7 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Invest in Themselves

Image credit: shutterstock

Image credit: shutterstock


Startup entrepreneurs often go it alone or almost alone, serving every function in their new companies. They are the idea people, the passionate leaders, the team builders, engineers, marketing experts, logistics officers, bookkeepers and strategists all in one.

The reality is that often this phase is necessary. That means that one of the most challenging things for the startup-minded to do is to keep investing, keep building their own personal skills and abilities. Time and focus-wise, it’s a monumental challenge. Most entrepreneurs skip the personal investments because those investments seem disconnected from their businesses and products. If an entrepreneur has an extra hour, for example, many prefer to invest in their company over investing in themselves.

The problem with that approach is that most entrepreneurs are their brands and products.

Moreover, if you can take a step back and see that your entire entrepreneurial venture rests on a single set of shoulders, it makes business sense to ensure that those shoulders are as prepared, as skilled and as strong as possible. That means investing in yourself because, from that perspective, it’s the same as investing in your product.

Because entrepreneurs spend so little time thinking about boosting their personal skills and strengths, remaining focused on their work, they often don’t know where to start. Since I’ve spent most of my professional life at the intersection of business and education, I have a few suggestions on how you can keep making investments in yourself, even if you’re an overwhelmed entrepreneur. Here are seven:

Go to school

Few things do more to enhance both your credibility and intellectual capacity than higher education. The learning environment itself can provide new connections and spark creativity. There are incubators offering specialized training now in every city. Finishing your degree or starting a new one can make a big difference and just about every school has a part-time or returning student or executive program.

Teach

A school environment is just as powerful if you’re teaching. And, like an advanced degree, being a teacher confers a great deal of credibility. Teaching also forces you to know what you’re teaching at expert level, confront and consider new ideas and explain things in new ways. If you’re an expert in something, reach out to community learning programs or colleges in your area and get in the classroom.

Online program

While the online learning environment is still buyer beware, more and more very credible institutions and incubators are offering online courses and programs. It’s possible to earn certifications in a variety of business-related subjects from places such as Harvard or Stanford or any number of state universities. Even if you’re just exercising your mind or staying up-to-date on current topics and trends, it’s a good investment.

Read unrelated things

If you’re a reader, make sure your reading list includes topics that are unrelated to your business endeavors. Read crime thrillers or romance novels or theoretical physics – whatever will distract you from your hour-to-hour obsessions. Giving your mind a break will inspire creative problem solving and invigorate your work when you return to it. Just a few hours a week of reading about ants or Adam Ant can make a big difference.

“I read spy and espionage thrillers exactly because they district me from trying to run and grow my business,” said Edgar M. Duarte of Duarte Monteiro Group in Miami. “If I read all business books or things in my field, I’d absolutely get sick of it. Taking a mental break allows me to really focus on business when I need to.”

Physical health

Among the biggest oversights entrepreneurs make is neglecting their physical health. If your ability to work is the most essential thing to your business success, it makes no sense to risk it. I know how hard it is, but get to the gym, make good health and diet choices. Take vacations. As with all these suggestions, staying healthy is an investment in your business – it may help to think of it that way.

Co-working

Consider moving yourself and your business to a co-working community. The collaborative, entrepreneurial spirit of shared ambition and sacrifice can be intoxicating and empowering. By co-locating, you’ll find mentors, partners and different-thinkers – all of whom can add to your personal growth and strategic creativity.

Network

Join organizations and attend events. Most people view networking as opportunities to advance their businesses. But they are just as important in building personal connections – assets you can take with you from project to project or business to business. Investing in networking and getting to know your network personally will increase your personal reach and capacity.

Advertisements

The 5 Most Important Characteristics of Great Teams

Building a team that exceeds expectations every time is easy when you follow this formula. Don’t leave your team results to chance!

CREDIT: Getty Images

CREDIT: Getty Images

“Talent wins games but teamwork wins championships.” ~Michael Jordan.

In all aspects of our life, teamwork plays a vital role. Whether we’re on a field or in the boardroom, we engage with and depend on others to accomplish virtually every task.

Because we depend so heavily on teams, we don’t want to leave it to chance to construct and manage them.

Fortunately for us, researchers and entrepreneurs Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone distill the process of creating the highest performing teams in their best-selling book, Team Genius: The New Science of High Performing Teams.

Here are five of the most important factors for high-performing teams, along with some unusual findings that may contradict your previous assumptions about successful-team building.

1. Self-awareness at the team level.
While teams consist of individuals, a cohesive team is in fact a stand-alone, unified structure. The book presents a list of 20 questions that a leader should answer when assembling a team. Huffington Post writer Vanessa Van Edwards boils down the 20 questions to five “power questions:”

Are you in the right team in the right moment?

Can your team stay ahead of the changes in your industry?

Are your teams the right size for the job?

Do you have the right people in the right positions on your team?

Is your team prepared for a crisis, disruption, or change in leadership?

2. The right number.
The ideal number of team members is two.

“Pairs are the simplest and most stable bond in chemistry and in life. Humans form pairs in love and marriage and as friends. Adding a third person to a pair often complicates matters, and some trios can be explosive,” says Karlgaard. There are four main categories of team pairings:

Occasion pairs come together for a specific project. They band and disband quickly. They don’t always like each other but they need each other.
Similarity pairs are often ideally paired and work together in complete harmony. They can become too interdependent on each other.
Difference pairs consist of partners that compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They are opposites attracting.
Inequality pairs include leader/follower or mentor/protege pairings. There is always an imbalance among the partners.
For medium-sized teams, five-nine members is the optimal number for building closeness. For larger groups, 11-18 team members is the maximum number of people someone can trust.

For much larger teams, 150 and 1,500 are magic numbers.

3. Strong communication.

Alex Pentland, director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab, found in his research that there are three aspects of communication that affect team performance:

Energy: the number and the nature of exchanges among team members. Pentland’s research concluded that 35 percent of the variation in a team’s performance can be accounted for simply by the number of face-to-face exchanges among team members.
Engagement: the distribution of energy among team members. The more evenly-distributed the engagement among team members, the stronger the team.
Exploration: communication that members engage in outside their team. Higher-performing teams seek more outside engagement.

4. Team chemistry.
Chemistry is indisputable. It can never be forced or fabricated. If it’s there, we can’t deny it. If it’s not there, we can’t make it manifest. This applies to our personal relationships as well as team dynamics.

When team members have good chemistry, their brains produce more Oxytocin, which is the hormone that helps us feel more connected to other people. Greater levels of Oxytocin produce more pleasure, deeper trust, and stronger intimacy. Team members that have strong chemistry are deeply unified in their common purpose.

5. Cognitive diversity.
The highest-performing teams consist of people who think differently, who approach problems from different perspectives, and who have varying levels of risk tolerance.

Left-brain thinkers are logical and analytical; right-brain thinkers are creative and intuitive. When you’re building a team, choose “a whole-brain team” with an equal distribution of left-brain and right-brain thinkers.

These five factors are proven to yield powerful teams that can be 40 percent more likely to create a successful breakthrough.

Best of luck in assembling or reconfiguring your next teams.