How to build a $100 million+ company: Mark Moses

Today I spent half my day at an Entrepreneur Organization (EO Seattle) event.  Mark Moses was the speaker.  Mark spends the majority of his time working one on one with CEO’s and organizations helping them with strategies to grow their business, grow revenue and increase profits. He knows what makes ordinary people do extraordinary things. He knows that a CEO doesn’t grow a business, but grows people who grow the business. Mark is known for using unconventional strategies for making his point. When he wanted his young company to “think big” he rode into the annual meeting atop an 8,000 African elephant. The elephant immediately took root in the company’s culture and “thinking big” became second nature.

Mark went over 1) Vision; 2) Cash; 3) Right People in Right Jobs; 4) Relationships; and 5) Learning

I’m only going to touch on a couple points…

Continuous Learning

While Mark didn’t spend a lot of time talking about learning, I really think that is one of the key things that an entrepreneur, CEO, key employee, should always be doing.  It doesn’t matter what size company you are running be it a $250K, $1M+ and even a $100M+ company.  You’ve got to have a thirst for knowledge. I’ve learned an incredible amount from being in the Entrepreneur Organization over the last few years. There are things that I’ve learned from other successful entrepreneurs who are running $1M+ companies that have allowed me to side step potential landmines. Also working inside a place like thinkspace has also helped me make invaluable connections to other entrepreneurs. We’ve also created a place where there is easy access to learning. Each month is have a Brown Bag Lunch in which we bring in successful entrepreneurs who share their amazing and inspiring stories.

Right People in Right Jobs

Prior to attending the event, we were instructed to take a Leadership DISC Survey and then review the Behaviors and Motivators Report.  The report is designed to increase the understanding of an individual’s talents. My report is 47 pages long. I think it’s incredibly interesting to understand what makes me tick and the report provides me suggestions on how to communicate with others. I want to be a good communicator, I also want my team to have good communication. I’m looking into hiring a business coach to work with my team so that we can have amazing communication within our team and with our customers. The other key thing is hiring the right people. Mark suggested that you ask yourself a question “Do you ever compromise on quality when hiring?”. He also said that you should make a list of people that you wish you could hire.  Hiring mistakes are very costly and in EO there’s a motto: “Slow to hire, quick to fire”.

If you’re interested in hearing more or seeing the packet that Mark provided to us, swing by and tell you more!

The Anti-Creativity Checklist

My Anti-Creativity Checklist from Youngme Moon on Vimeo.

I was reading the Harvard Business Review and stumbled into this video about “The Anti-Creativity Checklist“. I watched this video and loved it, so I wanted to embed it over here on the thinkspace blog. Everywhere I look, I see companies with imagination, innovation, and out-of-box thinking. We’ve got an amazing community inside thinkspace! When you come by to visit thinkspace, ask to see our team wall where everyone on the team contributes ideas regardless of title. It’s our “Dream it”, “Like it”, “Work it” wall.  Post-its full of ideas, sometimes crazy ideas!

Listed below are the ways to be ordinary, soul-less, and boring.

  1. Play it safe. Listen to that inner voice.
  2. Know your limitations.
    • “I’m not an artist.”
    • “How should I know?”
    • “I’m not an innovator”
  3. Remind yourself:  It’s just a job.
  4. Make skepticism your middle name.
    • “Our organization’s not set up for that.”
  5. There’s no evidence that will work.
  6. Respect history. Always give the past the benefit of the doubt.
    • “We’ve always done it that way” — (I absolutely hate this one)
    • “The industry will never accept it.”
  7. Stop the madness before it can get started.
    • “How are you going to solve the human resource problem?”
  8. Been there, done that. Use experience as a weapon.
    • “You haven’t been around long enough to understand how things work.”
  9. Keep your eyes closed. Your mind too.
    • “I refuse to get caught up in all these technology fads.”
  10. Assume there is no problem.
    • “It was a tough year, but we can blame the economy.” (I hate this one too! No excuses!)
    • “Our next product release will kickstart our turnaround.”
  11. Underestimate your customers.
    • “Our customers are not going anywhere.”
    • “They are not ready for that.”
    • “They aren’t used to that.”
  12. Be a mentor. Give sound advice to the people that work for you.
    • “Just keep your head down and do your job.”
    • “I got where I am by not rocking the boat.”
  13. Be suspicious of the “creatives” in your organization.
    • “Those guys just don’t understand business.”
  14. When all else fails, act like a grown-up.
    • “I really don’t have time for this.”
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Crush it! Living Your Passion or Earning a Living?

I just finished reading Crush it! a book written by Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) creator of Wine Library TV and built a $60M business. He’s got three rules. Rule #1: Love your family. I look at these three rules and I can’t disagree with his list. One of the guiding principles that I’ve put in place for thinkspace is “We respect our associates’ responsibility for putting family first”. That to me is similar to his first rule. We feel a happy home means a person can focus at work and be productive. Rule #2: work superhard. Every successful entrepreneur that I know that has built a million + dollar business eats, sleeps, and breathes their business because it does take that much energy to get it to that point. Rule #3: Live your passion. I’ve always believed this, whether I was working for someone else or building my business. Early in my corporate career, I took a job that was in line with my passion which was working on databases and sports. In fact, I took a significant pay cut in order to work there, I started out at $38,000 per year. I worked 50-60 hour weeks, was on-call on Christmas day, but absolutely loved what I was doing. In fact, everyday I couldn’t believe that I was getting paid to perform that job. I think that because of my passion, plus hard work, not to mention an awesome boss, my salary quickly increased and then it was three steps forward.

