How Michael Phelps Can Inspire Your Startup

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“I want to be able to look back and say, ‘I’ve done everything I can, and I was successful.’ I don’t want to look back and say I should have done this or that.” Michael Phelps

Unless you are living on another planet, you could not have missed the incredible medal haul of Phelps.

How does one man achieve so much? Is it because of his 6ft 8in wing span and body shape which helps him conquer the swimming pool? Or is there something more?

And What does this mean for you and your startups?

#1 Start early and focus on what you are best

“If you want to be the best, you have to do things other people aren’t willing to do.”

Michael Phelps started training at the age of 7 and never looked back.

While there is a time and place for early adopters, the startup world rewards the early movers disproportionately. There is research which says that the first one gets 80% of the available value and the next one 14%. The rest fight for the 6%.

Always ask the question “what benefit is my offering giving to the customers?” Once you are clear, and your customer responds to it, focus on it. Keep practicing and improving.

#2 Sharpen your axe every day

Phelps has done swimming from the age of 7 and swam every day. Every Day!

Can you imagine that kind of commitment? Whatever the weather conditions, he would don his swimming cap and goggles and start swimming. This sheer dedication to the craft helped him put the distance between him and others.

Anders Erickson was the first to discover the 10,000-hour rule for expert performance.

The only way to get to that is practice every day.

I was recently in a pitch presentation, and a startup in the VR field said their AI machine had clocked 500k minutes of database, and this is its competitive advantage.

An early start is what will put the distance between your enterprise and others.

#3 Prepare for the worst

2008 Olympics. It’s the 200-metre butterfly finals. Phelps goggles are getting filled with water. He is unable to see clearly. What does he do? He keeps swimming as if nothing has changed. In the final lap, the goggles are completely filled, and he is nearly blind. Outcome: not only does he win the gold he sets a new record.

If there is one thing you can say for sure in business, it is this: Things will go wrong.

And when they do, you should be prepared.

An Ex-Australian Navy officer once told me, which stuck with me all my life: “You can never be shocked twice.”

If you prepare for the worst outcome, you will overcome it when it presents itself. Build the Ownership mindset in your employees so that you have an extra pair of eyes and ears on the ground.

What are the outcomes which you need to prepare for?

Flood of negative reactions from Customers

Cash running dry

Key personnel leaving you

Most large businesses have a written document titled Business Continuity Planning. Prepare for disasters and you will pole vault them when required

#4 You are limited by your beliefs

You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get. – Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at the age of seven. Imagine if he or his family decided to use that as a label for him. How limiting would that have been?

Ian Thorpe, who was his competitor, at one time famously said that no one could beat Mark Spitz’s seven gold medal haul. Phelps broke it with eight golds in the 2008 Olympics.

What a way to silence the naysayers!

Once you startup, you should focus on the business you have. Keep thinking about the customer and what you can do.

Learn from the mistakes of others.

As long as you are focused on the customer, you will always aim high and every day, you will generate new ideas to satisfy the customer.

Keep testing and churning out ways to delight your customer.

Don’t be limited by what is possible. Dream and aim high. Focus always on delighting the customer.

#5 Start Again

All was not rosy with Michael Phelps two years back. There is the infamous alcohol incident and his subsequent rehab. But he did not let it define him. When everyone had given up on him, and he had “retired”, he came back for one more shot at “immortality.”

There will be times when the going will be tough. You may even find yourself on the knees, down and beaten. It may even look like a dead end.

Hunker down, batten down the hatches.

Find out what makes you great. What do your customers love you for? Seek out the customers who love what you have to offer. Get the reinforcement. Get the team together and your investors in a huddle. Recraft your operations if necessary.

Get the team together and your investors in a huddle. Recraft your operations if necessary.

Start again. Come back with renewed energy.

True champions don’t always have smooth sailing. They also taste the dust sometimes.

What separates them from losers is that they come back, they start again.

Grit your teeth, spit the blood, fight the dust off and rise again. Be a Gladiator.

The podium of success awaits your moment of glory.

 

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Do You Want To Know the Secret Of Effective Marketing In Small Business?

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Just Start.

If there is one proven way to have effective marketing and jumpstart growth in your small business, it is: Action over anticipation.

We are wired for taking action – but often only under fear. We all know about the fight or flight response.

But given time, we also have a tendency for “false perfection”.

Why false?

Have you noticed that nature has no pure circles or squares or triangles? They are often oval or rhomboids – slightly bulging at edges.

It is our desire to be perfect hence, we create the perfect circle and squares.

While it is good in science, it is bad in business.

