This is a question I ask my clients frequently.
Many people come to me with ideas for a business and some amazing vision how the business will look like in a few years time. They try to sell me the idea why this business will be a success and how much money it will make. They clearly see the gap in the market and are convinced that it will work.
Sounds like a great start until I ask the question: “Are you the right person for that business?”
What I really want to know is if they see themselves in that future vision and what role they are playing. One thing many startups forget is that someone has to do the job and it will probably take a few years before it will turn into a workable business.
If you believe to have the perfect business idea, I want you to stop for a moment and think about it. It might be a great business idea but are you the person to make it happen?
Before setting out on a new business venture make sure it’s in line with who you are. Don’t be blinded by the possibility of making lots of money or becoming famous. If what you choose to do does not align with who you are, you will never make it!
Why is this so important?
Let’s face it, it will take a long time to get the things you’re dreaming of. There isn’t really a quick fix when it comes to starting a business. For most it’s a lifelong journey as goals become bigger and life adjusts.
Do you really think you can pretend for such a long time to be someone you’re not? Even if you could convince others, you’ll never convince yourself and that is the base for an unhappy life and a failed business.
How do you figure out if you’re the right person?
This isn’t an easy question to answer. Most of us are so used to pretend that we come up with different answers depending on the time of the day. Starting a business isn’t easy. You will hit lots of resistance on the way and dealing with that is the hard part.
There are two paths to look at and choose from.
If you are really good at what you do and a great fit for what your business needs, you can concentrate on jumping those hurdles on the way. As you go along you’ll get better at it while still delivering great value because you’re great at what you do.
If you step into uncharted territory, you’ll need lots of curiosity and a strong belief in yourself to have a chance to make it happen. You shouldn’t be easily distracted by other ideas or because of what others tell you and like a bull on the run plough your way through the unknown while enjoying the ride.
Which is the right path for you?
During my career I only met a few people with that attitude. Most start out right, but soon lose track and get lost on the way.
If you are neither of them, don’t bother for now. I would suggest to either work on becoming the best in your field and take the first path or find someone who is made for the second path make him or her a partner and ride along.
Personally, I would advise taking the first path. Become the best you can. Get a job in that field, learn everything there is to know and practice it as much as you can. This will give you the base for a successful business and it will show you if that is what you can see yourself doing for a long time to come.
Once you feel you’re ready, get the support you need to help you with the business side. Now you will be able to answer the question and by doing so, your chance to make it has increased 10-fold.
If you want to know more about how this all works and how you can make it in business, get in touch and check out our free resource section on our website. Also join us on our Social Media channels for real help and advice.
Above all, enjoy the ride!
Have you ever been stuck with a problem and just couldn’t find a solution?
Welcome to the club. This happens to many people – and more often than you might think.
So, today I want to share with you a 7-Step process based on seven questions to ask yourself to get unstuck and to find the perfect solution.
In Step 1, we need to be clear about the problem. Take a piece of paper and define the problem in as much detail as you can. Why does it bother you? What is the negative impact right now. Who is impacted and when is it a problem? Take your time.
Step 2 is the preparation of the environment. What we need is a table with free access all around. Remove any chairs that might be in the way. Place the problem description in the centre of the table.
Step 3 is the preparation of the seven questions.
The questions we need to ask ourselves are based on seven different perspectives. Not all of them will fit every problem, just use whatever works. The perspectives are:
Look: At which aspects of the problem can we look differently or in a new way?
Use: What parts of the problem can we use in a new way or for the first time?
Move: Which parts of the problem can we move or change its position in time or space?
Interconnect: Are there any parts which are not yet connected or we could connect in a different way?
Alter: What could we change in terms of design or performance?
Make: What could we make to create something new?
Imagine: What could we imagine that would create an amazing experience?
Start thinking of the bigger picture
Next, place seven pieces of paper along the table sides in equal distance to each other. Write one question on each page. What we have now is a table with the problem description in the centre surrounded by seven pages, each with one question.
Step 4 is the completion of the questions with a checklist. Each question has its own checklist to go through depending on the type of problem. Complete each page with the related checklist:
Higher: Look at it from a 5km aerial view
Reverse: Look at it in reverse, from the back and from behind
Value: Look at it from the point of its value
Kids: Look at it in the way a child might look at it
Ignore: Look at it ignoring what you know to be true about it
Holistic: Look at it as a whole, from a system point of view
Leverage: How can you use this to leverage something else?
Foundation: How could you use this as a foundation for something?
Substitute: How could you use this in place of something else?
Aspect: How could you use some aspects of it in a different or new way?
Change: How could you use this to change something else?
Apply: How could you apply this in a different way?
Import: What new element could you bring in to make a change?
