Archives For Leadership

Foreword

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

How did your business come to be?

Old ways have got to give for new beginnings to happen

Ai-Ling Wong. Founder at The Decorateur, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

My entrepreneurial journey started at the age of 25 where I worked in one of my family businesses; a trading business which had no family members running it but only hired people. Thrown in to the deep end, it was a steep learning curve. In spite of the little experience I had, slowly but surely I increased sales 30% year-on-year.

After 12 years running the business, our Singaporean business partner started meddling and telling us “what to do”. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for us to reach the point where we could not see eye-to-eye.

Not wanting to cause more stress to my father–who was Chairman at the time, I offered the Malaysian Managing Director position to the Singaporean partner, and gave him 3 years to prove himself (as he claimed he could increase the business turnover). I then embarked on my new interior design business which took off swiftly.

Fast forward 3 years, the Singaporean partner did not manage to meet targets, and I was asked to return. By that stage, I was too entrenched with my growing interior design business to return to run the trading business.

A negative experience sometimes happens for a good reason. In other words, old ways have got to give for new beginnings to happen. In this case, despite my dissatisfaction towards the Singaporean partner, I have him to thank for the better opportunity to start my new business.

Little did I realize how much my company would grow to improve the lives of our supplier partners, team members, and many others around the globe

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO at IC Bellagio, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Bellagio, Lake Como.

My business was created out of my love and passion for all things Italy and travel.

When my company was founded back in 1999, it was a great opportunity to live the life I wanted to live, that is, improving the lives of others through travel and all things Italy. This gave me opportunity to enjoy not only all that this beautiful country has to offer but be able to share the best of it with those from afar.

Little did I realize how much my company would grow to improve the lives of our supplier partners, team members, and many others around the globe.

My business came to be from of a mixture of: (1) a pinch of chance; (2) a hint of right timing; (3) a bag of hard work; and (4) the audacity of sticking through challenging times

David Fastuca. Founder at Ambisie, Founder at Locomote. Melbourne, Australia.

My business came to be from of a mixture of: (1) a pinch of chance; (2) a hint of right timing; (3) a bag of hard work; and (4) the audacity of sticking through challenging times.

My business partner and I almost gave up on our efforts to create a business for ourselves after struggling in our very early days with a variety of other businesses.

Sticking “with it” and having the courage to persevere led us to opportunities in industries we knew nothing about. Isn’t life funny?

Serendipity has been a strong theme throughout my career

Jamie Skella. Chief Operating and Product Officer at Mogul, Former Chief Product Officer at Horizon State. Melbourne, Australia.

Serendipity has been a strong theme throughout my career. I focus intensely on the things that I’m interested in, then keep an open mind about the opportunities that present themselves without deliberate planning. In the case of my most recent project, Trax, it came to be on these same familiar terms.

Trax combines esports, cryptocurrency, and digital product to capitalize on a gap in the market; each of which I have accumulated vast amounts of knowledge in during past years.

I deeply admire specialization yet having a “broad T” has enabled me to combine knowledge sets to identify and seize opportunities that would have otherwise been missed. I imagine this is how many of my future businesses will come to be, as the effects of a broad T only continue to compound positively over time.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it all again? Absolutely. Without question. Without hesitation.

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

WeTeachMe was born from: (1) a chance encounter between strangers at a weekend hackathon; (2) the sharing of an idea that the strangers believed in and could get behind; (3) a bag full of enthusiasm and dreams; (4) a sprinkling of youthful optimism and nativity; and (5) a willingness to throw caution to the wind and give things a good go.

The following years saw these strangers: (1) bond over weekly meetings at local cafés eating complimentary biscuits and cake the staff brought over; (2) spend their days, evenings and weekends hunched over dimly lit computer screens obsessing over the business, the strategy, and the product; (3) chatter excitedly about grandiose ideas and what the future could bring; and (4) experience joy as their vision came to life before their very eyes.

What these strangers didn’t anticipate, however, was: (1) the many hard lessons that would need to be learned; (2) the overwhelming stress would at times cripple one another and cause burnout; and (3) the difficult challenges that would need to be navigated as part and parcel of the journey.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it all again? Absolutely. Without question. Without hesitation.

The learning curve for me was steep… but life-changing. The relationships and friendships I had were tested… but the ones that survived will last a lifetime. The experiences tested me… but have changed me for the better. All these things are things that no amount of money can buy.

I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur. I just started walking and just continued walking.

Raymond Chou. Founder and CEO at Infront Consulting APAC. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur. I started selling cookies when I was 14 to help the family, and a lot of the “entrepreneurial spirit” was learnt along the way.

In my working life, I could somehow never hold on to a job for more than a year. I would join a company, work to improve the systems and efficiency, and once achieved would get bored. After some years of this, I went into self-employment and established myself as an IT trainer. I started off by teaching Microsoft Project, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint.

After some years of this, a friend coaxed me into starting a business of my own and said that he would invest in me. I jumped on this opportunity and have never looked back.

Did I plan it all? Did I have a grand vision? Not at all. I just started walking and just continued walking.

Sometimes we’re hard on ourselves in regarding to having a plan. But do we even have enough knowledge to even have a plan? As a young 24-year-old, I did not possess the knowledge of business, and did not have enough life experience to create a grand vision. Is that wrong?

Perhaps it is more important to not stand still, and to take steps forward until one day you can see what your grand vision is.

My business came to be by asking myself one big question

Ron Lovett. Founder and Chief Alignment Officer at Connolly Owens, Founder and Chief Community Officer at Vida Living, Author at Outrageous Empowerment. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

My business—VIDA Living—exists to revolutionize affordable communities, and came to be by asking myself this one big question: “What if I had to restart the affordable housing industry? What would it look like?”

From there the second question was born: “What if we treated tenants like customers?”

