The things that have always been important: to be a good man, to try to live my life the way God would have me, to turn it over to Him that His will might be worked in my life, to do my work without looking back, to give it all I’ve got, and to take pride in my work as an honest performer – Johnny Cash
August 30th, 2017 represented a milestone for The Innovation Garage®. 5 years in business. 5 years. 5 years since stepping out into the unknown and starting a company.
5 years since pushing the boat from what can sometimes be, the falsely advertised security of the corporate shore. A new adventure was needed. An uncharted hero’s journey of sorts. And, to be truly honest, not completely sure if it would work. But, trusting in faith, to give it a go.
After much reflection, realizing that very deep down, a self-disruption was needed. Basically, to redesign the approach to many things in daily work and life. It became clear that it was very necessary to explore opportunities with others. Find different people to connect with. Intentionally re-design what the next 20 years should have in store. Always thinking, that it would be better to design and build it with others, than wait on others to do it for you.
Now, passing that 5 year “valley of death” of most start up organizations, it’s time to look back for a quick moment. With a business model understood, but continuously evolving, it’s now good time to reflect and capture the immense learnings over the years.
Doing this work can put you in an interesting places, and we have had opportunity to see many. Small company, large company, for profit, non-profit. New York, Cleveland, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Charolette, New York, Toronto, Florida, Texas, LA, Long Beach and even Bentonville, Arkansas. Overseas travel has included Brussels, Belgium, many cities in Germany and the several other places in Europe with former colleagues and new relationships who eventually became clients.
Is it fun? Is it challenging? Is it frustrating? Yes. Yes to all. Is it getting easier? Yes.
Wait…hold on a minute. Can’t get too comfortable, so… no, it doesn’t get easier. Actually, it never get’s any easier. It’s just, well…different.
Contemplating what to write about at a 5 year milestone is rather challenging, so this list was put together with the simplest intent. Which is to share with others some learnings that are intended to be helpful.
If you are just starting, feel stuck in your very own hero’s journey, or are contemplating finally taking that “big leap” that’s been in your head for so long, this is for you.
This was complied based on thousands of conversations, hundreds of cups of coffee, and advice from close trusted colleagues you might not know. As well as wise sages and influencers that you may have heard of at some point.
These learnings have held firm and should be considered highly pressure tested.
These have demonstrated themselves as True North Principles, that will guide your very own adventure.
- Make sure your family supports your efforts. It’s very difficult to build something if your significant other, children or those closest to you don’t understand why you do what you do. A support system is critical. If not your family, make it a point to find friends or colleagues that will support your efforts and encourage you. Blessed that our spouses and children all support and understand.
- Focus on your customer experience – Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and look to drive the most meaningful experience for them that you possibly can.
- Relationships Matter – Build your business on relationships. This will carry the day over likes, followers, and friends on the web or social media. An amazing thing happens if you build relationships this way. Your customers and clients become loyal brand advocates, and will bring opportunity in the form of referrals to you.
- Trust Matters – Work with people you know. People you like to be around. People that are smarter than you. People that don’t think like you do. People you know that have your back. If they don’t get you, and you learn that the trust in the relationship is not there, move on quickly. We are blessed with a team of advisors that helps us think smarter.
- Be a missionary, not a mercenary. Do your best to avoid doing things for money as your primary motivator. The money will follow what you do. To quote Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, “I’ll take a missionary over a mercenary any day…and most of the time, in the end, it’s the missionaries that end up making more money.” Money will be there for you if you follow this principle.
- Be in it for the long hall. Unicorns as “overnight” successes are truly rare events based on luck and timing. Unicorns get all the media attention and make the news. Most burn bright, but most burn out fast. This colors and distorts the model in our brains of what success is supposed to look like. Patience, persistence and perseverance will win the day.
- Not everyone will have your best interests at heart. This will be difficult for you to understand at first, but unfortunately, very true. Just remember, it’s not you. You will give a lot, and there will be many takers that will look to take as much as they can. You will learn when you might need to stop giving. This is hard to do, but once you find your boundaries, stick to them.