Rearrange: What could you rearrange to make a change?
Replace: What could you replace or swap to make a change?
Remove: What could you remove to make a change?
Speed: What could you speed up or slow down to make a change?
Frequency: What could you do more often or less often to make a change?
Power: What could you connect to make it more powerful?
Combine: What could you combine to make something new?
Network: Who or what could you network with to make something new?
Transparent:* What could you expose to make something new?
Open: What could you open to the world to change the impact?
Partnership: What could you partner with to make something new?
Quality: How could you improve the quality?
Design: What could you design differently?
Performance: How could you increase the performance?
Aesthetics: How can you change the look?
Experiential: How can you change the experience?
Standardize: How can you make it fit with other things?
Process: Which new process could you create?
Meaning: What new meaning could you give it?
Harness: What could be harnessed to change it?
Instantiate: What could you instantiate into something new?
Functions: What new functions can you create?
Specialize: What could you make more specialized?
Amplify: How could you make this bigger?
Easier: How could you make it easier to use, buy, assemble…?
Negatives: What are the negatives you could fix?
Go: Imagine anything that comes to mind
Sci-fi: Imagine a sci-fi solution or improvement
Try: Try using it in different ways and see what happens
Now the fun begins!
Step 5 is the fun part and where the real problem solving happens.
Start at the first sheet of paper with the question ‘Look’. Go through the checklist and answer each part in short words. You have two minutes for each a page before moving on to the next page. Don’t worry if you can’t answer all the questions in that short time. Just keep going on. Go around the table until you feel you can’t answer anymore questions.
Step 6 is the collection of all the answers and writing them down on a separate page. Now you have a pool of ideas to solve the problem and to create amazing solutions. Put them in any order you might feel comfortable with starting from the easiest to implement or change to the most difficult.
Step 7 is selecting a single solution and acting on it. Problem solved. Or at least you started with solving the problem and you’re on the right path.
Just give it a go. You will be amazed by the results. You will have a much better understanding of the actual problem having looked at it from all angles. And you will have multiple options to solve the problem right in front of you. If you work in a team or with your family at home, get everyone involved going around the table answering the questions and adding comments to the checklists. This is a great way to come up with new ideas and solutions together, which makes it even more powerful.
Which problem would you most like to solve today?
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Aren’t you curious?
What makes an idea a good idea?
Let’s start by trying a Google Search: “What is an idea?”
Result: “A thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action”
The one thing I want to point you to here is the word “*action*”. Because the only reason for an idea to exist is if we are acting upon it.
There’s a lot of talk about how difficult it is to have ideas. I don’t think that it is the case. We have ideas all the time, we just don’t act on them. We think an idea must be something big, a world-changing event. But why is that?
We often disregard the small idea as not being worth it or as insignificant. But funnily enough, most people wait for their big idea and never act on anything. This way they never achieve anything. All the big ideas require many actions and because of that we never start. What is the point?
Bringing your ideas to life
The truth is that whatever your idea is, it will only come to life if you act on it. Do never underestimate the power of small ideas. If you act on it you bring it to life – and this is more than most people will ever do. Put some effort into the small things, and by doing so make them big.
If you have many small ideas, but never act on them, how will you ever trust yourself to do the big ideas? You won’t! And that’s why you will never get any ideas alive.
Take a piece of paper and write down all the small ideas you always throw out as not worth the effort. Every day, take one of those ideas and make it alive through actions. Your confidence level will grow every day and anyone else around will start seeing you as the person who can bring ideas alive. Sooner or later you will start tackling bigger ideas and – because of your experience with the smaller ideas – bring them to life as well.
A thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action?
That brings us to the point of good ideas. My definition of a good idea is an idea we bring alive and not just think about.
Let’s do it!
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If You Don’t Ask You Don’t Get
I don’t know about you but, over the past 15 years, becoming an entrepreneur and running your own business has become so fashionable it’s unbelievable.
But if you are working in the space of entrepreneurship, either as an entrepreneur running your business or providing services for other entrepreneurs, you probably feel the pressure more and more.
So just why do so many people get into entrepreneurship and want to run their own business?
Because it sounds great. It sounds cool when you’re asked “What do you do?” and you can answer “I run my own business”.
Because you can make lots money. We are all caught by that thought that running your own business is the only way to become rich today.
Because we are told we can. Why struggle in a loser-job if you could run your own business? At least you are in charge.
And from where do they get the ideas for running a business?
Random searches online are not always the best solution
A good example is finding a course online while searching Google for “How to start a business?”.
They find a few ‘gurus’ selling a course to teach them how to become successful with whatever the course is about. The aim is to sell as many of those courses as possible. Most people taking part in these courses lack their own ideas and look for an idea and a how-to guide.
