Category Archive: Blog

Myth Of The Perfect Partner

Disappointment 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early in my career I made the mistake every young entrepreneur does – invest too much time and energy looking for the perfect partner to help launch a project. You know how it goes – come up with a great idea that with that right marketing partner (i.e. big) and it’s sure to explode.

In my case I found two great partners who each served a distinct segment of the target market bringing valuable credibility to my concept making instant success a no-brainer. Que the buzzer because the two by four of reality that smacked me across the head proved there is no such thing as instant success and there is no perfect partner.

To be sure without either partner the project never would have launched, but even with their combined size and credibility behind it there were still many huge struggles. Along the way I found these keys to managing my frustration while overcoming those inherent obstacles and achieving a level of success:

  • First lesson is everyone involved has their own agenda for playing. Yes, we may all agree with the core mission but ultimate expectations and actions may differ according to individual bottom lines, partnerships and time frames.
  • Second, a new project is a new project, even to the biggest of companies so temper your expectations of quick success and get ready for a long haul. They may have a vast and loyal following but not everyone is an early adopter. There’s still a ton of selling to do convincing them that it’s a good product and even then you’re only going to get a small portion of their market.
  • Not everyone in their organization will buy into the project. Just because the ‘boss’ is a fan doesn’t mean the rest of the crew will drop everything they’re doing to work on the new, new thing. Your project is screwing with their calendar and priority list so you better get to know and get close to those who are doing the work. Many a new idea has mysteriously died on the planning table.
  • Last and probably the most important thing to remember is that he who holds the gold rules and you need them more than they need you. Until things are proven and money made you’re just a ‘good idea’ worth experimenting on.

In the end I may not have achieved explosive success but it did launch successfully and I’m still in the game.

As always  These are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to pile on, please do so. I look forward to the conversation.

 

Clueless Doesn’t Equal Blameless

rsz_wasting_life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three words make up one of the lamest excuses in business today – “I don’t know.”

A business is paid to know, as a consultant know the answer, as a manufacturer know how your widget works as a service provider know how to serve. If we don’t know and worse, can’t figure it out our clients are sure to replace us.

So why is it we allow that excuse to live within our team and company? Why do we rationalize it away bending over backwards to understand their limitations?

Certainly no one can know everything, that’s where growth comes in. But knowledge is a mindset; it’s a focus on continuous learning that requires initiative and desire. Each member of our team needs to embrace that it’s their personal responsibility to know and if they don’t, to find an answer.

If we fail to set that standard our clients suffer and in the end so will our business. Business is based on the ability to create and that means taking the road less traveled filled with uncertainty and unasked questions.

The most successful of us aren’t the ‘smartest guys’ in the room, just the most capable of finding the right solution.

As always  These are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to pile on, please do so. I look forward to the conversation.

Saving The Friendship

Failure

One of the areas I’ve focused a lot on the past few years is helping to dissolve partnerships within successful companies. And I stress successful because the issues causing this dissolution rarely crop up when fighting for survival and/or market share.

Long term partnerships are very much like a marriage in that both come together for a purpose – to build a business and a life. But over time the partners grow with different interests, needs and desires and that can mean growing apart. Hitting that fork in the road where one takes path A while the other takes path B is inevitable and difficult. How you navigate that walk determines the success or failure, not just of the business but also the relationship. Therefore, in order to ensure success you must answer a simple question:

“Are you simply taking separate paths around the mountain eventually meeting up on the other side or are you on a completely divergent course?”

In order to answer you must first deal with the business because it’s the proverbial Golden Goose and must be protected at all costs. Here are a few tips I use to do just that:

  • Take the time to separately and honestly identify where you see yourself within the company five years from now. Invariably one partner has either scaled back leaving the other still wanting to grow the company or both may want out. Either way, this answer helps to determine next steps.
  • Determine where the company NEEDS to be in the next five years to protect your personal interests. Again, the Golden Goose that’s fueling the rest of your life and how you got here in the first place.
  • Identify the work to be done in order for the business to get there. Lay out the key tasks necessary to achieve success and divvy them up to better clarify what is required of each partner going forward.
  • Do you really want to assume that role? Here is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Are you willing to pay the price for success or are you simply done? Or do you fall somewhere in-between. Whatever the answer is it’s OK because that’s where you are in life.

