How EO has impacted my life and grown my business

Natasha Miller is an EO member in Los Angeles, and founder and Chief Experience Designer of Entire Productions, which designs, plans and produces incredible event experiences both virtually and in person. The company has been named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing, privately held companies three years in a row. Natasha recently shared how EO impacted her life and business:

As an entrepreneur, having an impressive arsenal of tools to pull from at any moment can be the difference between success and failure. Education, powerful connections, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences are all keys to entrepreneurial success.

But as a founder and CEO, where can you learn such skills while simultaneously hustling to grow your company? That’s where the Entrepreneurs’ Organization comes in. Throughout my years as a member, I have exponentially grown my business, achieved authority status through educational programs, and made lasting friendships with people all over the world.

I strongly identify with EO’s core value of Thirst for Learning and take advantage of every educational opportunity that comes my way. Successful entrepreneurs know that they will face fierce competition in the market and must stay up-to-date with the latest innovations and ideas to keep their businesses thriving.

I feel fortunate to have attended three high-level learning opportunities through EO:

  1. I attended EO with Harvard Business School Executive Education: Inspiring Entrepreneurial Strategy, with 95 other members from around the globe to develop groundbreaking strategies and skills in analyzing industry evolution that helped our businesses grow. At this exclusive EO Executive Education program, we learned directly from Harvard faculty in live discussions, participated in case studies and study groups, and attended guest speaking events that gave us a competitive advantage in the complex global economy.
  2. I was extremely fortunate to be accepted into EO’s Entrepreneurial Masters Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), along with 68 fellow members who are the owner, founder, co-founder or controlling shareholder of a company that grosses US$1 million or more annually. The rigorous sessions are held over four days at the MIT Endicott House, located in Dedham, Massachusetts, USA. The intense blending of practice and theory is designed to identify and bring together the next generation of entrepreneurial giants—the next Bill Gates or Richard Branson. Growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, I never imagined I would be in the same room as the next Bill Gates, let alone be considered as one. We have two more years left in the three-year class, and after completing the program, many classes go on to continue their studies as a group.
  3. The EO Global Leadership Conference (GLC) is a two-day, intensive training conference for EO members who volunteer to be leaders in their chapter or region. The high-caliber leadership content and unique experience of networking with other leaders make GLC one of the top entrepreneurial conferences of the year. The 2021 GLC programming and virtual conference experience were top-notch. I learned a lot via the content, met some new people, and also enjoyed being a sponsor of the event.

In addition to EO’s executive education and leadership education opportunities, the educational events that occur both at a local chapter level (in person and virtually) as well as regionally and worldwide are very impressive! Among the thought-leaders I’ve been able to see are Gary Vaynerchuck, Barbara Corcoran, Magic Johnson, Sara Blakely, Chris Do and Seth Godin. As the founder of an event production company, I might briefly encounter such high-caliber celebrities, but rarely would I get the chance to speak with them and ask questions and get valuable responses—as I do through EO learning events.

Perhaps the most impactful benefit of EO is its members. EO’s brand values summarize the membership experience beautifully: “We are committed to each other’s growth and well-being. We build deep human connections across rooms, cities, countries and continents. Our community is inclusive, and we value diversity. We are from different cultures, religions and backgrounds, but EO binds us together.”

EO is a non-solicit peer group, but when asked organically, we do a lot of business with each other. For example, my company, Entire Productions, has been referred to businesses by EO members, and when appropriate, we also refer business to EO member companies.

When COVID hit, I also hit a professional low point. My multi-million-dollar business came crashing down in a matter of days, and I had to make the gut-wrenching decision to permanently lay off six employees. Through EO, I was able to learn quickly about the US-based Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) from EO members such as Ami Kassar, the CEO of MultiFunding and an expert in small business funding, based on their experience and expertise. The PPP enabled me to keep a small but scrappy team; we dug deep to become the experts on virtual and hybrid events. We ended up doing over 200 virtual events in 2020 and finished the year with US$1M in profit―which is a miracle number given the circumstances.

Through my connections in the organization, I was also able to secure a PPE supply for one of our larger corporate clients via an EO member in New York City and sell surplus PPE to an EO member in Southern California. It was extremely meaningful for me to return the support I received, especially during such a turbulent time.

The gym, wine clubs, streaming platforms―these memberships may come and go―but as long as my bio says “entrepreneur”, I will remain a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. I’ve made a lot of investments in my 20 years of business, but none as impactful as the decision to lean in and commit myself to explore the opportunities and benefits provided by EO.

My company, like many others, is now seeing the light at the end of the COVID tunnel as social and corporate event requests start to roll in. Now, with my arsenal of tools supplied by EO, I am ready to take on whatever comes my way; new virus variants, cancellations and anti-vaxxers beware!

For more insights and inspiration from today’s leading entrepreneurs, check out EO on Inc. and more articles from the EO blog

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6 More Magic Learning Moments from Magic Johnson’s EO Powerhouse Speakers Interview (Part II)

EO’s purpose is to help entrepreneurs achieve their full potential. One way EO facilitates that is through programmes such as the EO Powerhouse Series, designed to give exclusive access to thought leaders and changemakers across various industries.

