapped in the tunnel of limited thinking. They have set lofty expectations for themselves – both in terms of what they want to achieve and how quickly this will happen. How many entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs do you know who are suffering the same plight? What can be done to break this negative-mind cycle?

If we were coaching Damon and Stephanie, we would tell them to become quiet for a few minutes and clear their minds. Then we would suggest that they “go to gratitude.” That would involve creating an inventory of all that in their lives for which they are grateful. Going to gratitude helps them get out of themselves and see beyond the tunnel walls of their frustration. And it’s a way to re-set the mind in a positive manner. In fact, we would advise Damon and Stephanie to use the gratitude exercise in the future whenever they feel frustration welling up.

As armchair coaches we would next encourage Tyler and Stephanie to discover how to celebrate their successes – no matter how large or small. Sometimes we tend to singularly focus only on the BHAGs – Big Hairy Audacious Goals – that we have set, and we fail to see the progress we are making along the way. Damon and Stephanie need to re-pattern their thinking to be able to see the smaller achievements that occur every day and intentionally celebrate them. One of Damon’s team members earned a difficult industry certification. Damon celebrated this success with a pizza party and some congratulatory remarks. When his company recycled its 10,000th CPU, he walked into the middle of the warehouse and rang a big brass bell. He left the bell there to be used as future milestones are realized.

When Stephanie’s four-year-old daughter read her first book Stephanie took her out for a special lunch and lavished her daughter with praise and encouragement. One of Stephanie’s clients entered her brochure in a regional marketing contest, and it won first place. Stephanie celebrated her accomplishment by laminating the brochure cover onto a plaque along with her award. She hung it in her home office to remind her that she does really fine work.

We all need to learn to celebrate our successes no matter the size. And going to gratitude helps us to break out of the tunnel of limited thinking. This puts us on the path to appreciate each and every day as one filled with joy and promise.

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 Celebrating Entrepreneur

What and when do you celebrate? An odd question you think? Here’s the backdrop. Humans and their organizations like to celebrate. It’s positive, it’s fun and it’s great for morale. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs don’t do enough of it. We are so focused on problems to solve, people to hire and products (or services) to create that there may be long periods of time where we don’t even realize that we’ve enjoyed some success along the way. And no, this isn’t a blog about stopping to smell the roses. Sure, that’s important too, but this is about something more intentional.

I’ve been with the same company for almost five decades. I can tell you that we have been pretty successful over that time frame, but until recently, we really haven’t practiced what I’m about to preach – though we are starting to do so now. In the past, we might have closed a big deal at some point and slapped each other on the back, but we really didn’t stop and truly celebrate a major accomplishment. And it would be pretty safe to say that we never celebrated minor successes. Why? Because that’s just the go-go nature of entrepreneurial endeavors. But I’ve come to realize that we’ve been missing a golden opportunity and I’m pleased to say that we are now celebrating in ways that are meaningful to our whole team. Maybe you’ll step back and come to the same conclusion.

When we stop to celebrate it’s more than just party time. It can also be a great time for reflection. We look for the elements that created our success which reinforces the need to continue to implement those same elements in the future. Think about it. Let’s suppose that our company just landed a major contract to sell our product to a very large buyer. Before we pop the cork on the champagne, we gather the team and map-out the steps that led to the signing of the contract. We also identify what didn’t work so well and what we might have done differently. By undertaking this exercise, everyone is reminded of what we did to win.

The accolades, praise and expressions of gratitude all help to build and strengthen our culture. Our team members – especially those who were directly linked to the success – want to feel valued and appreciated. I realize that there may be financial incentives that have helped drive the success, but there’s no question that formal recognition is almost always a strong motivator as well.

