- by Teresa Novellino –
Besides having a brilliant business idea, money and people who believe in them, entrepreneurs who are just starting a business must possess a whole host of intangibles: guts, vision and an unbeatable work ethic among them.
To figure out what it really takes though, a good place to start is with Misty Gibbs andTanya White, authors of a quick and easy-to-read book The Yin & Yang of Starting a Business (which is, courtesy of the writers, being offered at a discounted price today and tomorrow on Amazon.com).
We asked them via email some questions pertinent to concerns that new entrepreneurs will have, especially in the New Year.
Why does the simple to-do list work so well, and why is it so hard to stick to doing one daily? Is there an app, calendar or other tactic that you would recommend?
To-do lists work because they force you to step back and not only consider your priorities, but commit to them. Setting weekly target goals for the activities you want to get done will set your tone for the entire week. From there, each morning, peg off the specific items you are going to get done that day. The biggest barrier we’ve seen for people with this activity is not making the time for the activity itself. Everyone is busy, entrepreneurs especially. We’re often looking at email before we even get out of bed, already taking actions on items. But before you know it, the day has passed, and you’ve done all kinds of things that have nothing to do with your Big Goals. Carving out even 10 minutes to ask yourself, “What are the most important things I can do today that will move me closer to my goals?” will force you to focus on what’s important. As for tools, Tanya likes the good old Post-Its and Misty likes the more technical approach with tools like Toodledo.
This is a big season for hiring new staffers. One of your suggestions is to hire staffers who make up for one of your weaknesses, but is acknowledging a weakness a bad idea when you’re running the company?
Twenty years ago or so, showing any sign of weakness as a leader was considered a game-losing move. Today, expressing your weaknesses, even as a chief executive officer or founder of a company, can work in your favor when done correctly. Being weak in certain areas doesn’t mean you’re a loser. It means you’re smart and that you understand that you may be a good hitter, but not a great catcher, and that empowers you to go out and find a great catcher. When hiring new team members in a small company environment, you need to be clear about which of their skills are valued, along with what they will and won’t learn from you. [Tanya] I always offer to connect new employees with someone else in my network who excels in their desired career path, as a mentor, to complement what they’ll learn on the job working with me. We all learn something different from everyone and today’s job-hunter is aware of that. Things go terribly wrong, if you, say, hire someone who thinks they’re going to gain deep guru-knowledge from you, in finance for example, if you’re a marketing person. That needs to be ironed out up front.
Everyone’s making weight-loss goals right now, but exercise and healthy eating can be tough for entrepreneurs. What are some of your secrets to taking care of your health without taking up a lot of time?
Protein bars! Having a full stock of various protein bars ensures that when you’ve gotten intensely focused on work, forgetting to even eat, that you reach out for something healthy. That and making every little choice in your routine count, for example, when meeting at the coffee shop down the street, walk, don’t drive, or taking the stairs vs. the elevator. Or even better, instead of inviting people to coffee, ask if they’d like to walk and talk. Many people are in the same boat and would appreciate the opportunity to get some exercise and it can make your time more memorable.
Entrepreneurs have to look the part. Describe your philosophy on how to allocate your clothing budget.
[Tanya] I like to take the European approach on this one: fewer items, higher quality. The North American philosophy, fueled by advertising, makes it seem that we need the latest fashion. The classics are always in style and no one is going to notice if you are wearing the same pair of shoes day after day. They will notice shabby, poor-quality, or cheap-looking shoes, however. In many cases, entrepreneurs, especially the bootstrappers out there, do not have any budget for clothing at all. I recommend a first step of combing through your closet, and try on everything, asking yourself, “Do I feel like a ‘10’ in this?” and if the answer is no, toss it. You will come off with way more confidence if you feel like a 10, than if you don’t. Once you’ve netted out what you have, list only three items that you need to round things out, maybe a killer pair of jeans, or black boots, and start scouring the higher end thrift shops or discount stores. Unless you are pitching a fashion-related business, your clothes play no part in your business conversations…unless what you’re wearing is distracting.
[Misty] Wear what makes you feel amazing! A blazer with slacks and an interesting piece of jewelry is simple, classic, and memorable. As an entrepreneur, your focus in on growing your business, not wearing expensive fashion pieces..well…unless your business is in fashion!
You offer a lot of advice to female entrepreneurs. Any particular tips for them to remember as they head into 2014?
No matter what you think you’re ready for, you’re probably not ready for it, and you will get blindsided. If you’ve been working with men your entire career, and think you know how to handle every situation, something will happen that’s never happened before. If you launched a business before, and you think you’re just repeating the same steps to success, you’ll see that it’s not the same. Your past performance is not an indicator of future performance. You may want to read that last sentence again, because that’s not what is commonly thought. Your past behavior, is, however, an indicator of future behavior. Head into 2014 knowing that you can handle any situation that arises, and that you can achieve anything you desire, well, because you’ve done that before