In May, EO member and Global Learning Committee Chair David Nilssen moderated a virtual interview with Earvin “Magic” Johnson, an American National Basketball Association (NBA) legend, entrepreneur, philanthropist and motivational speaker. EO members heard first-hand about Magic’s challenges and the journey to propel his company to the status of No. 1 urban brand in America. Johnson has developed the skills and tenacity to excel as an athlete, business leader and changemaker.

The EO Powerhouse Series interview with Magic Johnson is available exclusively to EO members until 26 August 2021. Part 1 of our interview recap detailed seven Magic Learning Moments from the programme.

In case you missed it, here are six additional “Magic learning moments” that this inspiring entrepreneur shared during the interview:

  1. When you’re going through something, you need your support system. Three decades ago, Magic retired from basketball because he learned he was HIV positive, shocking the sports world. “When the doctor told me I had HIV, I went down to my knees in disbelief,” Magic shared. Then he had to go home and tell his wife, Cookie, who was pregnant with their first child. “When you make mistakes, not only do you hurt yourself, you hurt your family members, and everybody who loves you,” Magic shared. “It hurt me to see her crying.” (Fortunately, they would find out a week later that neither Cookie nor the baby were HIV positive.) The same night Magic told his wife he was HIV positive, she told him that she was staying and they would “beat this thing together.” Magic said, “If she had left, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I needed my best friend, I needed my wife to be there for me—and she was.”
  2. You’re going to get knocked down, but just keep going. When he first started in business, people did not believe that Magic could be a good CEO. He used his own money, but when he wanted to scale and achieve growth and sustainability, he needed to borrow more. “I went to seven banks—they all turned me down. I had a strong business strategy and a track record of success. They still all said no. They all wanted my autograph, but they wouldn’t lend me any money,” Magic remembered. “It wasn’t until I went to the eighth bank that they said yes.”
  3. Always overdeliver. Once he got the loan, Magic knew he had to deliver. He bought a shopping center that was 40% occupied for US$22 million then worked his tail off to grow it to 100% occupancy. He sold it for $48 million and took that US$26 million profit to the same bank; they loaned him US$50 million. “Overdeliver. When you overdeliver, then you can go back to that bank and get more capital. Now I can get as much capital as I need and want because of my track record of success.”
  4. Bring people to the deal. Sometimes you have to physically show potential partners where the opportunities are. When Magic was making a deal to bring Starbucks coffee locations to urban America, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz flew to Los Angeles to see how Magic ran his theaters. I took him to South Central and drove him around to see the beautiful, well-kept homes in that community. Whitney Houston’s hit movie, Waiting to Exhale, was premiering that night, so people were lined up down the block, every theater was sold out, there were a thousand women in the lobby, and the concession stand was making a lot of money.” After the movie, Schultz said, “Magic, I’ve seen everything I needed to see. You’ve got the deal. Thank you for having me come down to see these communities for myself. Let’s go build 125 Starbucks in the inner cities.”
  5. Know your target customer. When Magic opened his inner city Starbucks coffee locations, he wanted to appeal to his target consumer. “Starbucks coffee is great, but their desserts did not resonate with the urban consumer. I took scones out of my Starbucks and put in peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, and sock-it-to-me cake.” As a result, the profit per caps in his store were $5.59 while other Starbucks locations were $5.51. “I was outperforming suburban stores because we made that little tweak.”
  6. You can do well and do good at the same time. When asked what he wants his legacy to be, Magic didn’t mention anything about his epic basketball career. What he’s most proud of are the jobs he has created in urban America for minorities across the US and the 10,000 scholarships provided through the Magic Johnson Foundation for “minority kids who had the grace to go to college but not the financial means.” He also mentioned the technology centers his enterprise built that provides inner city kids with access to technology. “Inner cities kids are way behind suburban kids because they don’t have access to technology. I’m really proud of the 20 technology centers we’ve built around the country.”

In addition, during the pandemic, Magic put up US$325 million so small black, Latino and women business owners could keep their businesses open. “We’ve saved over 15,000, going on 20,000 companies across America. I’m really proud of that.” You can do well and do good at the same time.

“I want to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice. I want to help people be successful. Make sure that these same 10,000 kids who got those scholarships through the Magic Johnson Foundation can reach their goals and dreams like I reached my goals and dreams. I don’t care about the championships—what I want to do is change communities across this country. Make an impact, and make a difference.”

Don’t miss Part 1 of this interview, where Magic discusses seven additional lessons he’s learned throughout his entrepreneurial journey!

And, get ready for upcoming installments of EO Powerhouse Series—including Jay Shetty on 13 July 2021, Trevor Noah on 31 August 2021 and Jane Goodall on 23 September 2021. EO members can register here to enjoy this exclusive, free speakers series.

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7 Magic Learning Moments from Magic Johnson’s EO Powerhouse Series Interview

Magic Johnson

Magic JohnsonEO’s mission is to help entrepreneurs achieve their full potential. One way EO facilitates that is through programmes such as the EO Powerhouse Series, designed to give exclusive access to thought leaders and changemakers across various industries.

