Tagged: Mentoring

The Entrepreneur as Craftsman

It’s not just about the entrepreneur or the startup, it’s about building a great company. It’s about tapping into our basic instinct to do a job well and develop the skills to do so.

Just as a father consistently focuses on doing his job well and keeps trying new techniques to get better. Or a teenager who earned her license and someday must drive in the mountains, through snow, or alongside a caravan of trucks. In each case, the craftsman is dedicated to doing quality work. Continue reading

Working On the Business, Working On the Mind

To participate in The Junto Institute’s curriculum, our founders “go” to class, “go” to the leadership forums, and “go” to office hours. All are held at our host partner’s sites, Catapult Chicago and Foley & Lardner.

For the rest of the curriculum – the mentoring program – meetings are scheduled mostly at the startups’ offices. So while they don’t “go” anywhere literally, they spend time thinking and talking about the business with their mentors every few weeks. Continue reading

Make Good Choices

Your business is defined by decisions. Who you hire, where you locate, how you message, what you sell, why you exist. They all contribute to the identity you have and will have – to employees, customers, and yourself. But those are the big decisions and we often take them seriously.

Every day, you’re faced with dozens of others, most of which seem minor but really aren’t. Each one adds a bit more identity to your company, affecting the product, the culture, the brand, the operation. Over time, they add up considerably, to the point where the results are so intertwined, each element seems impossible to pull apart if you wanted to. Continue reading

People Who Care

When we first meet people, it’s hard to tell when someone cares unconditionally versus someone who pretends to care because they want something: a service provider, competitor, investor, employee. They want to care, and they will, but typically under certain conditions: buy their services, tell them about your business, make them money, give them a paycheck. If you maintain the condition, they maintain the caring. Once the condition goes away, so does the caring.

Your mom, your life partner, your best friend…they all care unconditionally. They give you a pat on the back for a job well done or a pep talk when you’re down, really important stuff when you’re on your own. But the problem is that they typically can’t empathize with you. They really can’t feel or understand the pretzel-like contortions in your mind on a daily basis or the roller coaster-like highs and lows you experience. Continue reading

Starting a Company Is Easy

If you think it’s hard now, just wait.

In the early years, it’s mostly about product development, market exploration, funding, and the first people. Later on, it becomes about new customers and repeat customers, hiring and firing, financing and investing. Your job as the leader becomes about team-building, motivation, branding, culture, legal issues, supply chain, strategic planning, and training. And don’t forget about occasionally bailing out employees, handling office break-ins, or fighting competitor lawsuits.

company growth curve

Want proof that it’s really hard? Think about where you are on the growth curve and then think about all the places you can turn to for help: incubators, accelerators, universities, development programs, angel networks, competitions, etc. It’s amazing how many resources there are. Not only is it easy to start a company, it’s also easy to help one that’s starting.

Where do you go once you move up the curve? Consulting firms, books, conferences, and maybe a few organizations? That’s it?

Not only is it hard to grow a company, it’s also really hard to help one that’s growing.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Lonely at the Top

I hope you’re not one of those entrepreneurs who’s reading this, agreeing or disagreeing, and then just moving on to the next blog to read. Sure, you may learn something and yes, it’s easy to do, but it only makes you lonelier.

I hope you’re not one of those entrepreneurs who picked up a New York Times bestseller on the latest management fad and can’t wait to crack it open. Sure, it may have been written by a “guru” who knows his stuff and yes, there are many great lessons to learn from it, but it only makes you lonelier.

I hope you’re not one of those entrepreneurs who’s spending the holiday weekend wondering how you’re going to solve that funding puzzle, how you’re going to reverse that sales decline, how you’re going to address that problem employee, how you’re close the big deal that’s right in front of you. Sure, it’s great to have three days to think and you’ll probably generate some terrific ideas, but it only makes you lonelier.

I hope you’re not one of those entrepreneurs who belongs to a co-working space or startup community and is always “heads down”. Sure, you have way too much to do and you have to be focused on execution to make your company work, but it only makes you lonelier.

Instead, I hope you’re reaching out to a few entrepreneurs to grab coffee, lunch, or a beer to talk about your companies and what’s going on. Instead, I hope you’re emailing those you know who belong to peer organizations to ask how they’ve benefitted from them. Instead, I hope you’re calling the rock star entrepreneur you recently met who said “here’s my number, call me anytime.”

Instead, I hope you’re going through your buddy’s LinkedIn contacts to see what amazing entrepreneurs he can introduce you to. Instead, I hope you’re signing up for an event or a conference where you’ll meet people you probably wouldn’t meet anytime soon.

Instead of making yourself lonelier, I hope you don’t.

A Real Community

A real community does not have a single leader. Everyone who is a part of that community is the leader. Everyone has a voice, the permission to inspire fellow members, and a responsibility to move the community towards its goals.

A real community not only sets standards and expectations for its members but enforces them. Every member of the community has a responsibility to protect and foster its values and principles. When someone doesn’t abide by them, it’s the community’s obligation to correct it.

A real community has shared values and principles but diverse capabilities and gifts. Every member has the responsibility to uncover the gifts of fellow members and exploit them for the community’s benefit. Every member has the responsibility to mentor each other and ask for help.

A real community extends itself into the larger community in which it operates. It has a responsibility to contribute to the rising tide effect, shine a light on others, and lend a helping hand.

Find a real community, and join it.