The rest, as they say, is history.

My company was purchased for $1 and now has a market capitalization of about $80M. Not a bad return on $1.

Tony Falkenstein. Founder and CEO at Just Life Group Limited, Founder and CEO at Just Water, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Auckland, New Zealand.

I once worked for a publicly listed company, and started a division to rent out fax machines. The public company went into receivership, and I purchased the fax division for $1.

From renting faxes, we moved to water coolers, water delivery, ventilation systems, Solatube and hot water cylinders.

Just Life Group is now a public listed company in its own right and has a market capitalization of about $80M. Not a bad return on $1. (And I still own/control 80% of the company.)

My business started on a bet

Tui Cordemans. Co-Founder at Koh Living. Melbourne, Australia.

For some reason, I expect people to have serious and purposeful responses as to why and how they started a business. For me, it started on a bet. I was an unemployable twenty-something-year-old and wanting to live my highest values (travel and fun).

During my twenties, I left a business behind in Germany and when I moved to Australia, I had to get a job. 3 short-term jobs later, I decided I was not made for the employment market.

During that time, my best friend (now business partner) were planning our holidays. She wanted to go to Vietnam but didn’t have the funds. I offered to give her some to which she responded that she would only accept if I started a business when I came back from my 3‑month stint travelling Nepal and south-east Asia. With that at the back of our minds, off we went on our travels.

Towards the end of our respective trips, we reunited in Bangkok. Sitting outside an Israeli restaurant, we drank ice-cold beers and shared photos of our holidays. We were bent over with laughter, so much so that a lady approached us and asked if she could join us. She was curious as to why we were laughing so much you see.

As fate would have it, we ended up having way too many beers and started talking about business. This lady turned out to own a distribution company in Melbourne, Australia selling homewares. She had been travelling around the world sourcing new products and was on her way home.

We both thought that this sounded amazing, and sounded like the best job in the world.

After this encounter, my friend went home and I was left with the task of finding product. On a budget, I trawled the Chatuchak market and came across some colorful unique candles. Not having ever bought a candle in my life, I put $1,000 worth of candles on a credit card and my friend went about trying to work out how to get them to Australia.

We don’t sell those candles anymore, but a lifetime later, we have one of the most recognizable tourist brands in Australia. And true to form, our business continues to fulfill our highest values of travel and fun!

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

What is the best business advice you have received?

The best way out is always through

Adam Massaro, Partner at Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP. Denver, Colorado.

The best business advice I received was “the best way out is always through”. Gifted to me by Robert Frost, this idea stuck with me because I have learned that a mounting business challenge will not go away if one ignores it. Confront the challenge head-on. Plow through it. Move on.

If I outgrow you, I will fire you!

Arnie Malham, Founder and President of BetterBookClub.com, Author and Speaker at Worth Doing Wrong. Nashville, Tennessee.

If I outgrow you, I will fire you!” These were the words of one of my first clients in the early days of my advertising agency (cj Advertising). I took these words seriously for myself, and I committed to applying those words to every team member, vendor, and future clients of the agency.

Our advertising agency became very good at “advertising” for our clients, but the real business we were in was “growth”; growth for our team members, growth for our clients, and by default, growth for our business.

Sales fix everything

Finnian Kelly, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Founder at Intentionality, Founder at Wealth Enhancers. Boulder, Colorado

Sales fix everything. This was from a previous mentor of mine Tania Austin, CEO of fashion store Decjuba, and one of the most impressive entrepreneurs I have met. It stuck with me not only because this is something she’s so passionate about but also because I could negate any problem or difficulty I faced with more sales.

Inspect what you expect

Katty Douraghy, President at Artisan Creative, Author at The Butterfly Years. Los Angeles, California.

When I was in retail many years ago, my boss at that time would repeat ad nasuem a simple and clear message: “inspect what you expect”. In practice, she would “walk and talk” the sales floor and inspect all the expectations she had shared the day prior.

This taught me that we all need parameters and that: (1) we need to be clear about our expectations; and (2) our teams work hard to deliver on those expectations. Therefore, we need to revisit them, praise when accomplished or course correct when needed.

Be unrelenting

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

I grew up intimately watching, and bearing witness to, the ethos and work ethic of my Mother and my Father.

It is seared into every fibre of my being the unrelenting nature in their extreme work ethic, the strength in their inability to take no for an answer, the bravery in their conviction to stand up for what is right and fair, the audacity in their willingness to bulldoze through insurmountable odds, and the courage in their unrelenting ability to never, ever, give, up.

I cannot remember nor can I imagine a time when the above was not the case.

Business is hard

Marc Gutman, Founder and Brand Strategist at Wildstory. Host at Baby Got Backstory Podcast. Denver, Colorado.

Business is hard. When I started my first business I wanted to do it right and I wanted to succeed. So I went to the most successful entrepreneur I knew at the time, my father-in-law Kimball.

I asked Kimball for the gold nugget. The advice that would set me on a path of entrepreneurial stardom. I wanted the Glengarry Glenross Golden Leads! I wanted the SECRET.

Kimball thought about my question and simply responded, “Business is hard.”

I was crushed and thought I had been robbed. I thought to myself, “What kind of advice and insight is this?”

After nearly 12 years of entrepreneurship, I now realize that THAT was the gold nugget.  That was the SECRET. When you’re doing well business is HARD. When you’re struggling business is HARD.

What I realized is the hard aspect is precisely why I do what I do. I love the challenge and I thrive on the friction. I need business to be HARD because if it wasn’t hard I’d go find something else that was.

What is more stable than depending on yourself?

Randall Hartman, Founder at GROUNDWRK. Denver, Colorado.

The advice that sticks out most was given to me on an airplane very early on in my career. I was fresh out of college and it was my first business trip as a professional. A seasoned sales professional sat down next to me.