In May, EO member and Global Learning Committee Chair David Nilssen moderated a virtual interview with Earvin “Magic” Johnson, an American National Basketball Association (NBA) legend, entrepreneur, philanthropist and motivational speaker. EO members heard first-hand about Magic’s challenges and the journey to propel his company to the status of No. 1 urban brand in America. Johnson has developed the skills and tenacity to excel as an athlete, business leader and changemaker.

Today, he is chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, which provides high-quality products and services that focus primarily on ethnically diverse and underserved urban communities through strategic alliances, investments, consulting and endorsements.

The EO Powerhouse Series interview is available exclusively to EO members until 26 August 2021.

In case you missed it, here are 7 “Magic learning moments” that this inspiring entrepreneur shared during the interview:

  1. You’re going to have to work for it. As a teenager, Magic asked his father for money to go to the movies. With 10 kids to raise, there wasn’t money for movies. So, his father said, “I can’t give you money, but I can do something better—follow me to the garage,” and he introduced Magic to “Mr. Lawnmower, Mr. Rake and Mr. Shovel,” saying, “They can help you earn money to go to the movies.” Magic credits his father for teaching him the value of working for what he wanted and setting an unwavering example: Magic’s father was never late, nor ever missed a day of work, for General Motors in 30 years. And also ran a trash hauling service on the weekends as a second job!
  2. Leaders must know how to get the best from their teams. The Los Angeles Lakers coach, Pat Riley, understood that talent won championships—but that his talent had to be ready to play. “A lot of teams think they can coast in practice and then turn it on in games, but it doesn’t work that way,” Magic shared. “When game time came, we played hard, naturally—because we practiced hard.”
  3. The best coaches are motivational geniuses. Riley motivated Magic to perform at his highest level by loudly discussing with an assistant coach how Magic’s rivals, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, had performed in their latest games. Riley would say, “Did you see what Larry Bird did? He scored 40 points, got 15 rebounds and made 8 assists!” and, “Did you hear that Jordan scored 51 points tonight?” Magic knew he would be compared with the other two, and his extremely competitive nature made him want to play his best in the game. Magic credits Riley for making him a better player.
  4. Your competitors can make you better. Of rivals Bird and Jordan, Magic said, “I learned so much from both of them. Larry Bird made me a better basketball player and a better man.” But it’s not only in the sports arena that competitors benefit us. “Your competitors can make you better as a small business owner. You can learn from them, just as they can learn from you.”
  5. Great business owners make their employees better. “The two greatest basketball players I played against—Michael Jordan and Larry Bird—what did they do? They made their teammates better,” Magic said. He extrapolates that lesson to entrepreneurship: “For all of us who own their own business, what is our goal? To make every employee who works for and with us better. Help them grow to achieve their goals and dreams. When you do that, guess what? They’ll run through a wall for you. They’ll come in early and work late. They’ll be the biggest brand ambassadors you have. Happy employees and satisfied customers are strong brand ambassadors.”
  6. What the CEO is passionate about will trickle down to everyone else. If it’s in your DNA to have a family or team environment at your company, or to be a hard worker, or to overdeliver—then that’s going to trickle down to everybody else in your company. Magic gets up at 4:30am, works out for two hours, and is in the office every single day. His employees have to bring their A-game. “I only want to work with people who get the job done. It might take us until 8pm to get it done. I want people who have that same type of mindset.” To motivate those who don’t, Magic might say, “Hey, one day you’re going to be a manager or executive in this company, so I want to help you make that dream a reality, but these are the things you have to do to reach that level.” It’s all about accountability!
  7. When people say you can’t do something, it’s the greatest feeling to prove them wrong! Magic went to a high school that wasn’t known for basketball. In his freshman year, the team was ranked last place in the district. “I was only 15 years old, but I knew we were NOT coming in last place,” Magic recalled. Everybody was shocked that the team went 8-0 (8 wins, no losses). Then they played one of the top basketball schools in Michigan and blew them away—Magic scored 36 points, with 16 rebounds and 16 assists—his first so-called “triple-double” at age 15. The team went on to compete in the state championships that year. A local sportswriter nicknamed him “Magic” for that season’s accomplishments—and it stuck!

Stay tuned for our next blog post featuring Part II of this interview, where Magic discusses six additional lessons he’s learned throughout his entrepreneurial journey!

And, get ready for upcoming installments of EO Powerhouse Series—including former US vice president, Al Gore, on 15 June 2021 at 10am in New York / 3pm in London / 10pm in Hong Kong. EO members can register here to enjoy this exclusive, free speakers series.

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Simon Says: Have “The Talk” with your business partner

Contributed to EO by Saul Simon, a certified financial planner, a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors and founder of Simon Financial Group. This article is the first in a series of three about having “The Talk” with your business partners, parents and adult children.

One important life lesson we learned from the pandemic is that we should all expect the unexpected. We also learned that it’s not necessarily easy to plan for the unexpected. And yet, most of us wish we had done a better job of it in at least some aspect of our lives.