So, if we are inclined to celebrate major successes, why not do so for minor achievements too? I’m sure someone is thinking, “If we celebrate everything, doesn’t it cheapen the process and lessen the impact?” This can certainly happen if we’re not careful. But most leaders can figure out what is worthy of celebration and what is not. Perhaps a team member completed the coursework to receive a professional designation. Or maybe the accounting team had a perfect quarter in terms of accomplishing all tasks on time and with 100% accuracy – paying bills, processing receipts, producing financial statements, etc. Finally, imagine each member of the sales team making 25 new cold calls a week for a month. These may be occurrences that in the past were viewed as routine or something that was expected. “Finally, this person or that team actually did their job(s)! Why do we want to celebrate that?” But remember that the celebration process begins with analyzing what worked and what didn’t work. Don’t we want to take advantage of the opportunity to understand what we want to replicate in the future?

Finally, the “party” piece of celebration may take many forms. Certainly, gathering everyone for a toast may be one of the more common methods. Trophies, medals, commendations, certificates, plaques, and other memorabilia are great forms of recognition. All-company e-mails, newsletters, websites, and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can be effective tools for celebrating. I like to hand write notes to members of our team for large and small achievements. In one of our business units, they ring a bell and make an announcement when something happens that is worthy of a celebration.

The intentional celebration of achievements and success is an opportunity to reinforce what worked and improve on what didn’t. It’s also a chance to recognize members of the team for their commitment and ingenuity to deliver the positive 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 Appreciative Entrepreneur

Robin goes to work every day at the consumer products company where she has been employed for the past two years. She faithfully performs her roles and accountabilities and has received relatively high marks from her supervisor. In fact, she has never taken a sick day and is proud of the fact that she’s never missed a day of work other than scheduled holidays and vacations. But recently, Robin has begun to feel more and more like she’s on a hamster wheel. She believes her compensation is relatively fair and she likes what she does. However, she often wonders about what she might be missing at another firm.

Robin is feeling unappreciated and undervalued. No one has been disrespectful or mean to her, so that’s not the problem. More than anything no one outside of her operating unit seems to really care whether she’s part of the team or not. It’s this level of apathy that’s eating at her. She sees the “big boss” almost every day, but he’s never once spoken to her. She rationalizes this by acknowledging that there are over 1,000 employees in the company and it’s impossible for him to know everyone. Still, her accomplishments are seemingly unnoticed and taken for granted.

The scenario just described is repeated countless times every single day across a wide spectrum of companies – large and small. There are multiple studies showing that feeling valued is more important to many people than what they are paid. And this is not a problem that is easily solved with a large company event, a cruise or other significant activity. No, our team members need to feel valued on a regular and ongoing basis.

Leaders need to understand that helping others to feel appreciated and valued is one of the most important functions we can perform. It requires a genuine and authentic mindset that we are here to serve. Yes, you read that correctly. We are servant-leaders. The objective is to look for every way we can to make others feel important and fulfilled. It’s not a mindset that we can turn on and off depending upon who we encounter. We can start creating this mindset by trying to find something good and positive about every situation and everyone. When we are served in a restaurant, we can call the server by name and tell him or her what great service was provided. In public spaces there are always people cleaning the floors or polishing the glass. We can compliment them on how they are creating a sparkling appearance.

We continue to practice our appreciative mindset at our workplace. We make certain to greet everyone we walk by and call them by name. We go out of our way to acknowledge the efforts of others and thank them for their contribution. As leaders, it’s our job to encourage other leaders to create a culture of gratitude.   

An initiative we launched several years ago involves sending a letter to each of our team members on their work anniversary. It’s form letter that changes annually and is signed by me as the CEO. But we’ve taken it a step further. A spreadsheet is created onto which is recorded comments about each team member’s accomplishments provided by his or her supervisor. Toward the bottom of the letter, I handwrite a personal note – several sentences – citing these individual accomplishments and thanking the team member for being a part of the team. I write several hundred of these each year and can tell you that it’s one of the high points of my month. I also call team members when I hear about exceptional performance and express my appreciation for their service.

