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Confessions of a “Cereal” Entrepreneur

It is that season when we typically do a lot of reflecting.  In the business world, we should do this purposefully at the end of each year.   

Like most entrepreneurs, I didn’t want looking back to take too much of my time, so I will share the 3 things I did to make my review of 2016 easy enough to tackle over a few bowls of cereal this week.

1.   Make 2 lists* (limit to 3-4 items per list)

  • Key victories or accomplishments
  • Biggest setbacks or challenges

*You can do this exercise both personally and professionally.  (Don’t’ try to tackle both at the same time – example: personal health victories or setbacks should not be mixed in with your business list)

2.   Review the lists

  • Remove all pride when reviewing – remember, this is introspective, not a time for the blame game.
  • Ask for help from a trusted co-worker or family member.
  • When reviewing victories, identify contributions from others.
  • Regarding setbacks and challenges, focus more on how you contributed.
  • Don’t beat yourself up and dwell on mistakes; chalk them up as lessons learned and move on.
  • Be forgiving if you truly believe someone else contributed to your setbacks.
  • Identify the activities or habits that contributed most to your successes and failures.

3.   Create a quick game plan

  • Keep it simple (this is not a mission statement or a strategy paper).
  • Jot down 5 things you need to focus on to repeat your victories and avoid the mistakes. These are activities or habits, not sales goals.
  • Think about how you are going to invest in others or coach others as part of your plan.
  • Ask for help. This is the most common problem for entrepreneurs as we often think and work independently (pride gets in the way).
  • Write it down and share it with a family member and/or close co-worker so they can hold you accountable. You might also make adjustments with their feedback. 
  • Keep your list front and center so you see it all the time.   
  • At the end of each month, grade yourself on a scale of 1-10 on each habit or activity on your list.
  • At the end of each quarter, ask a family member or co-worker to grade you as well.
  • Compare scores (this may be a humbling conversation).
  • Rinse and repeat each quarter.

Here is my list for 2017

1.   Spend 30 minutes at the start of each business day planning.

*Avoid morning email, it will dictate your day instead of you planning your day) Remember old sayings “first things first” and “plan your work and work your plan”

2.   Invest 15 minutes per day with our product owner to get updates and provide guidance.

* This has been a big transition for me as I have historically played a big role in product direction. I need to let development do their thing and I simply need to focus on growing the business.

3.   Target 5 hours each day in full Business Development mode.

*Turn off all notifications. Set time aside to review and respond to messages just before lunch and at the end of the day.  This includes investing a minimum of 1 hour per day with team members to help them succeed.  I try to limit my travel schedule to 2 days per week.  When in the office, I am scheduling 9:30 am – 11:30 am and 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm for hard-core business development activity. Note, we are a young, fast growing company and I need to focus heavily on revenue generating activities.

4.   Invest 1 hour per week with marketing.

 *This has been a huge weakness for me; as I love spending time in sales mode or product mode. It is imperative that I spend more time with marketing folks to really move the needle.

5.   Invest 1 hour per week with a mentor.

*Admittedly, this has been a big challenge for me and I have access to great associates and stakeholders in our company. I must do a better job of leveraging their knowledge and experience.  I highly recommend this activity be on everyone’s list.