The Importance of Planning [Practically Speaking]

I wrote previously about the importance of planning and gave 5 simple reasons why planning is critically important. Since I wrote that article I’ve received hundreds of comments on the topic and thousands of views. Clearly this is a topic that people are interested in. As I re-read the article though I discovered something was missing. Practical application. Yes, there is definitely a need for having solid reasons why planning is important, but there’s also a great deal of usefulness found in applying those reasons to everyday life and identifying how that planning can be put into practice. In this short article I’d like to give you a follow-up 5 ways that you can implement planning in your daily routine and through your actions demonstrate why planning is important for success. Continue reading The Importance of Planning [Practically Speaking]

5 Ways to Always Win

Small business owners (like myself) are often challenged with proving themselves to others. This is especially relevant when dealing with bigger companies. Something about a big company they frequently like to throw their weight around and prove their value by how many dollars are in the bank, how big their market share, or how many employees they maintain. I find myself struggling at times with how to best respond to those questions and what I personally view as a ‘win’. Of course I’d be lying to say that I didn’t want a business to be sustainable, growing, and profitable. But sometimes I think it’s important to be more specific. Some of the time I like to define some other ways to always win.

Continue reading 5 Ways to Always Win

4 Survival Tactics for Your Open Source Project

It finally happened. You developed a killer app. You spent months agonizing over every decision in getting the application to market and you’ve worked incredibly hard to create a cutting-edge technological marvel which blows away everything else on the web. You focused on all the right metrics, the user experience is beautiful and the community is thriving. (Yep, it’s open source). You feel on top of the world, and it’s exciting.

Continue reading 4 Survival Tactics for Your Open Source Project

Embracing Failures

Too often as small business owners we are terrified of failure. Fear is a powerful motivator but it’s not always an appropriate one. We tend to live constantly in fear of failure as though a failure would somehow define us and characterize our lives. We find ourselves judging our usefulness and our self-worth by our successes. We all need to learn a bit more how to embrace failures. Continue reading Embracing Failures

5 Things Every Successful Founder Does

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The life of an entrepreneur is a busy one. Here are 5 things every successful founder does. I’m not guaranteeing success by following these five steps. But if you look at a successful company more than likely you will find a founder who follows these 5 principles.

Principle #1: Time is Money

Serious founders understand the principle that their time is valuable. They don’t waste their time on ideas which distract them from their core mission. They plan their time for maximum efficiency and schedule their days. This does not mean they work overtime. In fact, smart founders work regular hours and take time away from work to recharge themselves. Taking personal time, time for exercise, time for family and hobbies helps them to spend their work time more effectively. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking to be a successful founder you should work 24/7. This will do far more harm than good. Your time is valuable, use it wisely.

“Let him who would enjoy a good future waste none of his present.”

– Roger Babson

Principle #2: Do What Matters

Successful entrepreneurs focus on what’s important to their business. They set a plan for what makes their business unique and what their differentiating factors are. Once they have determined what is important for their business success they focus their time and talents on achieving those things. This is important. As I mentioned, an entrepreneur must wear so many hats and focus on so many different areas of the business it can be very easy to become distracted and lose time (and as we just saw, time is money). As a founder be sure you share responsibilities. Make sure you have a team you can trust and spend your time on those items which require your attention. Don’t get trapped doing tasks someone else should be doing. Do what matters.

“Those who occupy their minds with small matters, generally become incapable of greatness.”

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Principle #3: Don’t Give Up Easily

Some founders appear to have found overnight success. It looks as though they woke up one morning and instantly became “the next big thing.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. In most cases the overnight sensations are in reality the product of years of hard work and innumerable failures. What makes the difference is how these founders handle failure. The goal is to fail early and fail often. By not giving up when met with failure these founders learn how to improve their idea, grow their product, and make those changes which will in time yield a successful business. Don’t be afraid to fail. And when you do fail, don’t give up.

“Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success. “

– Biz Stone

Principle #4: Ignore the Doubters

Founders believe they have an idea which will change the world in some way. They have seen “the future”. As such often times they are met with doubters. Many people are unable to see this vision quite the same way. Either they can’t understand how it would be successful or they simply don’t want to step outside their comfort zone to accept change. Successful founders focus on their ideas with bulldog determination and don’t allow themselves to be swayed by the naysayers. Doubters are the people who play it safe; they fail to see the possibilities and aspirations you seek to attain. Don’t let them hold you back. Don’t allow your dreams to be limited by what someone else might think.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

– Steve Jobs

Principle #5: Set Realistic Goals

It’s easy to see an opportunity and start to make a plan for how you would improve a product. Every good business starts with an idea and a goal. Successful founders create realistic goals and then meet them. It’s not enough to simply dream big. To see success these entrepreneurs finish what they set out to do. The best way to ensure they meet their goals is by settings themselves up for success with goals they can reach. They seek out a minimum viable product which meets the need they have discovered and they launch. Don’t get so caught up in adding features and secondary ideas that you never launch your business. Set goals you are sure to attain, launch your product and then add features.

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.”

– Zig Ziglar

Successful founders understand the importance of these 5 principles. They apply them to their business and their life. If you’re struggling as a founder or entrepreneur take a look at the list above and find one or two items where you can improve and then work on it. Don’t skim yet another article and miss the important take-away. You have to do more than read or hear. You have to apply them.

And of course – good luck! We’re all in this together.

Childlike Bravery

At times I sit and watch my oldest daughter Kate in utter amazement. She boldly attempts things without any fear of failure. I cringe on the inside and think to myself all the millions of ways it could go wrong.

One particular instance comes quickly to my mind. She was only 7 at the time and had been taking violin lessons for only a few weeks. There was a recital in which some of the older and more experienced students would be participating and her instructor asked her to join them and play a few simple songs. Now, obviously Kate, practiced. She practiced hard.

The day came when she was to play and I was convinced she was not far enough along in her lessons to undertake the daunting job of playing publicly in front of a crowd. Especially not on the violin. It truly is an unforgiving instrument (trust me, I’ve heard hours and hours of practice). And yet, to my shame, Kate boldly stepped up to the center of the stage, placed her violin on her should and proceeded to play the two songs she had been practicing. And she did wonderfully well.

Reflecting on that performance now I’m struck with what I would consider childlike bravery. It’s something I think becomes lost as we become older. We lose the ability to place ourselves in uncomfortable or challenging situations. As adults we try to shelter ourselves from potential failure. We convince ourselves that we’re protecting ourselves from embarrassment – and perhaps we are. But at what cost?

If we were to exhibit more of a childlike bravery where we boldly step forward and attempt things without the fear of failure. If we dare to place ourselves outside our comfort zone, challenge the status quo and truly be brave on the stage in front of the crowd…what could we achieve. Perhaps we would fail.

Perhaps we would be met with jeers and scoffing. But possibly, just maybe we would do wonderfully well.

The Other Side

But that’s only half the story. Here’s the other half. As her parent I consider it my duty to protect her. To somehow take it upon myself to keep her from failing as though I’m doing her some favor. It’s a difficult task because I find myself wanting to stop her too often. But that’s not truly protecting her, that’s doing her the greatest disservice imaginable. Taking away her possibility of failure also takes away any chance of success as well. Keeping her from trying also takes away her optimistic bravado. I take away her childlike faith.

Even as adults we should be careful in the advice we give to others. Be mindful to not squash the dreams of someone else in an effort to falsely protect them. Taking away the possibility of failure will also ruin any chance of them realizing success. We should encourage each other to dream and explore and attempt great things. And so I encourage you – be bold. Try something new. Don’t be afraid of failure. Follow your heart and be brave.