Entrepreneurship, between skill and mindset

I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I remember being a kid and dreaming of having my own company. At that time, it meant being my own boss, having control over my schedule, it meant independence and freedom. I know, I was a naive kid as I later learned, but a kid with aspirations.

I put off starting a company year after year.

At first I stopped as I had read I should start with a business plan. And I started drafting a business plan … several times, but I lacked the skill. So I learned more.

The second stop was due to the ever changing legislation, which never felt supportive of an entrepreneur. Basically, it simply stated that no matter if you earn an income or not, you have to pay taxes for having a company. This also happened a few times. I see now my error here as well.

Third time, something had changed. I realized that it is not about feeling prepared, about the right moment, about the perfect business plan, about an investor giving you free money, it was about taking the first step, jumping and building your wings on the way down.

It was not about skill, cause no matter how much you develop your skills, how much you learn, how early you get an MBA, if you don’t have or grow an entrepreneurial mindset, you’ll never start.

So what do I mean by entrepreneurial mindset:

  1. just do it – there are no secret recipes and the best school is the fail first and use that advantage school.
  2. problems are solutions yet to be unfolded – too often when faced with a problem, we start thinking in terms of guilt or blame and this keeps us from seeing the solutions.
  3. take a step back – sometimes we are too much in the middle of the problem to be able to see a solution. Take a step back and look at the problem from all sides, like a 6 thinking hats exercise.
  4. put yourself in challenging situations – I’ve always done stuff like that to see if I can take it, to see my weaknesses, to find my strengths, to prove myself that I can move past any obstacle. It was always a deliberate choice to expose myself vulnerable when I was afraid, vulnerable in front of crowds, I broke the ice and volunteered first before I knew what had to be done, I went to events outside my comfort zone and shared rooms with strangers during my residential weekends in the MBA training.
  5. vision first – don’t get caught up in competition and selling. Try to build and learn from others and offer support. Try to focus on the HARD objectives instead of immediate sales, cause immediate sales will only make you do (almost) anything to sell on the spot and this will determine an involuntary shift in your course, until one day you will wake up and not recognize what you built.

After 20 years of being an employee, an entrepreneur, a manager working with entrepreneurs, developing entrepreneurial programs, after winning millions of euros for entrepreneurs and monitoring how entrepreneurs develop their business, I believe that the thing that kills most businesses is not failure, a bad idea, the crisis or the economy. It’s doubt – in ourselves, our surroundings, our abilities.

And the thing that makes the difference between a succesfull entrepreneur and a business fail is your mindset, knowing that you always have a choice. Even when you are stuck and feel that you cannot make a decision, you actually choose to stay.

The second you start choosing differently and working on your mindset, there will be no going back!

If you’re not gonna work for your dreams, you’re gonna work in somebody else’s dreams!

Without dismissing entrepreneurship programs, I do believe that they are not enough. They give you the tools and mechanics of a business but you need to be the fuel.

New goal setting, going beyond S.M.A.R.T.

SMART objectives have been around the block for some decades now, they are in all business manuals, project management trainings, any training for that matter where you need to accomplish something. Pretty much since 1981 everything started with SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based goals).

They were catchy, simple to understand, remember and use and they just seemed … smart and became the ABC of planning.

  • Specific (Goals must be clear and unambiguous)
  • Measurable (Results must be able to be measured in some way, for example, the number of products sold each week, or the percent completion)
  • Attainable (Goals must be realistic and attainable by the average employee)
  • Relevant (Goals must relate to your organization’s vision and mission)
  • Time-bound (Goals must have definite starting and ending points, and a fixed duration)

The first step beyond SMART goals was for, of course, SMARTER goals. The last E and R stand for evaluate and review.

This was indeed a great add on, as the world started to understand that, for learning to happen, we need to evaluate and draw conclusions and that objectives are dynamic, not fixed, static, and thus objectives need evaluation and review, when necessary.

Later, SMARTEST goals came in:

  • Educational (What will you learn working toward this goal?)
  • Significant (Why do you care about this goal?)
  • Toward (Does the goal describe something you want? Don’t make goals about something you want to avoid!)

