Sit Down. Speak Up. Own Your Role.

entrepreneur or business ownerI 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.

  1. Shit blows up. Fail fast and move on to the next thing.
  2. If you’ve never failed, you’re definitely not an entrepreneur.
  3. If you’re afraid of failure, this ain’t the droid you’re looking for.
  4. 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.
  5. You know what you’re good at and you find people to deal with the things you suck at.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. You acknowledge that you are an expert on nothing except learning from your mistakes and value your gut over nodding heads in either direction.
  9. 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.)
  10. 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.
  11. 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 🙂

34 comments
Dixie
Dixie

Great read! Well Said!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Glad you enjoyed, Lisa, and thanks for stopping by! Apologies for the delayed reply, too. I'm back out of my hole of hibernation and among the living once more!

Nick Long
Nick Long

Sweet dick, it's magic! :) Love your posts Erika :)

JackieDotson
JackieDotson

Wow, this is some seriously great shit. I think these behaviors can help everyone get better at living. I'm a therapist. I work with people who are stuck, perhaps depressed, anxious, needing help changing thinking, changing something so they can move forward. And I always preach "think less, do more" because it gets results.  So I really loved what you had to say about:  1) Disrupt! Yes scaring yourself and putting yourself out there builds confidence, which makes you feel stronger.  2) Embrace now! To oversimplify, depressed people tend to ruminate on the past and anxious people ruminate on bad shit that could happen in the future (which doesn't exist). Acting in the now and being grateful in the now makes you feel better! 3) Remove "status quo" from your vocabulary. Yes, there always is a better way. If you aren't getting good results in your life then the status quo ain't working. Let it go. 4) Don't confuse content with complacent. Complacency feeds inaction and feeling bad. Humans are wired for action and movement. Thinking that, to use your great term "have that shit locked down" causes you to lose sight of what you value, what's important, making it more apt to slip from your fingers. Be grateful.  So yes! I am loving this post. Keep it up. 

Ruth Zive
Ruth Zive

Wow - first time I've visited, and I like!  Phenomenal post; killer list.  

Leon Noone
Leon Noone

G'Day Erika, I'll leave the vulgar language to the Celtic Wundakid. But I agree with him. Y'know it's always fascinated me that so many mobile phone users seem to believe that everybody within 30 ft wants to know what they're saying. I just wish they'd shutup. The other interesting thing Erika, is why all this definition of terms continues interminably. Does any  genuine prospect or client care flyshit whether I consider that I'm  a business owner,  an entrepreneur,  a subject matter expert , a plain, old-fashioned salesman or just an ill mannered, curmudgeonly Aussie? I may be showing my age, but it was Peter Drucker who said, "The purpose of business is to create a customer." That'll do me. And naturally.... to make sure you have fun.  Regards Leon

Expat Doctor Mom
Expat Doctor Mom

Found you via@dannybrown:disqus  who posted this on FB! Love, love love it!  I wish the noise cancelling headphones would cancel more. I left our home one day b/c our 3 year was screaming all morning while I was trying to write.  I went to a coffee shop only to encounter a mom with a child screaming. AUGH!  After a very long time she finally left the shop. I bought into a group (i.e. became a business owner jointly), it failed after 30 years, learned A LOT! And now am going the other route.  I am definitely my own person and more of an entrepreneur but will have to do both for the next little while. Best, Rajka PS Have subsribed!

Sonia Rumzi
Sonia Rumzi

I just love reading what you write. I find you invigorating  to my very core. Thank you again for the great advice and the wonderful way you offer it. Big hugs Erika!

J.T.
J.T.

Erika- Fantastic. A lot of this hits home, mostly because I own a business and have been training for the 24 Hours of COS, and one thing kept rattling around my brain case. "Train your weakness, race your strength".  Fuck that, - I say train your strength and come race day, twist the heads right off of the screws. I  guess the tie-in here is that in business (or anything worth REALLY doing) if you're going to lean into something - really lean into it. Fall all the way over. And roll once or twice. Not to totally ignore the things that are lacking, but focus on the stuff that is good and going well. And exploit the shit out of it. At some point it may becomes stale and tired so it's time to go back to the  drawing board and it seems like the insight to know when to push harder and stop pushing is what makes the good ones great. You should know. Thanks again.

Sam Turri
Sam Turri

Another quality post! Thanks Erika.

The Redhead
The Redhead

I think everyone who's lived complacent and come out on the other side recognizes it - great point, Bill. For me, it's having the gumption to not let it creep in. Goes along with scaring the shit out of myself very day :)

Angela Schaefers
Angela Schaefers

well said, and no sugar coating involved :) what a concept! 

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Fucking awesome post, Erika. #thatisall

Jeff Harbert
Jeff Harbert

On the status quo - "We've always done it that way" will always eventually come to mean, "We don't know what to do." Thing is, whenever a question comes up to which "We've always done it that way" is the answer, that's very likely the sound of opportunity knocking. Don't simply dismiss it.

El Edwards
El Edwards

Did you reach into my scull and read my mind or something?? This --> "It's time to own it" that was the conclusion I came to several hours ago but you just wrapped it up and stuck a neat bow on the top so thank you :-) P.S. Love what you said to the middle seat. Apologising in advance, just in case she thinks you're being rude? Very cool. I shall remember that line the next time my phone provider rings for literally the 4th time to ask me to renew a contract that I've  already said the previous 3 times I have no intention of renewing!

Mike Wright
Mike Wright

My background is CPA/MBA so yes I am one of those awful finance people who try to get entrepreneurs to follow the rules so they can actually operate a business.  Having worked 15 years in the "Corporate world" and the last 13 years for 2 different entrepreneurs I see business owners as the entrepreneurs who can make a success out of their ideas.  They can sell a product or service, pay employees and other business expenses, repay the bank loans, and still have money to put into their retirement account or invest back in the business.  It's not about contentment, but about knowing what formula works.  Successful business owners can still be entrepreneurs, but need to do so in the confines of the obligations they have in running their business.  However, there are entrepreneurs who never make a success out of their ideas because they are ill-conceived or they don't surround themselves professional business talent who can help them become successful business owners.   I see it as a graduation of sorts from starry-eyed entrepreneur to disciplined business owner.  The former can't necessarily pay his/her home mortgage while the latter can do that and still send the kids to college.

Mike Masin
Mike Masin

I agree most strongly with #7.  Unless it's a team project or you know that somebody else should be consulted because of their knowledge (or experience), just do it and move on. If you have to talk about, rehash it, and vote on it, it isn't likely to get done. I'm not sure about #8; I might be interpreting it differently than you intended.  Being a generalist, in that you can get your hands dirty before deciding if you need help is critical, but being an expert is a good thing as it relates to your service or product. Clients call because "you're the best" and "expert" is a notch on that belt. BTW, curious what you said to the middle seat ;)

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