Is There A “Give Up” Point?

virgin-galactic-crashSomething that really struck a cord with me was the news about Virgin Galactic’s failure of their SpaceShip2. The story itself is really tragic, and ended with the death of one of the pilots. There is a lot of speculation on what exactly went wrong, but that doesn’t matter. In the end, pioneering this new field of Space Tourism will continue to be inherently dangerous. Should they continue with this work though?

A gut reaction is to say “no, they should obviously stop with this because it’s too dangerous.” But Virgin Galactic remains undeterred, and will in fact continue forward with their company. Personally, I agree that they should continue as well. Space travel being dangerous is nothing new. In fact, earlier last week saw another spaceship malfunction too, which was luckily unmanned but still could just have easily ended in tragedy and ended up costing millions. NASA, of course, will continue their work despite the loss of the scientific equipment and resources.

Commercial space flight seems extremely dangerous, but it’s far too simple to forget that commercial airline flights took years of trail and error as well to get to safe standards. Even then, there are still unfortunately accidents involved with there flights, as pioneering commercial flights took plenty of years of persistence and unfortunately there were good pilots lost to reach the formula to what we have today. The same principle applies to the automotive industry, as accidents were a regular occurrence when cars first appeared and there were many civilian casualties in the process.

The fact that this sounds cold isn’t lost on me, but hear me out. Virgin Galactic is on the forefront of this industry and truly pioneering what’s to be expected in the future. Science fiction stories have romanticized what space travel could look like centuries away, but we have many years until we reach that point – if we ever in fact reach it. We are going to have to put up with the grim reality that if we seriously want to take a stab at making space tourism and commercial space flight viable, there are bound to be more casualties. Is it worth it? It may be a tough pill to swallow and face, but throughout history there’s always a tough road with tragedies, but in order to make progress it’s sometimes necessary.

I’m very curious to hear your opinions on this matter, both from a personal perspective and from an entrepreneurial point of view. Should Virgin Galactic continue with this endeavour?

Brazil Showed Us That You Can’t Always Be The King

Germany-2014-World-Cup-ChampionCongratulations to Germany – they clearly played better than the other teams this World Cup, and their dominance will be discussed for a long time to come. One of the things that will clearly be a talking point for quite a while is their dramatic win over Brazil.

I was in a meeting for the first 35 minutes of that game and was stunned when I finally had the chance to check up on the score. It was stunning because Brazil has been known as the undisputed king of soccer for years, and they ended up suffering the worst defeat possible – in their own home no less. What was once the best and highest scoring soccer team in the world has now been officially eclipsed by Germany.

This loss made me reflect a lot, because I see this exact same thing happen to companies all the time – they become the best, then underestimate the competition, eventually losing to them. As an entrepreneur, it’s important that you keep working hard, even if you’re the “king” of your industry. Here are a few lessons that I think entrepreneurs can learn from Brazil’s loss to Germany.

Overconfidence Can Ruin You – A lot of soccer fans were hoping that Brazil could take pride in winning the World Cup in its home continent. Despite the support of their fans, in all the games Brazil played in they either barely won, got lucky with their win – or both. As an athlete or entrepreneur, overconfidence will hurt you. Overconfidence leads you to under estimate the efforts you need to put in to achieve greatness, meaning that someone else who knows the value of hard work will eventually usurp you.

The Unexpected Can Strike Anytime – Change is the only constant. While Brazil’s defeat could be attributed to the loss of their two key players before the game, it was really their inability to adapt to change. Sometimes you won’t have the resources available to appropriately deal with change, but those are the instances where you experience the most growth and reach new limits. Accept the situation you have been presented with and use your creativity to find a new solution.

If You’re Going To Lose, Do So With Dignity – One thing I have to commend Brazil on is keeping classy while they were trailing far behind. Too often you’ll see a team go out of their way to injure players to make sure that they have a rough time in their next game. But hacking and slashing your opponents in order to jeopardize their chances is undignified. If you’re lagging behind your competition with no realistic chance of pulling through, take the fall from grace with class.