Shortly after takeoff, the man introduced himself and asked what I did for a living. I answered, “I am an Account Executive for a boutique marketing firm in Denver,” to which he replied, “Oh, you’re sales guy. Me too.”

At the time I had not yet come to grips with the idea of being a “sales guy” but I was, in fact, a sales guy. I was the sole salesperson at my firm and, yes, I managed the accounts after the sale but the idea of being a “sales guy” sounded unattractive to me. So I responded with a long-winded description of my job and how sales wasn’t the only part of the picture. He was insightful enough to see what I was doing, he could tell that I did not like the label “salesperson”, and he dug into it more.

We entered into a long conversation about commission structures and I said that being on commission scares me and that the lack of stability gave me anxiety. He then dropped the golden nugget of advice that changed the trajectory of my career; advice I now share with folks early in their career struggling with the idea of sales or teetering on the edge of entrepreneurship: “What is more stable than depending on yourself?”

He elaborated by explaining that sales is the lifeblood of any organization. The jobs of the entire production team rely on the ability of the salesperson to bring in new work. So the folks that thought they had stability are really just relying on sales to create that stability. Sure there are other factors but it all comes down to sales. Also, depending on the commission structure, the earning potential is FAR more than those on the production floor. So, did I want to put my stability and livelihood in the hands of someone else? Heck no!

This concept lead me to never taking a job that didn’t offer a good commission model, and eventually led me to start my own agency 9 years later.

The goal of a CEO is to make themselves redundant from the day-to-day running of the business

Richard J Bryan, Founder at The Bryan Group Inc., Keynote Speaker and Author. Denver, Colorado.

My mentor and business-turnaround-expert Frank once said to me that the goal for me as CEO of my family’s $120M business was to make myself redundant from the day-to-day running of the business by doing two things: (1) building a great leadership team of smart people who had complementary skills to my own rather than hiring in my own image; and (2) doing the things that only I could do in the business.

My business and I are two separate things

Ross Drakes, Founder and Creative Director at Nicework, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Keynote Speaker, Host of One More Question Podcast. Johannesburg, South Africa.

The best piece of advice I got was the idea that my business and I are two separate things.

For many years I saw my business as an extension of myself. It was part of my self-image and my self-worth. When things didn’t go well I would take it very personally. For example, (1) clients not accepting quotes; (2) clients not liking creative work; and (3) teammates leaving to pursue other opportunities. All of these instances left a deep mark on me and I really took it to heart.

This lead to a few different things: (1) I would react emotionally to situations and this would lead to reactions that did not serve me or leave me feeling good; (2) the physical toll on me was worse than it needed to be.

What affected me affected the company and vice-versa. Finally, I stopped enjoying the work. It became a drain on me and my life. This is by far was the hardest part.

The idea that my company is just a company and if it goes away I am still here is a very simple one but very liberating. I am able to approach work in a much more even-tempered way. I make decisions (mostly) much more logically. I recognise that Nicework is where I have poured many hours of thought, love and work into and it provides much of the life I lead. But I choose to spend my time there and could just as easily choose to spend it elsewhere.

Never mess with someone’s paycheck

Steven Ziegler, Founder at Z3 Talent, Founder at ConstructionJobsColorado.com. Denver, Colorado.

I once created a bonus program I was incredibly proud of. I recall showing the spreadsheet I had spent hours creating to my silent partner, and she told me this was way to complicated, and to make commission plans simple and easy to understand. She said, “Never mess with someone’s paycheck.”

This is something that has stuck with me to this day. Being in the recruiting business for 25 years, it’s very common for people to be confused by how their bonus and/or commission programs work. The confusion creates frustration and stress, and ultimate motivates talent to leave an organization.

Done is better than perfect

Steven Ziegler, Founder at Z3 Talent, Founder at ConstructionJobsColorado.com. Denver, Colorado.

Right now, I am trying to embrace the idea that done is better than perfect. I am not sure who first put that tidbit of wisdom into my hands but it continues to stick with me because I suffer (along with many entrepreneurs) from “analysis paralysis” and “constipation via contemplation”. My desire for perfection can leave some things unfinished in a desire to achieve perfection. I’ve been embracing “get it done” as an ethos.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

Foreword

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

How important are values? How do you bring them alive in your business?

Never underestimate the power of simple words, and simple ideas

Ai-Ling Wong. Founder at The Decorateur, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I don’t believe in business partnerships but I do believe in business values. When I first took over a family business at the age of 25, my father’s advice to me were these three ideas: (1) honesty; (2) hard work; and (3) integrity. These 3 values were so simple, and at that time, I considered them “not profound” due to their simplicity.

However, I find myself referring to, and using, them when I conduct staff interviews as they encapsulate the qualities we look for in our team members. Those who don’t conform to these values aren’t a natural fit, and leave accordingly. These values are our guiding principles and I discovered that as time progressed, they become embodied in our mission statement.

Never underestimate the power of simple words and simple ideas.

Asking whether the situation or matter-in-question is aligned with my values has more often than not answered questions that otherwise I was unable to answer with complete conviction

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO at IC Bellagio, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Bellagio, Lake Como.

At the end of the day, values are what I refer too whenever I have a question in need of an answer (whether for personal or for business). Asking whether the situation or matter-in-question is aligned with my values has more often than not answered questions that otherwise I was unable to answer with complete conviction.

When I first learned about the importance of values in the workplace, and how to use them, I often thought that it was OK if a decision ticked 3 out of the 5 values boxes. It did not take me long to learn that if something does not get all 5 boxes ticked (assuming that one has 5 values), then the answer is no; no matter how attractive it may seem and/or how many people try to convince me otherwise.