Plan for unexpected outcomes

When it comes to business partnerships, it’s better to have a plan for unexpected outcomes and not need it, than to need a plan for an unexpected event and not have one in place.

That’s why financial planners recommend having “The Talk” with your business partner. It can be a difficult and somewhat sensitive discussion; however, it has significant implications that could impact you and your partner, the families of all the partners, your employees, and other stakeholders.

A worst-case scenario

Imagine this scenario: You and your partner are entering your late fifties, sixties or perhaps even seventies. You’ve been in business together for over 20 years. You have a successful, thriving company, plus you’ve enjoyed a substantial income as well as the benefits of owning a small- to medium-size business. Everything is going well―until disaster strikes: Your business partner suddenly passes away. Now everything that you’ve built together with your partner is in turmoil. All at once, you’re faced with handling an enormous number of details that must be addressed immediately, not to mention the emotion of losing a valued friend.

To begin with, you’ve just endured a personal loss and so has your partner’s family. Attention must be given to the emotional situation and the immediate actions that grieving families must deal with.

Then the chaos starts for you. First of all, if you had no plan in place, you may now have a new, previously unanticipated partner in your partner’s spouse and family. They can claim ownership of your partner’s shares in the business and make decisions with which you disagree, and that may not be in the best interests of the company. Plus, there is an additional financial drain on the business because you will need to hire someone to replace your partner’s role while continuing to pay a salary to your partner’s spouse. In other words, you now have a mess on your hands coupled with legal and financial matters to contend with that you didn’t anticipate and weren’t prepared for.

Sadly, this story is not unique and probably happens all too often to partners in business. In a multi-generational, family-owned company, similar scenarios may include inheritance issues and other tax implications.

If you are in a business with one or more partners, no matter your ages, you should have a plan in place for an eventual business sale, business break-up, business acquisition, or demise of any partner.

3 Essential elements to put in place

How can you protect yourself and your partner(s) from this scenario? There are three essential elements that can help avoid such a crisis:

  • Buy-sell agreement. This lays out how ownership will transfer in the case of a partner’s death, disability or retirement. The agreement provides for the purchase of the departing shareholder’s stock by the company or the surviving shareholder(s).
  • Funded life insurance policy. In order to have the money to buy the stock of a deceased partner’s estate, a life insurance policy is used to fund the purchase of the deceased’s shares.
  • Business valuation. In the event one of the partners no longer wishes to be in the business, a valuation of the business will determine its market value. It must be agreed upon by all partners for a smooth transition based on the terms of the buy-sell agreement.

According to Gary Katz, a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors, a buy-sell agreement and its proper funding may achieve several goals:

  • Avoid liquidation of the business
  • Facilitate an orderly continuation of the business
  • Replace lost business income for a deceased owner’s heirs
  • Set a purchase price that can fix the estate value of the decedent’s stock
  • Provide evidence to customers and creditors of the firm’s stability

No matter what the circumstances, to be prepared for a partner’s retirement, a company break-up or the death of a partner, your business must have a plan in place of agreed-upon actions to take in such circumstances. The plan will protect not only the financial health of the company, but also the financial well-being of all parties involved.

I strongly suggest that if you are an owner of a closely held business with one or more partners or family members, and don’t yet have a buy-sell agreement and funded insurance policies in place, it makes sense to have “the talk” sooner rather than later before anything unexpected happens.

There are important conversations that need to take place between partners, with a substantial amount of paperwork involved. Having an objective financial advisor at the table, along with your attorney and accountant, can help make this “talk” less awkward, more productive, and more beneficial to all involved.

I hope you will not consider this information as only food for thought, but rather as fuel for action.

Saul Simon is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors. CRN-3576464-050421.

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What work-life balance looks like for entrepreneurs post-Covid

EO london Julia Langkraehr

EO london Julia LangkraehrBy Julia Langkraehr, a member of EO London and founder of Bold Clarity.

Employers and employees who have been working remotely for more than a year now are asking themselves the same question as widespread vaccination rolls out: How will things change when we can safely work in the same space once again?

The answer remains uncertain. Although one PwC survey published in January 2021 reported that 83% of employers said the remote shift was successful, 63% still think most employees should be in the office at least three days a week. Employees and employers both seem to have mixed opinions on the matter.

I personally have learned a lot in the past year of working from home, especially when it comes to how my work and life fit together. My company had a smooth transition to remote work, but I found that it blurred the lines between my work life and home life. Entrepreneurs like me often struggled to maintain a healthy work-life balance even before the pandemic, but I saw this become even more true as my working hours grew longer at home. And yet, many other business leaders and employees have found remote work frees up more of their time.

More options to consider

When considering whether to return to the office, it’s important to remember that we have many more options now as we’ve all learned so much about how to work effectively from a distance. After all, companies have hired team members remotely, raised equity or VC funding via video calls only, and even participated in mergers and acquisitions without ever meeting in person.

