We’ve been discussing the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) concept lately looking for ways to make our company more ROWE-like. ROWE comes from the book Work Sucks where two HR professionals from Best Buy set out to change their corporate culture for the better. The idea is to focus on results, not hours in the office or number of meetings attended.
We’re debating some of the following questions:
- What benefit, if any, is there for positions like customer support that need to be available for specific hours (e.g. 9 – 5 M – F)?
- How are performance issues handled?
- How does ROWE affect more collaborative roles where several people need to work closely together?
What do you think of ROWE? What challenges and successes have you found because of ROWE?
I was at an EO meeting and a person said that the love of trying the difficult was an entrepreneur trait. That got me thinking about the “you might be an xyz” chain emails that went around in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Well, here goes my rendition of “you might be an entrepreneur if…”:
- You’ve gotten energy from someone telling you you’re not going to succeed
- You’re blissfully ignorant when it comes to how hard it’ll be to make your business successful
- You’ve maxed out your credit cards on the business and still press on
- You’ve worried about meeting payroll
- You’ve been rejected by angels or VCs when trying to raise money, or to even get a meeting
- You think your idea is the greatest in the world before you even have a customer
- You’ve pulled an all-nighter getting ready for a pitch
- You’ve been told by a parent to get a real job
- Your spouse has been repeatedly asked if you work by yourself out of your house
- You have a goal to join EO or YPO once revenues are high enough
Those have all happened to me many times. Man, it is fun to be an entrepreneur!
What else? What are some other indicators you might be an entrepreneur?
At the EO Atlanta Strategy Summit today, where we planned high-level goals for next year, one of the board members talked about a book (I don’t remember the name) where the author argued that there are three main areas of business focus:
- Operational excellence
- Product innovation
- Customer intimacy
The main thesis is that a business needs competency in all three, but should only focus on one. For example, Walmart leads at operational excellence, Apple leads at product innovation, and Starbucks leads at customer intimacy.
What are some other examples for the the three categories? What one does your business focus on?
I’m continuing to read the Richard Branson book, Business Stripped Bare, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Steve Jobs and Richard Branson share a similar trait — they care so much about the brand experience that they micromanagement it at the CEO level. This level of passion for the brand is something many large company CEOs could learn from.
One section in the book, on page 98, has a passage from Richard Branson’s diary talking about him flying on the first Virgin Atlantic flight to Japan:
Need slippers in Upper Class, not socks. Need Japanese beers…Japanese tea from London, no good. Japanese food from London. Tastes good but must be better presented. Looks like fish and chips. Saucers for Japanese teacups.
Of course, we’ve all heard how Steve Jobs controls every last detail of the Apple products, all the way down to the packaging. Clearly, great brands like Apple and Virgin share the common trait that their CEOs ensure no detail is missed.
Have you seen this with other brands? Which ones?
Have you ever tackled an issue, spent hours on the task, only to realize that you have even more energy than when you started? Some work takes energy, some is neutral, and some actually invigorates you. One of the tasks I’ve been trying to do lately is to pay attention to what things I get really excited about, what things are a pain, and what things are indifferent to me. Here’s what I recommend:
- Grab a journal or use a note taking app on a smartphone and record everything you do that gives you energy and everything you do that saps your energy
- Do this diligently for a week and see if you find any patterns or trends
- Ask yourself what you can do to re-organize your life to do more of the energy giving projects and fewer energy taking projects
- Also ask yourself how you can compartmentalize your energy taking projects or do them at certain times when you’re already low energy (e.g. right after lunch or late in the work day)
What do you think? Have you tried an exercise like this? What did you learn?
I just started reading Richard Branson’s new book Business Stripped Bare and am enjoying learning about his approach to business. Richard Branson exudes such a passion for creating new products and businesses, while ensuring an outstanding customer experience. In the book he mentions that he believes in Herb Kelleher’s primary attitudes espoused at Southwest Airlines. Here are those attitudes:
- Employees are number one. The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers.
- Think small to grow big.
- Manage in the good times for the bad times.
- Irreverence is OK.
- It’s OK to be yourself.
- Have fun at work.
- Take the competition seriously, but not yourself.
- Think of the company as a service organization that happens to be in the airline business.
- Do whatever it takes.
- Always practice the Golden Rule, internally and externally.
These are strong primary attitudes and I believe in them as well.
Do you agree? What attitudes would you add?
At this morning’s Atlanta Business Chronicle Pacesetter awards event, the keynote speaker, Harvey Mackay, focused his message on the power of relationship networking and a Rolodex. Here’s some of his advice:
- File away every person you meet and follow-up with them on a regular basis
- Capture as much person information as possible (e.g. personal preferences, trips, likes, etc) and use that as a foundation for future conversations
- Always seek ways to help your network and never expect to receive something in return
- Dig your well before you need it (build your network and relationships before you need to tap into it)
I don’t consider myself a good networker but I feel I’m decent at it. I do appreciate the value it provides and I recommend employing these concepts to other entrepreneurs.
What do you think? Is networking important to you? What advice do you have on networking?
I was on an American Marketing Association (AMA) panel today with Reggie Bradford of Vitrue and Joel Lunenfeld of Moxie Interactive – moderated by Benjamin Rudolph of Relevance Advisers. Reggie made a comment that stuck with me saying he received advice early on from a VC who’s been investing in startups for 20 years. The VC told him these are the two most common mistakes made by entrepreneurs:
- Not firing poor performing/bad fit employees fast enough. As an entrepreneur, there’s an effusive optimism that plays out in the tendency to believe everyone can be successful on your team. That’s just not the case — be slow to hire and quick to fire.
- Pricing the product or service too low. When first launching a product or service, the natural inclination is to price it in a way that makes it appealing to large group of buyers, which usually means a lower price. Unfortunately, a lower price can mean the difference between success or failure as it signals a quality message and affects margins.
What do you think? What are the most common entrepreneur mistakes?
Today I had the opportunity to talk with two different potential EO Accelerator entrepreneurs. One of the questions I always ask is “What are your revenue and company size goals three years from now?” I don’t ask that question because I believe having a large company is the only way to go, in fact, here is info on my ideal company. Rather, I ask because the goal of EO Accelerator is help entrepreneurs with revenues under $1 million grow their business to the $1 million mark so that they can then join EO. If the entrepreneur doesn’t mention a three year goal of at least $1 million in revenue, then they aren’t a good fit for EO Accelerator.
So, with that in mind, here are some things I’ve noticed:
- Some entrepreneurs give the three year goal but then go into their grandiose plan for five or ten years from now, showing that they are ambitious
- Some entrepreneurs say they haven’t thought it too much and just want to grow their business
- Few entrepreneurs give concrete numbers, instead offering vague ranges of values, showing they haven’t mapped out where they want to be, and worked backwards from it to now what they need to do to get there
My advice to entrepreneurs is to think hard about your three year goal and spend time working backwards from it to come up with a plan for what you need to accomplish in the interim. The best time to start is now.
Boredom and startups don’t go together. By the very nature of a startup there are always 100 things to do because there is a lack of resources and people to execute on all the ideas. At today’s EO Accelerator accountability group, one of the entrepreneurs mentioned he was bored with doing a certain part of the business related to a third-party service. When he used the word bored I knew what he really meant: that function was no longer adding value to the business.
My takeaway from that conversation was that as soon as something becomes boring or doesn’t add value, immediately kill it. Too much cruft gets added along the way as the business grows and leaving things in there that you don’t care about only makes it worse.
What do you see that should be stopped in your business? Can you get rid of it?