There are six critical areas in each business, but none is more important than the owner’s mindset. Each part of the business is built upon the foundation of the vision and perspective of the owner and the executive team. As a business owner, I have personally discovered the impact of the owner’s mindset on his or her business and how it can determine the success or failure of a company.
The owner’s mindset is so important to the health of your company that if you only read one chapter of this book I want it to be this one.
An owner most often is the creator or founder of an idea, building a great product or service and/or crafting a marketing message that will result in the sale of a good product or service. And in both cases, the owner and the original small team are usually amazing in one or both of these areas. And here is where the business gets its life!
Why is this so bad?
It’s not. Actually, without expertise in development and marketing a business will usually not make it through season one. But in order to maintain continued success, a business must address the other four or five critical areas of its company.
This is easier said than done for the owners of any business. Why? Well first off, he or she did not sent out to actually run a complete company.
Instead the owner launched a sales campaign and a product or service. This is exactly why so many companies never break through to season two of the business cycle. The mindset of the owner or CEO is focused on sales and growth, not on running a company. And it makes total sense. The owner loves making a sales campaign work but does not want to invest in the operations, systems and back office of the business. Or the owner may want to make those changes, but he or she doesn’t know how so they just don’t do it!
I know this because that’s me too! I did not want to focus on hiring, data, numbers and systems of the business. I lacked the personal expertise to do it well, and it was much easier for me to create more sales campaigns and funnels than it was to improve my hiring processes or back end systems. My own internal inadequacy and lack of control in these areas of my company made it much easier for me to ignore them than to fix them.
This is where the shift in my mindset came in.
I finally realized that there is more to a company than just marketing and sales. And more important than that, I realized I needed to spend more time in the areas of my business that were outside my wheelhouse – the ones I had been ignoring – in order for my company to succeed.
Now I am not saying that you have to be able to excel in every area of your business in order to succeed. I’m saying you need to know that you cannot do everything. Since you are probably pretty good at sales and marketing, then you need others to help you in the areas of your business you cannot handle. You can be in charge of every area of your business without controlling each one.
This may not be new information to you. The fact that you need others to help you succeed is common knowledge in both business and in life. You probably also know that you’re better off focusing on your strengths and delegating your weaknesses. Yes, you might know all of this, but do you have to have the proper mindset to execute on your vision and develop a growth strategy?
Let’s take a closer look at the key elements of a healthy CEO mindset.
How can you know where you are going or where you want to go if you do not have a focal point or clearly illuminated path to follow? You can’t, right? It’s too easy to stumble down the wrong path, burning your time and energy as you move further away from where you want to be. How would you even recognize that you’re moving in the wrong direction?
These days, the first thing I ask every client that I work with is to state for me the mission of their company. Almost everyone of them fails to do so because the example they offer is unclear or convoluted, or they don’t have a mission statement at all.
Mission statements are essential, not only because they keep us on a path toward what we want but they also help us realize when we’ve made a misstep. A well-crafted and clear mission statement enables you to course-correct before you’ve strayed too far. It even empowers you to say “no” to something that seems like a great opportunity but may not be a good fit for the company you have created.
If you’re thinking, “I already have a mission!” Be very careful. I can’t tell you how many times I sit with an entrepreneur and find out that their “completed” mission statement is way off-target. In other words, the company is not on the right path or, worse yet, it’s heading in the wrong direction. Missions improve and evolve. It is a living breathing part of your company’s life. It should be consistently reviewed and adjusted as needed on an annual basis.
So let’s walk through how to come up with your mission and, even more importantly, how to stick to it.
Do you think you already have a strong mission statement for your company? Write it down in only one sentence (two at most). If you cannot clearly convey your company’s mission in a sentence or two then your mission is not clear. Follow the steps below to focus your message.
(If you have an executive team that’s larger than just you, I would go through your mission statement together with them. This exercise is wonderful to the development of your company.)
I have taken many companies through this exercise and I cannot ever remember it being anything short of great for the owner and executive team. Quite frankly, it’s usually eye opening for a few reasons:
Your mission is a great place to address the growth, stability and direction of your company because it bring so much clarity. Once you can see clearly then you can easily spot other issues that need to be addressed.
Exercise One: Crafting Your Mission
Go to www.thetotalceo.com/mindset to access our mission creation documents.