As much as we want to thoroughly enjoy our triumphs, it is important to stay humble. Doing so will allow us to accept the challenges when they are thrown at us and make us more willing to put in a fair effort to overcome them.

Ups and Downs of Working on Holidays

working-on-holidaysFor many of the Canadian business owners I know, this past two day weekend turned into a four day Canada Day long weekend – for better or worse. While some entrepreneurs may be taking a well deserved break, the majority that I know will probably be working in some capacity during these days off.

Throughout my years of working holidays, I’ve come to discover that although there are many advantages of working those extra hours, there are also disadvantages that you don’t fully realize:

Disadvantage #1: Missing Out on Family Time: Long-weekends were made for family-gatherings. When working all weekend long, you miss out on time spent with your family that you will never get back. Take the time to put down the laptop and set aside the work, and just enjoy good company. Surrounding yourself with the love and kindness of your family will help you get back to your work with more purpose.

Disadvantage #2: Burning Yourself Out: Taking a break has actually been proven to increase your productivity. If you continuously work yourself to the bone, when the time comes for you to meet an unexpected deadline you simply won’t have the energy or stamina to do so. Pace yourself.

Disadvantage #3: Draining Your Creativity: Putting all your focus on one project may seem like a good idea, however, it’s not beneficial if you are trying to come up new creative solutions. Taking your mind away from a project will allow your mind to wander and come up with incredible new solutions to old problems.

Of course, working during a holiday definitely has its advantages:

Advantage #1: Capture Opportunity: When the rest of the competition is sleeping during the holidays, working allows you to capture opportunities that would have otherwise been taken by your rivals. Entrepreneurs want to maximize their business’ potential and continuous hard work allows us to do that.

Advantage #2: Momentum: Like I mentioned in a previous post, once you stop, it’s hard to start again. We’ve all heard that before in many different aspects of our lives, and work is no different. Keeping a steady working momentum allows entrepreneurs to keep pushing forward because they almost forget how to stop. As any entrepreneur will tell you, achieving success requires persistence.

Advantage #3: Cut Down Your To-Do List: As you run from meeting to meeting, your to-do list often gets larger and larger. Now that you have those extra couple of days, it’s time to cut down some of that list. In fact, this might be the perfect time for you to focus on lesser tasks you’ve been pushing aside, leaving the priority tasks for your return to the office.

As much as we want to continue pursing success by working hard, balance is required to get there. The best entrepreneurs don’t have a fully “off” mode. They’ll lounge by the pool or lay on the beach relaxing, but something will always spur their next great idea.

Failure Isn’t The End

Failure-Isnt-The-EndThere’s a big misconception when it comes to failure. Ever since we’ve been children, we’ve seen that failing is nothing but a negative experience. Teachers would be disappointed and parents would yell at you for failing a test. If you failed a course, you’d use up your valuable summer time taking make-up courses. There has always been negativity associated with failure.

Things change once you’re an entrepreneur. By no means am I saying that failure gets easier. It still sucks, and it still stings and lingers with you for quite a while. However, when either your business or your product fails, it doesn’t mean that you should call it quits and give up. Quite the opposite, actually. I’ve touched on this in a few previous blog posts, but I thought it was time to dedicate an entire post on the often not discussed upsides of a failure.

It Makes You Stronger: As I mentioned in my previous post, when an athlete experiences failure, they don’t let it crush them. How many times have you seen a team lose a game, only to have the whole team give up? Obviously they don’t and neither should you. There is no one failure that should completely make you give up entirely. You need to dig deep and find out what you could have done to prevent the failure. If you couldn’t have prevented it, at the very least the experience will make you a better person and teach you about yourself.