Overall, such pandemic-related shifts have opened the door for many new possibilities when it comes to finding the right working model. The following considerations can help you reassess and rebuild an innovative working environment that helps you and your employees maintain effective work and achieve a healthy balance:

1. Break down geographic boundaries

Many founders and employees are discovering they don’t have to be in the office to reach their goals or lead teams effectively. For example, one of my clients worked from the Philippines, where he modified his schedule to deal with the time change as the majority of the company was based in the UK. During our most recent client session, he called in from a camper van using 4G and a personal hotspot. In cases like this, founders are realizing they can live as they please and still work effectively. For the right business, this could be a perfectly adequate working model.

What’s more, companies are hiring talent wherever they are located. This allows companies to access the right talent and boost employees’ quality of life. In this scenario, companies are using technology such as Zoom and Teams as well as creating the proper structure for daily huddles, weekly meetings, and cross-functional online get-togethers to keep the team connected and efficient.

2. Consider taking a hybrid approach

A hybrid work policy in which employees have the option to work remotely or from the office is an approach that can satisfy both those who appreciate new work-from-home environments and those who crave more time in the office.

Such an approach will require reevaluating how you use your space. For example, increasing the number of meeting rooms and creating more hotdesking, rather than assigned seating, could be beneficial. In this scenario, it’s also essential to implement a meeting pulse with dashboards, weekly reviews and real-time performance assessment. This way, employees can measure their performance in relation to their colleagues.

An effective meeting pulse might include quick daily huddles (about seven to 15 minutes) to keep the team connected; weekly meetings at the leadership level and by department where teams review numbers, priorities, and performance; monthly management meetings to determine month-to-month priorities; and quarterly leadership meetings to evaluate the previous 90 days and plan for the next quarter.

Along with these leadership and department meetings, directors, managers and team leads should hold one-on-one check-ins to make sure individual team members feel connected, supported and have the right tools and training.

3. Set a specific hybrid work schedule

Some companies are also creating hybrid work policies that dictate the specific number of days employees are required to be in the office. This approach could look different from company to company and depend on meeting schedules. For example, perhaps a team meets with clients three times a week and should be present in the office to hold those meetings face-to-face. Or, maybe you just want your people to connect in person at least once every two weeks, so you mandate two in-office days per month.

Whatever the structure, the key to making a hybrid approach work is accountability. Never has it been more important for directors and team leaders to keep their direct reports accountable — and to stay accountable themselves. When entrepreneurs surround themselves with a team that understands their roles and responsibilities, it’s easier to lead by example, delegate tasks, and keep everyone accountable for every function.

The pandemic has taught business leaders a lot about the value of agility and flexibility. Don’t lose sight of that importance as Covid-19 subsides. Look at what you’ve learned about yourself and your employees over the past year, and use that to reevaluate your current work policy. An alternative approach could help you create better work-life balance and a more productive business overall.

Julia Langkraehr is an experienced entrepreneur and Certified EOS Implementer. She works with business owners and their leadership teams to clarify their vision, get the entire company aligned, help them become more disciplined and accountable, and build healthy, cohesive leadership teams.

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3 Rules of delegation every manager should follow

Robert Glazer

Robert GlazerRobert Glazer is the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency and the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards. He is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward and international bestselling author of four books: ElevateFriday ForwardHow To Thrive In The Virtual Workplace and Performance Partnerships. He is also the host of The Elevate Podcast.

Recently, I spoke to a group of new managers at our company about the crucial lessons I’ve learned in my own leadership journey. At the top of the list was learning to delegate. 

I still remember how, in the early years of the business, I was in charge of nearly every function and struggled to let go. It was exhausting. 

I have seen this same theme crop up repeatedly at our company: virtually all our new managers struggle with delegation. Intuitively, this makes sense; before becoming a manager, an employee works as an individual contributor and is rewarded for being a reliable, trustworthy and productive team member

For managers, however, success is much less about the work they do and more about the performance of their team. Great managers lead others to do great work, rather than doing everything themselves.

Making this shift requires a change in muscle memory, and I find that most new managers inevitably fall into one of two traps. They may fail to delegate, jumping in to solve problems for their team, completing every task themselves and suffocating their team with micromanagement. Or, by contrast, they may delegate without setting proper expectations or providing clear instructions, then expect things to turn out exactly as they would have done it themselves. 

What’s even more problematic is that new managers often find themselves vacillating between these two pitfalls. If a manager delegates without clear guidelines and receives unwanted outcomes as a result, they may snap back to the mode of doing things themselves. They’ll justify this by saying, “See, if I don’t do it, it won’t get done correctly.” This creates a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. 

There are three rules of delegation every manager, especially every new manager, should follow to avoid these traps. 