Clear away two hours and commit to writing down your core service(s)/product(s) and what you want to accomplish.
Yes, it is that simple!
Once you have a written statement you’re happy with, look for ways to trim it down. The strongest mission statements are only one or two sentences long. I have helped in creating many mission statements and one thing has proven true time and time again: the closer to one sentence the clearer the mission. This usually results in a prediction of the success of the company.
I am a true believer in momentum. Once you and your team have a clear vision as to the mission of the company, you will notice that you feel energized and motivated to address other issues in your company – issues that are identified as a result of your clarity. Use this energy to fuel you Execution Attitude!
Strategy might help you determine how to adhere to your company’s mission, but execution is what will actually move you forward. This past summer I hired my 14-year-old daughter to work in our office. I would recommend that every company hire a 14-year-old. The energy in the office is off the charts because of her, and it’s actually raising everyone’s game a little bit. What is so great about having a teenager at work? She doesn’t know enough not to interrupt a meeting. She doesn’t have baggage. She’s willing to try new things. Most importantly, she’ll just do whatever she needs to do. Whether she’s aware of it or not, my daughter (like most young people) has an execution attitude.
If you were to ask 100 educated professionals, “Are you better at execution or strategy?” all of them would tell you strategy. It’s because that’s what they’ve been taught. The average person can create a strategy on how to do something, but they will freeze the moment they actually try to do something. In other words, they get “execution paralysis.”
Every day I get calls from people asking for help with their businesses. One of those people, Greg, called me the other day.
Greg was the fourth in command at a very large health company. The company was making $600 million to $1 billion annually selling sphysical products, information, equipment, and supplements. But while he was enjoying a lot of success there, Greg wanted to make a change.
“I’ve decided to break away and do things on my own,” he told me.
“Good for you,” I said. Greg was a highly compensated executive, but I knew that he didn’t like the way his big corporation was utilizing him because he didn’t feel effective. He felt like middle management, even though he was higher up in the company. He was never going to get more out of his job than he was already; so doing something on his own was his next logical step.
“What are you going to do?” I asked him. “What are you planning?”
“You know, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the market. I’ve spent all these years working with the products we have for our customers. I’ve done all this studying, all this research and, well, I’ve realized I really have a passion for health.”
I told him, “Amazing! So which part of it are you going to go after? Are you going to teach? Create information how-to’s from all your years of experience? Did you find some hole in the physical equipment product-space, or some hole in the supplements and food markets?”
“Yes. It’s all of them,” he replied.
“Okay, so where are you going to start?” I asked. “Well, that’s the thing,” he said. “I thought of all this stuff. I have so many things I can do, but I don’t know where to start. I’m stuck.”
What we have here is a case of execution paralysis, I thought. This bright, accomplished guy has no idea how to take a step forward toward making his idea a reality. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how high up in a company you are – it happens to everyone.
I told him, “That’s very interesting! If you want to actually execute on any of your ideas, you have to pick only one.”
He said, “Well, what do you think?”
“I have a lot of thoughts, but which do you believe that you want to start with?”
“Well, I probably think it’s best to start with some information.”
“Excellent! Information is usually the first thing we can get out because it doesn’t require as much fulfillment,” I explained. “It usually requires the shortest execution time to get information out into the marketplace and start engaging with your consumers, so I think that is a great idea. What are we going to start with?”
“Well, there are so many different options…”
We went through a lengthy discussion that led him to discovering that he had hundreds of education ideas. He was over-aware and spent too much time analyzing the market. For all his strategies, he had no outline for execution.
“How am I going to do it” is the quantum leap in business, the giant gap between strategy and execution. A great quote I enjoy saying to my team is one I picked up from 37 Signals. It goes something like this: “The longer it takes to develop, the less likely it will launch or deploy.”
Execution paralysis comes back to a core emotion: fear of failure. Strategy, ironically, is one of the primers to this emotion. The better we develop and plan out how it’s going to work, the more our strategy kicks up our fear. We start looking at what we have to do to execute with excellence, and we get overwhelmed. We don’t want the first step to be a wrong one, so we don’t take one at all! Or worse, we’re afraid that if our first step isn’t perfect it will lead to disaster. It’s just the opposite actually. The first step will lead to your ultimate success even if it’s the wrong one. Taking action, not over planning, is the key to ultimate success.
