Tag Archives: starting a business

Pursue Entrepreneurship Like a Marine – II

A few weeks ago I examined how maneuver warfare applies to entrepreneurship. Hopefully, you see it as a key aspect of your plan to more quickly defeat the negative attitudes and uncertainty holding you back.  An essential aspect of employing this concept is determining where and how to focus your effort.  The Marine Corps calls the practice of concentrating combat power the Main Effort.  Let’s translate this idea to entrepreneurship.

Pursue Entrepreneurship Like a Marine – II

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While I advocate living a balanced, purposeful life based on the Three Pillars of Fitness – Physical | Mental | Spiritual, attempting to focus on all three simultaneously will dilute your ability to reach your goals. On a daily basis, concentrate on a single outcome.

The key points of the Main Effort in Marine Corps doctrine are:

  1. Of all the actions going on within your business, recognize one as the most critical to success at that moment. As you work on your business, each day should focus on the activity crucial to moving it forward, be it marketing, sales, product development, or something else.
  2. The Main Effort involves a physical and moral commitment, although not an irretrievable one. While the Main Effort embodies the action you will take, your commitment must be deeper than task completion.  Dedication at the highest level is required to propel you through the inevitable vicissitudes.
  3. Faced with a decision, ask yourself: How can I best support the Main Effort?  Having made such a profound commitment, reinforce it by making all future choices through its lens.
  4. The practice of concentrating all your power toward the Main Effort necessitates the willingness to accept prudent risk elsewhere.  When focusing on a singular direction by definition you are excluding everything else.  This entails some risk.  Occasionally, your family may feel neglected or your fitness may decline.  End each day by assessing your physical, mental, and spiritual resilience so you will know when the risk is no longer prudent and requires a shift in your Main Effort.
  5. As the situation changes, you may shift the Main Effort. Seek to exploit success rather than reinforce failure.  As demonstrated by maneuver warfare, your ability to identify and quickly exploit opportunity increases your likelihood of success.  When you make the inevitable shifts in Main Effort, do not wait for a crisis, rather look for situations in which you can address the issue requiring the change without weakening your overall thrust toward your goal.  Add an extra day or two onto your business trip dedicated solely to time with your spouse and family.  Change a sit-down meeting to a walking meeting.

Essential to unity of effort by your team, as the leader, strive for a clear expression of the intent and expectations supporting your Main Effort.  Then ensure that everyone involved realizes the burden of understanding it falls on all team members.  You must make your purpose perfectly clear but in a way that does not inhibit initiative.

Applying the short-term focus of your Main Effort will dramatically increase your ability to achieve your goals.

What is the Main Effort in your life right now?

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5 Common Career Problems: Which Ones Do You Want to Overcome?

Every problem is a gift - without problems we would not grow – Tony Robbins

Life is filled with problems. In the early days of starting my first business, I learned to call them challenges since those sounded easier to overcome.  Among the worst are career problems.  Nearly all people are fortunate to have within their grasp the ability to choose the set of challenges with which they want to grapple.  Unfortunately, most don't exercise this choice.

5 Common Career Problems: Which Ones Do You Want Overcome?

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When I talk with people about career problems they tend to air the same complaints. Not necessarily in order of frequency, they are:

  1. I don't make enough money.
  2. I have to work too many hours.
  3. I miss too many family events.
  4. I dislike the people with whom I work.
  5. My boss doesn't know what he's doing.

Do any or all of these sound familiar?  Most were on my list back in 1985.  During that year I committed to finding a solution. On February 28, 1986, I started my first business. Being an entrepreneur eventually solved all of these challenges. Here is a rough timeline:

  1. Money:  It took less than two years to generate an income similar to the one I gave up and about five years to get my income to a comfortable level.
  2. Hours:  The first eight years I worked long hours, though rarely as many as at the company I left.  But after ten years this issue was under control.
  3. Family events:  From day one I controlled my schedule.  The flexibility of being self-employed is one of the top reasons for taking this step.
  4. Co-Workers:  Since I had the final say on hiring and firing, I never worked for very long with someone I didn't enjoy working with or who was incompetent.  This is another excellent reason for starting a company.
  5. Boss:  The truth of the matter is my boss, me, often didn't know what he was doing.  In the beginning, I was pigheaded about my ignorance.  But after a disappointing first year, I admitted to myself that I had a lot to learn and started filling in the gaps.  And while I constantly found my knowledge lacking it was within my power to get trained.
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Entrepreneurship won't solve your career challenges overnight.  But the ability to find and implement solutions will be in your hands.  While the business press tends to focus on the financial benefits of startups, I think the lifestyle benefits are much greater.  They will lead you to a more enjoyable life whether or not you have a multi-million or billion dollar IPO.

What is your biggest career challenge?

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Pursue Entrepreneurship Like a Marine

When stationed with the Marine Corps, I learned a concept called maneuver warfare. Attrition warfare was the primary philosophy until World War I. Today speed and agility, also called shock and awe, dominates warfighting.  Typically thought of spatially, Marines broaden it to include psychological, technological, temporal, as well as spatial issues.  As the wars wind down I've been thinking about how to apply this doctrine to entrepreneurship.

