Saturday, November 3, 2012

Finding what I am looking for.

I remember very clearly the day my boss asked me to be creative outside of my job.  I remember thinking, "wow, you really don't get it, do you". I knew that day that I still hadn't found what I was looking for.

For 20 years, my teachers were executives of corporations in complex structures and politics of various types, including small p politics between departments, and capital-p politics in government.

I traversed the corporate jungle, learning how to manage relationships, make friends, and influence people.  I even took the course.

I became very good at understanding the body language of my CEOs as they managed these large structures. I knew what they needed to say, and what they needed to hear, and I gave them the words that would appease them, inform them and please them. 

I believed it was important work, and it was, relatively speaking. At one time, I believed the pinnacle of my career would be an executive position in a large corporation.  I reached that place, but the view wasn't what I thought it would be. 
In 2011, I made the decision to leave that world in search of a new world where creativity, entrepreneurial thinking and innovation would be the norm, not the exception. Where the business is the reason, and not the door to some political agenda.  Where goals are tangible and measurable on a daily basis.

I ventured into the world of private enterprise. I started a business - Lynear Thinking -  to offer my 20 years of strategy and communication skills to private business owners, operators and entrepreneurs. My goal was to help them get somewhere - to help them find what they were looking for. So I ventured into this world that admittedly I knew very little about.

I learned that although I could manage the corporate world with ease, I knew nothing about the world of the entrepreneur, even though I was on the journey toward becoming an entrepreneur.

There are distinct differences between the corporate world and the business world.
  • In the corporate world, dollars and cents are really just indicators of success.  In the entrepreneur's world, dollars and cents are deal breakers.  
  • In the corporate world, the consequences of poor customer satisfaction are not directly and immediately linked to the bottom line.  In the entrepreneur's world, customer satisfaction is the bottom line because it is the difference between making the sale or not.  
  • In the corporate world, employee satisfaction and development are again distant indicators of a company's success or failure. In the private sector world, employee satisfaction and development have an immediate effect on the customer's buying decision.
There were some challenges along the way, both financial and non-financial. Here is what I learned and practice.

1.  Invest wisely. Starting a business takes financial investment. The challenge is to maintain overhead at a manageable rate while investing where the money is needed.

2. Connect with people.  Loneliness is a factor that I had to overcome. Entrepreneurs tend to the chief cook and bottle washer, so we spend a lot of time alone.  That's not good. I had to find a community of people like me.  That was harder than it seemed. In my search for community, I have found people like me - people who left the corporate world in search of one that is more satisfying and personally meaningful. We can share our expertise and help each other.   

3. Feed your soul. I dedicated myself to the belief that if I was doing good things, good things would happen. So I got involved and offered my services - gratis - to community organizations doing good things. I believe that giving is good for the soul. It helps me to stay grounded with a solid sense of purpose. There are many upsides to helping non-profits besides money. The contacts and the relationships are excellent. The work of the non-profit tends to be higher profile and shows others what you can do. 

4. Be relentless.  Relentlessness is also an important quality because it gets me through the days when I feel most lost. People are more likely to help those who help themselves. So on the days when I felt like it was futile and that I should just get another corporate job, I reminded myself of why I was on this path, and what I would give up by giving up.

6. Learn the business. I learned about pricing and proposals, when to fold and when to fight for it.  Things started to take hold and people started to notice me.  When that happened, the work started coming. 

7. Create stars whereever you go. I treat my customers like they are gold, because they are to me.  I give them the best of me to help them to be successful and the stars they are. 

In October 2012, I purchased SKY Magazine, a five year old publication that is all about celebrating entrepreneurial vision and living well in Saskatchewan. SKY is about discovering the talented business people and the products and services they offer so that we can live well. Through SKY, I am able to help connect my clients to their customers.  

Every day I find what I am looking for in the stories of the entrepreneurs who love what they do and take pride in how they do it. Living close to the entrepreneurial ledge, I see time and time again those who are successful show integrity, take care of business and treat their customers and employees with the utmost respect. Those that don't, don't.

This is the world that I set out to discover. I have found the entrepreneurs, and you can read about them on the pages of SKY Magazine.