Every now and then, my team pass by my office and ask for my opinion on a decision. Now I simply look up from my desk and raise my eyebrows in the direction of our values poster (which are on every office wall). My team know how to move forward from there.

The importance of values is a lesson for which I will be forever grateful.

Values need to be at the forefront of decision-making around business relationships, opportunities, and—most importantly—values need to feel real and authentic.

Daniel Dickson, Managing Director at Amarco Enterprises. Sydney, Australia.

Outside of people, the number one asset to any business are the company values. Flowing from this is the way in which values are upheld, displayed, lived and breathed so that they are naturally and authentically part of the everyday business.

Rather than create values and force already-existing people to conform, I believe we need to recruit: (1) people who believe in what we believe in; (2) people who want to join in on the journey of achieving the vision of the business; and (3) people who are genuinely enthusiastic.

Values should not just be 3 to 5 words, they should also be underlying beliefs, behaviors, and attributes/markers that make it specific to your business. This is important so that people feel and understand how those values are interpreted and adopted within the business.

Hire based on the values. Fire based on a misalignment of values. And most importantly, progress with business relationships that have a values alignment with your business. These clients will understand and believe what you believe in. If a relationship is hard at the start because you don’t see “eye-to-eye” this usually means that all parties concerned are on separate pages when it comes to values. These relationships typically end in disaster.

As leaders, we need to interlace values in our people plan, and in our one-to-three-year vision that we share with our team. Values need to be at the forefront of decision-making around business relationships, opportunities, and—most importantly—values need to feel real and authentic.

Making sure values are lived and breathed is one of the most difficult things to consistently deliver on as one needs to be unwaveringly dedicated to the commitment of living and breathing the values in each and every aspect of the business. It needs to start at the top and it needs to be felt on every level throughout the business with both staff and your customers.

How you act in business should extend to how you act outside of your business

David Fastuca. Founder at Ambisie, Founder at Locomote. Melbourne, Australia.

Values, and how we choose to act according to them, are incredibly important.

Being home for the last 12+ months due to COVID-19-related lockdown, my children have had the opportunity to see how their dad works. Through proximity, they listen to my calls, how I speak with others, how I listen to others, and how I treat people. It is therefore important to me that how I am with people is how I am with my family i.e. that I treat those with respect and in accordance with my values.

How you act in business should extend to how you act outside of your business.

Without companywide alignment on values, the consequence is almost always an eventual splintering of motivation, of expectation, and of course, of outcome.

Jamie Skella. Chief Operating and Product Officer at Mogul, Former Chief Product Officer at Horizon State. Melbourne, Australia.

Without companywide alignment on values, the consequence is almost always an eventual splintering of motivation, of expectation, and of course, of outcome.

I’ve found that in all businesses I’ve been involved in, from startup to blue chip, that the best way to ensure that a company’s values do not wane is to embed them in the company’s messaging at every opportunity, from staff handbooks to investor reports.

Reminders about who we are and why we do what we do must be at the core of how we talk about what we do. It’s all too easy for a company’s catalyzing values to fall by the wayside as business-as-usual takes over.

Like an airliner in constant operation, without regular preservative oiling, the very pieces that keep it flying will corrode.

A business with clear values is a business with decision-making filters for everyone within the business.

Keith Roberts. Founder, Author and Speaker at OAKJournal, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, President at Entrepreneur’s Organization, Founder and Creative Director at Zenman. Denver, Colorado.

Knowledge of “core values”, “authenticity”, and “being impeccable with your word” are the three most important traits I look for in business and personal relationships.

Values need to be known and embraced by everyone within the business. A great litmus test is to call the business reception and see if the person answering the phone can share what the values are, and what they mean.

At Zenman, we use our core values as a filter when hiring new team members, and as a reference when conducting quarterly reviews.

A business with clear values is a business with decision-making filters for everyone within the business.

One cannot build a castle with a weak foundation and weak scaffolding

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

I consider values to be the foundation in business and in life, and when one has lack of clarity or a lack of awareness in their values (a weak foundation), one cannot build a castle.

Pinpointing what my values are was a process that took many years and in my experience, I found that I gravitated towards positive-sounding words that although sounded great, never really quite hit the mark. It wasn’t until my 5th attempt at discovering my values that I stumbled upon a framework that worked: Reflect back on all the times you have been incredibly incensed or infuriated, and consider why you felt this way. It will hint at a core value that was infringed.

Where values can be considered the foundation on which one builds their castle, ensuring that values are lived and breathed can be considered the scaffolding on which one builds their castle. In other words, , knowing what one’s values are is only 50% of the equation. Ensuring that they are alive is the other 50% and requires continuous effort and intention.

I ensure values are alive by employing them in the following scenarios:

  1. Hiring employees, Does the candidate share the same values?
  2. Decision-making, What decision-path do our values hint at?
  3. Performance reviews, Are the wins and behaviors linked to our values?
  4. Coaching, Are we teaching values-based decision-making?
  5. Firing employees, What value did the employee infringe? Do we communicate this with the team so that others are aware?
  6. Recognizing when someone lives and breathes a value, Are we shouting these stories at the top of our lungs? Are we circulating them? Are we compiling them into our own book as our own legends?
  7. Rewards programs, Are we sharing and rewarding the behaviors that align with our values?
  8. Communications, Do we include our values in our internal and external comms across all channels?

Values need to be practiced daily within the business, and it starts with the business owner

Raymond Chou. Founder and CEO at Infront Consulting APAC. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It was 2012, I had hired a COO for the business. Mark (named changed to protect the identity) had the drive, the qualification, and the history to prove that he was the best person for the job. He was also a friend.

Within the first month, two of my better people resigned. In the next 3 months, another two of my best people resigned. In the 1 year that Mark had taken charge, the business environment and culture lost its mojo. It was highly strung and the team was deeply unhappy. Something just didn’t click and what I learned was that Mark’s values were misaligned with the values of the business. This caused a whirlwind of destruction. It was the classic case of right skills and wrong values.

