I have spent the last month interviewing dozens of entrepreneurs for my new “Titans Mastermind” group…all amazing marketers…and after talking about where their businesses are at the present time and where they want to go in the future, I asked:
“What is holding you back in the growth of your business?”
Almost all of the answers I received related to one or more of the following issues:
- Having too many ideas…and not knowing which ones to focus on first: “I have more good ideas than I know what to do with; it’s the implementation that screws me up.”
- Not receiving enough candid feedback and constructive criticism on all of those new ideas. Although the follow up question would be, “Can you (the entrepreneur/owner/leader) hea
r the opposing view?”
- Not receiving any new ideas from others.
Number one—“too many ideas”– is a problem we all face–whether we are entrepreneurs or senior executives.
Many talked about “too many ideas and not enough time or resources to get them all done”… and trying to create the right balance between idea generation and getting the essential stuff done (and staying focused).
And what to say “NO” to.
The country’s foremost expert in Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.), Ned Hallowell, believes that there would be no entrepreneurs if this “affliction” that affects so many of us did not exist.
So much for A.D.D being a stigma…although it clearly can get in the way of productivity.
Ned (and many others) also believe that controlling the urge that all entrepreneurs (and “intrapreneurs”) have to chase every shiny object is the key to the greatest success in business.
There is no quick solution to this problem but most of the folks I interviewed understood that if they can get the right systems in place for implementation (which in most cases is not their strong suit), the results can be extraordinary.
And they all had ideas on how to systematize more and making better systems a priority was their first big step in attacking this ongoing problem. This will now be a key subject area for the members of the Titans Mastermind to tackle…business by business…
Number two—not getting candid feedback– has been a problem forever.
It’s about telling the emperor he or she has no clothes…and the problem arises from the employees not wanting to rock the boat AND the leader not really listening for subtle (but potentially powerful and useful) criticism.
It’s been my observation that a little extra open-mindedness and a true open-door policy from the entrepreneur can be game changing.
If you are the CEO, always know that everyone is looking for ways to not be in conflict with you…and surrounding yourself with “yes men/women” will be at your peril.
Having the power to hire and fire at will always lead to getting a lot less truth…but you must work to get it…and make sure your team knows that they will not be penalized for telling the truth or giving their contrarian opinion.
I know this is obvious to most but it’s amazing to me how many business owners and leaders never get proper, candid feedback.
But that is also because they rarely look for it…
And if you can’t hire folks who will speak up, you better be in groups (Vistage, Young Presidents, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, high end masterminds etc.) to get your dose of honest feedback.
Some leaders seem to believe the opinions of “outsiders” way more than the folks close to them on the inside…not a mistake in itself…but getting both perspectives will lead to pursuing fewer bad ideas and more good ones.
I’ve always said that your true friends are the ones who will tell you if you have something hanging out of your nose, if you have spinach in your teeth or if your idea sucks…while love never leaves the room.
I would recommend that you demand that of friends and family in your personal life…and also demand that of the folks that would die on a sword for you in your business as well.
It’s not easy…it takes time to build that trust…but it is so worth it.
But the third item—idea generation–is the one that led to discussions that surprised me and has led to some follow up conversations with other entrepreneurs which have been fascinating.
I already said that many of the folks I interviewed had more ideas than they knew what to do with…however, it’s the new (big) ideas that drive exponential growth.
But here’s the issue that came up time and again from the owners:
It’s the belief that every good idea worth pursuing needs to be their own.
This is the toughest one for entrepreneurs…since no one else had the “big idea” to get the party started in the first place (i.e. launch the company).
But I have seen so many businesses fail in the long term because the founder didn’t recognize great ideas from others in the organization readily.
Finding the “second rainmaker” is the concept…and it was by far the biggest void I found in the companies that were having difficulty making the next big jump in revenue and profit.
In almost every business I encountered, ALL of the “best ideas” came from one person…the person at the top of the food chain.
Not only did most of the leaders not have someone in their companies to give them candid feedback to every brilliant idea they have (which happens every 15 minutes or so!); but they had no one else in the organization coming up with new ideas that they could build on.
How lonely is that?
In almost every case, the CEO/owner did not have a “second rainmaker.”
I know that when you have a mission or vision that is so much a part of your DNA, it is sometimes hard to hear other folks who might actually share that same mission/vision and are actually ready to contribute at a much deeper level with their own ingenuity.
Please read my post “From Intrapreneur to Entrepreneur” which talks about the importance of growing superstar idea generators from within…and also making sure you are working to be one of those internal rainmakers if you are not the owner/CEO/founder.
Recognizing talent, hiring them and growing them…and then actually listening to them (and their ideas)…is what can lead to exponential growth in your business.
There is a risk that your second (or third) rainmaker might add even more shiny objects to your plate… but who is to say that one of theirs can’t replace one of yours?
Having been lucky enough to be a “second rainmaker” in a company where I shared the vision of the founder at the deepest level…and then definitely got heard…all I can say is that it is doable.
To summarize my prescription for success in any “learning organization”:
- Make sure, as the leader, you are doing only the things you are best at and the things only you can do better than everyone else (this is Dan Sullivan’s notion of only working in your “unique ability”). I highly recommend the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.
- If you are like most of the entrepreneurs Ned Hallowell talks about–and you have no shortage of new ideas but can’t get them all done–know a good one from a bad one, choose wisely, and make sure you have people around you who tell you the truth about your ideas, good or bad. Reward them for candor and don’t punish them for honesty. If you can’t hire for this, get it from key peer groups on the outside. And if you are part of the staff, be that honest person once you have earned the trust of your superiors. Top down or bottom up, be transparent that there will be no room for “yessing everything to death.”
- Once you have the implementation and feedback loops handled, get a second rainmaker. Best if you can have one at your side. And if you are the “intrapreneur”, look to be a rainmaker…always…
If you can’t grow a second rainmaker, you still need to find one: Go to outside experts to help you make rain (i.e. consultants who want to be partners, not just creators of chaos). Do that at a minimum.
If it sounds like I have all of this handled myself, I have not…but it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that this is what we all need to do to achieve at our highest levels.
I think not doing my “homework”—these posts—for the last few weeks is a result of being a lonely rainmaker, doing lots of things I should probably delegate. Sorry to be away for so long…
This is what I just wrote on a post-it note and hung it at eye level on my computer monitor:
Refrain from doing things someone else can do better, find great implementers who complement your tendency towards shiny objects, find employees and friends who tell you the truth and don’t think that you are the only one who can make rain.
And I just bought a bigger umbrella which I am very excited about too…
P.S. I want to thank everyone who bought the “Titans DVD package” –the feedback has been fantastic from those who now own it…
If anyone on this list has a list of serious direct response marketing “students” who would be a good fit for the package, please e-mail me if you are interested in being an affiliate. It’s a 50/50 revenue share after my costs…but your list needs to be a fit. You can see the current sales letter affiliates are using at www.TitansDVDs.com.
P.P.S. I just sent this video to one of the Titan speakers and one of my heroes, Jay Abraham.
It is the interview I did with him at the event. Jay’s insights into the ideas “preeminence” and “Socratic thinking/questioning” are relevant to what I wrote to you today…I think you will really enjoy it.