Entrepreneurs Need Coaches

Published on Nov 18, 2015

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Dent 2014

Entrepreneurs Need Coaches!

Why Not us?

We are all capable of being champions, in making the impact we want to make. Why not us? Practice! Practice! Practice! But how do you "practice" being an entrepreneur. The plane is in the air. For me, I need ground control, someone that can see the big picture when I'm just focused on the next waypoint. For me, it's been about surrounding myself with the best coaches I can find.

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The only lens that we see of the performers is the result of their practice. The problem is that there is not much of an opportunity to see that lens into ourselves and have it reflected back so that we can learn, grow, and make smarter decisions.


The road of entrepreneurship is just lonely. I did not fully appreciate that I was going to lose so many friends, that I would test my marriage and that I would question my sanity. What saved me? The acknowledgement that I am not alone, that what I am dealing with is a well worn path, that the path is the greatest gift, both the ups and downs. How I stayed on the road? By building a team of coaches that are there for me at the aid stations.
Photo by ChrisGoldNY

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I have found great support in the Entrepreneur Organization. In 2007 I was out to lunch with Adam Brotman who is now famously the CDO at Starbucks. Back then he was the founder of Play Network. I was lamenting about some issues I was having with shareholders. He proceeded to share his experience which was nearly identical to my own. He said -- Russell, you need to join EO, We all deal with this stuff regardless of industry. I applied immediately. Today, EO is a community of 9,000 founder/co-founders throughout the world in over 150 chapters doing >$1 million in revenue that are here to create the most influential group of entrepreneurs on the planet. It is a community of peers that are sharing experiences, not giving advice. My most recent presentation to my peers: "Being Awesome -- how to create the triggers in your life to reinforce your greatness -- When the chips feel down, how do you remind yourself that you really are very lucky?

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The right people come along at the right time in your life. It's just a matter of taking a leap when it feels right. I had started EveryMove but was having a hard time raising money. Andy Sack encouraged me to apply to Techstars. And I jumped.

If EO is about peer learning, Techstars is about mentor based learning -- it's a raw environment to have people around you that want you to succeed and are willing to make the time to give you support and challenge you. Sometimes it takes feeling two inches tall to grow to be a giant. It's hard to hear that your idea sucks. But in the end, it's a gift.
Photo by billerickson

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One of my greatest gifts has been actually having a 1:1 coach, someone who is committed to helping me navigate the tumultuous waters of entrepreneurship. My coach is guy named Lex Sisney. He has taught me a lot about myself, my skills, my blind spots, and my gifts. I am cheap and I have always dismissed the expense of a coach. It was a big mistake. I know that I have to keep investing in myself and I can't do it alone, especially when everyone around me expects me to "have it together." Lex has passed on a number of great learnings, but here are my top 6

#1: Control the belief bubbles

#1: Lots of forces try to undermine your confidence as an entrepreneur. It takes great fortitude to withstand the naysayers, the "no's". It's easy as a start-up to be the scapegoat if something doesn't go well. We can either choose to take on those projected beliefs or resist them and grab hold of perceptions that advance our cause. This is not about rose colored glasses but it is about conviction.

#2: Success = Energy/Entropy

#2: Everything for me comes down to a core principal that an organizations is a system, one that has and needs to acquire energy to survive and one that needs to eliminate or mitigate entropy, that which is destroying a structure over time. In a finite system, maximize energy. To grow the system, get more. Entropy comes from many place -- your family life, personnel issues, conflicting strategies. For me, it was such a simple model. I know when I have entropy -- I feel it in my gut. Own it. Understand it. Take action.
Photo by drubuntu

#3: Find Your Genius Zone

#3: My genius zone is at the vector of happiness and productivity -- how I am, how I want to be, and how others want me to be -- If perfectly aligned, I'm in my zone. It is that place where I have a unique ability to perform at a high level and I get energy -- I need to spend 80% of my time in my zone. For me, that's doing deals -- I love the art of the deal, the thrill of the hunt, the close and the satisfaction.
Photo by mdf3530

#4: Nail it b4 U Scale it

#4: A mantra I hear all the time from my coach and a huge challenge for entrepreneurs. Nail it is getting referencable validation that you've built a product that a customer is willing to pay for because you have solved a problem. Only then should you scale. Too many companies scale prematurely, haven't validated the product and then lose control.

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There is a classic product evolution that is too often short circuited. Where pilots move scale before they've nailed it, raise a ton of money and then can't scale with confidence because they missed a critical step.


#5: Be aware of the leadership forces required in your organization at different times. 4 Forces at work are Producer (What), Stabilizer (How), Unifier (Who), and Innovator (Why Not?). Early stage is High innovator. Scaling/growth requires a stabilizer. Weighting your organization too heavily in one area will lead to sub-optimal results
Photo by Néric Blein

#6: The Early Customer

#6: Be very careful about the early customers you work with. These early customers become your launchpad or your demise. They need to be ready to take a leap with you. If they are not, but you sold them well, they are going to create too much entropy. You need a customer that wants to collaborate with you, not dictate your product for their unique circumstance. Being very aware of where interests align and diverge is critical.
Photo by calca