Values are the first, and primary, alignment that every business must find. When values are aligned, a sense of belonging surfaces. When that happens, people feel they can be themselves, and they do their best work. Because of this, values cannot just be a poster on the wall. Values need to be practiced daily within the business, and it starts with the business owner.

In every decision that we make, we always ask this question first, “What do our core values say?”. When we make decisions this way, it provides us a guiding principal in which we can make good decisions, and consequently it makes decision-making easier.

Values provide a guide as to how we expect individuals to behave with each other so that everyone can be successful

Ron Lovett. Founder and Chief Alignment Officer at Connolly Owens, Founder and Chief Community Officer at Vida Living, Author at Outrageous Empowerment. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Values are the foundation of our businesses, and provide a guide as to how we expect individuals to behave with each other so that everyone (employees, customers and the business) can be successful.

Our values are brought to life by:

  1. Screening people for our values so that our hires are values-based
  2. Onboarding people with our values
  3. Celebrating when people live our values
  4. Coaching people in real-time when they don’t live our values

A great tool we use in making sure our values are brought to life is to keep track of all stories that are aligned with our values, and to share them far and wide in our businesses.

Values are the basis of any business

Tony Falkenstein. Founder and CEO at Just Life Group Limited, Founder and CEO at Just Water, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Auckland, New Zealand.

Values are the basis of any business. Our values are not that inspiring (“fun”, “integrity”, “respect”, “service”, “trust first”), but they are known and practiced by all staff.

I have a saying: “If you are not in business for fun and profit, what the hell are you doing there?” So basically, as a value, we try and ensure that employees enjoy their surroundings and the people they work with, but we also expect them to do a fair day’s work so that we make a profit. The same saying goes slightly differently for the employee: “If you are not in a role that you enjoy and learn, what the hell are you doing there?”

The value that is the backbone of all our values is “respect”. At a new employee’s induction, we stress this value, and generally this is the value we quote when firing an employee. For example, if an employee steals from the company, it is not showing respect for the company. If an employee hits another employee, it is not showing respect for a fellow employee. If an employee swears at a supplier, it is not showing respect for the supplier.

Values are the basis of any business.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

What have been your best or worst business partnerships? What did you learn?

See the silver lining or the positive. It allows us to forgive and to not feel victimized.

Ai-Ling Wong. Founder at The Decorateur, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I inherited a nightmare of a business partner in my last family business, and this inspired me to start my new business.

What I have learned is that there is a silver lining in every cloud. I now thank them for what I have today (although they don’t know it), and that, due to circumstance, I embarked on what I am truly passionate about.

See the silver lining or the positive; it allows us to forgive and to not feel victimized.

There is no blame. Only learning.

Alex Louey. Founder and Managing Director at Appscore. Melbourne, Australia.

Nick Bell and I have been business partners for 10 years, and friends for much longer. The key to our success is that our friendship is stronger than our business partnership.

We’ve had our disagreements but we are: (1) prepared to not let our ego drive our decisions; (2) prepared to let the other take the lead; and (3) if one is wrong or fails, we consider it just part of the journey. There is no blame; only learning.

There are always going to be ups and downs, and sometimes when things are down they can really be down. To know that you are working with someone that “has your back” strengthens and bolsters you, makes you brave, and makes it easier to overcome the inevitable challenges. Business is like a sport and a champion team will always beat a team of champions.

The worst business partnership I have witnessed occurred when greed, ego and jealousy overshadowed the goal of creating a great business where both partners are successful. The result? One business partner walked away because they decided the negativity in their life wasn’t worth a few million dollars.

When I was presented with an opportunity to walk away, I did. It was the best thing I ever did.

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO at IC Bellagio, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Bellagio, Lake Como.

A few years ago, despite having some previous negative experience with the same business partner, I went against my gut feeling and agreed to a new joint partnership that on paper was: (1) a match made in heaven; and (2) an easy way into companies from both a commercial and positioning point-of-view.

This joint partnership, and what was sold to me, did not match reality, so when I was presented with an opportunity to walk away, I did, and it was the best thing I ever did.

When your gut tells you to walk away, do it, no matter how attractive the situation or how many people tell you otherwise.

Partnerships that are based on shared values and mutual trust are what I admire and strive for

Daniel Dickson, Managing Director at Amarco Enterprises. Sydney, Australia.

Partnerships that are based on shared values and mutual trust are what I admire and strive for.

Every good supplier or customer relationship that I have experienced has been one that was mutually beneficial; where both parties are heading in the same direction with the same goals, and a desire for each other to be successful. Both parties must understand each other’s values, both desire the same outcomes, and understand what success looks like for each party.

A trick to noticing and recognizing an unsuccessful partnership or business relationship is when you feel that the other partner is working against you or is not sharing and practicing the same values that you believe in. In these two scenarios, the business relationship is not mutually beneficial, and the partnership will not be successful.

The importance of living and breathing the values cannot be understated, and one should never steer off the concept of values-based decision making.

The best partnerships are where both parties spend the time to help one another succeed

David Fastuca. Founder at Ambisie, Founder at Locomote. Melbourne, Australia.

Partnerships are like marriages; they start with the best intentions but after time the spark that once started the relationship can wear off. That’s when things start to break down. Like a good marriage, partnerships require work from both sides.

Whenever I have experienced a partnership break down, it was due to one side always asking and taking without giving. Over time you start to feel used and then you despise the relationship.

The best partnerships are where both parties spend the time to help one another succeed. It takes work and takes time but like all great long-lasting partnerships, it can be worth it.

Choose your business partner like you choose your life partner

Demi Markogiannaki. Founder at WeTeachMe. Melbourne, Australia.