How many of those do you think will try to follow the script?
I guess most will give it a go and if lucky one or two percent will actually make any money with it.
The rest will give up frustrated, looking for the next opportunity which surely comes along with the next course. Or does it?
Let’s face it, not everybody needs to run a business. Actually just following a fashion is everything but entrepreneurial.
The question everybody should ask themselves is why they want to run a business in the first place.
Why do you want to run a business?
Is it this dream of being your own boss, running a business your way, doing what you want whenever you want? Is it about making money, becoming rich?
If any of those are on the button for you, I want you to think again!
Running your own business isn’t easy. It’s very hard work and most likely you’ll need to work for more hours in the week than you’ve ever worked before.
Forget your holidays for at least the first five years of starting your business and prepare for having less money than you’ve ever had before. If you make it through the first three years and you enjoyed the journey, prepare yourself to change your job completely from doing the work you know and love to building and managing a team to take over from you. At least if you plan to grow and scale your business.
It’s not all about the money…or is it?
Truthfully there are better and easier ways to make money without all that stress. This is specially true in Europe where employment is highly regulated in most countries and 12 hour days are very rare. In other parts of the world this might be different.
If you are just out for the money, I would advise you to save 50% of everything you make and invest it wisely. This will give you financial independence much faster than most business will ever do.
So the question is: “Is it worth it to become an entrepreneur and run your own business?”
My answer is “Yes”. Yes it is, if you are in it for the right reasons. But reasons like being your own boss, running your own business, doing whatever you want, or making lots of money are not the right reasons.
If that’s what drives you, then get a job in sales or in the financial markets. Where the money is, you make money. And as long as you make money you can pretty much be your own boss and do what you want.
Five reasons to battle it out
What are the right reasons? In my experience they are:
- You’re desperate – you lost everything and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get out of this hole and you don’t have other opportunities
- You’re obsessed – you’re so passionate about something and you don’t believe anyone else can do this better than you
- Opportunity knocks – something falls right into your lap and its too good not to pursue
- It’s in your DNA – it’s the one thing you feel you were born to do
- You have huge experience – you know everything there is to know about running a business and it’s something you always wanted to do
This is just a short list of the most important ones.
Actually, being an entrepreneur has very little to do with running a business. Instead, it has everything to do with setting and achieving your goals. If you can do that running your own business, great. Go for it. If you can do this by getting the right job in the right place, go for that.
There is no good or bad in either of them.
How about you? What kind of entrepreneur are you?
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The Start-up Trap
In my experience building a successful business team is very, very challenging. Especially for an entrepreneur.
When I started with my first business it was just me: a lot of work, a lot of fun and the business went wherever I wanted it to go. No one to blame if it went wrong and a hero when it worked out. ‘All in’ was the motto. And it worked.
After a while the work started piling up and I struggled providing the service I wanted to provide. I tried getting some help, but then I had even less time, having to train and monitor that person as well. It wasn’t easy and ended in the business going down. I just burned out and lost control.
I didn’t see it then, but I wasn’t ready to run a growing company long term. I just didn’t know how.
Knowing when and who to ask
Skip forward 20 years. Yes, that is the time it took me to get it. It wasn’t by chance either, but out of necessity. That is the time when I met my mentor and when I asked the question: *How do you run a successful team?*
His response was the question: *Do you want to run a successful team?*
I thought this was a stupid question. If I didn’t want to run a successful team, then I wouldn’t be asking the question in the first place. But then it daunted on me. Do I really? Or do I just want someone to help me run a successful business. Is my focus on the business or on the team?
At that time I learned that being a great team leader requires dedication to the team and the will to make the team successful. It requires to trust the team that they can do an amazing job in running the day to day functions of the business and that there is no need for me to interfere. It requires a change of job from the person who is running the business to the person who is running the team.
Not only was this a real eye-opener but also a really scary thought at the same time. What happens if the team isn’t good enough? Will my business go down? How can I control this? And what do I do if it doesn’t work? At the time the thought freaked me out.
When we are talking about a team, we are talking about people. Not processes, control or strategy. We are talking about people. A team leader needs to understand people and specially the way people interact. A team leader needs to understand what his team needs, how the team interacts and what moves the team forward. In a way he needs to be able steer the team in the right direction.
How do you do this?
Every person is an individual with needs, desires, problems and personality. As human beings we are driven by either the things we want or the things we fear. Leading with fear has proven to be futile. People who are scared don’t give their best and don’t come up with new and better ideas on how to do things. They just don’t want to get in to trouble.