  1. Follow the 85 percent rule. If you delegate tasks and expect them to be done exactly how you want them, you will be disappointed. I have always emphasized that a win in delegation is when something is done about 85 percent the way you would have done it, without you having to be involved. It’s counterproductive to be frustrated at that remaining 15 percent, as everyone has their own style and way of doing things. 
  2. Proper delegation requires more upfront work. With delegation, things often get harder before they get easier.  You need to put in the upfront work to train, clarify and set expectations for the outcomes you need your team to achieve. This often requires having employees shadow you and teaching them how to do something correctly. This can be challenging when you need others to take things off your plate, but if you try to skip this step, you won’t even get 85 percent of what you want—and you’ll be back to square one. 
  3. Allow above-the-waterline mistakes. People are going to make mistakes as they learn; ideally, you want those to happen in practice sessions or behind the scenes. In service industries in particular, it can be painful to let people make client-facing mistakes, as these may jeopardize client relationships. However, those errors are often the best teachers and can often lead to better future outcomes.

The best analogy is to think about the waterline on a ship. Damage above the waterline won’t sink the ship and is reparable. Damage below the waterline can sink the ship and bring everything down with it. Great managers minimize below-the-waterline mistakes and get comfortable letting their teams make above-the-waterline mistakes. While the latter are uncomfortable for everyone, they are also a necessary part of learning, letting go and creating accountability. 

One of the definitions of a great leader is someone who inspires and empowers others to do their best work, which requires knowing when to delegate and how to do it well. I can tell you from my own experience that while this certainly isn’t easy, it is necessary. 

This post originally appeared on Robert Glazer’s Friday Forward newsletter and is reprinted here with permission.

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Freelancer or entrepreneur? Making the mindset shift

Julie L F Goldstein

Julie L F GoldsteinContributed by Julia L F Goldstein, the founder of JLFG Communications, which helps businesses share their world-changing ideas through clear and concise content. She is also the award-winning author of Material Value: More Sustainable, Less Wasteful Manufacturing of Everything from Cell Phones to Cleaning Products.

During an online business workshop in December 2020, the presenter asked me whether our venture was a hobby or a business. Here’s the difference: A hobby or side hustle involves a discretionary investment of time and money. With a business, the owner is all-in and committed to making it a success.

I felt dismayed at the idea that my company wasn’t a “real” business. But I could change my perspective and my goals. After 25 years of self-employment, I felt ready to make the shift from freelancer to entrepreneur.

What’s in a title?

Conference and webinar registration forms ask for name, email address, company and job title. The first two are easy. For self-employed professional service providers, the last two might make you question your role.

Maybe your business name is just your name and perhaps your credentials—Nancy Smith, CPA. Or perhaps you created a fictitious company name when you registered your business. If you didn’t, should you do so?

When I moved to Washington State in 2014, I initially registered my business as Julia L F Goldstein Communications. I recently shortened it to JLFG Communications. It sounds more professional and fits better on web pages, especially on mobile devices.

As for job title, that could be the services you offer—writer, accountant, graphic designer. That choice puts you squarely in the freelance category. I usually list my title as owner, which feels more entrepreneurial.

Entrepreneurs, however, usually call themselves founders or CEOs. I can see listing my title as founder but don’t feel comfortable saying I’m a CEO. That title connotes someone who leads a team of employees.

Running a business

If your professional service offerings are a hobby, you can complete projects as they come. There’s no need for long-term strategy or a plan for growth because there’s no risk if your venture fails to attract clients. You can always fall back on your day job or your spouse’s income to pay the bills.

Saying you’re an entrepreneur means committing to all the aspects of running a business. You’re in charge of operations, sales, marketing and finance. If you want to stay in business, all of those activities need attention.

Being a solopreneur, by definition, means going it alone. You don’t hire employees. But that doesn’t mean that you should run your business without input or help from others.

You can join business groups and share advice with other solopreneurs. You can hire freelancers or entrepreneurs from other industries on contract. Those people become part of your team, even though they aren’t employees.

In 2020, I took a bold step that I had been considering for years. I engaged a bookkeeper and a virtual assistant (VA). As a result, I gained new insight into my profit and loss statements. The results were disconcerting—spending money to hire help and to publish my second book during a year when the content writing work dried up for several months was not good for the bottom line.

The choice to invest in my business, however, was a step in making the shift from freelancer to entrepreneur. With better knowledge of my finances and the ability to outsource administrative tasks to a VA, I was in a position to consider the big-picture strategy.

Business growth for solopreneurs

Growth is a standard way to measure business success. How does your revenue, client roster or email list compare to the year before? If the numbers do not increase each year, or if the increase is below a certain threshold, we are taught to believe that our business is doing something wrong.

Strategy involves long-term planning. Where do you want your business to be in one, five or ten years? The entrepreneurial mindset requires a willingness to invest in your business to support your vision for the future. Growth, however, need not be exponential. Not all entrepreneurs aspire to run an empire or grow revenue to seven figures and beyond.

As a solopreneur, you get to decide how many clients you want and how you want to engage with them. Say, for example, that you intend to double your client roster or to entice prospects to sign up for a new program you created. Consider how reaching those goals fits into your long-term vision and strategy and adjust accordingly.

My long-term strategy is still a work in progress, but I’m a solopreneur on the path to business success on my terms. How about you?

