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, #startups, 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 #innovation. There are now thriving chapters in Reno, South Lake and Incline. EA also launches chapters in 2017 at UNLV and Henderson, Nevada.
Entrepreneurs Assembly Meeting at The Studio at Adams Hub. Photo by Cathleen Allison
During each meeting, round tables facilitated by experienced volunteer business #mentors 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 #challenges. Mentors and peers alike join in the lively interactions, and the #entrepreneur formulates a plan of action for the next 30 days. (EA is not a #networking 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 email@example.com or call 775.222.0001. You’re also welcome to simply show up on the evening of the meeting.
For #entrepreneurs, 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 #productivity 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.
3. 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 #time management 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 #entrepreneur 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 #startup 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.
Scratch the surface of most #entrepreneurs (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 #entrepreneur. 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 #business, 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 #advisory board. (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 #Northern Nevada 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 #mentor 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 #Carson City, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 775.222.0001. You can also visit www.ea-nv.org.
EA, the award-winning, mentor-based #entrepreneurial support organization meets each month on the third Wednesday at the Studio at Adams Hub. EA’s motto is “#founders helping founders” and brings together #mentors, entrepreneurs and anyone working on a #business idea or #startup in a dynamic and engaging #round table setting. There is no charge to participate, but participants are expected to define and complete action items for the following 30 days.
EA, the award-winning, #mentor-based entrepreneurial support organization meets each month on the third Wednesday at the Studio at Adams Hub. EA’s motto is “founders helping founders” and brings together mentors, #entrepreneurs and anyone working on a business idea or #startup in a dynamic and engaging round table setting. There is no charge to participate, but participants are expected to define and complete action items for the following 30 days.