It’s equally important for our team to feel as though their input is needed. Mandates from on high are sometimes necessary, but soliciting feedback from team members and involving them in the decision-making process whenever possible promotes buy-in. And we need to make sure when people speak that we listen and act accordingly. There are many great ideas and practical solutions that can be accessed from such a collaborative approach.

Acknowledging value and showing respect starts at the top of an organization. If the executive leadership doesn’t incorporate this as part of the cultural fabric, it’s not likely that it will be a priority for others either. If the “big boss” would simply say hello to Robin and show a little interest in her and what she does, it’s unlikely that she would feel the way she does.

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.

Entrepreneurial Small Stuff

We’ve always been told that there are no guarantees in life except death and taxes. I submit that there is one more guarantee that’s much more pleasant. We can be guaranteed that every day will be a good day . . . if we make it so. How? Read on.

Whether our day is good or bad depends upon our state of mind. By extension, we make the choice as to whether we will generally be happy in life. Being an entrepreneur is a tough gig. There are plenty of obstacles – way too many to list here. We can allow these obstacles to eventually overwhelm us, or we can look at them as opportunities for growth and success. But how do we get our mind right to look at our challenges this way? Here are some ideas that work for me in guaranteeing that every day is going to be a good day and that I’m able to be happy about my life overall.

Smile before answering or making a phone call. Smiling helps to release neuropeptides that counteract stress. Also, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin all go to work when we smile. So, there is a positive physiological reaction to smiling that can’t be ignored. And no doubt the conversation will be more pleasant and may result in a positive outcome – all because of a smile.

You know all those e-mails we send every day? We probably send too many because it’s such an efficient way to communicate. Yet, I find life can be pretty dull if we just keep to ourselves. I like to convert some of my e-mail conversations into face-to-face meetings or phone calls. I also find it hard to build relationships exclusively via e-mail. Thus, I build stronger relationships with the personal touch, and it makes me feel good to have human interaction throughout the day.

Express gratitude every single day. We have so much for which to be thankful. My day is more fulfilling when I tell someone how much I appreciate them and what they are doing. Gratitude helps me to feel more optimistic and contributes to building stronger interpersonal relationships.

Become centered. Life moves at warp speed for most of us. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and all-of-a-sudden things, can spin out of control. Spending a few moments from time-to-time with deep breathing and visualization exercises helps to ground me and restores my calm.

I was a Boy Scout and we committed to doing a good deed every day. I know it’s going to be a good day when I do something for someone else and am rewarded with their smile. This can be as little as holding the door for another person or helping someone put their bag in the overhead compartment on an airplane.

If exercise isn’t part of your daily routine, it’s certainly worthy of consideration. A good morning workout and long walk set a pattern for the day. I feel great after sweating and burning calories. I’m able to control my weight as well as ward off stress through physical activity.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. One of the healthiest things we can do – multiple times each day – is to laugh. And if we can laugh at ourselves, that’s even better. As with smiling, laughing offers innumerable health benefits and it’s usually the result of something funny. When we take ourselves too seriously, we may become self-conscious and begin to doubt ourselves.

Do at least one creative thing every day. But I’m not a creative person you say. That’s beside the point. We all can be creative at some level. Find something large or small where we can stretch our minds in a creative fashion. And guess what, you’ll find a nugget of good somewhere in the process.

Finally, be present. This can be very hard for us as entrepreneurs when we’re caught up in the fast-paced life we lead. It’s been my experience that I make fewer mistakes (that can erode the feelings of a good day) when I focus on the moment. Maybe that’s concentrating on a task at hand or something as simple as giving my full attention to someone with whom I’m meeting.

Yes, every day is guaranteed to be a good day if we take the necessary steps to make it happen. I can’t wait for my feet to hit the floor each morning because I’m stacking the deck in favor of this guarantee!

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.

