by Corey Michael Blake
By nature, entrepreneurs tend to be more on the dramatic side. When we start our first company, we’re often narcissistic, a touch insane, and fueled by passion, desire, and too much coffee. As we mature through experience, many of us tend to calm down, but that early drive and belief that we can change the world is imperative to getting the jet off the ground.
I started my first company back in 2001, a film company in Los Angeles. Add actors and filmmakers to the traditional mix of new business drama, and it’s easy to see how my powder keg of an idea eventually blew up in my face. I made ten thousand right choices before a few poor decisions lit the fuse that inevitably led to our highly explosive destruction. But because I pushed the boundaries and was overexposed to business drama, I gained amazing insight into what NOT to do as I moved on to my successful businesses, Round Table Companies and Writers of the Round Table Press.
Consider these 6 tips to help you make wise long-term decisions and keep the negative drama out of your process.
1. Value your people above your product/service. When you value your people, they care for your business. When they care for your business, they make better choices for your customers. When they make better choices for your customers, your customers grow your business. A growing business with positive cash flow has positive drama.
2. Accept that you’re not the smartest person in the room. I started RTC in 2006 and knew my business better than anyone for years. And then I didn’t. By trusting my team and providing opportunities for them to grow, they became better than me in their respective areas—a better editor, a better bookkeeper, a better project manager. When I let go of being the smartest person in the room, I made space for others to shine. This kind of mutual respect moves everyone in the same direction, and that results in less internal conflict.
3. Hire based on similar core values and talent over experience. While you can augment them, you cannot change a person’s values or talent. And when starting a business, you have only so much cash on hand, so every hire has to be a good one. As important as results are, it’s more important that you like and trust the people you hire. You can teach them how you do things. Teaching them how to be communicative, brilliant, or honest is far more difficult, and you’ll spend 80% of your time pulling your hair out if you try.
4. Trust your gut, but if you get upset, think before you open your mouth. When it comes to communication with your staff, it’s important to trust your instincts but not act on them in the moment. Take time to talk out the anger with yourself, a confidante, friend or a mentor. Try to see each situation from all angles before you verbally throw up on someone because you dislike what they did or a decision they made. If you’re volatile, you’ll lose their trust, and you need it.
5. Create space for difficult conversations. I have a deal with a key employee who is an amazing asset, but we tend to butt heads. If one of us has critical feedback for the other, we say, “I have some critical feedback for you. Are you in a place to hear it?” Critical feedback deserves your respect. It’s not something to fit in between phone calls or busywork. Set aside 30 minutes to have the conversation. If now is not the time, set an appointment within the next 24 hours.
6. Ask permission to be critical. “Can I give you some feedback?” Receiving the other person’s approval to give your feedback allows him to let go of some of his defensiveness because you’re giving him the option to say, “No, this is not a good time.” Once you have permission, the conversation can be an exploration of what happened, how it made both parties feel, and how you can work together towards a solution instead of laying blame or giving directives.
* Corey Michael Blake, author of #Jump (April 2012) is the President of Round Table Companies and Writers of the Round Table Press. In addition to publishing some of the most prolific authors of our time, Corey consults businesses and leaders on using creativity to connect with their customers, define and amplify the heart of their business, and instigate culture change. www.coreymichaelblake.com