Although they are still used at large scale around the world, new acronyms started appearing – HARD, CLEAR … I wonder if the trend is to invent your own acronym? I’m kidding right now, because although I do appreciate the new insights, I believe that a common language is useful.

This being said, here are other goal setting strategies:

CLEAR Goals by Adam Kreek

  • Collaborative (Goals should encourage employees to work together collaboratively and in teams)
  • Limited (Goals should be limited in both scope and duration)
  • Emotional (Goals should make an emotional connection to employees, tapping into their energy and passion)
  • Appreciable (Large goals should be broken down into smaller goals so they can be accomplished more quickly and easily for long-term gain)
  • Refinable (Set goals with a headstrong and steadfast objective, but as new situations or information arise, give yourself permission to refine and modify your goals)

HARD Goals

  • HEARTFELT Looking at why you care about your goal allows team members to build an emotional attachment to it. This step helps identify what motivates you and your team and then to explain your goal in those terms.
  • ANIMATED This step involves visualizing what it will look like if you achieve your goal. Team members use imagination to help create a picture of the desired results. Teams are encouraged to incorporate size, color, shape, setting, background, lighting, emotion, and movement in their vision.
  • REQUIRED Defining why your goal is necessary now is an important step in process, helping to create a sense of urgency through a clearly stated case.
  • DIFFICULT The goal should require you and your team to use all talents and then some. The goal should push team members to learn something new. Goals should be challenging but not impossible.

What they all have in common is the daring, the audacity, the push to think unreasonable, the emotional involvement and the accent on what moves you.

The problem with SMART goals is one of human nature: “it is so satisfying to complete goals that people will write down trivial goals that are easily accomplished.” People become obsessed with achievable but inconsequential goals, and focus on unimportant short-term objectives rather than more ambitious plans. Moreover, SMART goals are limited by our current state and situation and don’t support vision, ideals, ambition, aspiration.

My new way is the HARD way, because I believe in going outside my comfort zone and I believe that if I don’t do something that makes me get out of bed in the morning, it is not worth while.

How do you set your goals nowadays?

Remote working fails

I gathered here a collection of remote working gone wrong, as seen on Twitter 🙂

WFH day 1 report: I whispered “I LOVE YOU” loudly into what turned out to be my spouse’s active meeting headset mic.

— Lindsay Crudele (@thelindsayist) March 12, 2020

Strange new WFH universe pillow talk is your partner saying “I agree with what you were saying in that meeting this afternoon”

— Emily Kager (@EmilyKager) March 18, 2020

Day 3 of WFH and my family started screaming while I was in a meeting and my coworker remarked: “Now I understand why you prefer to go into the office everyday.

— rimsha (@rimshutup) March 18, 2020

Unexpected partial nudity

Pro-tip: if you and your husband are both working from home, check to see if he’s on a four-way video call BEFORE running past the office naked to get a towel from the linen closet. #RealStory #COVID19 #WFH https://t.co/axghUWjvs2

— Christina Kerby (@ChristinaKerby) March 13, 2020

Big WFH learning for me today.

???? Remind Ryan to put some clothes on before he goes into the bathroom first thing in the morning.

Today he walked past my team video call BUTT naked ????????‍♀️ SOOOOOOO FUNNY ????

— Amanda Baker (@amandahustled) March 17, 2020

First day of working from home is going great. On a video call meeting with my 2 girl teammates and my brother walks into the room with only his boxers on. Happy WFH!????

— Marissa Notaro (@xoxomarissmarie) March 16, 2020

Wild animals

First WFH meeting and my dog decides to show his ass ????????‍♂️

— Quan (@QuanTarantino_) March 16, 2020

just started talking to my cat in the middle of a 68-person zoom meeting—and i wasn’t muted!!! send the meteor!!!!