A business partnership that works well can make the journey of entrepreneurship easier and more fun, and a business partnership that doesn’t work well can make the journey of entrepreneurship destructive and filled with issues both personally and professionally. I have had the luck, and the misfortune, to have experienced both.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with partners that believed in, and stood with, me whilst I grew personally and professionally. Working with them made me feel understood, and in turn, helped me push myself beyond what I thought possible, and dare to be brave. These partnerships were marked with many moments of comfort, a psychological safety that helped me navigate failure, and joy in the celebrations of victories both big and small.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with partners that were misaligned in values. Having different values does not mean a person is “bad” per se, but it does mean that the lens in which each person views the world is different. In this partnership, I felt “useless”, was blamed and shamed for failure, and my ideas were discounted for not being “good enough”. The negativity detracted from the moments of happiness and made me feel like an imposter. It took a long time for me to draw a line in the sand, decide that “enough is enough”, and stand up for both myself and others. I wish I had done this sooner.

Choose your business partner like you choose your life partner. There will be moments of joy, and there will be moments of challenge. There will be many issues and problems to navigate, and to learn from, together. You will both grow, change and evolve. Stay united and support one another, and never let trust and respect between you both be compromised.

When the time comes that I take another of my own to market, I’ll be certain to make sure I am the person who takes it there

Jamie Skella. Chief Operating and Product Officer at Mogul, Former Chief Product Officer at Horizon State. Melbourne, Australia.

Your business partner can either lift you or suppress you.

Having founded a startup–based on a multi-year commitment to devising and building the tech that underpinned it— I willingly agreed to the appointment of another individual to take the helm as CEO. In hindsight, despite my reservations, agreeing to this was born out of a then-insecurity about my own ability to run the company.

It was a tough lesson—one that cost the business gravely—and it left me bitterly vindicated and more ready than I ever was to trust myself in the future. While most of my recent years have been spent working on the ideas of others, when the time comes that I take another of my own to market, I’ll be certain to make sure I am the person who takes it there.

The success, or failure, of business partnerships starts and ends with values

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

The success, or failure, of business partnerships starts and ends with values.

When there is an alignment of values, there is a strong foundation of trust and respect, an environment with ample opportunity for building deeper bonds, and as a result, a resilience for weathering the inevitable storms that will come.

Building a business, when there is a misalignment of values, is akin to building a fortress, that is perched on top of a haphazard rickety wooden stand, on an ever-changing sandy shoreline. Communication becomes more difficult, and this breeds an environment where anger and resentment festers. In this scenario, nobody wins.

When I assess potential business partnerships, the questions I ask myself are:

  1. Are the lens in which I, and my potential business partner, look at the world the same?
  2. Are the rules by which I, and my potential business partner, live and experience life the same?
  3. Are the methods in which I, and my potential business partner, make decisions, guided by a similar set of values?
  4. Do I, and my potential business partner, live and breathe a similar set of values?
  5. What are the differences between my values and that of my potential business partner? Can these difference in values peacefully coexist?
  6. What are the things I admire and don’t admire, about my potential business partner? If I dig deeper, what values do they hint at or uncover? Are the differences cogent with my values?

Building a business requires a tremendous amount of time and energy. Shared values are critical, and form the foundation of what one builds. If I am to make the decision to spend a tremendous amount of time and energy, to ensure that they do not go to waste, I’ll make sure to get the foundations (values) right first and foremost.

Every partnership must start with an aligned set of values. From these values, we align direction, and from this direction, we align our respective roles

Raymond Chou. Founder and CEO at Infront Consulting APAC. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I found the business partner for my second business in a drinking buddy. Over our shared time, he encouraged me to start the business; he was to contribute the capital and I was to contribute the blood, sweat, and tears. We defined our roles clearly whereby I would take care of sales and be the face of the company whilst he would take care of administration and finance. It sounded like the perfect plan.

The years went by and the business did not perform to expectation. There was a lot of naming, blaming, and shaming: (1) “You should run the department faster!”; (2) “We are not getting paid and cash flow is tight because you are not invoicing fast enough.”; (3) “You should push more sales!; and (4) “You are spending too much and not getting enough in!” The straw that broke the camel’s back occurred when he believed that we should “give incentives” to our customers to get deals. I was firmly against this idea.

Unfortunately what started out as a great friendship ended in a broken business partnership. We no longer talk and this saddens me greatly.

My greatest lesson in partnership is that every partnership must start with an aligned set of values. From these values, we align direction, and from this direction, we align our respective roles.

I am inclined to suggest that business partnerships are more delicate than marriages in the sense that in marriage when things don’t go according to plan, both parties have love to fall back on. In a business partnership, it is WORK and requires digging deeper. It is not enough to say, “That’s a great idea. Let’s do it together!” I believe the lack of digging deeper here is the reason why so many business partnerships fail.

I now employ a “dating period” whereby all partners agree to a 1 year period where we work on the business with no shares in the company. The person who creates the idea holds 100% during the first year, and a contract is drawn up that stipulates after 1 year, an evaluation is done; and if values, directions, and roles are still aligned–and all parties feel happy moving forward–shares are allocated.

The best business partnership for me occurred when partnering with people that had completely opposite skill sets

Ron Lovett. Founder and Chief Alignment Officer at Connolly Owens, Founder and Chief Community Officer at Vida Living, Author at Outrageous Empowerment. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The best business partnership for me occurred when partnering with people that had completely opposite skill sets.

I previously owned a construction company and my partner focused on construction, margins, operations, and the management of suppliers whereas I focused on strategy, business development, HR, and finance. This worked so well. I’ll never partner with someone who has a similar set of skills to me.

The worst partnerships I have experienced were due to not flushing out our long-term vision (exit strategy etc.) and not turning our eyes to our values from day dot. These have caused breakups for me within the first twelve months.