That is why getting your company aligned with its core mission will not only give you vision, it will also prime your Execution Attitude. And as you take action toward fulfilling your company mission, you will create momentum in your business.
Overemphasis on strategy and the inability to execute is a core problem that exists throughout all sectors, industries, and success levels. People hate executing so much that they actually lie to themselves to avoid crossing from strategy to execution. I call these “gap lies,” and it’s essential to the owner’s mindset to recognize these pitfalls and avoid them. Here are a few of my favorites:
Money: “If I had money, I could act on my idea and make a fortune.” If this were true, how many of the greatest entrepreneurs would never have succeeded?
Team: “If only I had the right people on the team…” The right team doesn’t just jump into your lap; you have to build it.
Expertise: “I just don’t know enough about that subject.” If you have an original idea for a product, no one knows enough about it. You have to become the expert.
Demand: “How do I know that the consumer really wants what I’m selling?” There’s some truth to this one, but how will you ever know unless you try giving it to them? How can you adapt if you can’t get feedback?
Complete Product: “I need to have every detail figured out and completed before I sell it to the marketplace.” This one is so dangerous that it kills most people!
These core foundational lies are the major reason why people just don’t execute. It’s not something that’s reserved to the solo-preneur or the young entrepreneur who’s just getting started. It’s at every level of the workforce in every organization regardless of its size.
Fortunately, there is an age where this execution paralysis still hasn’t taken hold – and that brings me back to my 14-year-old new hire.
In my office, we have struggled to find a quality video person to edit videos that we feature in some of our educational materials. That’s why we hired my daughter. Like every 14-year-old, she wants to be a superstar on YouTube. She also has the skill and creative ability to play with the software and technology involved in creating online videos.
Three weeks into the hire, she was already executing at a very high level. We’d give her a step to take, and she’d do it without a second thought. She doesn’t have all these fear gaps in place. She’s just executing. And so can you.
You do not need to have amazing domain expertise to be a manager. You have to be taught some of the disciplines of execution to be a good manager, but expertise in some specific topics isn’t necessary. We’re proving that with my daughter, who is now executing better than people twice, three times, even four times her age. At some point, we may need to start pushing out a series of videos and she will probably become our video department.
Developing a mindset that is focused on progress not perfection is critical to growing expertise. I will talk about expertise in great detail in the hiring section of this book but the principle applies to you as the entrepreneur as well. You weren’t an expert in what ever you claim to be an expert in until you become one! That’s the point, its developed not magically created.
So I encourage you to act like a 14-year-old and have a “go for it” mindset! As you continue down your path you will get smarter, gain more wisdom and further develop your expertise.
This is very important to the entrepreneur/owner who, like me, has avoided the complete operations of the business due to the fact that he or she is inadequate and doesn’t know how to do it. I am here to tell you that you can do it and it starts with trying not denying.
Here’s the underlying strategy people normally have: You’ve got to have the whole thing figured out before you execute. You don’t want to come out of the box immature or incomplete, because you don’t want people to think you’re incompetent or underdeveloped.
This thinking is all wrong. People would rather know you’re trying to improve than believe you have it all together.
Execution is about moving and having the ability to stop and see what happened. It’s an experimental process. The reason I have been so successful in business is because I’ve taken a more scientific approach to execution. Think back to high school science class. Do you remember learning how to formulate a hypothesis? Treat your strategy the same way you would a simple hypothesis. What do you think consumers want? What type of person do you want around the office? What do you enjoy doing? Don’t make it any more complicated than that.
And what did you do in science class once you had a hypothesis? You started experimenting to test it, right? So experiment! Test a promotion or put a short video together, interview people, try out a solution in a certain area of your business. With the technology of today, we shouldn’t be mired in the long outline process of preparing to try something.
In marketing and sales this is never truer. What I’ve learned in business is to try little pieces of the idea instead of over-developing it and having it turn out to be no good. Bad ideas can be 100% bad for business, but maybe customers actually like a small 10% of it that you can use to grow a better business. You won’t know until you’re in the field or have personally tried the product you’re giving the consumer. One day the COO at my CFO-outsourcing company, Fully Accountable, came to me and said, “I’ve got this really good idea.”