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3 Types of Referability Partners—and How to Leverage Them

Contributed by Michael Roderick, a recent EO 360° podcast guest and the founder and CEO of Small Pond Enterprises, which helps coaches and consultants make their brands referable, their messaging memorable, and their ideas unforgettable. He’s also the cohost of the Access To Anyone podcast, exploring how you can get to know anyone you want to in business and in life using everything from the latest technology to the most time tested principles (including the Art of the Ask).

As someone who has spent a great deal of time studying the facets of referability, I have seen a lot of interesting things, but one thing that I noticed recently really got my attention.

I realized that there are actually specific types of people who influence the level of referability we have, and if we have a healthy mix of all three in our lives it can actually make being referred even easier.

I like to refer (ha ha) to these people as “referability partners”.

Below are the three types of referability partners you have in your network:

  1. Translators: These are the people who are really good at looking at whatever it is you are offering and are able to find the language that resonates with your audience almost effortlessly. The challenge if you are a translator, is that you usually can’t translate for yourself. This is why it’s important to have translators in your life even if you are a great one.
  2. Angels: These are the people who are often called “connectors” in your circle of friends, but I’d go even further to say that these are intentional connectors who readily advocate for you. Angels often identify the most talented translators and introduce them to opportunities, like-minded translators, and the last partner on this list.
  3. Producers: Producers are the big picture people who are always thinking about how something can grow beyond its current capacity. Producers are very good at helping someone figure out how to build a business or make money and often think about how something will be received by the public. They geek out on the larger-scale opportunities that lie within any idea or concept.

If you saw yourself in any of the descriptions above, it means that you are currently in a position to be someone else’s perfect referability partner:

  • If you are a gifted translator who is doing great work, you could shorten the time it takes to get your idea out there with an angel in your circle and you could make a lot of money with the mind of a producer looking at your ideas.
  • If you are a gifted angel who loves connecting people you can find all kinds of opportunities in connecting producers in your circle with gifted translators. A solid producer in your corner can help you avoid being connection-rich and cash poor.
  • And if you are a producer who loves creating and growing business opportunities, then having angels in your circle who introduce you to amazing translators will only deepen the pipeline you have of great products to promote.

So take some time today to ask yourself which category you fall into and which people are missing from your current circle. Then, find those missing links and leverage those valuable connections to grow your business.

It could be that you are one person away from realizing the true potential of your next project.

This message originally appeared in Michael Roderick’s weekly email messages and is reposted here with permission.

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Best practices (and pitfalls to avoid) in second-generation businesses

Contributed by Vincent Finaldi,  an EO New Jersey member and vice president of TeleCloud, a second-generation business that provides seamless VoIP communications solutions. Vincent also invests time in his passion project, $econd Generation, a video podcast that addresses second-generation businesses and the unique challenges of growing past the founder, navigating through family dynamics and continuing the family legacy.

Small businesses are significant contributors to the economy of nearly every country. In the US, small businesses are called “the backbone of America”, a description I wholeheartedly agree with. These family-owned and operated businesses create two-thirds of new jobs and employ close to 48% of the US total workforce. Family-owned and operated companies hold a special place in my heart. If small businesses fail, it directly impacts our nation, society and especially the family members of those they employ. 

The odds are stacked against small, family-owned businesses. Consider these staggering facts:

  • 90% of startups fail within the first year
  • After five years, of the surviving 10%, an additional 50% fail
  • 70% of businesses do not survive the transition from first to second generation 
  • If your business has made it into the third generation, you’re among an elite 10% of successful companies. It is extremely difficult, based on the odds and realities of running a business, to remain relevant and competitive. 
  • Only 3% of those remaining businesses transition from third to fourth generation

As these data illustrate, a company’s probability of success with multiple generational transfers is not high. It’s a feat that is astounding and extremely difficult.

My goal is to empower other second-generation businesses to thrive while maintaining healthy family relationships. 

The challenges of succession

Owning and running a generational family business can feel extremely complicated at times. Combining the family dinner table with the conference room table comes with a slew of issues, both rewarding and challenging.  

The following are my observations about mistakes family-run companies often make.

Wasting time when you could be growing the business 

The biggest mistake second-generation businesses make is wasting time on perceived personal injustices instead of doing what the business needs to grow. Such issues include:

  1. Confusion over titles, roles and responsibilities 
  2. Focusing on personal childhood issues: Who did Mom favor? Dad? Which child had it rougher? Who got a higher allowance at age 13? Who did the family dog love most? The list can be endless and juvenile, but it’s very real in a family-run company. 
  3. Who works more or less? Who spends more or less? Who earns more or less? These are complex issues to solve but must be addressed.
  4. Wanting a bigger slice of the proverbial pie―instead of building a larger pie

Not planning a proper exit  

Most first-generation business owners, especially in the US$1-5 million annual revenue range, don’t properly transition ownership to their children due to the complexities of family. In my experience, informality and the inability to anticipate future issues can lead to a financial and family disaster years later. 