Portrait of a handsome young man in the city

The Sensitive Entrepreneur

We have all known hard-charging Type A entrepreneurs who have a “take no prisoners” attitude. These people are the doers. They are decisive and they know how to execute. But sometimes there is a downside to this sort of personality. Yes, sometimes those of us who are very driven may tend to be insensitive. This usually is not intentional but nonetheless it can have a detrimental effect on our team members and the culture we are trying to build.

There are many ways that insensitivity can manifest. It can be as direct as making derogatory or belittling comments to as subtle as failing to acknowledge someone with a friendly greeting in the morning. Think about an exchange like this. Team member – “I’d like to volunteer to work with Jim on the Norton project.” Entrepreneur – “No, you just need to stay focused on what you are doing.” While it may be absolutely true that the team member needs to keep doing what she’s doing, the way the entrepreneur delivered the message could be construed as insensitive. A different selection of words would make all the difference. How about this instead? “Jan – thanks for the offer. Your project is critically important, and I am counting on you to get it wrapped up. But I will take a rain check on having you help with the next one.” This statement acknowledges the team member with an expression of appreciation and affirms her value. And it gives her hope that she will be given another opportunity in the future.

So, how do we develop the appropriate level of sensitivity without going so far as to sing Kumbaya all the time? There is a very simple method that I have learned over the years. I will admit to once-upon-a-time being the insensitive Type A hard-charger that was described in the opening paragraph. I justified my behavior by believing that I was simply being expedient in my dealings with others. After all, I was moving at 100 miles an hour and the quicker I could get through with one meeting the sooner I could move on to the next. But I gradually became aware that my people skills were suffering. I was not doing anything to cultivate relationships or goodwill. Eventually I developed a new awareness by just putting myself in the other person’s shoes. How would I feel if someone spoke to me a certain way; said something in a certain manner, or failed to somehow acknowledge me?

The key is to practice, practice and constantly practice. I try to pay attention to how everyone around me is feeling. In a restaurant, I want to make sure that the wait staff is properly appreciated. At the office I try to make eye contact with members of our team as I walk by and greet each and every one of them. I pay attention to the language that I use, going the extra mile to avoid careless statements that could be misconstrued. Again, I am always testing what I say or do against the basic premise of how I would want to be treated if I were the other person. After a while it becomes very intuitive.

The mark of a good leader is how he or she treats others. Running roughshod or being humble and sensitive? The choice is easy when walking a mile in another’s shoes.

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 Fulfillment-Focused Entrepreneur

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 have said it. I will bet you are thinking that there is 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 is an interesting dilemma. Suppose we have done everything we can to satisfy our customer; they tell us they are happy, but then they quit anyway. What is 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 had 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 is 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 is not enough. Team member satisfaction is not 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 is a concept that is like exceeding expectations but is even more than that. Trust me – you will not 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 has satisfied her request. However, if he goes and fixes the faucet, and then checks several other physical elements in her apartment and fixes other items that he finds, then we are moving toward a level of fulfillment for the customer. Total fulfillment comes when there is nothing else a customer could possibly want or need, even if he or she has not articulated it. In other words, we have anticipated every possible scenario that could impact the customer and we have 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 is because they are not aware of a better alternative. But when that better mousetrap is presented to them it is 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.

The Slumping Entrepreneur

In 1961 Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies suffered a 23-game losing streak. The 2013-14 NBA Philadelphia 76ers endured a 26-game losing streak. In 1976-77 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the longest losing streak in NFL history at 26 games. Dan Meyer played both in the infield and the outfield for the 1983 Oakland Athletics and captured the MLB record for hitless at-bats in 48 attempts by a non-pitcher. Talk about slumps! A quick check of the dictionary offers the following definition of slump – “a period during which a person performs slowly, inefficiently, or ineffectively, especially a period during which an athlete or team fails to play or score as well as usual.”

