Being an entrepreneur means being able to embrace risk and take on challenges. Some days will be good; others will be tough. One way to get through the ups and downs of endless meetings and difficult sales pitches is to find inspiration from others who have done it well.
On October 1, Alex Kroon, president of MaraCogna Inc., an advisory firm for companies and social entrepreneurs, will present Entrepreneurship 101’s first Lived It Lecture of the 2014–2015 season. Lived It Lectures feature successful entrepreneurs and their success stories and challenges.
With experience at three high-growth companies, including two telecom startups, Alex knows a thing or two about building and growing a successful company. As the chief operating officer of a global health management firm, he oversaw the company’s rapid growth, eventually leading as CEO after its successful sale to a multinational.
Now, Alex helps entrepreneurs and business leaders validate the strategic directions of their companies in order to improve their operations and expand their businesses.
In anticipation of his Lived It Lecture, I asked Alex to reflect on three pieces of advice that have inspired him through the different stages of building a company. Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or just looking to find some motivation, here are three quotes to boost your startup spirit.
This quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German writer, starts off the book Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership by Joseph Jaworski. It is a great book that chronicles the life of a very successful founding partner of a large global law firm who realized there was more to life. He founded the American Leadership Forum and developed a new leadership framework that focuses on the ability to collectively shape our future. It is a story about deeply understanding what you want out of life, and having the courage to tell the world what you are looking for and being open to opportunities when they arrive.
I don’t recall if I heard this somewhere or if I formulated it myself, but I used this as inspiration many times at my second telecom startup. Think of the plane’s altitude as sales and the plane’s construction as the building of a complete sustainable business. If you focus solely on selling, but don’t have the required infrastructure, process and technology, your plane will eventually fall apart, and you won’t be able to breathe at high altitudes. If you focus too much on pre-building your business, you won’t get anywhere—without sales, you will perish. The challenge is not only to build the right parts in the right order at the right time to soar, but also to keep flying safely over challenging mountains and at a high sales altitude. It is a great analogy that shows the audacity of a startup founder, and the real challenge of committing to sales while you are still putting parts of the solution together.
You may have a great idea, but it only succeeds with execution. Strong execution only happens with the right team of people sharing utter commitment to the mission and culture. Choose wisely when finding your co-founders, and then with every employee. Don’t let people issues fester. Deal with them quickly. Invest time and energy into recruitment, but if you make a wrong move, be ready to terminate quickly and fairly. Your keepers are not just high performers; they also have to be team players with the right values. A superstar jerk is still a jerk and cannot remain on your team. Most importantly, remember that you cannot do it alone. While it may be a solo effort for a short time, your long-term success will be based more on how you inspire and coach others than on your personal contribution.
Join Entrepreneurship 101 for Alex Kroon’s Lived It Lecture on October 1.
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