I said, “Great! Tell me about it. What is it?”
“I’d like to create a HR compliance department. Every one of our clients is coming to us and saying that they have high-level HR needs, so they can’t deal with hiring and training their new people. All the way from identifying role in the company, recruiting, ads for hire, interviewing and training the new hire – they’re always asking if we have stuff for them. There’s definitely a demand for this kind of service, we just don’t know where to start it.”
I gave her one bit of advice that I give my clients all the time: “Let’s start with the simplest thing you can do. What’s the one thing our customers are asking for when it comes to their HR needs?”
“They have a hard time finding new team members,” she said.
“So instead of developing a super-amazing plan, let’s call one of our clients and tell them we’re going to help them find that person. Let’s help them do exactly what we do to find our own people and see how it goes. If we incubate this idea with one or two external clients, we’ll find out what we want to deliver and what they want delivered to them.”
Fully Accountable’s mission is not HR related, so a different team would have to develop this idea. And that is what happened: the hypothesis was tested and a new company was created. Today, that company is launched and has developed it workshops and materials to help entrepreneurs’ hire and train people on their team. This is only because they started taking steps. They started doing something small, which allowed them to play with their idea. You can learn more about this process and the story of the company’s development at: www.thetotalceo.com/mindset
Earlier in my career, I had a realization that was a very big deal for me: a 70% version of me was good enough.
I learned this lesson from a gentleman I worked with when I was a practicing lawyer. He was an immigrant who owned factories here in the U.S. I was on a plane with him to visit his factories and go through some production compliance items – ordinary corporate lawyer tasks with which he wanted me involved.
We were leaving one of the plants in a golf cart, driving back to the runway, when I said, “You know, that guy did things a little differently than I would have expected you to do them. Are you sure you’re okay with that?” He stopped the golf cart so fast he nearly gave me whiplash.
“Listen,” he said, “I want to give you a really important lesson, and you’re going to need to take this with you in order to be successful in growing your firm. If you believe you’re going to completely duplicate yourself, then you’re going to have an impossibly high standard. No one will ever live up to that standard. You’re going to churn people up, or worse than that, you’re never going to take any chances on expanding your ideas or your thoughts.=.”
He started the golf cart back up and again didn’t say another word. I thought what he said was interesting, but I didn’t know what to do with it.
Back at the office, I worked for a partner of a big firm and I was progressing quickly in my career. There was, however, one little thing that bothered me. I would hand my boss a document and he would change the wording for no reason. He was an excellent lawyer, but he was also a control freak. His practice was no better for it. It certainly wasn’t growing.
It wasn’t until years later, when I was running a business of my own, that I started connecting the dots. I was a control freak too (like most entrepreneurs, including yourself) and, like my boss at t he lawn firm, my impossibly high standard was standing in the way of my company’s growth.
As idea creators, we have so much passion and we want things done a certain way. When we train our managers to think and work under that rubric, they think they need to be another version of you; and so they start thinking – unbeknownst to you – “Would Vinnie do it that way? I should just wait for his opinions because he probably has figured out.” They are no longer free thinkers; they are merely executors of your thoughts and directives. They become micromanaged people. They resolve themselves to being broken into a job they don’t want to do, become miserable and move on; or they stop being effective because they no longer feel effective.
That’s why in my office we say, “You’ve got to be okay with 70% of yourself.” I decided to change my mindset about who was able to do a certain job. I realized it’s okay for someone to do something a different (or a little worse) than you’d do yourself. Once you grasp that concept, you start allowing people freedom to do tasks in their own way.
Letting go gave me the ability to start focusing on core things, like the three important things in my company: mission, values, and principles. As long as work is executed on that core, it can be done a little differently than I would do it personally. This allowed us to expand through managers who have the freedom to lead in their own way instead of tying to be just like me.
That critical shift in my mindset allowed us to grow. Without that change, our business would be completely dependent on me and it would never have a chance of becoming a great company.
The entrepreneur who is the CEO of the company is the creator and director of the business. It’s your mindset that will determine the direction of the company.
You must develop a renewing of your mind. A mind set on the following principles:
By getting these elements set, you will have created a healthy foundation for your mindset and be better positioned to tackle the other crucial areas of your company.