We have all watched sports teams at amateur and professional levels encounter slumps. Ditto for businesses. And we’ve undoubtedly experienced periods in our own lives where we perform slowly, inefficiently, or ineffectively. Feelings of hopelessness and victimization set in. Day after day we become more lethargic. It is harder and hard to get out of bed. We are defeated shortly after we arise. When things don’t turn out the way they should we say things like, “it figures – I just can’t win,” and an air of resignation sets in.

A slump is simply a state of mind. While I do not have scientific proof, I believe we enter a slump because of negative thinking. We are rocking along with everything going fine and something happens that has negative connotations. Maybe we were certain we were going to win a certain piece of business and then we don’t. Rather than shake it off and re-double our efforts with a positive attitude, we allow the loss to gnaw at us. It might be very subtle or even subconscious. But we let that little bit of negativity into our psyche and that, my friends, can be the beginning of a slump. That is why I am such a staunch advocate for maintaining a positive frame of mind 100% of the time. Positivity is the best armor against a slump. When something does not go right, we need to see it as an opportunity to get right back on the horse and ride again . . . without hesitation. The negative creep in our consciousness will kill us if we don’t.

Suppose that somehow, we find ourselves in a slump. How do we pull out of it? The same way we avoid falling into a slump in the first place. The first and most important step is to examine our attitude. Recognizing the negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones is absolutely crucial. And we need to make sure we get every last one of them. Even a lingering doubt of any sort can be enough to keep the slump alive.

Once we return to a positive frame of mind, we can take some additional steps to ensure that we are back on track and the slump is behind us. Look for a small victory of some sort. No need to swing for the fences – just get a base hit. For example, we don’t need to immediately make that next big sale. Instead, simply get an appointment to meet with a prospective customer. Also, it is a good time to review the basics and fundamentals of whatever it is that you do. This becomes a necessary grounding exercise. A baseball player who is struggling at the plate will often focus on the mechanics of his hitting. Perhaps he finds that a very minor change in technique makes all the difference. With a completely positive mindset and solid basics and fundamentals working in concert, the final step is going to a place of gratitude. We have so much for which to be grateful and must intentionally create a thanksgiving inventory. Focusing on gratitude will close the circle and put us back in the winning mode again.

Slumps occur because we let in a tiny bit of negativity. We can quickly end a slump by regaining our positive attitude; by focusing on the basics and fundamentals of what we do, and by being thankful for all the good that is in our life.

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.

COVID-19 and the Entrepreneur’s State of Mind

This is surreal. It was a little bit like this after 9/11. But this time the uncertainty seems unprecedented. Many are locked down in their homes – some for weeks and maybe even months. Certain elements of society have decided that it’s a good idea to hoard toilet paper, water and other everyday staples. The reason for this is unclear. COVID-19 is turning out to be a major test of our collective resolve and common sense. Entrepreneurs have a lot riding on the resolution of this crisis. Much is out of our control. But one thing is for certain – our state of mind will be a major factor in the level of our success or failure.

OK, where to start? We acknowledge our fears and anxiety. It’s normal to feel this way. But we need to put this in perspective. For whatever reason, the human mind tends to gravitate to the most extreme and adverse outcome. Hence all the very dire predictions about casualties and economic cataclysm – few if any based upon a shred of solid evidence. We need to ignore the noise and understand that we can’t know all that is going to happen. However, it’s likely that things won’t be as bad as we conjure them in our minds. And, we’re all in this together. It’s not as if anyone is going to win from this situation.

We have a choice to make. It’s the most important choice that we can make during this unfortunate circumstance. We make a choice as to our mindset going forward. There’s no doubt that we’ll face significant challenges. Guess what? Everyone is going to face significant challenges. If we choose a mindset of panic, we won’t be productive. If we choose to dwell on loss, lack and limitation – that’s what will manifest. I’ve said it a million times – our mind is an incredibly powerful organism. Thus, we must take great care in how we form our thoughts.

