I have my iPod blaring at a detrimental volume because the entire row of passengers on my 9am flight from Miami to Denver feels the need for the entire plane to be privy to their conversations. What’s precious is that they can probably read my screen through the break between the seats in my row, so perhaps they’ll find ancillary incentive to turn it the fuck down and let the rest of the people on the plane think and/or sleep like people are prone to do on a 9am 4-hour flight. In the meantime, I’ll continue on destined-for-hearing-loss levels with things like Paul Simon and Ratt on heavy rotation. And with thinking…which I didn’t know I could do when my iPod was so offensively loud.
Right now, I’m thinking about volume and how we carry ourselves as people in business.
As I believe that there’s a fundamental difference in volume and projection as well as being a business owner and being an entrepreneur.
This week brought me to Miami for the Entrepreneur Magazine Winning Strategies conference. Aside from the fact that it was undoubtedly the most well produced event I’d ever been a part of in any way, shape or form (and, uh, FREE for the attendees – shit howdy), I got to spend my day in jam-packed sessions filled with people. These were people who were energetic. Hungry. Craving information and ready with some of the best questions I’ve ever had the good fortune of being asked to answer in my career thus far. As a side note, it still astonishes me that people want to sit in a room and listen to anything I have to say as I don’t consider myself an expert on anything except screwing up royally and learning from my mistakes. So yeah, I’m lucky – and when I’m lucky enough to be invited to participate in opportunities like these, meeting and then exceeding expectations? Yeah – that’s my Ford, my Job #1. Let’s talk about how these 500 people got me thinking about the life I live, the career I love and maybe you’ll find something here to chew on along with your starbuckalottamochachino on a Friday morning.
The Business Owner vs. The Entrepreneur
There’s someone reading this who’s chomping at the bit to call me out and take me down a notch for making a differentiation between business owners and entrepreneurs. To you (or y’all, as the case might be), ease back in your seat. Since you’re not going to change my mind on this one, give me the opportunity to change yours.
Whether at present you are a business owner or an entrepreneur, one isn’t better than the other. They’re just different. It’s like saying a doctor is better than an attorney – they’ve both got their roles and responsibilities, but just like any other role, it comes down to how we perceive responsibilities. Having a kid doesn’t make you a mother or father – it’s the role you play in your child’s life that makes the differentiation between biological parent and mother or father.
I’ve been a serial entrepreneur since before I realized that’s what I was – opening a new business in each location that life took me and finding years of disgruntlement when asked to build someone else’s business by their rules when I opted for the Corporate America route*.
*Note: I am not the ideal W2 employee. I also just turned around and asked Middle Seat to dial it back a notch because the iPod is on full volume with noise-canceling headphones and I could have perfectly transcribed her conversation. She explained that she’s a teacher and her voice carries. Yes, got that detail already. Go me.
When it comes to responsibilities, in both my personal and professional lives (which are for all intents and purposes, a glorious collage), there are four things that I consider my obligation not only to my clients but myself each day:
Disrupt: If I don’t scare the living shit out of myself at least once on a daily basis, I’m failing. Whether I bring that fear along with new ideas or situations or it comes to me from external challenges doesn’t matter. My job is to welcome challenges, face them head-on and deal with them – for better or for worse.
Embrace Now: If I spent all of my time pissing and moaning about how I wished my now were different, I’d be the only contestant in an ass-kicking contest. By embracing now, I let myself shake my world up and deal with the outcomes as they come. Now is a great place to be in – and it’s my responsibility to use it shape what might come.
Remove ‘Status Quo’ From My Vocabulary: Things can always be different. Better is always possible. If the time comes when I realize that I haven’t burnt the mediocre things that always seem to linger down to the ground, everyone suffers. These two words have no place in my vernacular – maybe you’ll kick them out of yours.
Making Sure That I Don’t Confuse Content With Complacent: Content comes along when you look at things and can appreciate (sometimes even love) what surrounds you…what you’ve built. Complacency creeps in when we begin to take advantage of those things and accept them as givens. Clients on retainer, colleague relationships, friendships, romantic pairings – complacency is a pox on them all. Being content allows me the opportunity to see more opportunities and continue conversations and sharing. Complacency just pushes people away because we have the audacity to think we’ve locked that shit down and it requires no more attention.