Leading people towards what they want has proven to be best way in the short and long run. The secret is to find something they all want and can identify with. This is often the vision of the team or business. It is a possible outcome every team member can align to and wants to be part of. It provides the reason for the hard work done every day and provides the energy needed.
This vision also answers the second important part of a successful team, the willingness to achieve it together. We are all on the same path, walking in the same direction towards the same goal. There is no reason to fight each other, but there is every reason to help each other. It is important to get the right people together. If you have one or more members who are not inspired by the same goal your team will struggle and you will waste a lot of time and effort.
It isn’t easy to spot the right ones and I got it wrong so often, I stopped counting. But I am becoming better at it.
Stepping up to the team challenge
To move successfully from a one-man-business to a team-driven business requires several steps.
The first step is to understand what you actually need to run your business. I mean the day to day stuff, processes and strategies. You need to write down all the things you do everyday that keep your business moving forward.
It’s also important to have structure. Doing this also helps to identify the areas you need to improve on or you’ll waste lots of time on.
This builds your core. You now have a written-down strategy explaining how your business works, what you do everyday to make it tick and how you measure your success.
The second step is to become clear where you want your business to go. Doing the first step will help you a lot to identify areas where you can improve and expand your business. But most important is the overall goal. What is the highest thing you can imagine your business can achieve for your clients? Become as clear as possible about it and write down why do you think this is a good direction. Keep your focus on your clients and what you can do for them.
Get your customers to ‘buy in’ to your team ethic
Try not to fall into the trap of measuring the amount of money you can make. You will never find a team that will work hard so you make a lot of money. They will only do that if they can also make a lot of money, but this way you will never get the team spirit which can bring your business to levels you can’t even imagine yourself. We are all social creatures and to achieve team spirit you need to come together. Not just within your own team but getting your customers to want to become part of the team as well. That’s where the real power lies. If your customers and your team believe in the cause you’ve identified for your business – and if they can see that with your leadership there is a chance to get there – then not even the sky is the limit!
When you are clear with Step 1 and Step 2, it is time to introduce a team of one or more people.
Because now you are clear of what is expected you know exactly what kind of skill set you need, aiming for better than you, if you can. For the team members it’s great, as they know exactly what the minimum requirement is.
Once you have your team together your role moves from running the business to running the team.
You’ve chosen the right people who love your idea, want to be part of it and have the right skills for the job. Now is the time to get the team coordinated and align the processes to work together. It’s time to create a flow.
The step after that is to provide the space for each team member to grow and develop. We all need space for our own little achievements and ‘Hurrah moments’. That keeps us motivated and engaged.
How would you build a successful team around you?
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What a coach can do for you?
Let’s face it, most leaders did not train to become leaders. They’ve just been pushed into that position.
Many years ago I started out as a normal sales guy for a car company. My job was to sell cars.
I did enjoy selling and I got better and better at it. After a year or so I was approached by the director of the car company offering me the position as sales team leader. It came with a nice pay-rise and a share of everything my team was selling. You can imagine, it didn’t take me long to make my mind up and to accept the offer.
1 year later they fired me!
I just didn’t get the team-stuff together. I was a good sales man, but I had no idea how to motivate and lead a team.
I know, this is a very common process in most companies. To move up the ladder you need to become a team leader. What most people don’t get is that team leading is an art you need to learn and practice to become good at it. But very often we never have a chance to do so. The opposite, my job as a team leader had nothing to do with selling cars anymore. The one thing I was good at.
As entrepreneur you will face the same challenges. In order to scale and grow your business you will need to create a team that helps you to take the next steps. But lets be honest, how much time have you spent training and learning to become a team leader? Most never think about it!
Specially when running your own business this can be fatal. You will spend most of your time learning the new skills and getting to grips with motivation and organising your team. This will take away important time you’ll need to keep your business running. Also a team costs money, which makes it even more important that you get them earning their wages as quick as possible.
That lack of training and preparation is the main reason leaders fail!
What can you do to avoid this trap?
The best is to have a plan and good idea where you are going with your career or business. As clearer you are as clearer it is what skills you need at what stage. This allows you to prepare everything you need at the right time and be ready for the new challenges you’ll face.
I know, sometimes things don’t go as planned and you might need to adjust. But you still know what you need as you keep planning the changes as they come along.
The important part is to know what is required from you and what you need to learn and practice to succeed.
Being a good leader is not about manipulation
It is about people. It is about a common cause and a clearly defined goal every team member can be part of.
It is about committing to making it together and wining as a team.
It is about understanding the role you play and knowing when your team wins, you’ve won!
Over the years I had many possibilities to work in teams in different positions and roles and I learned the value and power of a good team.
If you know that your next career step will be a leader position, get ready now so your future team is a winning team.
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Why being accountable works