We are entrepreneurs. Our middle name is “Resilience.” While others may wring their hands in despair, we will be strong and positive. We will not dwell on that which we can’t control. To maintain a strong mental state, we will reach out to others – family, friends and colleagues – to offer a shoulder to lean on. We will listen and comfort. We will listen and reassure. We will get out of ourselves by figuring out ways to serve others. In so doing, we build the strength of our character and demonstrate a resolve and commitment to not only endure the crisis but use the experience to be as creative as possible.

We wake up each morning in a spirit of gratitude. We express our appreciation to everyone around us for all that they mean to us and do for us. We smile and laugh. We take care of our bodies through continuing to exercise and eating in healthy ways. Developing a daily routine is important to our physical and mental wellbeing. We avoid spending an inordinate amount of time on social media for it is filled with misinformation and hyperbole. We spend our time working remotely if that is necessary, as effectively as we can. And we use a portion of our time to develop ways that we can deliver our products and services in an even more efficient and effective manner and provide an amazing experience for our customers. Think about it. It’s like an auto race. Every so often, we need to make a pit stop, but we don’t want to fall behind in the race. Right now, all drivers are under a caution flag. The race hasn’t been cancelled, but we’re driving slowly behind the pace car. We can take a little time to plan on new and improved ways to work ON our business, rather than always working IN it.

We are entrepreneurs. COVID-19 is our yellow caution flag but we’re not quitting the race. Far from it. We’re maintaining a positive mindset – always! We’re looking for ways to serve others each and every day. We don’t obsess over that which we can’t control. While times may be very different for a while, we adapt and are productive in the most positive of ways. We are entrepreneurs and we will survive . . . and then we will thrive.

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 Exhilarated Entrepreneur

Here’s a simple test. Do you wake up in the morning and can’t wait to tackle the day ahead? Does your brain function in overdrive with an idea a minute? Are you ever bored? Are you able to stay in “the zone” from a productivity standpoint for long periods of time? Do you experience endorphin rushes at times other than when you are exercising? Are you almost always in an upbeat mood no matter what? If you answered “yes” to all these questions except for being bored (and answered it “no”) then you are experiencing the “E” Factor.

The E Factor is a major ingredient in the recipe for the success of an entrepreneur (and everyone else for that matter). The E Factor is . . . Exhilaration! Exhilaration is the energizing excitement that puts an exclamation point on our lives. There’s no drudgery in Exhilaration. There’s no exhaustion in Exhilaration. There’s no negativity in Exhilaration. There’s nothing boring about Exhilaration. Exhilaration is all about positivity, optimism, the glass is overflowing (as opposed to half full), fireworks-on-the-4th-of-July, the sun is always shining and everything WOW!

From personal experience I can tell you that my life is so much richer and fuller as a result of reaching and staying in a state of Exhilaration. The little setbacks along the way that might throw others for a loop are mere speed bumps for me. My existence goes far beyond my vocation and has become totally holistic in nature. I know this may sound corny, but I truly am in love with life and life is in love with me.

How do we reach and stay in a state of Exhilaration? There are three steps that have worked for me. First, we must make serious choices about how we think. If you read my blogs regularly, you know that I constantly talk about how much of a difference our mindset can make. We all know this for the most part, but it’s not always easy to remember. Maintaining a positive state of mind is absolutely and totally critical to the E Factor. We must recognize when we are starting to veer into negative thinking; stop and release the negative thought and replace it with a positive thought. I have found that a positive affirmation said over and over is a perfect replacement for a negative thought.

Second, we deserve to live our passion. I realize that sometimes there needs to be a ramp-up process to reach this passion. My passion isn’t just what I do for a living. My passion is the way I live. It’s filled with many things for which I have a passion including my relationships, my philanthropy, my health, my creativity, my faith and many more elements. I’ve said numerous times that passion is what allows us to see in color. Just because we may not be totally passionate about our careers at the moment doesn’t mean that there aren’t many other aspects to our lives for which we can have passion. And with respect to our careers – we should have a step-by-step plan that provides the light at the end of the tunnel for when our career does become our passion.

