How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy

OWN YOUR FUTURE

Don’t Have a Career Plan!
In the past, long-standing, respected, industry-leading companies might disappear due to competition from nimble upstarts; today, as author Paul Brown describes in the early pages of Own Your Future, it is entire industries that keep unexpectedly and jarringly disappearing: “Been to a music store lately? Drop off any photos to be processed? Used a pay phone? … Used a travel agent to book a routine vacation? Probably not.”

What does this mean for building careers? It means, according to Brown, that career plans are often useless. If you were an associate marketing manager for TomTom and had a plan to work up to regional manager and, some day, director of marketing, those plans ended when the unthinkable happened to the stand-alone GPS market: car manufacturers started including them in their cars. The same holds true for the ambitious low-level manager at Blockbuster.

The bottom line, according to Brown, is simple: don’t have a career plan! Brown has a better idea for dealing with the uncertainty of today’s world: a methodology known as ALBR.

What Serial Entrepreneurs Do

Nobody knows more about uncertainty, writes Brown, than serial entrepreneurs. Launching a company is always an exercise in terrifying uncertainty: Will my products or services attract customers? Will they be willing to pay the price that I need them to pay? Serial entrepreneurs – those who are always looking for the next business to start -thrive on such uncertainty. And for that reason, he writes, thinking like a serial entrepreneur is the best way to succeed in an uncertain economy.

Writing with Charles Kiefer and Leonard Schlesinger, his collaborators on his previous book Just Start, Brown describes in Own Your Future the path that serial entrepreneurs take as they launch their latest business.

  1. Serial entrepreneurs set out to do what they want to do. Passion is a word that is sometimes overused. Indeed, not every company launched by a serial entrepreneur was based on a passion. But at the very least, there was desire: serial entrepreneurs start companies doing something they want to do.
  2. Serial entrepreneurs act. Serial entrepreneurs don’t spend decades pondering an idea. No company was thought into being. But when they do act, they take a small step toward their goal. They don’t overcommit. They don’t risk everything. And they don’t become paralyzed by thoughts of “what if ” or “what might happen.”
  3. Serial entrepreneurs learn. After taking the small step, they stop and see what they have learned from that small step. Is the market response suggesting a different course? Do they still have the desire to move forward, or do they think they would like to do something else?
  4. Serial entrepreneurs build on what they’ve learned. After taking a small step and pausing and reflecting on that small step, they use the lessons of the first step to develop the next step.
  5. With the next step, they start the process all over again. Brown summarizes the process as Act, Learn, Build, Repeat – or ALBR. According to Brown, ALBR is the methodology that serial entrepreneurs use to deal with the endless uncertainty of launching new companies, the methodology that in Just Start helped organizations deal with uncertainty and, in Own Your Future, the methodology that will help individuals build successful careers no matter what their job.

The power of ALBR is that it turns career planning on its head. Instead of imagining the perfect job of the future and then figuring out how to get there, through ALBR you slowly create your dream job. This is a vital difference for the simple fact that the perfect job of the future on which you have set your sights may suddenly disappear from the horizon.

Own Your Future is a career and success book that, unlike many others in its category, is adapted to today’s realities. Brown and his coauthors are not afraid to dispute some of the most basic advice often seen in other books. (e.g., the oft-repeated maxim that if you do what you love, the money will follow is false; the money may not follow). From overcoming obstacles and choosing between love and money to how to act entrepreneurially without starting a company, Own Your Future is packed with advice and keen insight for those looking for their next job… which should be everybody.

Breakthrough Strategies for Increasing Diversity and Improving Your Bottom Line

GENDER INTELLIGENCE

Why the Glass Ceiling Still Exists
The glass ceiling is still very much intact, write diversity consultants Barbara Annis and Keith Merron in their book Gender Intelligence, not because companies are unwilling to change but because companies are approaching the problem with the wrong mindset. The most well-meaning diversity managers and their executive bosses are failing in their efforts to empower women and develop more women leaders, because they are trying to build equality in numbers and sameness in behavior. In other words, in the male-dominated workplace, Annis and Merron write, women are taught that success depends on women acting more like men. What men do makes no difference, and they don’t have to change anything; it’s women who have to change.

