Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

Creating processes to become a great entrepreneur

creating processes

“Great entrepreneurs don’t have better ideas, they have better processes.” – Eric Ries

This quote is not suggesting that great entrepreneurs are building successful businesses out of terrible ideas. What it is saying is that what makes businesses successful, and the entrepreneurs that found them great, is execution. Developing processes and executing them is what allows a business to scale and become more than a sum of its parts.

The first step to developing processes is to start documenting everything you do. Anything you find yourself repeating is an opportunity to create a process. This can involve anything from onboarding customers to handling bug reports to processing expense reports. (StartOpz can help you with that last one.)

The next step is to write down each thing you do to complete the task. You have now documented the process and can find ways to streamline it, outsource it, or eliminate parts of it, All will help you be able to work more on your business rather than in your business. That is what ultimately will make you a great entrepreneur.

documenting processes

Documenting processes

There is no one way to document processes. You just have to find a system that works for you. At a previous employer the office manager kept dozens (it felt like hundreds) of spreadsheets to document different processes. It was an example of the process breaking down. Nobody knew about a new process unless they were told about it and, with no built in notification on completed tasks, if a process involved multiple people you had to rely on others to notify you they had completed their step and it was now time for you to work on yours.

I like creating project templates in Asana for each process as that handles the discovery and notification problem automatically. I duplicate the template each time we need to go through a process. For simple recurring processes (e.g. daily or weekly tasks) I create recurring tasks inside Asana and sub-lists inside of them if necessary.

Identify inefficiencies

When you are in the middle of a process you rarely stop to question it. You are concentrating on the task at hand. However, because you have them documented you are able to periodically review them and identify any inefficiencies they might have.

Frequently inefficiencies are there because “that is how it has always been done” or because something changed and nobody revisited the process when it did. Examples might be recording information that is no longer needed due to a change in your customer onboarding process or rolling out a new software solution and trying to create your old workflow when the software has a different, and better, workflow built in.

Bottom line is that if you make an annual effort to review all documented processes you will likely find steps you can eliminate and steps that can be done more efficiently.

Automation

In addition to identifying inefficiencies when you review your processes you can also look for steps that you can automate with technology. Techies might do that with shell scripts and cron jobs but there are plenty of tools that all of us can use.

A few ideas on easy automation wins:

  • Inbox rules to automatically file or forward emails or to create tasks from emails.
  • Zapier/IFTTT to pass data between different software systems that you use.
  • Excel macros for automating any repetitive tasks in spreadsheets.

Easier to hire

Documented process make hiring easier and training go a lot more smoothly. Hiring is easier as you can more readily identify the skills required for a position based on what processes and steps the position you are hiring is responsible for.

Training is easier as there is no question as to what needs to be taught in order to get the hire up to speed. You can just follow the process step by step.

blank notebook full of possibilities

Clarity

Part on the premise of the book Getting Things Done is getting all to do items out of your head and into your to do list. Doing so keeps you from having to remember the dozens of little things that crop up and instead work your list based on priority.

Perhaps the biggest reason to implement processes is so that you can maintain clarity and focus on the big initiatives that push your business forward rather than getting distracted by the day-to-day operations of your company.

Most recommended books on entrepreneurial podcasts

I used to be a voracious consumer of podcasts for entrepreneurs (and took notes on many of them) and still try to listen to them as time allows. I also love reading business books and am always looking for recommendations. These books are the most recommended ones on the podcasts that I listen to.

(contains affiliate links)

antifragileAntifragile
  • Lifestyle Business Podcast 4/4/13
  • Lifestyle Business Podcast 5/9/13
  • Tropical MBA 2/12/15

built_to_sell

Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You

  • Tropical MBA 11/30/12
  • Lifestyle Business Podcast 6/20/13
crossing_the_chasm

Crossing the Chasm

  • Tom Byers (STVP) – Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders 1/18/06
  • Aaron Levie (Box) – Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders 1/19/11
  • Drew Houston (Dropbox) – Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders 5/13/12
  • Lifestyle Business Podcast 4/11/13
getting_things_done

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

  • Smart Passive Income 8/2/12
  • Lifestyle Business Podcast 3/28/13
  • Tropical MBA 8/29/13
  • Smart Passive Income 6/28/14
good_to_great

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t

  • Lifestyle Business Podcast 3/28/13
  • Kyle Forster (Big Switch Networks) – Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders 4/22/15
hatching_twitterHatching Twitter
  • Startups for the Rest of Us 12/3/13
  • Tropical MBA 12/5/13
  • Startups for the Rest of Us 7/1/14

how_to_win_friends

How to Win Friends and Influence People

    • Smart Passive Income 3/17/14
    • Tropical MBA 2/12/15

mastering_the_rockefeller_habits
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm
  • Lifestyle Business Podcast 2/7/13
  • Lifestyle Business Podcast 3/14/13

orbiting_the_giant_hairball

Orbiting the Giant Hairball

  • Frank Ricks (LRK Architecture) – Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders 11/16/05
  • Stephanie Keller-Bottom (Nokia) – Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders 4/26/06

the_hard_thing_about_hard_things

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

  • Startups for the Rest of Us 7/8/14
  • Tropical MBA 2/12/15

the_lean_startup

The Lean Startup

  • Startups for the Rest of Us 12/3/13
  • Jessica Mah (inDinero) – Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders 11/30/11

the_millionaire_fastlane

The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime.