Finally, we must practice intense gratitude. Being grateful for what we have and what we receive keeps the energy channel open for us to receive greater good in our lives. When I think back over the years about all the wonderful people who have done wonderful things for me, my gratitude needle explodes off the meter. Saying thank you isn’t enough. Doing good things for other people is an expression of our gratitude that recognizes what others have done for us. It’s a bit of a pay-it-forward mentality.

We can live in a state of Exhilaration if we choose to do so. It’s as simple as that. And to achieve the E Factor we must be positive, passionate and grateful. Enjoy the fireworks show!

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.

Is the Grass Really Greener?

The U.S. unemployment rate is at its lowest since 1969. Companies are becoming more and more creative in their recruiting efforts. From an employee’s perspective, times have probably never been better. There’s certainly a temptation to job-hop the way up the compensation ladder in the belief that an employer is going to be much more generous than would have been the case during the Great Recession and for many years thereafter. But the question must be asked, is the grass really greener on the other side of the fence?

Everyone knows that there’s much more to a career than a paycheck. Those who blindly chase the dollars may get what they want – but there may be a whole lot more than they bargained for. I know many people who were thrilled with the amount of money they were going to make only to find out that their new boss was ridiculously difficult, the stress levels were off the charts and working conditions were abysmal. Yet, it’s very tempting to jump at the chance to make a lot more money and pick up a cool new title. So, how should we look at the “grass” on the other side of the fence?

Over the past 44 years, I’ve had numerous opportunities to make the jump. I resisted every time. Why? Long ago I realized that 1) I was working for and with honorable people; 2) I was allowed incredible freedom to be creative and experiment, and 3) I was working in an industry that I loved and had dreamt about since I was in the 8th grade. You’ll notice that nowhere did I mention money. The reason is simple. I was allowed to continually figure out how to add value to whatever I was pursuing, and my compensation increased accordingly. This approach is my suggested template for viewing the “grass is greener” dilemma.

I’ve always believed that most people work a job. A few pursue a career. And then there are those of us who are lucky enough to live our passion. I don’t think I’ve felt at any point in time (after the first three months in the mid-1970s) that I was working a job. For awhile I was pursuing a career. But for most of my adult life I’ve been able to live my passion. This is important to understand for it’s one of the three foundational elements to answering the “grass is greener” question. Each of us must find our own passion to pursue, and the sooner the better.

Let’s assume that we generally know that we are in the right industry – yes, I know – that’s a big assumption to make. But we must start somewhere. This brings us to the other two foundational elements. Am I working for and with honorable people? There’s much more to this question than it’s literal interpretation. What is the company’s culture? Is there a vision of where the organization is heading? Are there core values that are more than slogans in a fancy frame on the wall? Are employees valued and treated fairly? Do senior leaders express gratitude? Do they seek out feedback; listen to it, and act upon it? No situation is going to be perfect. But if the environment is comfortable and efforts are constantly being made to improve, that’s a good sign that we are in the midst of honorable people.

Finally, we need to measure how likely we will be to succeed over the long haul. In my case, I was pretty much allowed to make my own way. Sure, I had specific roles and responsibilities, but I always wanted to do more and be more. I saw a myriad of opportunities and developed plans to exploit them. I made plenty of mistakes – more than I can count. But I was allowed to make them and learn valuable lessons in the process. I always figured that as long as my successes exponentially outweighed my failures, I was on solid ground. And that turned out to be true. You’ve likely heard the old adage, “the cream rises to the top.” If we are working for and with honorable people, we can always know that we earn more trust and more latitude through our performance.

Ultimately there’s no need to look at the grass on the other side of the fence so long as we can grow a lush, green lawn on our side. When we do this we’ll surely reap the benefits accordingly.

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.