Here’s how:

Being perfect assumes that everything will go exactly as per planned. That whatever is planned will definitely result in the outcome which we want.

Really?

It is said that after the first two chess moves, there are a million options by which the game can turn out. And this only with 64 squares and two players.

Now think of the marketplace with thousands of customers and hundreds of suppliers.

Perfection often leads to analysis paralysis. The need to have a beautiful, logical solution leads to endless debates on the correct step to be taken.

Perfection often leads to analysis paralysis. Click To Tweet

In the end, nothing moves.

I learnt this lesson once.

My boss used to love asking questions. On every campaign, we used to design; he would ask ten questions. Once replied, they would lead to 10 more questions and so on. One day, I decided that I would start it as a pilot project, and we will keep answering his questions. After two months, he asked, “By the way, what happened to that X campaign?” I replied “well, we started as a pilot project and got some good learnings from it and now in a better position to answer your concerns” He paused for a while and then said “you did the right thing. Let’s go national”.

The market and the customer are the best ways to understand whether something works or not.

We can have endless boardroom discussions, but it has no comparison to the rich learnings in the market.

Nothing teaches you better than the marketplace. Click To Tweet

Taking Action does not mean that you launch a half-baked product or dump low-quality stuff in your channels.

Have a testing mindset within the team so that no one is wedded to a particular idea or an approach.

Help the team develop the testing mindset by asking the right questions in meetings.

Run pilot projects, do A/B testing, check in one channel before going national, but Start.

It means beyond a point, stop the endless planning. Just start.

If you have an option between Action and one more round of planning, Just Start Click To Tweet

Check this article for how an owner of a successful online business prioritizes Action over endless debates -> Slideshare CEO

What are You going to Start Today?

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9 Important Steps To Building Ownership Mindset In Your Small Business

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The key to growth in small business is in creating an ownership mindset in your employees.

The key to growth in small business is in creating an ownership mindset in your employees. Click To Tweet

As an entrepreneur, it is evident that you have it. But, how do you build it in your people? Here’re some steps

#1 Fix the hiring

The first step is hiring the right people. You want individuals who are curious. Who are looking to better themselves and things around them. Who are asking “how does this add value to the customer?” You want people with the entrepreneurial zeal in them. You could look for evidence of this by checking if they had run small jobs on the side when they were young or ran a small business when they were in college. It does not matter if they succeeded or not. That they took action to their impulse is important.

#2 Creating Focus

Once the team is in, you want to bring Focus on what is most important for you and the business. Make sure they are clear of the One Thing they need to focus on. The One Thing, which is absolutely critical for business success. Focus is the number one reason why business succeeds. You want to make sure that each person in the team is working towards one goal which is clear to all.

There should be maximum three things below this one goal. I have seen this coming out right in countless industries and businesses. How do you ensure this? Every day, ask you and your team “what is the one thing which will make the most significant and positive impact on our business? Are we doing it? When? Who is doing it?” This Focus will create the habit of giving priority to the project/item/decision which will have the maximum benefit to the business.

There should be maximum three things below this one goal. I have seen this coming out true in countless industries and businesses. How do you ensure this? Every day, ask yourself and your team “What is the One Thing which will make the most significant and positive impact on our business? Are we doing it? When? Who is doing it?” This Focus will create the habit of giving priority to the project/item/decision which will have the maximum benefit to the business.

Focus is the number one reason why a business succeeds. Click To Tweet

#3 No distraction mindset

Once the team is fully aligned and working towards one goal, give them the freedom to achieve it. Make them focused on outcomes and delivery. Be the example of how to avoid distractions and be focused on delivery. This is critical. There are many urgent items to finish in a day and before you know it, the day is gone. By being laser focused on doing the one thing which matters, you have to train your people to avoid distractions and stay focused. This mindset starts from a small item like limiting the time you spend on social media to bigger issues like giving maximum priority to completing the projects which make the most significant difference to your business.

#4 Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication is an absolute must for every business but truer than ever when installing the ownership mindset. In every situation, let people know how you came to the decision as an owner of the business. Help them decide when they are in similar circumstances. Communicate frequently on what is most important for the business. This will make sure that everyone knows exactly what levers to pull in a given situation.

#5 Make them accountable for their decisions

Accountability management is an essential part of a leadership role. Do you hold people accountable to their promises? Do you hold yourself accountable to the promises you made? An owner of the business operates from the highest accountability given his skin in the game. “This is your business and your actions decide it’s today and tomorrow”. This form of accountability makes sure that your team focusses on action and execution.

