Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Apples & Oranges & Entrepeneurs

I wish I had met me 15 years ago.

I had spent the last 25 years in the traditional workforce, starting as a front line supervisor and finishing as a human resource executive. I decided to take the plunge and become an entrepreneur and start my own consulting business.  All the important variables were in place - my business plan, financing, space to work in, etc.What was missing was a  strategy to successfully convert from being an apple into being an orange.


Those of us who began our careers in the  traditional workplace are "apples." Apples work in a structured  environment. When I was an apple the expectation was that I'd be busy all of the time. It didn't matter if what I did added value to my companies bottom line. My employer was paying me for 8 hours of activity and  I'd better make good use of my time. My value was determined by activity and not necessarily results. Twice  monthly my paycheck arrived on my desk.

This lack of value addition is what motivated me to start my own consulting business. The two most important things I did as an HR executive was to determine the date, time and place of the Christmas Party and Company picnic and who got the preferred parking spot as employee of the month. The lawyers handled the labor issues, accounting handled benefits and payroll and my department was supposed keep tabs on attendance and morale.

When I started my own consulting business I became an "orange."  The only way I  get paid is when I produce revenue. My whole frame of reference changed.What I found out about myself was that I'd taken the behaviors and strategies that had made me a successful apple,and simply laid them, like a template, over my new orange environment. That works if your intent is to create a fruit salad. It's not the best strategy if you want to become a successful entrepreneur.   I often felt  defeated, frustrated and embarrassed. When I was an apple I was a respected executive and leader. I knew all the rules Now, it was like trying to catch greased lightening. I'll spare you the gory details but, one day the light went on, and I asked  myself

"John, are you spending your time on the right stuff?"

So, as the saying goes I worked smarter not harder. The investment of time went to those things that mattered to advance my place in the market. Some days that was 15 hours and some days it was 5. I had to shed the employee mind set. I didn't work for my clients I worked with them. But here's a story of one of my clients:

I recently began working with a client who started their own social media consulting business after spending their entire career in the traditional workforce. Our first few sessions were a bit frantic and disjointed. She had embraced her orangeness but still fell back on her apple tendencies. She looked at what was going on in the marketplace and decided that in order to feed the lingering apple desires she had to embrace everything that came down the pike whether it was pertinent to the business or not.  That way she would stay busy and get a sort of back handed affirmation in the process.

The measuring stick was activity not results. Once she began working through some of these issues and started to focus on the activities that were productive and entrepreneurial she began to see where she could add value. The time  devoted to developing  business was the time that created value. He boat wasn't sinking it just had a few leaks and didn't require an overhaul, just a few adjustments in  perception about her role in this new endeavor. She didn't need all the bells and whistles shed been lead to believe were necessary to be a successful entrepreneur, just the ones that would further her cause.

That's why I wished I'd met me 15 years ago. I would have saved me a lot of false starts and stops.

Make the investment to work with someone who can help guide you through the maze.

My next blog will talk about how to find the right person to help you on your journey.