Plan as though it will fail as the odds are you will be right

Tony Falkenstein. Founder and CEO at Just Life Group Limited, Founder and CEO at Just Water, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Auckland, New Zealand.

Many business partnerships are formed because your partner is your friend. Being a friend at 21, prior to family and kids, the odds are against the partnership surviving.

There are two inherent problems:

  • If you both have the same skills, what have you achieved? You just have two payrolls to cover rather than one.
  • Between the ages of 20–30, your life is full of changes. What you dream of when you are 21 is completely different to when you are 30.

Once you have obligations such as a lifelong partner or children, you cannot afford to be living off the smell of an oily rag. In contrast, your business partner might be quite happy proceeding that way.

I am personally against business partnerships, even at any age. It just becomes another hurdle to jump over, and you are always compromising, otherwise, you end up with resentment and as enemies.

If you must get into a business partnership, the most important clause is the “exit” clause. Plan as though it will fail as the odds are you will be right.

The most powerful gift my business partner gave me was the experience of depth rather than breadth

Tui Cordemans. Founder at Koh Living. Melbourne, Australia.

The most powerful gift my business partnership gave me was the experience of depth rather than breadth.

Because I had someone who both relied on me and gave me much, I did not have the option to jump ship whenever I wanted a new experience.

This partnership taught me that one gains the most out of life when one goes deep and some of my learnings from this (resilience and how to live a life of meaning) is priceless.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

Foreword

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

Is entrepreneurship a lonely journey?

Is this person willing to make sacrifices for me, and am I willing to make sacrifices for this person?”

Alex Louey. Founder and Managing Director at Appscore. Melbourne, Australia.

Entrepreneurship can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be! I have been blessed with having a great co-founder that is both supportive, and strong where I am weak, and weak where I am strong.

Finding a good co-founder that you can trust, has high moral standards, and is ethical. The question I asked myself was, “Is this person willing to make sacrifices for me, and am I willing to make sacrifices for this person?” This question is important because a business partner should be there for both the good and the bad.

There are things you can do to make sure you’re not alone

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO at IC Bellagio, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Bellagio, Lake Como.

Becoming part of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) was one of the best decisions that I have ever made to make sure that I wasn’t alone.

The opportunity to meet personally (or virtually in 2020) with a group of trusted entrepreneurs who run a variety of businesses, to be able to share experiences, and to be able to learn from each other in a safe and trusted environment is second-to-none.

EO has given me so many educational opportunities that have been: (1) worth their weight in gold; and (2) perfect for spending time with people who are “in the same boat”.

The entrepreneurial journey doesn’t need to be lonely

Emma Welsh. Founder at Emma & Tom’s. Melbourne, Australia.

I don’t believe the entrepreneurial journey needs to be lonely. In fact, I believe it to be the opposite.

One of my core aims in business is to build a fantastic team of players that I am constantly surrounded by, and that team needs a captain and a coach.

I find that the fulfillment of both captain and coach roles provides a level of connectedness with my business, and the people in my business.

There is a unique, solitary, and undeniable burden that comes with being an entrepreneur

Jamie Skella. Chief Operating and Product Officer at Mogul, Former Chief Product Officer at Horizon State. Melbourne, Australia.

Entrepreneurship has been a complex journey for me. Although a profound sense of togetherness, support, and connectedness have been part of my journey, there is also a unique, solitary, and undeniable burden that comes with being an entrepreneur; a certain “loneliness”.

Psychologically you will experience pressures that very few others fully grasp, while practically speaking you will have less time for you to spend with your closest friends. That is the choice you make when embarking on such a journey, yet, I posit that it is a sacrifice worth making; a price worth paying, to pursue bold ideas that have the power to create positive change in our world.

The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care.” — Hugh MacLeod

The stress amplified to the point that I could no longer laugh

Keith Roberts. Founder, Author and Speaker at OAKJournal, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, President at Entrepreneur’s Organization, Founder and Creative Director at Zenman. Denver, Colorado.

The answer depends on the individual, their unique personality, and their approach to business.

Most of my closest friends are people that I met as clients, peers, or through my entrepreneurial journey.

The first 15 years was incredibly isolating. Not only did the struggles of entrepreneurship take away almost all of my free time, the stress I felt amplified to the point that I could no longer laugh.

Finding Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), my Forum, a global village of other entrepreneurs changed my life, and having intentionality has to the type of life I want to experience has changed my path from one of loneliness, to one of connection and joy.

If life is lived not by accident but with intention, one can experience a life that is more profound, more intense, more rich, and one can experience a life that is deeply joyous and fulfilling

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

Business, in and of itself, is hard. In a study of 28 million businesses in the US, 96% fail before they reach the $1M/year revenue turnover. Out of the 28 million businesses, 99.6% will fail before they reach the $10M/year revenue turnover. That stark statistic illustrates the tide the entrepreneur wades against in their efforts to create a viable business.

Now let’s layer on the stresses and pressures that come with starting and scaling a business, and the time, relationship, and life sacrifices that is required. At one point in my journey, I had locked myself away in an upstairs bedroom whilst my friends celebrated a birthday downstairs. I recall thinking, “I need to finish onboarding this new customer,” and the feeling of wanting to isolate myself and being alone. When I reflect on this experience, I am not surprised that a common phrase I hear is “entrepreneurship is a lonely journey”.