Other leaders insist that they don’t discriminate against women. In their companies, these leaders explain, they have “gender-blind meritocracies.” The problem is that in many organizations, the supposedly objective criteria used to judge performance is based on male tendencies. For example, high-tech firms value people who communicate in a very rapid style, who are incredibly analytical, and who will tear down any idea or anyone that demonstrates a flaw in their thinking; these are typically male traits, and not surprisingly, women avoid the resulting aggressive, conflict-ridden environment created by such traits.

Men and Women are Different

The fact is that men and women are different and will always be different, the authors emphasize. In an early chapter of the book, the authors lay out the neuroscience that reveals how the brains of men and women are structured differently — for example, women have a greater prefrontal cortex, which enhances consequential thinking and moderates social behavior, thus leading them to look for win-win solutions to conflict, while men are going to take a more competitive approach.

Thus, asking women to act like men is asking women to be inauthentic. Inauthentic behavior is not only bound to fail, but it is also unnecessary. As the authors argue, the path to what the authors call “gender intelligent” companies is based on the understanding that the different styles of women, such as their less linear, more creative and web-like approach to problem solving, are of equal value to business as the ultra-linear, blinders-on, focused approach of men. The challenge is to bring the two styles together in a productive way. As the authors explain, “Teaching women to think, act, problem-solve and lead like men devalues and discourages women while limiting the vast potential of the masculine and feminine blend in leadership that is crucial for success in tomorrow’s workplace.”

In the second half of the book, the authors focus on achieving this productive blend. They lay out, for example, the three fundamental shifts for becoming a gender- intelligent leader: 1) going from a sameness mindset to embracing the value in gender differences; 2) creating meritocracies based on different models for success; and 3) recognizing when their behaviors are not congruent with their intentions — too many leaders have gender blind spots that undermine their well-meaning efforts.

The authors also explore how functions, processes and systems work in gender-intelligent organizations. For example, Deloitte, which once depended on nearly all male consultants advising all-male clients, now recognizes that women partners who listen, are understanding and encourage dialogue can be effective and in some instances even more effective consultants than their male colleagues.

The greatest contribution of this essential book, however, is in shining a light on the fact that the glass ceiling exists not because men want it there but because both men and women working to shatter the ceiling are building their efforts on the wrong assumptions.

*Barbara Annis is also the author, along with John Gray, of Work with Me: The 8 Blind Spots Between Men and Women in Business.

Business with a Purpose

Here at Soundview, we’re always looking for the latest trends in business. These trends are highlighted by the hot topics of the business books that are being published. Recently, there seems to be many books coming across our desk on Purpose.

One such title is The Purpose Economy by Aaron Hurst, which we are summarizing this month and hosting a webinar with in September. Like the Information Economy, which has driven innovation and economic growth until now, Hurst argues that our new economic era is driven by connecting people to their purpose. It’s an economy where value lies in establishing purpose for employees and customers through serving needs greater than their own, enabling personal growth and building community.

Part of the Do Books series, Do/Purpose is written by David Hieatt. In Do/Purpose, Hieatt offers insights on how to build one of these purpose-driven companies. You know, those rare brands we all fall in love with. The crazy ones that don’t just make something, but change something as well.

Another purpose-focused book is Black Hole Focus by Isaiah Hankel. As Hankel puts it, “Don’t get stuck on a career path you have no passion for. Don’t waste your intelligence on something that doesn’t really mean anything more to you than a paycheck. Let (me) help you define a focus so powerful that everything in your life will be pulled towards it. Create your purpose and change your life. Be focused. Be fulfilled. Be successful.”