- Wait for the wave. Don’t try to catch it. Just like in surfing, it’s the same in business. You have to position yourself to catch good things when they catch up to you. Have patience and position yourself for trends and opportunities.
- Be in the moment. Find the headspace to be in the moment. You’ll be up and you’ll be down. Sometimes in the same day. Sometimes changing hour by hour. Learn to embrace those visitors of fear and discouragement in your brain as they come in. They won’t be around for long anyway. It will change.
- Embrace the pivot – Companies, strategies, priorities, products, services relationships and yes, even people change. Pivot early, and often if necessary. Don’t stress on the pivot. Embrace it quickly and move on.
- Guard your joy – If you have found your Ikigai (Purpose) chase it with all that you have. God will honor your decision. We assure you of this. If you can, make time to help others to find their very own Ikigai.
- One More Thing. There is always one more thing you can do.
- Pebble in the pond. Drop a pebble in the pond , watch it ripple. One big life lesson is to demonstrate to others that sometimes the less travelled path is the better one. Why? Because you see and experience things that most others will not. Encourage them to go off the common path.
- Be brave. Why? Because somebody has to be. Why shouldn’t it be you? Life is too short not to be brave. Others will loose their fear by watching you loose yours. It’s great to see someone transform to loose their fear of whatever is in the way from keeping them moving forward.
- Be an Honest Performer. This will be difficult at times, but we promise that you will sleep better in the long run.
- Be the first follower. If someone is doing something unique, be the first to support them. We have been blessed with opportunities to bring a new entrepreneur or business person to a project and be their first client. Writing those checks to others paying thier first invoice #1 is a special opportunity.
- Remember, there is a horizon. You can only see so far down the road. Understand that. Keep focused on your long term vision. Don’t spend too much time thinking too far ahead. It can lock you up and stop your progress if you dwell too far ahead for too long.
- What’s your net margin and have you scaled? Sorry, don’t really care how many funding rounds you’ve secured and/or spent of other peoples money. Silicon Valley Mindset doesn’t really work in the real world. If you’ve been given something from others to help you scale, congratulations. The big question to wrestle with is, have you figured out how to build it up and provide increase to others based on what you’ve been given? If you don’t have an answer, think on that for a bit and keep working on it until you can show how you have grown something to profitability.
- Learn to say “Yes”. Say yes and just figure out how to do it later. Richard Branson said this, and he’s a pretty smart guy.
- Love the grind. Meet people, put miles on the car, shake hands, and run out of business cards. Do this often.
- Don’t look back. Think about where you are. Think about where you want to go. But don’t look back. You may miss an opportunity if you look in the rear view mirror too long.
- It’s OK to be intentionally paranoid about your business. Let us explain, You should always have an “intentional paranoia” about where you stand in your business, your services to your clients/customers and relationships. Look at your business lifecycle at least every quarter and take it’s pulse. What needs to change? You will always need to figure out how to reinvent, provide new paths to value for others, and what will make you different, new and unique.
- Always be focused on your customer’s success. Focus on your customers needs first and your success in the marketplace will follow from that.
- Show Gratitude. Show it. Say it. Tell others you are grateful for their help, insight, encouragement, timely text or call, cup of coffee, relationship. Do this often.
- Repeat. No worries, the steps above will never end. Just get comfortable with it.
You can do this. We know you can. If we can help you, please contact us.
Plus, if that’s not enough, it’s always helpful to refer back to the man in black, who we think had it right.
…to do my work without looking back, to give it all I’ve got, and to take pride in my work as an honest performer – Johnny Cash
At The Innovation Garage®…
We help organizations grow. We build strategy. We build ideas and the capability of teams. We design products, services and supply chains.
We guide leaders from startup to the Global Fortune 50 to intentionally self-disrupt their offerings and organizations.
We provide world-class education, tools and technology on how to craft business operating systems focused on long-term profitable growth.
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