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June Mentor of the Month: Karol Hines

Karol Hines has spent five years as a volunteer supporting the development and growth of the entrepreneurial community in Northern Nevada. Today, she serves as the Executive Director of Entrepreneurs Assembly. (EA) In addition to serving as a volunteer with EA, she was a board member of both NCET and Entrepreneurship Nevada, curated the Reno/Tahoe Digest, and participated as a preliminary judge in several Sontag Plan competitions and as a final judge for the Governors Cup Business Plan competition. Karol’s professional career, spanning over thirty years in New York and Silicon Valley, included technical leadership and executive management positions in several startup companies. We are proud to call Karol our June Mentor of the Month!

How did you get involved with Entrepreneurs Assembly?

Coming out of retirement after moving to Reno from the Bay Area, I decided that I wanted to work with small companies and startups to help them get started, grow, prosper and lift the economy. Through a lot of –something I love to do–I ended up on the Board of Directors of Entrepreneurship Nevada and NCET (Nevada Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology). Somewhere along the way, I had the opportunity to take a shortened version of Matt Westfield and Rod Hosilyck’s seminar on starting a business. This is the now the Jumpstart class they teach at UNR. It was during that time that I found out about the Entrepreneurs Assembly Startup Incubator (EASI) workshops. From the first time I attended an EASI workshop on a Saturday morning in February 2013 as a mentor, I knew I had found a place where I could use my extensive experience with startup companies in the tech world of Silicon Valley to help aspiring entrepreneurs and participate in a meaningful way to help boost the economy of Northern Nevada.
 
What unique perspectives does a female mentor bring to the table?
        
For my entire life, I have been surrounded by males. I was a “tomboy” growing up with four brothers.  When I was very young, my dolls, dress-up clothes and other girlie play things sat on the shelf while I negotiated with my brothers to play with their trucks, bikes and such. It wasn’t until well into my career as VP of Development for a rapidly growing software company in Silicon Valley that I realized my career was in jeopardy because of bias and perhaps jealousy from newly hired senior executives, all male. I tried to play the game without realizing that they were not threatened by my superior ability to execute, but just did not want a woman in the board room. I learned that women need to work together, play the game a bit differently, teach each other the rules and choose the right mentors that will help them embrace their unique qualities, skills and perspective.

How would you describe your style?

My mentoring style is much like the management style I used with my employees and the style I used as a management consultant with my clients. I am a coach. Rather than telling people the “answers” when they often don’t even know what questions to ask, I will often ask questions to help lead them to reveal what they didn’t realize they knew and or realize what they don’t know. That sounds a bit circuitous, I know.  But sometimes that is just the point. It’s like a mining expedition to help people find that vein of precious metal, that spark, that passion in them that will allow them to believe in themselves and be willing to take on the risks necessary to start and build a business.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself!

Whenever I need to get in touch with who I really am, I go fly a glider or tell stories about my career as a nationally ranked competition glider pilot. I had always wanted to learn to fly–be a pilot. But the twists and turns of life, including my career, kept veering me off that course. When the opportunity came to take an introductory flight at Sky Sailing in Fremont, CA, it coincided with having fewer personal obligations and time commitments. Within a year, I had soloed, gotten my license and bought my first glider. It wasn’t long before I reached out to find accomplished glider pilots (all male, of course) to mentor me to start flying longer distances away from the home airport–we call it cross-country flying. Flying in small local events led to first managing and then flying in Regional and National competitions. My “mentors” remained my friends, but they became my competitors, so were not so much mentors any longer, even though most of them were always above me on the scoresheet. This was another lesson of how lonely it can be for an accomplished woman in any business, sport or other endeavor that’s dominated by males.

I found my passion on that first flight in Fremont and it really did change my life. The ability to pursue that passion with just my own drive and skills to rely on was very freeing. The confidence I gained from pushing myself to complete a flying “task”, getting myself into and out of trouble, trusting myself to make decisions quickly, not deriding myself if the decision turned out to not be the best and using the information gained to make the next decision, carried over to all other aspects of my life.

When I work with entrepreneurs, particularly women, I try to discover both their deep-seated passions and their insecurities. It’s more difficult, at least for me, to get men to reveal their insecurities. I find women often are more forthcoming about their insecurities with other women. If they can get to that point and find the magic that turns those insecurities into strengths, that’s when I get…well, I have to be clear with myself that I am helping them soar and hold back from soaring myself!

Entrepreneurs Assembly Carson: Where do you want to go in 2017?

Local entrepreneurs can begin their year on the right foot: Entrepreneurs Assembly (EA) Carson starts the New Year on a new schedule: the second Wednesday of the month from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Entrepreneurs, , small businesses, even people working on a new business idea are welcome. There is no charge to participate, and meetings are held at The Studio at Adams Hub, 177 W. Proctor, in Carson City.