— daniel taroy (@danieltaroy) March 16, 2020

Teleconferencing is hard

WFH:

– join meeting
– unmute to speak
– washing machine starts spinning
– hurriedly get up to escape the noise
– not realise charger is plugged in
– proceed to loudly knock pint of water + cup of coffee all over *everything*

– …continue speaking calmly as if nothing happened

— ????????????????????????

hashtag wfh Looks (everyone including me had their cameras turned off) pic.twitter.com/F41VcxIbnX

— that fucking bug woman again (@taxxonomic) March 18, 2020

I’m in a WFH meeting and my Google Home just answered a question someone on the video call asked, unprompted.

I nearly jumped out of my skin. pic.twitter.com/Z5Bv4coG3u

— Ashley Casperite (@missalwayswrite) October 16, 2019

Every WFH meeting so far:

“I’m sorry, you go…” “no, sorry I-” “Well what I was sayi-” “I’m sorry, were you saying something?” “Go ahead, no sorry, you go…”

*5 voices speak at once*
*suddenly no one speaks*

**SLOW PORTAL ZOOM INTENSIFIES DURING AWKWARD SILENCE**#COVID19

— Kaleb Coleman [AR/VR] (@kalebcoleman) March 11, 2020

Don’t say “I heard email got coronavirus” in a wfh comms meeting. It does not land.

— Aaron Pobre (@aaronnotpoor) March 12, 2020

WFH Side effect:

We can no longer use “Sorry we’re getting kicked out of this room” as an excuse to end a meeting on time.

— Josh Newton (@nooneswatching) March 17, 2020

Trying to press the ‘leave meeting’ button really fast on Zoom so I don’t have to hold my awkward goodbye face for more than a second#WFH #workingfromhome pic.twitter.com/O7aRoSLnEq

— Heather DeLand (@HeatherDeLand) March 17, 2020

Body sounds

day 1 of WFH and i already burped on a bluejeans meeting thinking i was on mute????

— kief (@grtbarrierkief) March 16, 2020

WFH Day 3: Was in a 15 person online meeting, thought I was muted, farted really loudly………. shit ????

— Yvette Chua (@yvettemc18) March 18, 2020

Challenges of interior design

If you do WFH and have a Skype meeting, always consider if the ‘art’ on the wall is:

A) In shot
B) Appropriate pic.twitter.com/CqRAvCV4AF

— Gareth Barlow (@GarethBarlow) March 18, 2020

@MantonJen has this #WFH all sorted….. pic.twitter.com/Qj7LRYAY9m

— Ramsay Jones CBE (@Ramsay59) March 18, 2020

WFH Update: We don’t really have desk/office chairs so I’ve been using this rickety folding chair, which just gave out. I tumbled cartoonishly to the floor. Thankfully, this was just prior to my morning Zoom meeting.

— Zack Mohlis (@zmohlis) March 18, 2020

The subject of every WFH Zoom meeting is actually “oh so that’s where you live.”

— R/GA (@RGA) March 11, 2020

Kids saying the darndest things

WFH diary, day 1:

???? Power went out during recording

???? Contruction workers are extra loud today

???? Daughter walked in on a meeting singing “I like banaaaaanas” at the top of her lungs

— Howard Pinsky (@Pinsky) March 13, 2020

Day 1 of mandatory #WFH while watching a sick kid: pretty good, other than my 4-y/o running into the middle of a supervision meeting yelling “DADA, I HAVE TO POOP!” Textbook “disorienting moment” pedagogy!

— Blake Reid (@blakereid) March 11, 2020

My kid just walked into my video conference, yelled “look at my penis,” and hit the button on his fart machine. Working from home going really great!

— Jenna Weiss-Berman (@WBJenna) March 17, 2020

Okay, this is a work-from-home win

To be in active status while WFH.. ???? #workingfromhome pic.twitter.com/wllOPuzvcQ

— Bharat (@Bharat53021017) March 18, 2020

About freedom

We now live challenging times. It’s the 8th of April 2020 and a third of the world’s population is under lock-down, due to the outbreak of Coronavirus.

In a time when freedom seems to be a luxury, what would you say if I told you I feel free?

I strongly believe that freedom is a matter of mindset. We keep talking about freedom of speech, freedom to choose a belief system, a political party, freedom to do what you like when you wish … we keep talking about freedom in connection to the outside world.