When we talk about corporate culture, there is also A Culture of Purpose by Christoph Lueneburger. Building a culture of purpose is one of the greatest challenges facing modern leaders, as today’s best minds are looking for meaning, not just jobs. More than any other single factor, cultures of purpose power winning organizations, attracting the smartest, most creative, most passionate talent.

There are more, but I’ll stop with these four. Why the interest in purpose? I think there are several factors that have brought this theme to the forefront.

One key factor is generational. The younger generations in the marketplace are looking for more than the Traditional and Baby Boomer generations when it comes to purpose. It’s no longer about making money to retire and enjoy life. It’s now about enjoying life along the way, and believing that what you do matters.

Another factor is the ever faster pace of life. As work spills over more and more into life, people want to know that what they’re doing has a purpose that is worth the sacrifice.

And perhaps a third factor might be a greater interest on the part of younger generations in the environment around them. They want to know that the company they work for is focused on the health and safety of people, and on the preservation of the environment. Again, this is purpose-driven living.

Perhaps you see additional factors at work that are causing this focus on purpose. We’d love to hear what you think. Post your own thoughts in the comments section of this blog for others to consider.

The Six Megatrends You Should Know About

What is a megatrend? In their book Leadership 2030, Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell explain that a megatrend has three dimensions: Time – it’s observable and can be predicted with high probability at least 15 years into the future, Reach – it affects all regions and stakeholders, and Impact – it fundamentally transforms policies, society and the economy.

Through their research with Z-Punkt and the Hay Group, Vilemetter and Sell have uncovered six megatrends that we need to be aware of in the near future:

Globalization 2.0: Asia dominates the global economy
Climate change: Sustainability becomes imperative
Individualism: Freedom of choice erodes loyalty
Digitization: Boundaries blur between private and working lives
Demographic changes: Aging populations intensify the talent war
Converging technologies: The sharpest tech shift in history is around the corner

If you would like to hear more about these megatrends and how they will impact your business, please join Vielmetter and Sell at our Soundview Live webinar on August 7th entitled The 6 Megatrends You Need to Know About. You’ll learn how these megatrends will affect your sector of business, and what you can do to prepare for and take advantage of these trends.

What is a Responsible Entrepreneur?

“Responsible entrepreneurs are a special breed, seeking to transform industries and even society itself. They challenge and refine cultural assumptions, laws, regulations, and even the processes of governance. This requires them to do and think far beyond what is usually required of business leaders.” Carol Sanford

In Responsible Entrepreneur, Carol Sanford, one of the most trusted names in responsible business development, offers a blueprint for this new kind of business leadership, describing the means by which any entrepreneur can pursue a higher order of work.

Sanford maps this journey through four archetypes:

•The Realizing Entrepreneur:  Industry Game-Changer (Steve Jobs, Sarah Slaughter)

•The Reconnection Entrepreneur: Society Game-Changer (Richard Branson, Cheryl Contee & Kipp Baratoff)

•The Reciprocity Entrepreneur: Culture Game-Changer (Oprah Winfrey, Michiel Bakker & Annalie Killian)

•The Regenerative Entrepreneur: Governance Game-Changer (Larry Page, Jay Coen Gilbert & Shainoor Khoja)

We have invited Carol to our upcoming Soundview Live webinar, The Responsible Entrepreneur, to give you a better understanding of which archetype most aligns with your goals, so that you can learn how to grow your business into a powerful platform that can leverage change, and even change the foundations that create our most pressing problems and issues.

For entrepreneurs seeking to pursue world-changing results, or impact investors looking to align their capital with their values, The Responsible Entrepreneur provides the frameworks to build a business and to evaluate and direct investments to create the greatest benefit for all stakeholders. For anyone who wants to make a difference in the way businesses affect the world, The Responsible Entrepreneur lays out ways to make that aspiration focused and doable.

Join us on July 24th for our webinar with Carol Sanford, and bring your questions to post during the live event.