5 Lessons As Entrepreneur

This week, Rubicon is about to reach a new economic threshold which represents another level of performance and scale. It’s a small milestone in the scheme of things, but a measure of how far we’ve come as an organization and what we do.

The business started because I thought about ways to add value to business, be of service to executives, and make it work with my own unique gifts and skills. With our clients’ support, we’ve expanded on the original idea, and now there is a full team behind Rubicon. It has grown much richer than the original vision. I have been reflecting on what is key to that, for us and for others.

A couple things hold true about being an entrepreneur:
1. Emotional Maturity is a Must-Have.

You must have and continue to build an emotional maturity. Entrepreneurs and execs alike need to build their instincts about what is right. Decisions are made faster and faster, and ultimately you need to know what you know, what you need to know, who / what to ask, and keep moving. You will never know everything you need to know, but you need to have a meta framework in your mind about what that looks like so you can ask for help when you need it, and move faster when you don’t.

2. Learning to challenge yourself.
Right now, for example, I’m trying to figure out ways Rubicon can serve smaller companies that are on their way up. We have such a history of solving complex problems that we’ve sized everything we do around big(ger) enterprises. But innovators who are in early days of a market innovation have a complex problem too, and I want to understand how we can serve them well. But doing a $60K, 2 month project is not the answer. Perhaps doing a series of $5K brain storming, scenario planning sessions might be. I can see that I have a lot to learn about what this looks like so I expect I’ll fail a few more times as I learn. But one day, we will find a way to serve this unique and interesting space.

3. You must create value.
If you help a process, that’s a lower value function than if you can find defining a winning value proposition. I had dinner with a colleague on Wednesday and one thing we discussed was his career choices. 3 job offers. 1 with a hardware company doing a new mobile unit. Unless it’s revolutionary, seems like there are several good vendors already serving that space (Nokia, Motorola). Another was asking him to babysit a product that already existed and had no place to go. The third was building a brand new photo-related internet-based service and he could define the value proposition, offer and structure deals. 3rd one had the most value that used his gifts the best. Companies function in much the same way. Everything we do is linked to economic value. But the question is whether we are in the inner circle or outer circle. Really think about what fundamental value you are creating and how central it is to the economic value being created. The closer you get to that inner circle, the better.

4. Team.
I believe that having smart and talented people who form a brain trust is key. I always want to know who around me can do what, and therefore what I can trust on them to deliver. I want folks of similar values. Note that is not the same as styles. But when someone says yes, i want to know what that yes means. Values = integrity = respect = ethics. And fundamentally, I want folks on my team who have a similar passion for doing what the business does. At Rubicon, we solve complex business problems with a combination of business and market strategies to help our clients win markets. Thus, my team is passionate about solving problems, we love to design breakthrough ideas, and our ability to tussle over things to get the best idea behind the scenes is legendary.

5. Entrepreneurs need (and I do mean NEED) a support network.
I view a support network group in a 3-part view. First part, the cheerleader I always want someone who believes in me. That can be parents, friends, clients who have become friends, spouses, whoever. This is the person who at the end of the day will remind you what you’ve already accomplished, and how your track record would suggest you’ll ‘get there’ again. Then, I want a challenge part of my network of people who will push, guide, cajole and nudge me to expand my horizon. I play this role a lot for myself but I also have a CEO group that gets me to think about (at least!) 3 new questions each time we interact. And finally, there should be someone in your life who can teach you and guide you. I have a business coach and professional friends who play this role of enabling me to chunk through new concepts.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you
are a leader.” —John Quincy Adams

Remember that Entrepreneurs are the foundation of this country and they’ve had a history of dreaming a bigger dream and then driving innovation.

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