It Teaches You Multiple Lessons: Besides teaching you about yourself, you’ll also learn a lot about your business. Specifically, it’ll teach you about the strengths of your team, which is always valuable to know. While you shouldn’t necessarily blame a team member for the failure, you’ll know what areas they can improve on, and where you can mentor them to become better. If the failure revolves around a product launch, you’ll be able to pinpoint what needs to be changed about your product and why the market didn’t latch onto it.

It Makes You Re-Evaluate: Once failure teaches you a lesson, the obvious next step is to re-evaluate. As hard as it might be to accept, perhaps there simply isn’t a market for your product, or perhaps there’s a crucial element that you’ve over looked. This is the time where you make changes to your work formula and make some tough decisions to continue moving forward. This is also the time to listen to any feedback that you’ve received, particularly negative feedback, as this is what will accurately tell you what you need to reconsider.

At the end of the day, don’t let one or even multiple failures stop you. You need to build your own path, and stay strong while you’re on the road to greatness. I’m curious to know what failures you’ve had as entrepreneurs, and what lessons have they taught you?

Heartbreaking Lessons from the Habs

Heartbreaking_HabsMany Canadians had faith in the Canadiens this year, as they were the only home-based team that made it to the playoffs. It’s no secret that I’m an avid fan of the Habs, so of course I found their loss this year particularly heartbreaking, given all that they had been through to make it that far. The team obviously knows where their weak points are and what they need to improve for next year. With the Habs learning lessons from their tough games, I also picked up on a few business related lessons while watching them play game six:

Stay Calm During the Unexpected – There’s no doubt that losing Carey Price to a knee injury had a massive impact on the Canadiens. While naysayers will argue from watching the series that they didn’t lose because of goaltending, it’s still a mental blow to the team. It was extremely difficult to predict they wouldn’t have their gold medal goalie in the game, but it goes to show that you can’t always expect things to go smoothly. The unexpected will happen – be it your company’s internet going down, a key presenter being suddenly called away or even dangerous weather preventing you from making an important business trip. You need to always have some sort of contingency plan, or at the very least, stay calm under the pressure of the unexpected.

Sometimes Your Best Won’t Cut It – I, along with many other people, believed that once the Habs conquered the Bruins, the cup was theirs. While the Rangers aren’t a pushover by any means, I assumed that by sweeping the first round and fiercely battling through their grudge match with Boston that they had built a solid momentum that would take them to the finals. They clearly tried their absolute best, but sometimes your best just isn’t enough. This is an invaluable lesson to learn when you’re an entrepreneur. Your pitch to a new client may have been the best you could do, but your best won’t always take you to the top, for various uncontrollable reasons. This doesn’t mean you should give up – far from it in fact, which leads to my next point…

Failure Makes You Improve – Montreal players have already said they were proud of their team and vowed that better days were ahead, which is nice to hear after a defeat. You need to have the same mentality when things don’t go your way as well.  It’s difficult to see your absolute best efforts crushed right in front of you. There are many people I know who latched onto a promising opportunity and gave it their all, only to be rejected and then they essentially gave up after that one experience. Don’t let failure stop you on your way to greatness. Everyone has failed in their life, multiple times, be it professionally or personally. As cliché as it sounds, you can’t let one failure crush your dreams. If everyone gave up on their dreams after one setback, the world would be a much different place.

You can learn many valuable business lessons in almost anything, be it sports teams or movies or anything in between. What are some of the most unexpected places that you’ve learned valuable lessons?

Creativity – An Entrepreneur’s Blessing and Curse

entrepreneur-creativityThere is one trait in particular that all entrepreneurs share, and that is a being naturally creative people. Entrepreneurs need to have creative minds in order to come up with new ways to enhance their business, or devise original product ideas. I’m not sure how other entrepreneurs feel about their creativity, but I personally find my creativity to be two sides of the same coin.

On one hand, I think that my creative nature is a curse. I say this because I have many different ideas that I have that I want to create and spread with the world, but unfortunately life is finite and there isn’t enough time to accomplish all of these things. This means that many of the what I feel are great ideas never see the light of day because I’m attempting to bring various other projects to fruition.