Fast forward to now. I’m passionate. Always have been. I’ve shaped by business to focus on the things that I’m passionate about. One life lesson that I can share is is that I’ve made compromises in the past. Rather than take a job offer from Microsoft, I stayed with Washington Mutual because they offered me a big pay increase. After one year, I came to recognize that I stayed for the wrong reason — money. I will never do that again. Through that situation, I’ve also come to recognize the one thing that sucks more life and energy out of me are the people that complain about how they are unhappy with their job, hate their boss, don’t make enough money, or unhappy with their situation. Get up and change your situation, quit and do something else. If you’re just earning a living, then you deserve what you get. For me today, it’s critical to surround myself with people that know what they want, know what success is, and won’t compromise their happiness for money. Those are the things that help keep me energized and stay charged up.

@garyvee shares that he’s seen many businesses close. One of the most important thing is to “know how to tell your story”. The other day I was talking with Nicole Donnelly, entrepreneur and founder of BabyLegs about a new business idea that I’m considering to pursue. One of the things that she said to me is what is your story? Just like @garyvee, Nicole, understands that in order for a business to differentiate itself, there’s got to be a really great story behind it and you have have to be a good story teller too. The one thing that @garyvee emphasizes is that you also must know what your medium is in order to convey that story. “Know yourself. Choose the right medium, choose the right topic, create awesome content, and you can make a lot of money being happy”. The key thing is to infuse it with personality and everything that makes you unique.

One of the best things about this book is his discussion on creating community and ensuring authenticity in your approach. Once you figure out what your passion is, you focus on creating a community around. For me, thinkspace is my passion, but, I’m also focused on creating a community. In fact, a main focus of my business is building up my community both inside thinkspace as well as the community outside (physically and online). I even created a position in my business called “Community Manager” to focus on this with me. @garyvee says it perfectly, “Making connections, creating and continuing meaningful interaction with other people, whether in person or in the digital domain, is the only reason we’re here”.

So, when I look around at the members of thinkspace, I would have to say that most people here are definitely living their passion. Everyday I get inspired working side-by-side other entrepreneurs. You can find office space anywhere to run your business, however, it’s invaluable to surround yourself with people that “crush it” every day.

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CEO & Co-Founder of Avidian Talks Business

James Wong came in and told us all at the December Brown Bag event a little bit about starting up a company.  James Wong  is a seasoned entrepreneur and founder of three successful companies and is currently the co-founder and CEO of Avidian Technologies, the world leader in Outlook based CRM software. Under Mr. Wong’s leadership, Avidian was a winner of the Seattle Mayor’s Small Business Award, honored for excellence in marketing, management, employee relations and community involvement. Avidian was also honored in 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Washington CEO magazine as one of the “Best Companies to Work For” in Washington State. Mr. Wong is a sought after speaker, writer and leading expert on CRM, SFA, contact management and groupware applications.

James was able to share with us a few lessons he’s learned while starting up 3 successful companies. He touched on 3 lessons learned from each of the first 3 stages of growing your own company. I will outline what he shared below:

Formulation Stage:

  1. Know Thyself (Socrates)
  2. There is never a perfect time.  You just have to do it.
  3. What is your commitment to this venture or life? (Time & Money)

 Building the Company Stage:

  1. Know Your Values / Guiding Principles
  2. Building a great company that pays well.    -What can we be the best in the world at?
  3. Be clear about what you want, what the company will look like, what your ideal customers look like.

Running the Business Stage:

  1. Cash flow is the lifeblood of any small business
  2. Startups work in step up trends vs. rounding trends
  3. Slow to hire and quick to fire.

Those were just some of the things that James covered in his talk for December. If you would like to know more abut our Brown Bag events, please email alyssa[at]thinkspace[dot]com.

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Nicole Donnelly at thinkspace

Wednesday, November 4th  |  12:00pm  |  thinkspace

Nicole Donnelly, Founder of BabyLegs

“Selling cookies for profit as a little girl was the first in a long line of successful entrepreneurial ventures. Whether I was riding off a big jump at the X Games as a world-class professional snowboarder or launching, growing, and ultimately selling the majority of Babylegs LLC — an international business — to a major hosiery manufacturer for a price that exceeded even my own high expectations, performing at the top of my game has always been priority one.

“Today, I am fiercely committed to sharing the powerful lessons learned along my journey to empower aspiring and growth-focused entrepreneurs to travel their own remarkable, memorable, and profitable paths to success. What I know for sure is that there is marketplace magic in finding extraordinary solutions to common problems. It’s just a matter of making the right steps, taking the right risks, and being prepared to pick yourself up and keep going when things don’t go your way.

“Serving a leadership role for the Entrepreneurs Organization as EO Accelerator Chair offers me the rewarding opportunity to guide growth-oriented businesses from $250,000 through the million dollar mark. I enjoy giving back to a global network of truly outstanding business owners that have been equally generous in providing personal and professional resources to guide my own journey. My daughter and husband inspire me every day to reach higher, think bigger, and to find humor in the chaos of entrepreneurial life.” Nicole Donnelly, Founder of Babylegs

Nicole will be sharing a bit about her journey and what it took to bring her company full circle, from founding to eventually selling. If you are planning on coming to this event and have something that you would specifically like to hear from Nicole, please email me and I will pass on the information to our speaker!

Hope to see you there! For more information, please email: alyssa [at] thinkspace [dot] com.