EA is a Nevada non-profit whose mission is growing opportunity and prosperity throughout the state through entrepreneurship and . There are now thriving chapters in Reno, South Lake and Incline. EA also launches chapters in 2017 at UNLV and Henderson, Nevada.

City officials and local business experts meet with a group of visiting Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative fellows at the Adams Hub for Innovation in Carson City, Nev. on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016.  Photo by Cathleen Allison

Entrepreneurs Assembly Meeting at The Studio at Adams Hub. Photo by Cathleen Allison

During each meeting, round tables facilitated by experienced volunteer business who act as a “virtual business incubator” in which participants work on their business, not in their business. Confidentiality is key, as members discuss their business . Mentors and peers alike join in the lively interactions, and the formulates a plan of action for the next 30 days. (EA is not a or leads group, though networking happens and business leads often occur.)

“The beauty of this format is that it creates accountability for entrepreneurs, who are generally accustomed to going it alone,” says Matt Westfield, the founder of EA. “This helps keep them on track, moving forward, and making progress. Just as important, our members are able to discuss challenges and concerns that they may not even share with their family members. Our motto is founders helping founders.

Since its inception in 2011, EA has provided support to over 1,000 Nevada entrepreneurs.

To participate, RSVP to grow@adamshub.com or call 775.222.0001.  You’re also welcome to simply show up on the evening of the meeting.

 

 

8 daily habits that boost productivity and reduce stress

For , self-management is one of the keys to success. Not all of us are “monomaniacs on a mission,” like an Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, so most of us exist in that space between wanting to accomplish our goals and wanting to have a life. With the ubiquity of technology, we can work anytime and anywhere, so we do. Entrepreneurs frequently admit that we’re the worst bosses we ever had.

Goals are crucial, but it’s our daily habits that enable us to reach them. During the years that I ran two companies and oversaw 50+ employees, I learned a some best practices that were powerful boosters, not to mention sanity-savers.

1. Don’t start your day with email. If you do, other people’s priorities (and crises) become your own. Reserve the first hour of your day, when you’re freshest, for tasks that require concentration, creativity, or both.

2. Focus on accomplishing just three key things a day. Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach says this is about all we ever manage to do anyhow, and trying to accomplish more sets us up for failure. (If you’re Elon, you’re allowed 100 things a day.) Focusing on three key things helps you focus and provides that all-important sense of accomplishment.

ferriss-quote3. At the end of the day, write down what you’ve accomplished. There’s nothing more dispiriting and de-energizing than looking at a list of things to do that’s as long as your arm, and then adding something to it. Take a minute at the end of the day to write down what you actually did. This prevents you from focusing only on what’s left to do.

4. Move all the items that you can from your “to do” list to your calendar. This is a tried and true technique that really works. It keeps your to-do list from reaching terrifying proportions while it allocates time to the items on it–and that enables you to visualize exactly what you can (and can’t) do.

5. Delegate that! I consulted with many company owners who claimed that delegation “didn’t work,” as an excuse for why they were so overworked and underproductive. Most bosses never learn that there are two distinct transactions involved in an effective delegation: you need both the delegee’s understanding of the task being delegated (can they do it?) and their agreement (will they do it?) Nail down both and you’re golden.

6. Set a brisk operational tempo. Verne Harnish’s classic book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits prescribes a rhythm for business operations that generates a sense of purposeful urgency (not the more popular and widely-used fear and hysteria.) In this system, the rhythm builds steadily from day to week to month to quarter to year to years.

  • Daily: A minutes-long “huddle” in which team members participate in a quick discussion of their top priorities for the day (see previous habit)
  • Weekly: the tempo continues with a one-hour weekly meeting (we changed the name of ours from “operations meeting” to “progress meeting.”) We started those with a quick round-robin of “good news” and “acknowledgements.” As leaders, it’s important for us to make sure we look back at what we’ve accomplished, rather than focus on the stuff that remains to be done.
  • Quarterly: half-day sessions to review progress toward our goals and plan next steps. We conducted these as off-site mini-retreats. This was time to step outside of our daily routine and get strategic.

7. Revisit your goals daily. Remember your awesome strategic plan for 2016? Yeeaaaah. Harnish specializes in fast-growing “Gazelle” companies and offers a famous “One page Strategic Plan” which is one of the most practical and actionable (not to mention free!) tools I ever came across. It enables you to take your company’s long-term BHAG and break it all the way down into quarterly bite-sized chunks, on a simple chart that everyone on the team can read at a glance. While his book explains how to use the plan, he also offers seminars on the topic. Thousands of companies swear by it.

8. Use Different Days in Different Ways. When I first encountered the Strategic Coach I had a 24/7 work lifestyle and so did virtually every I knew in Silicon Valley. I’d just met a terrific guy, but after a month of dating, he told me flat-out, “You don’t have time for a relationship.” Fortunately, I was just about to start attending Strategic Coach sessions.