If you’re all in then no problem. But if you’re done or somewhere in-between then you need to have THE conversation as to how you’re going to exit. It’s a normal conversation that has to occur at some point unfortunately, like in a lot of relationships it rarely occurs – until things go wrong.

So WHEN the warning signs occur there’s but one choice, have the conversation now while things are going great and emotions aren’t so high as opposed to waiting until things eventually go wrong. That is if you truly value the friendship.

D

As alwaysThese are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to pile on, please do so.  I look forward to the conversation.

 

They Don’t See What You See

Leader

Ask any Entrepreneur to list their most difficult problems and more often than not translating their vision into action makes the list.

We see it clearly, so clear we can almost touch and taste it but our team just sits there nodding their collective heads. Certainly they all see SOME of it, but rare (and I do mean rare) is the occasion when they see all of it, but that’s OK and precisely why they’re working in your organization.

The ability to see your vision isn’t nearly as important as their trust in and willingness to follow making your job that of defining their role in it. So focus on just that and break it down into more manageable, i.e. short-term tasks.

If it’s a five year vision, describe where the company needs to be this time next year in order to get there. And then, explain their role in it. If it’s a one year vision, then describe their next 90-days.

Your team wants to execute and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that goes with a job well done – just don’t make them wait five years to celebrate.

D

As alwaysThese are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to pile on, please do so.  I look forward to the conversation.

 

Time To Learn

Success Gates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many years ago while in banking I heard the tale of a young loan officer whose customer defaulted on a $10 million loan. Shortly after he was called into the President’s office sitting nervously as the President began to describe in detail a new project he was being assigned. While explaining it the President noticed a perplexed look on the loan officer’s face and asked if there was a problem to which the young banker replied “Actually Sir, I thought you were calling me in to fire me for making the bad loan.”  The President leaned over his desk and replied

“Now why would I do that? Hell Son, I’ve just invested $10 million in your education!”

As I’ve written before, there are no failures in business, just expensive tuition for lessons learned. And, hopefully time and experience has taught us to, like the bank President, to show patience with those who’ve tried and missed.

But what of the flip side – the rapid climbers who jump from rung to rung on the ladder? The ones who’ve had tremendous success at their current position, have they paid dues commensurate warranting the new position?

Indeed past performance is a certain barometer to future success but don’t let it blind you. Take a hard look at the position to which they’re being considered and ask a few questions because the higher one goes the larger the cost when making mistakes.

Have they grinded through a full business cycle? It’s important to understand the ebbs and flows of your business. Most can and will succeed during an upswing.

What is the most important experience needed for this new level? New levels mean new tasks and responsibilities. Make sure the most important ones have been mastered or you’ve sufficient support available.

What happened to their last department after leaving – did it flourish or were they simply the Genius with 1000 Helpers ala Jim Collins? Many can and will succeed on sheer will power that once missing creates a vacuum of failure. Unless it’s a hired gun needed at the new level, pay close attention to their ability to develop others.

Have they stayed in one place long enough to learn the tough lessons? This is really THE question around which all others revolve and the one that’s most difficult to answer as we’re often blinded by potential. But the only way to prove that potential is to test it. To see how they recover when knocked down.

In Biking we’ve an adage that there are only two types of riders, those who’ve laid it down and those who will. When the weather’s bad and road conditions treacherous who do you want to be riding with?

D

As alwaysThese are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to pile on, please do so.  I look forward to the conversation.

In 2016 I Hope To…

It’s that time of year where most everyone rolls out their resolutions and we all know where those usually end up. So, rather than resolving I prefer to hope because that combined with intention usually works.

In 2016 I hope to…

• Have an abundance of opportunities I elect not to chase
• Reach for and almost touch the sky
• Be tested harder than ever before
• Feel the sting of ‘failure’ in order to learn the lesson within it
• Fail forward
• Be disappointed so I can better enjoy success
• Get lost on my bike
• Have 6 really cool rides
• Ride in the rain
• Cultivate more than a few new and great friendships
• Laugh till I cry
• Drink a new whisky…to excess

That’s my list…what’s yours?