That being said, I also consider my creativity to be my greatest asset and a blessing. Here are the top three things to remind yourself when you’re focusing on the curse instead of the blessing.

Your Pain is Your Customers Gain –While you may not have all of the time you would want to get all of your ideas to life, when you finally bring one of your ideas to life it will no doubt be of tremendous value to your customers. Whether it’s painstakingly refining a current product to become something better, or creating an entirely new business venture, your new product will be fueled by passion which will make your customers happy, even if the process in and of itself can be grueling.

The More You Create, the More You Learn – Even if all your ideas don’t see the light of day, once you have an idea you’ll immediately begin to research any related topics to see if it makes sense or to learn about any intricacies of a new industry. For example, my company the Wish Group operates multiple businesses in multiple industries, such as event webcasting, staffing, teleconferencing and marketing to name a couple. Once I had the idea to start these companies, I had to learn as much as I could about these industries to see if my business plan made sense, and if there was about the industry that I was overlooking.

You’ll Grow Professionally and Personally – Whether your idea is a success or a failure, you’ll grow from the experience. Apart from all of the new knowledge you’ll gain, you’ll also get a better understanding of why this particular venture was unsuccessful when compared to your other ones. You’ll also get a better handle on what your customers actually want, and of course if it is a failure, it will only make you stronger.

Do you ever feel that you don’t have enough time to bring your ideas to life, of that you simply have too many good ideas and not enough time to act on them? I’d love to discuss this topic with you in the comments.

Why you Need to be a Thought Leader

why-you-need-to-be-a-thought-leaderAs I mentioned in my blog post last week, using social media is a great way to gain exposure and build your personal brand. One point that I briefly touched on was about sharing your unique industry experiences through social media channels, and how this will make you a thought leader. But what exactly is thought leadership, and why is it important?

The term itself is pretty self explanatory. It’s someone who has established authority in their work field and has become the “go to” person when you need to know about a specific topic. I’m not going to explain how to become a thought leader, as there are plenty of articles that do a great job of detailing how to create thought leading content. However, I do have three main reasons as to why you need to be a thought leader – and one cautionary piece of advice:

Kills Competition – The best thing about being a thought leader is that you’ll instantly kill your competition. Think about it, if you were a potential customer and had to choose between two different companies, which would you rather choose: the company that has a president who regularly produces content as an expert in their field, or just a regular company?

Lead Generation – Speaking to the point above, generating knockout content that provides your audience with great value isn’t just useful for building a following. There’s bound to be people who’ll take a look at your content and decide that your product or service is worth the price of admission, based only on the fact that you’re an expert at what you do.

Increased Exposure – Another benefit to thought leadership content is the amount of exposure it will get you and your company. This will bring many visitors to your website or blog, and with the proper linking techniques,it can be great for your SEO, PR and content marketing efforts.

However, be Prepared to be in the Spotlight – The piece of cautionary advice that I mentioned links directly to the point above, and most entrepreneurs don’t consider it. Love it or hate it, once you’ve become an established thought leader every piece of information that you publish will be under scrutiny, which can lead to some nasty dialogue between you and your newly expanded audience.

It takes a long time to position yourself as a thought leader, but the sooner you figure out why you should become one, the sooner you’ll begin the process of becoming one. Of course, I myself am still on this journey, but I’m glad I started sooner rather than later. Are you trying to become a thought leader? What pieces of advice would you offer anyone starting out?

Personal Brand Building with Social Media

personal-branding-social-mediaOne of the biggest challenges I’ve recently faced is jumping deeply into social media. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t understand the value of social media, I honestly just couldn’t dedicate an adequate amount of time to try and build a proper following. Fast forward to the present and I’m happy to say that I’ve not only been able to post consistently on my blog here, but also on my personal Twitter account.