How about our inner freedom? Did you ever wonder how free we are in our thoughts? Did you ever find yourself hiding things which nobody would ever see? So thus hiding from …yourself?

We now easily blame coronavirus for locking us in our homes, when in fact we are prisoners in our train of thoughts, of our own conditioning, just like the story of the elephant rope:

As a man was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.

He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

The Elephant Rope

I believe that no matter how much outside freedom you have, you will never truly feel free in a box made of fears, limiting beliefs, shame, blame and projections.

Think outside the box is an expression that was used so much, until it lost its meaning. In fact, it encourages us to think freely, to get out from our patterns and see the world with curiosity, instead of judgement.

All the freedoms mentioned are given by someone/something – be it the government, the boss, your salary etc. But the most important freedom of all is the freedom you give yourself first of all in front of the mirror.

True freedom, inner freedom, cannot be given and taken away. It is a state of being, it is within ourselves, it is a mindset.

This being said, under lockdown, I do feel free. Do you?

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. – Viktor Frankl

Business networking in times of Covid-19

Networking is a very important tool when growing a business or a personal project. In the era before coronavirus networking was easy and accessible. In large cities, at least, there are always tens of events each week, either with a business topic or simply networking events.

In fact, an important thing I learned about organizing events was the importance of the coffee breaks, and that most people measure the success of an event by the quality of the interactions they had during lunch for example. Keynotes are important as well, of course, but nowadays we live in an ocean of information and our need is to have some brains to share it with.

Now, we are under lockdown, all events and conferences were canceled. So, how do we continue to network and make the most of the present? Is this an opportunity or a setback?

Tip no. 1

A lot of events moved online, so the first thing to do is to search for the events you were interested in and join them online. In most of them you will have the opportunity to interact with other participants through comments, at least, and this could be a private conversation starter.

You now also have a great opportunity to join even those events which were out of reach – due to travel budget or travel time availability etc. Right now they are online and available everywhere. Moreover, in order to support people through this crisis many of them are now free.

Some examples of virtual conferences:

  1. CouchCon by Wistia
  2. Automated by Drip
  3. OrganicTrafficConference.com
  4. Inside Sales Summit by Close.io
  5. Content promotion summit
  6. Conversational Marketing Summit by Drift

Tip no. 2

It’s time to start answering those connect requests pending in Linkedin and start conversations there as well. It’s finally time for that note you never got to publish, for the shared articles you did not read. Engage, publish, interact, connect.

The crisis I believe made us more open and less inclined to be susceptible of people, more curious to meet new persons, especially since we are now locked with a limited number of faces and brains. It’s nice to pick on a new brain from time to time.

Even a professional platform like linkedin is now filled with humanity, cause in the end our organizations are made of people, flesh, blood, spirit.

Tip no. 3

Get out of your comfort zone and connect with people whom you did not have the guts to approach. The crisis lights up our contribution bulbs and we are all more open to offer a helping hand. It is now a time to find a good mentor or industry specific advice etc.

Tip no. 4

Start browsing meetup.com and find events and groups with topics you are interested in. Fun fact – now you can browse any location not online your offline location. I just joined a free webinar that was taking place in London this month and no, I did not have tickets to fly there.

Tip no. 5

Don’t be afraid to use social media. Social media gets a bad rap for being a time consuming black hole of distraction, negativity, and instant gratification. The key is to understand why and how you should use social media before jumping in and which are the platforms that suit your needs – where your peers are, where your customers are, etc.

Tip no. 6

Offer – help, content, connecting, contribute in any way to the community you live in, the community you wish to join.

Tip no. 7

Email introductions – ask for support from a mutual friend and get introduced via email to the contact you wish to engage.

Tip no. 8

Saving the best for last – take the first step.

In the end, networking online means that you can now have the onion in your sandwich, you don’t need to fear the awkward moments of shaking hands / hugging / nodding or searching for the table near the power outlet. It’s a more direct and intentional approach, no longer waiting to talk to the guy that is always surrounded by a crowd or avoiding / searching for an eye contact, so I think it’s a time to be open and authentic in our intentions.

How do you network these days?