This is your business and your actions decide it's today and tomorrow Click To Tweet

#6 Celebrate when they have taken decisions which help the business

The flip side of Accountability is Celebrating good behaviors. Because celebrating good behaviors leads to their consistent application. Consistent behaviors lead to habits and Persistent habits lead to successful business. So, celebrate decisions and behaviors where your team members have demonstrated ownership mindset. This could be just a simple impromptu town hall which celebrates a few instances or a raising a toast to the individuals in your next fun team outing (You have one, I hope!)

#7 Celebrate cost consciousness

This is a no.1 indicator of ownership mindset. Some people are naturally thrifty and there are some who are naturally spendthrifts. And the majority in between the axis. You need to celebrate those who consistently demonstrate cost consciousness. They always look for value in their decisions. They always make sure that the business is getting more value than what they are paying for it. They make sure their travel costs represent the best value decision. They make sure they are getting the maximum value from their agencies and suppliers.

#8 Celebrate customer focus and helping customers win their game

The sole purpose of business is to serve the customer. No one understands this better than the owner of the business. When someone makes that effort in understanding the exact needs of the customer and over delivers the value offered, you must celebrate this behavior. Why so? Think back to when you were buying something and your expectations were over delivered. You were thrilled and you probably mentioned that to your other friends. Over time, you went back repeatedly to this service provider.

It is the same with your customer who is delighted will come back to you. Your team member who over delivered to the customer is the reason behind it. And he has behaved with the ownership mindset.

#9 Lead by example

People will be motivated by your zeal and direction and will start owning the business. Whatever behaviors we have talked about above, you need to live and breathe it daily. You should be the role model to others whenever they wonder how to bring the ownership mindset alive. You should help people understand your actions better so that they are behaving like owners.

 

Build these habits and you know that many eyes are scanning, identifying and grabbing the opportunities which are always there for the business to grow.

How would you build this mindset in your business? If you want a checklist for this, then, check out just released book

If you want a checklist for this, then, check out just released book: Stop Reset Start.

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Now Available on Amazon

 

Do you behave like an owner of your business?

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You are the leader of the business and the team and hence, you obviously own the results. And everything which happens between now and the results. But does your team own the business?

Why does this matter?

Are your employees coming to the office just to collect the paycheck? Then there is a serious problem. If the job, for them, means a vehicle to get a “bigger” or “better paying” job somewhere else, then, there is a problem. When someone says “I just follow instructions. If something goes wrong, it’s my boss’ problem” there is a serious problem.

When you own the business as if it is your own, you don’t wait for instructions. You are always on the lookout for opportunities. You will always want to be one step ahead of the competition.

You will be the first one to knock on the customers doors. You will be out where it is required to see how your consumers taste and preferences are changing.

You will be the “brand ambassador” of your company even if you may be the janitor in the office.

Ownership mindset is the rocket fuel in your business’ success.

This ownership mindset will make them see every decision as something which either adds value to the business or not.

Then whether it is giving this discount to the customer or not or

whether to make the production run for this product or the other or

whether to run the campaign for this product or not,

the ownership mindset will show them the right direction.

Would you like your employees to behave as owners?

Read this second part on how to bring this ownership mindset

Why you need a testing mindset?

Reading Time: 1 minutes

We all know the storyTesting mindset of Thomas Edison and how he made 1000 trials before he got it right and made the light bulb. Once a journalist asked him “what do you have to say about the 999 times you failed? Edison answered, “I learnt 999 ways Not to make a lightbulb.”

We know that Edison was a very shrewd businessman too.

What does this example mean to you?

For me, it shows the importance of a testing mindset. It shows the need to accept failures as a learning ground.

What happens if we don’t? A board room turns into a contest of blames rather than a hotbed of ideas.

What is a testing mindset?

It is a mindset, which looks at process, as something to test, with performance goals rather than outcome goals. Dr. Jim Loehr in his book New Toughness Training for Sports brings this out vividly. e.g. A golfer focuses on his swing and drive rather than his final score.

This has a couple of advantages: By developing performance goals, you will bring all the assumptions of the team on the table. The workflow and critical sub-steps become very clear. When the process is finally done, the focus shifts FROM who should take the credit or the blame TO which assumptions worked and which did not? Which work flow did well and which did not?

Do you get the difference?

This helps in shifting the mindset of your employees from internal competition to internal collaboration.

Your team is supposed to compete in the marketplace not within. Click To Tweet

It also helps in entrenching what works and removing what does not. Every project becomes a lightbulb which either shines (and you know exactly why) or does not (and you know exactly why).

How would you build this testing mindset in your business?