But why even bother with a social media presence? Most entrepreneurs have been told time and time again that social media is important, but it’s rarely explained why it’s so important. Every user will define the importance in their own way, but for me, social media is a powerful tool to build your own personal brand. As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably started a business in the field of your choice, which means that you’ll be able to provide incredible value to your audience by sharing your unique insight, be it with short and succinct tweets or in-depth blog posts. Sharing these kinds of insights on your social media channels will eventually make you a thought leader in your field, but of course, this will take time.

When it comes to social media, another point that will take time and effort is growing your number of followers. For what seemed like the longest time, my Twitter account had only a handful of followers and refused to grow. After discussing strategies with a digital marketer, the two most valuable lessons I was able to learn was that (a) follow growth takes time and (b) I simply wasn’t being social enough.

These two items are very important to know for any of your social media efforts, be it for personal use or for your brand. The first point about follower growth is especially critical, as business owners become very disappointed with their lack of growth in a set period of time and abandon all of their social media channels. Using my own Twitter account as an example, after two months of consistent use, I now have 190 followers. This is following three months where I couldn’t break 40 followers. So what happened that made my follower number jump? It leads directly to the second point of being social.

It’s called social media for a reason: if you don’t join in on the conversation, then you can’t expect to see any kind of growth or engagement. Admittedly, one of the things I want to improve on is the engagement of my audience. While I do interact with my followers, I want to specifically try and reach out to more of them and get a regular dialogue going. You need to interact with your followers regularly, otherwise no matter what kind of information you share on your accounts, it’ll quickly become irrelevant.

What has your experience with social media been like? I’d love to discuss this topic more in depth in the comments below.

What did you Learn from the NCAA Sweet Sixteen Match-Ups?

march-madness-for-businessThe Final Four have been chosen and next Monday the Championship Game will wrap up March Madness. Brackets have been broken, heartbreaks have been plentiful, and overall the dedication has been impressive. Throughout all of my years of running a business, I’m always surprised by the lessons you can learn from watching athletes who have dedicated their lives to becoming the best at their sport. Even if you’re not a fan of basketball, you can still learn numerous lessons from March Madness that you can bring back to your business:

Don’t Dismiss the Underdog – The staggering amount of upsets this year just goes to show that the underdog always has a chance. Just because your business is smaller than some of the better known brands in your industry, that doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance. Innovative marketing strategies, outstanding public relations and stellar customer service are just some of the ways that your business can compete against larger brands.

Understand your Teammate’s Strengths – When you see a great team play in unison, it looks like they instinctively know where their other teammates will be ahead of time. This isn’t an accident; the players just make it look natural. After months and months of practice, every team member knows each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and they analyze their situation and make their decisions accordingly. This, of course, translates well to a business setting, but your team may be hesitant to admit that they have weaknesses. It’s imperative that you discuss this with your team, because if someone doesn’t understand their weaknesses, they’ll never be able to improve them.

Trust your Mentors – The advice offered by a mentor (or coach) can sometimes sound incredibly risky. They’re not the ones playing the game or running the business, so why should you listen to them? Well, a good mentor has years and years of expertise under their belt, and has experienced both the good and bad in their respected fields. Their triumphs and failures have given them a unique point of view. Don’t ever brush off advice that a mentor is willing to give you, but don’t blindly accept advice either.

You Can’t Predict The Future – This point has less to do with the athletes, but I still feel that entrepreneurs can learn from it. Warren Buffet had offered a $1 Billion to anyone who delivered a perfect bracket. Roughly 8.7 million entered the contest, even though Yahoo Sports said that there was a 1 in 128 billion chance of making a perfect bracket. And while all of the brackets had been called “un-perfect” by the Sweet Sixteen stage, it shows that no matter how astronomically impossible the odds may be, you have to at least try.

What lessons have you picked up while watching the tournament this year? More importantly, is your team still in the tourney? I look forward to chatting with you in the comments.