D

As always – These are my thoughts and I look forward to yours. Thanks for following me here and I hope you saddle up next to me on The CEO Ride – my conference designed exclusively for entrepreneurs who love to ride as much as they love business. Ride on!

5 Steps To Ending A Partnership

“Partners are for dancing…” Joel Carmany

There are few things more difficult than growing a business when a partnership has run its course. In the beginning business partners share a vision and while in sync, turn it into reality. But there is a truism in business that nothing fails like success meaning that as the company grows so do you and the effect this success has on each partner begins to show.

What once were dreams are now realities – the bigger house, faster motorcycles, kids through college, etc. Add to that the independence economic power brings to chase other ventures and you have the recipe for a failing partnership.

There’s always one of the entrepreneurs, often the lead, where this success fuels a desire for more; to build a bigger, better company while the others see it as a time to kick back a bit and savor the fruits of their labor. That’s when the cracks begin as success and time has served to dissect their joint vision leaving the partners dissatisfied, at odds and at that proverbial crossroad.

On the surface it should be simple to resolve, but rarely is. Face it, we’re great at coming together but totally suck at breaking up because we simply don’t know how making it messy, fraught with passion turned to angst and disappointment. That’s a tough place to because for years you’ve worked side by side to build this great company and now find that it’s time to say ‘No Mas’.

I mean, here you are trying to build this damn company and they’re coming in later and later, taking more and more time off and simply not driving as hard as you. It’s become a distraction that’s sapping your spirit and something must be done…the only question is what? How do you tell your partner it’s time to leave in order for you to carry on?

The simple answer is you don’t openly tell them…you show them.

In my 2 decades of navigating entrepreneurs, I’ve dealt with this problem more than most honing a solution that both salvages the business AND preserves the personal relationship. It revolves around ‘the work to be done’. So what does this mean?

Simplify the problem by focusing on the company and where it needs to go. It’s the one thing partners are geared to do and can usually agree upon. It’s the steps that follow, the getting there where the problems usually arise from a difference of opinion as to how to go about it. Or more specifically, who DOES the work. And this is where the opportunity for a clean break lies.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Articulate and agree upon a vision – Where does the business need to be in 12-36 months to ensure its continued success? This is a logical discussion you’ve had many times before, but the main objective of the partner staying to build the business is not to compromise on its reality, i.e. sell it short. Now is the time to drive your agenda and set a goal that builds the company you want.
  2. Build a plan to get there – Here’s where you identify the ‘work to be done’. Identify the tasks and projects necessary to hit the goals. Thing to remember here is only focus on the work and not who does what…yet. These are the truths upon which the company will be built and you want and need everyone to agree that they must be done.
  3. Document the roles – This where the rubber meets the road and more often than not where the wipeouts occur. We’re all quick to agree to things that we know in our hearts we really don’t want to do and it’s a form of bullshit…a little white lie that we tell ourselves and others making us all feel good at the time. Everyone walks away feeling like a team but we’re really on the road to failure. So it’s of the utmost importance that, as the remaining entrepreneur, you lock them in to that agreement. Otherwise the next steps won’t work.
  4. Talk about the plan…often – This is THE crucial step in the process as can’t afford for the plan to end up on a shelf somewhere and taken down only when you realize that your partner isn’t pulling his or her own weight are now glaringly off track. Hells bells, you spent hours putting the plan together and agreeing on it but now, months later, the BS has risen to the top leaving you disappointed and pissed off. Aaannd here comes the wipeout because one of two things occurs. You either angrily confront your partner or internalize it, neither of which is healthy. But it’s your fault you’re in this situation because you failed to consistently talk about the plan and allowed things to get so far off track that talking about it now seems to be a waste of time. So set a meeting to review the plan regularly, a minimum of every month when the numbers come in. This way you’re simply holding up a mirror to each partner reminding them of their agreement which forces them to make a fundamental decision – that they’re still willing to walk in and do the work…or not.
  5. Tell your partner it’s OK – During this process the partners who don’t really want to do the work will begin to feel the guilt associated with quitting. Remember this isn’t about a guilt trip; it’s about continuing to build the business. Therefore, accept and understand that they had the best of intentions when agreeing to the work, but time and success is now proving they no longer have the drive. So have an honest heart to heart talk and tell them that you understand. After all, this crossroad is inevitable and one that you too will face at some point in the future. He just beat you to it and that’s OK. Begin talking about how to transition into the role they now want to play and then adjust your plan accordingly. This way you can celebrate two things in one. The continued building of a business and the next phase of your partner’s journey.