Now let’s layer on the incredibly steep learning curve that an entrepreneur must endure. For example, every entrepreneur must learn the four key decisions that all high-growth companies have mastered: (1) how do I make sure that there is enough cash in my business? [cash]; (2) how do I make sure that I can drive top-line revenue growth? [strategy]; (3) how do I make sure that I have the right people in the right seats performing the right functions in my “bus”? [people]; and (4) how do I make sure I convert top-line revenue efficiently into bottom-line profit? [execution]

Now let’s layer on the “divergent paths” or “growth divergence” dilemma entrepreneurs experience with friends and family who haven’t lived and breathed what it feels like to be an entrepreneur, and who often give unsolicited advice that is, albeit with good intentions, bad. The emotional energy required to navigate this dilemma is incredibly taxing, and difficult to navigate, for the entrepreneur.

Now let’s layer on the discovery that as the entrepreneur’s life path and experience has diverged from the norm, the entrepreneur starts discovering that conversation and points of interest increasingly diverge. And suddenly there is less to connect with, less in common, and conversations different.

The life of an entrepreneur brings with it multiple demands: (1) physical; (2) mental; (3) psychological; and (4) emotional. All these demands need to be juggled evenly, and at all times. Is it therefore surprising that many find the path of entrepreneurship lonely?

In spite of this, I also believe that we have agency and that if life is lived not by accident but with intention, one can experience a life that is more profound, more intense, more rich, and one can experience a life that is deeply joyous and fulfilling. The entrepreneurial journey was initially lonely for me, but is now filled with deep connections, life-changing friendships, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, lots of laughter, and lots of joy, and of most importance to me, endless opportunity to live a life that is aligned with my life goal of making a lasting and positive contribution to this world.

Lee Munro. CEO at Munro Footwear Group.
Melbourne, Australia.

Like almost everything in life, it doesn’t have to be this way

Many people I talk to find entrepreneurship isolating and lonely. There are constant pressures that an entrepreneur feels: (1) sales; (2) marketing; (3) branding; (4) hiring; (5) firing; (6) culture; (7) values; (8) compliance; (9) finance; and (10) cash flow etc. Ultimately, the success of the business is the responsibility of the entrepreneur.

Some people internalise the myriad of pressures and that alone can make one feel lonely. But like almost everything in life, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Entrepreneurs have options and choice. This road has been well-traveled, and filled with people who are generously willing to share their learnings and experiences.

Some options of note:

  1. Find a mentor who is generously willing to share their learnings and experiences.
  2. Find a networking group of like-minded entrepreneurs.
  3. Share inside one’s own organisation and use the team as support. Brene Brown is a pioneer in the field of “vulnerable leadership” and her research suggests that this leadership methodology is great for both the entrepreneur and the business.

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, but it doesn’t need to be

Namgyal Sherpa. Managing Director at Thamserku. Kathmandu, Nepal.

When I first started my entrepreneurial journey, I was obsessed with the idea of success, and I had a hunger to get things done at any cost even if it meant I had to do the heavy lifting myself. I didn’t trust and didn’t have the confidence to delegate, which consequently left me micromanaging most of the work.

This unhealthy approach lead to burnout, and as I had ignored other aspects of my life that are important to me such as family and care of self, this unhealthy approach also lead to loneliness. Relationships were one of the most important things in life, and it starts with the relationship we have with ourselves.

I started meditating, reflecting, and learning from other like-minded people, and discovered that by having an understanding of who I am, and accepting who I am, I was able to understand and appreciate others. This alone has had a transformative effect in both my personal and professional life.

I now feel more connected to myself, my purpose, my family, and my team.

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, but it doesn’t need to be. We can always learn, improve, grow, and move forward.

95% of the population will never understand why we do it

Raymond Chou. Founder and CEO at Infront Consulting APAC. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Entrepreneurship can be both lonely and depressing; sometimes at the same time. It comprises of constant dark clouds and filled with daily heartbreak, and it is lonely because 95% of the population will never understand why we do it given all the pressures and stress that comes with it.

It can feels especially awful after you have had a particularly difficult day, and you come home and try your best to describe it to your loved ones only to be met with “stop doing it and get a job so you don’t have to suffer”.

Entrepreneurs are different to others; they do what they do for a purpose and for a higher vision, and any quest to realise the vision is filled with an army of challenges and sometimes well-intentioned people who try and stop them.

I had a great group of people, and new friends, with me but none of my old friends where there

Ron Lovett. Founder and Chief Alignment Officer at Connolly Owens, Founder and Chief Community Officer at Vida Living, Author at Outrageous Empowerment. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The first time I heard the idea that “entrepreneurship is a lonely journey” was in my late twenties. I was running my security company and I had an Advisory Board. One of my Board Members–after our meeting–said, “Ron, I think you are going to do exceptionally well in business, but you will find that it can be very lonely journey.”

It wasn’t until my 30th birthday–when I organized a trip to Montreal, Canada–that this statement came to life for me. I had approximately 15 friends meet me, none of which were the friends that I had grown up with; most of the latter unfortunately could not afford the trip. Of course, I had a great group of people, and new friends, with me but I was sad that none of my old friends were there.

The feeling of loneliness has appeared multiple times during the journey, especially during very stressful times in business where I felt I had no one to lean on.

In 2007 I came across Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). Immediately after joining, I felt a sense of belonging. To be immersed, locally and internationally, with other business owners from different businesses, cultures, races, beliefs and experiences provided me with the support and push to learn and grow. I haven’t felt lonely since!

How wonderful is it that one’s mind can jump from idea to idea without disturbance from others?

Tony Falkenstein. Founder and CEO at Just Life Group Limited, Founder and CEO at Just Water, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Auckland, New Zealand.

There are times on the entrepreneurial journey when the entrepreneur may feel lonely, but if a person feels entrepreneurship is a lonely journey overall, perhaps they are better off working for someone else.

In my experience, entrepreneurship is the most sociable and engaging activity that an entrepreneur can ever undertake. Sometimes the entrepreneurship game is played alone, but how wonderful is it that one’s mind can jump from idea to idea without disturbance from others, and that at other times you get to play the game of business with a whole team against a lively opposition?

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

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