  • The Foolish Adventure 10/20/11
  • Lifestyle Business Podcast 12/27/12

the_one_thing

The One Thing

  • Tropical MBA 6/12/14
  • Tropical MBA 11/27/14

the_ultimate_sales_machine

The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies

  •  Lifestyle Business Podcast 8/9/12
  • Startups for the Rest of Us 3/16/15

traction

Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers

  •  Startups for the Rest of Us 8/26/14
  • Tropical MBA 9/11/14
  • Startups for the Rest of Us 3/16/15
  • Tropical MBA 3/19/15

work_the_system

Work the System

  • Lifestyle Business Podcast 12/6/12
  • Lifestyle Business Podcast 4/25/13
  • Lifestyle Business Podcast 12/20/13
  • Tropical MBA 2/12/15
  • Startups for the Rest of Us 3/16/15

zero_to_one

Zero to One

  • Startups for the Rest of Us 11/18/14
  • Startups for the Rest of Us 3/16/15

Learn by Doing

Learn by DoingWhile people learn different things in different ways, business is one activity that I firmly believe is best learned while engaging in the activity. In fact I feel that most people learn more in one year on the job than they do in multiple years of school as so many facets and nuances of business really cannot be taught in books or a classroom setting with fictional stakes. The rubber meets the road when working with real people (who have real families), real clients, a real balance sheet, and a real income statement.

It is with that in mind that I picked Learn by Doing as the title of my latest (10th!) collection of notes from Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders lectures.

The book contains a wealth of insight from startup founders and business owners such as Ben Horowitz (Andreessen Horowitz), John Collison (Stripe), and Joshua Reeves (ZenPayroll). While it is free do not let that influence your thoughts on the value. These lectures have provided me tons of inspiration as well as great career advice. I urge you to give it a read and then follow up by listening to any lectures that strike you for even more insight.

Best of luck.

The End of Jobs

The End of JobsWhen I first heard about Taylor Pearson’s new book, The End of Jobs, I was worried that he had written the book that I have been researching. What I found was instead a practical book that outlines how the employment equation is changing, gives examples of people that are at the front of the wave of change, and provides a framework to adapt to the new job paradigm.

Two books that The End of Jobs reminded me of are Escape from Cubicle Nation and The $100 Startup. One of the people interviewed in The End of Jobs was Dan Norris who recently released a book titled The 7-Day Startup. This book is a good supplement to those but with more of a focus on the digital nomad aspect of the new world of business.

The overarching point the book makes is that now, more than ever before, you have the ability to design the lifestyle you want and that entrepreneurship is the avenue to do that. Increasingly it will be the only avenue to do that due to advances in technology and a changing business landscape.

I like his definition of entrepreneurship and a job:

“Entrepreneurship is connecting, creating, and inventing systems–be they businesses, people, ideas, or processes.

A job is the act of following the operating system someone else created.”

He goes on to lay out many of the skills (sales and marketing among them) needed to succeed in the world without jobs that he is envisioning.

There is a particular argument that Taylor laid out that struct me as very insightful if it turns out to be true. He said:

“We aren’t going through a global recession–we’re transitioning between two distinct economic periods.”

I really cannot say that theory is true or not but I am in absolute agreement that we all should prepare as if it is. I have seen a lot of the examples he has laid out with my own eyes as I think most people have. Jobs are less secure and entrepreneurial skills will help you survive.

If I had one complaint about the book is that I think some of his arguments seemed to jump from point to point and could have been fleshed out a bit more (while I’m a big fan of Warren Buffett I was lost about how value investing tied in) or benefited from better examples. In particular the example involving Morgan Stanley and IBM and a bond sale felt a bit tenuous. However he quickly bounced back with a wonderful thought exercise about your local community out of which I readily understood that: entrepreneurship > knowledge > capital.

One other quirk, and I don’t know if this is due to his subjects choosing to be anonymous or the writing style, but I would have liked to hear more detail about the people and their businesses that he used as examples.

One reason this book was particularly interesting to me, and might not necessarily be a factor for others, is that I feel like I know Taylor and many of the people featured in the book due to having listened to each episode of the Tropical MBA podcast over the past five years.

Even without that background I think many people yearning for more freedom or dreaming of making the jump from job to entrepreneur will enjoy the The End of Jobs. It is a quick and inspirational read.

We Can All Change the World

We Can All Change the WorldChanging the world is something that should be a goal for all but not all set out to do it. It sounds like the dreams of a college student that people either politely nod at or not so politely scoff at. But it is something that is attainable for all of us.

The world can be changed at a personal, local, national, or global level. The thing about change is that it begets more change and thus ripples of it spread near and far. You can build a business, start a charity, be a big brother or sister, or smile to somebody at the grocery store. All can make at least one person’s day a bit better.