Because a history of success together is a terrible thing to waste…

As always – These are my thoughts and I look forward to yours. For over 2 decades I’ve served as trusted advisor to entrepreneurs looking to break through to the other side. Along with that work I produced The Biker’s Guide to Business, When Business and Life meet at The Crossroads and am leader of The CEO Ride – a conference designed exclusively for entrepreneurs who love to ride. So if you’re ready to saddle up, email me directly at Navigator@BikersGuidetoBusiness.Com or follow my blog at DwainDeVille.Com. I look forward to the ride.

D

In The Public Eye

“You don’t get any medal for trying something, you get medals

for results.”  Bill Parcells

I always find it interesting at the end of a sports season to watch who comes and who goes in the coaching and leadership ranks. In few other industries are the leaders so scrutinized (daily) and held to their results. You win, you stay. You lose, you go.

That got me to thinking about business and entrepreneurship in that if we were constantly in the public eye with ‘experts’ watching our every move could we succeed? If we didn’t own the company, would we still be the leader or replaced at the end of a tough year?

Thankfully most of us do not have that problem and can run our businesses with an eye toward the long term. We’re able to make certain sacrifices or forego opportunities that don’t necessarily fit our agenda. After all, we own the damn place so who’s going to fire us? Well, lots of people actually.

Our actions are more public than we’d care to believe as daily we’re watched by employees and customers alike. All the while being second guessed like a referee having a bad day. And isn’t turnover, whether it be employee or customer, a form of being fired?

So it’s imperative that our agenda aligns with that of our team and our clients. And when it doesn’t, to talk about it so that success can be better defined. All it takes is a conversation and the willingness to listen as well as be heard. Then, in the words of Spike Lee – Do the Right Thing.

D

Dwain – The BusinessBiker

I’d rather ride my motorcycle thinking about my business than sit in my office thinking about my motorcycle.

If you feel the same, join me along with a group of your peers for three days of business and biking. To find out more go to www.TheCEORide.com or simply email me directly at Navigator@BikersGuidetoBusiness.Com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Resolutionaires

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” Abraham Lincoln

The New Year is a time of resolutions for most. After all, we’ve just closed one chapter and are starting another so why not change a few things? And nowhere is this more evident than at your local gym.

Year after year I watch people hit the gym with great desire and vigor only to slowly disappear within a month. What starts out as a five day a week commitment slides to three, then one, then none.

Now, as a gym rat that started out in my 20’s playing tournament racquetball and living through three-a-day workouts where I lifted weights before dawn, ran three miles at lunch and then practiced racquetball for hours in the evening, I understand how to commit to a goal. However, time causes change to one’s lifestyle, so today I’m more inclined to a workout that better matches my age and physical abilities (or lack thereof). Still, it’s an integral part of my lifestyle and something I make time for in my busy schedule. And therein lies the rub for the Resolutionary in all of us…the change we seek must become part of our overall lifestyle or else it’s just another doomed experiment.

Put the health example aside and instead think of our business goals for the year. As diligent entrepreneurs, we all stopped to think about the year past and what we want to change and/or accomplish going forward. We held a meeting, mapped them out and wrote it all down. But did we ask two fundamental questions of ourselves and our team to determine whether or not it’s true change we seek or just another nice sounding pipe dream?

