Fear and Getting Through the Storm

We all have fears. Fears about how the company will do financially this year, about that crucial new hire who looks promising but is unproven, or about how your new offering will fare in a busy market. Fears can abound, especially if nurtured and given attention.

“The future you constantly worry about, Is nothing other than a projection of fear and desire from the past.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh

Fears can instead be a tool, an indicator. They can lead you to research, to ask good questions, and to explore options. As long as you don’t allow fears to take over the present, they can actually be valuable.

One way to be vigilant about fears is with mindfulness. Mindfulness, that focus on the present, is more than a business fad. It’s a practice that decreases stress and increases productivity.

The leaders of outdoor apparel maker Patagonia are committed to using their successful company as a vehicle to put mindfulness into action. Patagonia founder Yves Chouinard describes navigating what could be a terrifying Class 4 rapid as a teaching:

  • look ahead and prepare
    • be proactive
    • don’t ignore what is coming
    • think through scenarios
    • do what is necessary to get ready to the best of your ability
    • trust that you can handle whatever happens
  • go into a drop
    • take calculated risks
    • once you decide, follow through wholeheartedly
  • read the river
    • be vigilant
    • be perceptive
    • adjust as needed.

That intuitive process has helped guide his business for the last 50 years. Chouinard believes that if the process isn’t sound, if your intentions don’t come from the right place, the outcome, even if profitable, doesn’t matter.

Practicing wisdom by making decisions from a place of love rather than fear can open the door to creative solutions.

Fear can be a driver of decisions and actions, but they don’t have to be.

Elizabeth Gilbert in her book, Big Magic, tells the story of treating her fears like an inevitable passenger on a road trip. Fears can and will be there, but they can Never. Ever. Drive.

Three Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make At The Outset

Many entrepreneurs make three crucial mistakes at the outset. They do not pay sufficient attention to customers’ preferences; they ignore their competition because their product thrill them, and third, they neglect to follow their business strategy. Indeed, some have no strategy. Typically, they make these three errors because they succumb to the pressure to make a quick return on borrowed funds.

In the January 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) Roger Martin identifies rules to prevent common mistakes when developing a strategy. He states in this article, The Big Lie of Strategic Planning, that the first rule is “keep the strategy statement simple.” Instead of a long, often vague document, the company or entrepreneur’s strategy should summarize the chosen target customers and the value proposition in one page.

Crafting the strategy needs time and thought, so the owner must be patient and learn to filter the many unsolicited voices telling her how she can make money quickly. I cannot state enough how crucial it is to develop a simple strategy for the startup. This simple strategy will be the guide to carrying out the owner’s mission or purpose for doing business.

Harvard professor and author Michael Porter, says strategy must be unique. He goes on to mention that strategy:

  • by consensus is bad strategy
  • is not compromise; it’s clarity
  • is about choices
  • needs a set of uniqueness to help to differentiate you from the competition

Porter then adds that less than 25% of companies have a clear strategy.

Strategy doesn’t have to be embedded in many pages, it can and should be plain and simple.

In his 1985 book, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the late management guru Peter Drucker (1909-2005) said entrepreneurs create something new, something different and have unique characteristics. He said McDonald’s exemplified entrepreneurship; “they didn’t invent anything any decent American restaurant hadn’t produced hamburgers for years.” Drucker continued, McDonald’s asked:


What is value to the customer?” Then they standardized the product, designed processes, and tools, drastically upgraded yields, and created a new market and a new customer.

Drucker said McDonald’s carried out entrepreneurship. Whether the entrepreneur is an existing large institution, or an individual starting her business single-handedly, the same entrepreneurship’s principles apply. “The rules are pretty much the same, the things that work and those that don’t are pretty much the same, and so are the kinds of innovation and where to look for them.”

The start-up owner often does not spend enough time finding out the value to the customer of her product or service. Neither does she spend adequate time developing and testing her strategy. Instead, she focuses on making a fast buck. That’s why it’s crucial the owner does the following:

  1. Spends time understanding who are the customers
  2. Identifies needs and wants, real and perceived, and target markets
  3. Decides how to fulfill those needs consistently and at a high standard
  4. Be patient and focus on the long-term. Research shows that family owned businesses are more successful than non family owned businesses because the former take a long view when making decisions.

Other things owners are doing wrong include:

  • Listening to too many people with divergent views about the business
  • Trying to “save” money by not getting needed resources to produce consistently high-quality goods and services
  • Not taking enough time to raise adequate funds in the “proper” form. Often, they take loans from family and friends without stating clearly risks involved and repayment terms.

Starting a business is risky but rewarding, and needs patience and courage. However, heeding the above advice will increase the probability of success significantly.

Innovation Definition – The Four Requirements For Innovation

Innovation is the lifeblood of any organization. It is therefore important that we have a good working innovation definition. Innovation can apply to many things. It is usually the term applied to a new product, but it can also be used to describe new processes, methods or inventions.

Here are four essential ingredients to a definition of innovation:

1. Something New

Everyone likes something new. How many advertisements have you seen that use the words “new and improved”? We all want the latest and greatest products and ways of doing things. Newness, however, is just the beginning.

2. Better Than What Exists

New for the sake of being new is of little value. It must also be improved. A new and improved toothpaste must have a new that increases its perceived value. A new office procedure must actually do something better than the old way.

3. Economically Viable

Does it make or save money? If it doesn’t then it shouldn’t be implemented. If the new and improved toothpaste makes more sales that in turn makes more profits, it is a profitable addition. If your new office procedure improves the efficiency of the work place and therefore saves labor costs, it makes the organization more profitable.

4. Widespread Appeal

All the first 3 elements are very important and even related to this one. However, there needs to be a basic appeal to the new innovation. If not it won’t sell. If your new and improved toothpaste is licorice flavored, then it might have very limited appeal. It is new and improved. Licorice may even be a cheaper flavor to implement that any others. If nobody wants it, then it is not a true innovation.

The same would apply to your office change. if it requires an action that no one in the office likes, then it is doomed from the start.