When I think of people who are content with simply being business owners, I don’t sense movement. I sense a shitload of status quo and complacency. And if you want to make the shift (and honestly, not everyone is meant to – and that’s okay as well), there are a few things you need to own.
On Becoming an Entrepreneur
To make it simple, here’s my list of things you need to own in order to embrace a life path of entrepreneurship. Because it is more than a career or a job. It’s who you are and like anyone who creates, you can’t NOT be an entrepreneur.
- Shit blows up. Fail fast and move on to the next thing.
- If you’ve never failed, you’re definitely not an entrepreneur.
- If you’re afraid of failure, this ain’t the droid you’re looking for.
- Money is merely one way of getting things done. You value relationships over cash and understand that investment surpasses the confines of a check written out to your company or latest endeavor.
- You know what you’re good at and you find people to deal with the things you suck at.
- On the same token, you value your team above anything else and understand you’re not an island. You also understand that voting people off the island is occasionally necessary and you’re able to do this without being a stark raving fuckwad. The entrepreneurial world is small – reputations travel. Be great to work with and for – it pays huge dividends.
- When you feel something needs to be done, you value actions over meetings. If it doesn’t work, you blow it up, say good on ya and get on with the next thing. Blowing it up over a beer is always great fun, too.
- You acknowledge that you are an expert on nothing except learning from your mistakes and value your gut over nodding heads in either direction.
- You know that the onus for due diligence is on YOU. Great ideas are only great if they go above and beyond someone else’s or explore new territory – you owe it to yourself to not waste your time (or anyone else’s) by doing your research, staying in tune with your industry’s pulse and asking questions. ASK, dammit! (To not ask is soooo arrogant.)
- There will people who don’t understand the risks you take, the hours you keep or why it is you wake up every day jazzed to do it all over again. And that’s okay – you don’t have to explain. We don’t get why they do what they do, either. It goes both ways.
- Understand the difference between confidence and arrogance. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Humility fuels successful entrepreneurs, whether we see it or not. So how do you get out there and be heard without being the hyena behind me on the plane?
Volume vs. Projection
I’m loud – personality, presence, and vernacular – and I own that fact 24/7. But I’m not a yeller. For every yelp, I seek a solution. And there are ways to be heard and be loud without making people turn away.
Great entrepreneurs understand projection. It comes from building networks of relationships – people who will carry what you have to say onward to help you fulfill and spread your vision. It has nothing to do with turning up the volume. The woman behind me on the plane would have been just as effective in sharing her yoga and dieting tips with her seat mates if she’d been half as fucking loud. Instead, she lacked self-awareness and annoyed everyone in a two-row radius.
Don’t be that lady.
Build your network – that’s how you project. You can turn up the volume on your microphone or bullhorn as loud as you’d like, but unless there’s a network (and one comprised of the right people) waiting to hear what you have to say, volume ain’t gonna do you any good.
It’s Time to Own It
What’s your role and what will you do with it today? Are you an entrepreneur or a business owner? Are you a business owner who wants to shake things up and add some entrepreneurial flavor into the mix? How loud are you and do you have the network established to carry forth what needs to be heard?
Successful companies and brands not only embrace who they are and have confidence in what they have to offer – their leaders own their roles in the process. Sit down. Speak up. Own your role. No one else is going to fulfill that role for you or get done what needs gettin’ done unless you have a team built who can establish direction. How we carry ourselves in business dictates what we can get done and who wants to be along with us on that wild ass ride.
In closing, I’d like to report that the woman behind me STFU for the remainder of the flight. Sometimes people aren’t aware. If you build a great team, they’ll help you make sure that you never become That Lady. Or That Guy. And I know it’s Friday, but it’s a fine-as-frog’s-ass-hair day to get out there and build something. Get started – you’re only waiting on you 🙂