  1. Will the business equivalent of losing 20 lbs. make a real difference in reaching my goals? – Stop and determine whether or not these new activities will actually ‘move the needle’. It’s important to make sure what we want to do will be an integral part of success and not just something new, different and exciting. Time and focus are commodities too precious to waste, especially in the first quarter of the year.
  2. Will I still be doing this in June? – Too often we set too lofty a goal such as attending a networking function or writing three blogs in a given week. Really? If we are going from zero to this level of activity we’ve just set ourselves up for failure. It’s far better to start out slowly and work up to that number so we begin to experience success, no matter how modest. Remember, success in the New Year doesn’t necessarily require a new YOU, just a focused one. Now, you done with that bench?

D

Dwain – The BusinessBiker

“I’d rather ride my motorcycle thinking about my business than sit in my office thinking about my motorcycle.”

If you feel the same, join me along with a group of your peers for three days of business and biking. To find out more go to www.TheCEORide.com or simply email me directly at Navigator@BikersGuidetoBusiness.Com. I look forward to hearing from you.

5 Reasons Entrepreneurs Should Own a Motorcycle

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. – Henry David Thoreau

Owning a motorcycle is as American as entrepreneurship and I believe an essential addition to any entrepreneur’s long-term business success. It starts with the fact that both biking and business are vehicles to take us where we want to go – one physically, the other economically.

But the similarities don’t end there and here’s my List of 5 reasons why the skills and techniques needed to be a successful biker directly transfer into our daily business life:

  1. Success in business is one long road trip – The first thing bikers learn is how to get from here to there safely and successfully. We start out by selecting the right destination, plotting the best course to get there all the while looking out for the unexpected. We learn how to overcome things like bad weather (the economy), poor road conditions (market fluctuations), or crazy cagers (competitors).
  2. Sharpens your focus – Biking and business require the assumption of reasonable and controllable risk because if not ridden properly, each will cause severe damage. But riding scared is a fast ticket to the hospital and you darned sure can’t run a company scared and expect to be successful. Therefore it’s less about overcoming fear than understanding and embracing it. Staying upright requires awareness, timing, and a keen ability to sift through the background noise and BS that surrounds you.
  3. Your peers are real – Bikers and entrepreneurs are a similar and bold lot – we’re independent, adventurous, strong-willed, and utterly intolerant of fences. Go to any biker hangout and you’ll see business leaders and professionals sitting next to mechanics, carpenters and real life bikers. We come together to celebrate the culture of riding; we come to exercise our passion. And we come together to have the type of real-life, no BS conversations that can only happen between two people with nothing to gain but an honest point of view. When’s the last time that’s happened at some flipping Chamber of Commerce meeting?
  4. It re-charges our passions – Passion fuels our desires and happiness comes when we turn those passions into performance. And there’s nothing like the jazz we feel when putting ourselves out there – on the bike it’s feeling the crisp air in our face on a winding road and in business it’s navigating the winding roads of the marketplace. Besides, passion precedes excellence.
  5. It’s a total attitude adjustment – Ask any entrepreneur who rides why and you’ll hear the same thing – to get away for a while. Some people do yoga, we ride…it’s our Zen. We also do some of our best thinking in the saddle as the open road with its sights, sounds and smells combines to rev up all the senses charging our brain impulses with an even hotter spark. As the old biker saying goes – you never see a bike parked in front of a psychologist’s office. Unless it’s hers of course…

Bonus – We have a new reason and that’s The CEO Ride. Instead of the same old boring conference or peer group, join me and take your networking and knowledge to the next level. Simply go to TheCEORide.com and select the ride that’s suits you best, then get ready to grab your business by the handlebars because we’d rather be riding our motorcycles thinking about business than sitting in a conference room thinking about our motorcycles!

D

Dwain – The Business Biker

As always – These are my thoughts and I look forward to yours. For over 2 decades I’ve served as trusted advisor to entrepreneurs looking to break through to the other side. Along with that work I produced The Biker’s Guide to Business, When Business and Life meet at The Crossroads and am leader of The CEO Ride – a conference designed exclusively for entrepreneurs who love to ride. So if you’re ready to saddle up, email me directly at Navigator@BikersGuidetoBusiness.Com or follow my blog at DwainDeVille.Com. I look forward to the ride.