Consider a small business with one parent as the single founder and stock owner. As the sole proprietor, the founder never had to deal with the following:

  • The complexities of working with family members who are also business partners. 
  • Quarterly or annual revenue sharing, and how to divide it fairly.
  • Reporting up to a sibling or family member in charge. Imagine your brother or sister being your boss; it can be tricky.
  • How to properly divide stock ownership and annual income based on performance and talent
  • How to understand the complexities of birth order in a business environment. 

The business must come first to thrive

When planning to transition your company to the next generation, or when cleaning up the messy situation that was left to you, the bottom line is this:

To succeed from first, to second, to third generation you must evolve and grow. Don’t squander the unique asset that was transferred, sold or gifted to you.

For second-generation owners, this starts with putting egos and childhood baggage aside. Sharing ownership of your company, especially with siblings, can blur the lines between business and family. Establishing a system that clearly defines roles is a significant first step toward keeping family and business issues separate. There is a legal component called a Buy/Sell Operator Agreement but, equally important, there must be open and honest communication on how to treat one another and behave as business partners. It’s critical to address the intangible issues that legal paperwork cannot solve.

When defining roles within the company for the second generation, pay attention to who is good at what:

  • Who is the visionary?
  • Who’s a great salesperson?
  • Who has a mind for operations or finance?

The skillset and passion of the founder don’t always get passed to their children―but do not necessarily have to for the company to continue to succeed.

By the time the second and third generations take over, the company is already well-established. These future generations need to know how to double or triple down on what is working and adapt along the way. Fortunately, second-generation owners don’t need to be exactly like the founder as long as they have passion and make smart decisions. Avoiding big financial mistakes is just as crucial as evolving over time. 

Second generation success―and struggles

As a second-generation co-owner of Telecloud, a unified communications provider, I am personally invested in the realities of family-owned businesses. As the youngest of three siblings, I’ve spent the last several years balancing the fine line between family relationships and business success. This juggling act took more time and effort than I could have expected before we transitioned ownership from my father, but we chose family first. The success of the business is paramount to treating one another fairly, professionally and with love, and is vitally important when things get heated.  

I created my personal brand called “$econd  Generation” to share experiences, learn from one another, and help others thrive in order to beat the odds of failure and create amazing family businesses together. 

We are the backbone of America. Keep growing!

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How to Conduct Strong, Customer-Focused Surveys

Annabel Maw EO Blog

Annabel Maw EO BlogContributed by Annabel Maw, the director of communications at JotForm, a full-featured online forms platform for easy data collection and management.

Why would a small business want to survey its customers? Because surveys reveal what customers are really thinking and what they really want. The simplest way to learn about someone’s shopping preferences―along with their values, priorities, opinions, and beliefs―is to simply ask them. Companies go to great lengths to guess what customers desire, but they could use surveys to gather far better data with a fraction of the effort.

With surveys, you get statistically significant and reliable insights. Respondents answer anonymously, which means they’re more likely to offer honest, unguarded opinions. Surveys can help businesses learn more about customer feelings regarding specific products or services―or to help them gauge customer satisfaction. They could also survey employees to study engagement, potentially using a survey to ask about target demographics. The importance of data in business is clear, and that makes it worthwhile to survey anyone and everyone as often as possible.

Ways to Conduct Surveys (and Common Survey Mistakes to Avoid)

Countless survey tools make it easy to build and administer a survey. Look for tools that allow you to customize the look of the survey with your brand’s colors and logos. You should also be able to customize the different fields within the survey: multiple-choice, drop-down, short answer, star-rating, etc. Back-end features that help you analyze and report on survey data are helpful, too.

Choosing the right survey tool is important, but it’s just as crucial to avoid two common survey mistakes:

  1. Asking the wrong questions of the wrong people can prevent you from getting many good insights.
  2. Most people won’t complete your survey unless you properly incentivize them.

Small businesses new to soliciting information have to ensure they’re pairing the right survey tool with the right survey methodology. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Target your audience. Target who gets which survey, just like you would an email marketing campaign. When there’s good alignment between a survey and the people taking that survey, response rates improve significantly―and you get the best data. People are eager to open up.
  • Fine-tune your questions. Figure out what you want to learn from survey-takers, and then explore how to ask for that information as clearly and conveniently as possible. Make it easy for people to respond by experimenting with different form types, and do what you can to eliminate confusing wording from the questions.
  • Prepare to follow up. Surveying isn’t a one-and-done tactic. Persistence leads to more responses, so ensure you’re sending out surveys on a regular basis. You can also track responses over time to explore, for example, customer satisfaction with the online shopping experience and whether it’s trending up or down.
  • Analyze and optimize. Use survey results to make changes to the business, and then use additional surveys to evaluate whether those changes are working. Surveys are a great tool to track data over time because they are relatively inexpensive yet large in scale. Data-based decision-making in business requires consistent information updates, which surveys are uniquely qualified to provide.

Put the right surveys in front of the right people, and they will give you invaluable insights about your business. It’s amazing what you can learn, but you’ll need to carefully craft that experience. Use the right survey tools to ensure that each survey you send yields helpful insights that can further strengthen your business operations.

For more insights and inspiration from today’s leading entrepreneurs, check out EO on Inc. and more articles from the EO blog

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