We Can All Change the World is the ninth volume of my notes on Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series. You can download it here for free. Hopefully it will inspire you to listen to the talks that have inspired me so much.

Do What Makes Your Soul Sing

Do What Makes Your Soul SingSometimes we all need to be reminded to pursue our passions both personally and professionally. Doing what you love was the theme I picked out for my latest collection of notes from the inspirational lecture series “Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders“. Read advice from 24 different lectures including leaders such as Tim Draper (DFJ), Stephen Cohen (Palantir), Tim O’Reilly (O’Reilly), and Nassim Taleb (Author).

You can download Do What Makes Your Soul Sing for free here.

Business Podcasts I Love

Podcasting has been around for a decade but I believe only recently has really become something that the general public has started to take notice of. Podcasts hosts come from all walks of life and topics cover almost everything imaginable. For business owners there is a wealth of great shows that provide inspirational and actionable information. It can be tough to find shows that aren’t in the top ten lists in iTunes so here are some of my favorite.

All of these podcasts, with the exception of one, have been around for many years.

EconTalk

EconTalk was one of the first podcasts I listened to and, with my education background in economics, fell in love with. It takes many topics and looks at them through an economics lense. Many great and distinguished guests.

While politics can often enter discussions about economics I believe the host, Russ Roberts, does a great job in asking questions without any agenda and simplifying complex topics into terms that the listener can understand.

Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Stanford seems to be the epicenter for the technological disruption that has changed industry after industry. Many great companies have been founded by their alumni. Luckily for those of us that didn’t attend they provide some of the classes online for free. Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders is my favorite.

Because of the location in Silicon Valley they have amazing speakers from the tech industry (though the speakers aren’t exclusively from the tech industry) that give talks that I’ve found informative as well as very inspirational.

Here is a link to my eight favorite talks and you can find notes I have taken about each of the over two hundred talks here.

HBR IdeaCast

The Harvard Business Review is a great, though expensive, magazine that I’ll often get at the airport for flights. The podcast provides a lot of the same content in audio format. I don’t know if it is as actionable for small businesses as other podcasts on the list but should be a must listen for anybody in corporate America.

Manager Tools

I used to listen to this podcast religiously but that has fallen off since I no longer having any direct reports. Still I often find the podcast to have information that is useful to me now when I outsource tasks or will be later when I am able to hire somebody full or part-time.

The New Business Podcast

The primary focus on this podcast is marketing a business on the Internet. Shows cover topics such as blogs, mailing lists, webinars, social media, podcasting and other ways to reach an audience. The host, Chris Ducker moved to the Philippines and started an outsourcing company that provides virtual assistants to many entrepreneurs.

You can read my notes from this podcast here.

The Smart Passive Income Podcast

By definition this podcast is about creating passive income streams (though in practice it is a lot of work to create something that is passive) which the host, Pat Flynn, has done multiple times. Really though this podcast has a wide variety of guests that discuss an equally wide variety of topics from business topics to personal topics such as success and family.

You can read my notes from this podcast here.

StartUp Podcast

This is the newest podcast on this list and the format is a bit different than the others. This is a podcast about the host building a podcasting business. That isn’t too dissimilar than some of the others but the host, who previously worked on This American Life and Planet Money, records many of his conversations with investors, coworkers, and, most entertainingly, his wife. He uses those along with his narration to tell a compelling story about the journey of an entrepreneur and his startup.

Startups For the Rest of Us

This was the first podcast about smaller startups (or lifestyle businesses) that I listened to and it actually introduced me to the next one when they swapped shows as an April fool’s joke. The two hosts are actively creating SaaS businesses so a lot of the advice provided is applicable to me as I build StartOpz as both a product and a business.

One of the hosts, Rob Walling, also wrote a great book titled Start Small Stay Small for developers looking to do their own startups without trying to raise outside capital.

You can read my notes from this podcast here.

Tropical MBA

This is a show about creating a location independent business, where freedom and time are as valuable as money, the challenges involved with that, and, most interestingly, what day to day life is like on the road.

I’ve listened to hundreds of shows that these guys have done and, while some things they cover are relevant to me and some things aren’t, what they are doing is very inspirational for me though it doesn’t help when I can’t currently scratch the travel itch. I find comfort in hearing their intro music every week.

You can read my notes from this podcast here.

Innovation is the Only Way Out

Innovation is the Only Way OutTo round out the year I’m happy to announce the release of Innovation is the Only Way Out which is the seventh volume of notes on Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders. It contains advice from 23 lectures including talks by Phil Libin (Evernote), Brad Feld (Foundry Group), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Daniel Elk (Spotify), and Drew Houston (Dropbox).

Innovation is the only sustainable competitive advantage any company can have. – David Friedberg (The Climate Corporation)

Happy New Year! May 2015 be a great year for you and your business.

Define Success

Define SuccessFor advice of both the inspirational and practical nature I’ve found no resource better than Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders lecture series. The speakers come from all backgrounds and their insights into business, entrepreneurship, and life have had a profound effect on my outlook. I’ve recommended it to others countless times.

Define Success, my sixth volume of notes on the lectures, is now available for free download.