What you read in these Monday Morning Wake-Ups is about real life entrepreneurial leadership. I write for you, the small business owner, because you were crazy enough and bold enough to risk everything for the dream of building a company your way. I write for you because tough challenges come along with building a company that test your tenacity and capacity to manage stress. I write for you because you are wise enough to know that the decisions and business disciplines you avoid and procrastinate on the most are the ones that always get you into trouble. I write for you because I know all too well that an entrepreneurial dream can quickly turn into sleepless nights and get scary as hell. Lastly, I write for you because I respect and honor the level of responsibility that rests on your shoulders. Like you, I too am an entrepreneur.
The lessons we learn in business are priceless. Every day we learn a lesson on how to lead our employees a little bit better. Every day we are reminded that if we spend more than we generate in revenues, we are digging a financial hole a little deeper. Every day we are reminded that we can only put so much on our “leadership plate” before stuff begins to fall off. Every day we learn more about the meaning of trust and what it feels like when trust is broken. We entrepreneurs are the brave souls that create opportunities for others, so we can have an opportunity to lead and own a viable enterprise.
Here are some No-Compromise Leadership insights into what it means to be an entrepreneurial leader:
- The people thing: The fine art of leading people is a blessing and curse. For leaders, it’s a never-ending quest to assemble that perfect team of people. And when you finally get it just right, take a picture of it, because your perfect team is going to evolve and change as people come and go. You will have the pleasure of coaching and mentoring some extraordinary people. You will have the displeasure of having to deal with toxic thinking and behavior. Yes, your dream includes that task of having to fire people. Through it all, leaders must never lose their belief in people. And when times get tough, those you believe in will rally around you, protect you, and lift you up. Pay attention to your people.
- The money thing: A viable and sustainable business is a profitable business. Creating profit and turning profit into cash is a discipline that many entrepreneurs struggle with. Why? Because entrepreneurs are primarily risk takers and free thinkers. They see budgets and cash-flow plans as cramping their style. What they quickly learn is that when cash gets tight and the debt load gets too big … the severe cramping pain will increase until it grabs their attention. Buy the gotta-haves first and the nice to haves if there is money left in the budget. Credit card debt is pure evil. Too much debt means using today’s cash flow to pay off yesterday’s bad decisions. Never forget that building a cash reserve is your sleep good at night money.
- The time thing: You are the only one who can take control of and manage your time. Yes, there are times when working seven days a week is what you have to do. But working non-stop is not sustainable. Doing so will compromise your health, your family and your effectiveness as a leader. The best leaders share the load. They manage what they allow on their plate. They coach and mentor people to solve problems in their area of responsibility rather than be everybody’s grand go-to problem solver. They understand that well-designed systems set them free. If you feel like you’re a prisoner in your own company … that it only performs well when you’re present … it is time be coached on how to take control of your time.
- The change thing: Change is a good and necessary part of leading and growing a business. Many embrace change while others fear and resist. Great leaders understand how vital it is to embed ongoing incremental change into their culture. It’s the same principle as locking into a workout program. Stick to a workout program and you’ll see and feel the difference in your appearance and performance. Every time you stop and restart your workout program, your muscles are going to hurt and it will take time to regain your level of fitness. The longer your company delays implementing change, the more change resisters hunker down in their comfort zones. No-Compromise Leaders always maintain a little rocking in their company boat so people are prepared for the more intense rocking when the time comes for major change or a culture shift.
- The “what the fungawee” thing: Shit happens. Bad decisions will be made. Trust will be broken. Things will wear out or break. It’s not bad luck and your name is not on some “lets see how much stress these leaders can take” list. In business and life, the unplanned and unpleasant is going to happen. This is when you are called upon to muster all of your leadership capacity to lead your company through the turmoil. If your employees see you twirling a “throw in the towel,” you are signaling that it’s time for them to start twirling their towels too. The best leaders rise to the challenge in tough times. No compromise.
- The passion thing: As time passes, your passion for your business will certainly ebb and flow. That’s why it’s important to feed your entrepreneurial passion by engaging in work that feeds your passion. Too many entrepreneurs bury themselves in reports and numbers and other tasks that sap their passion. You didn’t get into business to be a report reader, bookkeeper or disciplinarian. You got into business to build something great … to chase your dream. The minute you disconnect from that dream, your passion is compromised, and once that happens, you surrender your leadership role and devolve into being a manager. I write this stuff because it is the work that feeds my passion for business. I coach and teach because it feeds my passion. I innovate new business strategies because it feeds my passion. I designed my company to allow me to do what I love. If you’re stuck and question your passion … it’s time rethink your role in your company.
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