Dan Sullivan had us divide our week into three distinct days: Focus Days, Buffer Days and Free Days. A Focus Day is one spent 80% in your area of “genius,” activities that you do better than anyone else.  A Free Day is a 24-hour period in which you do not do any work, talk about work, or think about work. (If a family member asks you how your is going, you pleasantly remind them that it’s your Free Day and you’ll have to get back to them. You’ll be surprised at how quickly others around you get trained.) A Buffer Day is when you do things like email, meetings and, well, the stuff that occupies most “normal” work days–and importantly, get ready to enjoy a peaceful Free Day or rock a super-productive Focus Day.

My Free Days enabled me to invest in my relationship and I ended up marrying aforementioned Terrific Guy. Even if you only start with one Free Day per month, the experience is incredibly liberating and rewarding. The hardest days to carve out were Focus Days. Even with 20% of the time allocated to non-Focus interruptions, it’s can be hard to get back on track. You may want to spend your Focus Day out of the office.

As entrepreneurs know, there’s no shortage of good ideas out there. The difference is execution. Execution requires discipline–and good daily work habits are the way vision becomes reality.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wisdom of (Small) Crowds

Scratch the surface of most (go on, I dare you) and you’ll find…a scratch-resistant surface. Most entrepreneurs have hard shells. As the pop culture stereotype goes, you gotta be tough to be an . Not just tough, but a lone genius or a rugged individualist. Most of us are accustomed to going it alone.

Maybe you’re familiar with the Peter Principle. It holds that employees are promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. But plenty of entrepreneurs doggedly work their way up to incompetence, too. It’s something called Founder’s Syndrome. Here are the symptoms, per Wikipedia:

  • The founder makes all decisions, big and small, without a formal process or input from others.
  • Decisions are made in crisis mode, with little forward planning.
  • Staff meetings are held generally to rally the troops, get status reports, and assign tasks.
  • There is little meaningful strategic development, or shared executive agreement on objectives with limited or a complete lack of professional development.
  • There is little organizational infrastructure in place, and what is there is not used correctly.
  • There is no succession plan.

Does this sound like you? No founder can succeed without “working on the , not in the business,” as Michael Gerber’s business classic The E Myth describes it. Yet the vast majority of US business owners don’t take the time to step back and examine their strategy, ask the big questions, or seek out the opinions of our peers or outside experts.

Very few of us have a board of directors or even an informal . (There are companies who offer “virtual” advisory boards, but over the years I found many of these to be prohibitively expensive or run by people without the kind of entrepreneurial experience I sought.)

So entrepreneurs can be a little…secretive. Not surprising really: many of us start companies so we don’t have to answer to anyone else. There are plenty of chips on entrepreneurial shoulders. This can lead to some less-than-productive behaviors, such as bottling everything up and feeling as though we should have all the answers. Many founders’ families–even their spouses–have no idea what’s keeping them up at night.

So what’s a rugged individual to do?

Entrepreneurs Assembly is a business-support organization born in the Great Recession. It’s a non-profit, where members get to experience expertly facilitated round-table discussions about their biggest issues, the stuff of insomnia.

EA’s motto is “Founders Helping Founders,” and it’s clear to see that the magic of these round tables is a set of fresh ears and fresh brains who can help you think differently. Even if it’s just for a few hours once a month. EA members help each other identify blind spots and remove road blocks.

Of course, you’ll leave the meeting with “marching orders” for the next 30 days. And suddenly, you’ll rediscover the beauty of accountability. (You said you were going to terminate that toxic employee in last month’s meeting, and your peers are waiting to hear how it went. No wiggle room. You can’t pull that “I’m the boss” card to explain why you postponed the inevitable…again.)

Best of all, few of those crucial “marching orders” require that you spend any money. EA Founder Matt Westfield keeps members focused on their customers. You’re going to spend some time, certainly, but some of the most profound changes you can make involve talking to people and doing research. Engaging with your customers or your marketplace.

At every meeting I see resources shared: a or another member provides an email or phone number for a key contact that can provide help. Someone writes down a book or blog to read, or suggests an app to try. Some of the resources are so laser-focused, so ridiculously relevant for the individual involved, it’s hard to believe the serendipities. But that’s what happens when you leave your hard shell behind and get real, and really honest, with other people who are on the same path. And by the way, confidentiality is a sacred vow to EA members.

The founders of EA saw a huge gap and are busily filling it, with chapters in Reno, South Lake, Incline and now , where the meeting is held in The Studio at Adams Hub, 177 W. Proctor. And did we mention that there’s no charge to take part?

Our final meeting of 2016 is being held November from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. is your chance to “work on, not in” your business. For more information, email grow@adamshub.com, or call us at 775.222.0001. You can also visit www.ea-nv.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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