Lesson from the Marine Corps

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While I don't equate business to war, the usefulness of maneuver warfare translated into entrepreneurship can ignite your life. Here’s how:

  1. Spatial Maneuver: Merely because another company is larger and better capitalized doesn't mean you can't enter the market.  Its size can be its biggest weakness if it prevents innovation and agility in the marketplace.  Maneuvering spatially means more quickly taking advantage of opportunities than larger, better funded competitors.
  2. Psychological Maneuver: The psychological enemy you face as an entrepreneur ranges from negative self-talk and opposition from family and friends to the lack of knowledge you need to pursue your idea.  Tackling this enemy requires forethought as to how you'll respond.  For example, when someone, including yourself, puts down your concept or your potential to succeed will you simply ignore it?  Can you continue to do so over time?  You'll do better if you analyze the defeatist arguments and have ready answer showing them to be wrong.
  3. Technological Maneuver: Technology is amazing.  But note that this can mean it is amazingly good AND amazingly bad.  Its value lies in how well it helps you get your business underway and makes it run better.  Technology purely for its own sake will hold back your progress.  Maneuvering through the technological morass should lead you to solutions that help you serve your customers and make you a nimbler competitor.
  4. Temporal Maneuver: In war, by creating a faster operating tempo than the enemy, Marines seek to disrupt their enemy’s ability to react.  With entrepreneurship, the temporal enemies are the desire for perfecting your product or service, fear of failure, or other issues that cause you to delay launching.  By setting hard and fast goals for completing each task of your start-up plan and sticking to them, establishing a battle rhythm, you gain the inertia you need to break through the temporal barrier.

Marines constantly train by planning and practicing how to use maneuver to make them the most effective warfighters in the world.  Success means shattering the enemy’s cohesion so badly it can't function.

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The enemies of your success wage a war of attrition.  Everyday they seek to dissuade you from changing your mindset and engaging in tasks that will improve your life.  Undoubtedly your definition of success differs from the Marine Corps'.  But making maneuver a key aspect of your plan will help you more quickly defeat the negative attitudes and lethargy holding you back.

Which type of maneuver will help you most toward your goals?

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If You Know This You’ll Avoid Disappointment

Military life is so efficient compared to civilian life. Systems for avoiding disappointment abound. In my case, platform building is a crucial task. Many days revolve around developing relationships. That way when service members need help my they'll seek me out. As a chaplain, it's not uncommon to build hundreds of connections in a few months, sometimes thousands in a couple of years.

If You Know This You’ll Avoid Disappointment

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Clarity Versus Messiness

Grasping this is key to understanding the frustration veterans experience transitioning to civilian life. We are used to having clear lines of communication and authority that if followed yield results. Even when stymied by red tape, the workaround paths are well worn. Limits are generally self-imposed, such as committing terminal stupidity.

Civilian life is much messier and indirect. Discovering the road to success takes time. Traveling it takes more time. Unanticipated setbacks and dead ends, often no one’s fault, impede progress. For people used to the private sector, disappointment can result. Imagine how much more difficult it is for a veteran trained in a military system reasonably free of such impediments.

For veterans and civilians, the solution is the same:

The military can plan and launch a major campaign in a short period of time with a high expectancy of success. But for individuals rarely is forward movement so swift and dramatic. Life is the continual process of doing mostly menial tasks that when added together over the long-term lead to success.

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When the Temple still stood in Jerusalem day in and day out the priests made an offering called the Tamid, or continual offering. Weekday or holiday, each morning and afternoon, they performed this sacrifice, over 700 times a year. You can reach any goal following the same plan.

4 Steps to Blocking Disappointment

As you reach for success, make this your practice:

  1. Determine which tasks you must perform every day. Get down to absolute essentials. Your time is precious so don't waste it.
  2. Figure out the best way to do them. How can you do them most effectively and efficiently?
  3. Schedule time to do them. Even though they're daily tasks, put them on your task list. When you plan your day (Do so the night before) give them top priority. Then each day, recommit to completing them as efficiently as possible.
  4. Each day, check them off as you complete them. Every time you finish one of your daily tasks you've taken a step closer to your goal. Take a moment to savor your progress.

With life so filled with unforeseen happenings, fog layers the road to success. By focusing on the daily tasks that will lead you toward your goals you experience numerous triumphs each day. They will inoculate you from the disappointment of your success delayed.

How do you maintain enthusiasm for doing the routine tasks of your life?

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How Raising Your Rates Benefits Your Clients

Back during my real estate days, a friend I'll call Becky (seems the right thing to do since that is her name) and I met for coffee. We had similar businesses. She performed business valuations and consulting and I appraised property and consulted on real estate. We were frustrated. Both of our incomes had stagnated. And since all our working hours were filled, we saw no way to make more money.

How Raising Your Rates Benefits Your Clients

Analyzing the issue we concluded there were only two ways to increase our incomes: work more hours or charge a higher hourly fee. Since we couldn't do the former we discussed the latter.

Pricing for our services varied widely. So it was impossible to pinpoint what we should charge. We agreed to an experiment: Raise our hourly rates by 50% and see what happens.

Within a couple of months several we found:

  1. Clients paid the higher rate
  2. The number of hours I worked did not drop
  3. I got more challenging projects
  4. I traveled more

In short, I made more money doing better work. The same thing happened for Becky.

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About a year later we tried the experiment again with similar results. By then I had learned to have greater confidence in my professional ability. Also, I learned about the concept of:

Perceived Value

If something is more expensive people think it must be higher quality.

Raising Your Rates = Better Service

Equally important, my clients benefitted by:

  1. The quality of my work improving.
  2. Having someone who reliably tackled tough projects without sacrificing quality.
  3. Having greater focus on their specific needs because I didn't have to work on multiple projects or constantly pursue other work.

Of all the decisions I made in my business career, this one scared me the most. This includes dealing with a gangster though in fairness I didn't know he was a crook when I refused to be intimidated. I had worked so hard to build my company I didn't want to see it fail because I was too greedy.

But the risked paid off for my clients and me because I met the challenge of producing superior, more complex work to justify higher fees.

As you plan and start your business it's easy to be myopic.  Don't be afraid about raising your rates. Reach outside yourself to make sure your growth continues and is being rewarded properly.

Is it greedy to leave behind clients who can no longer afford your services?

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