The Entrepreneurial Dichotomy

Dichotomy; a contrast between two things

The Entrepreneurial Dichotomy is that our energy, ideas, our vision, are deeply needed, yet our businesses are worth much more without dependence on us; without us having to be present to do transactional things; to not have to handle the day-to-day. We are supposed to be building an enterprise rather than doing a specific job.

Being free to devote our attention to the places where we provide the most value to clients, and to our business, is what creates the best opportunity for everyone to benefit; being unencumbered by everything else to the fullest extent possible

This takes constant effort and intention.

I recommend a “not to do list.” The list facilitates what we are supposed to be doing, and provides a reminder to delegate everything else.

Dynamic change should happen in perpetuity in order to keep this process advancing.

What’s on your not to do list? What’s your focus?

It’s a constant battle and effort to make it happen.


“That accounting system is great. It helps us track productivity and see “real time” revenue stream, project tracking, and utilization. This is going to really improve our operation.”

“That CRM system is awesome. It’s going to allow us to monitor sales and client activity, hit rates, incoming pipeline. We’ve got this really dialed in now.”

“Those spreadsheets for earned value tracking are so good for operations. All our problems are solved operationally, since we can now know exactly where projects stand at all times.”

Time out. Hold up. Reel it in. Yes, these systems are great. They are necessary for proper management at scale. They are part of best practices in professional services. BUT, they won’t change a thing if the mindset behind the people and the systems stays the same. They are just systems. The proper use and execution of systems from the right mindsets and applications are what helps to change things. The systems are tools, just like any other tools of a trade.

Buying a hammer doesn’t make us a Finish Carpenter. Buying a new stove doesn’t make us a good chef. Buying a tool or a system doesn’t guarantee compliance or results.

Good systems still need thought and sensible people behind them. In fact, in professional services, if given a choice, solid, experienced, smart people will trump a system or process every time. When both are applied together, it’s magic. Checking a box or using automation can make good better, but bad even worse.

Project Psychology

There is much said and written about Project Management. Every project is to have (among other things) :

  1. A PMP: Project Management Plan
  2. A RMP: Risk Management Plan

What about a “CCP” and a “PPP”?

  1. CCP: Client Communication plan
  2. PPP: Project Psychology Plan

You see, each client and each project has unique needs, wants and desires, best identified in the Proposal stage of the project, but manifested throughout. This is true at “B2B” (business to business) level and “P2P” (person to person). You see, also, each project has a “mind” of it’s own; multiple constituents within the context of the project, differing goals and values, some within our sphere and some outside of it. So often projects become “triage mode” or “tyranny of the urgent” because we are focused on “checking the boxes” and not dealing with the essence, the mindsets, the commitments of others, the “psychology” of the project.

The more we align with client expectations, understand the dynamics of the project, the mindsets, the conflicting priorities, the more our “box checking” effort (within our process) is just a matter of consequence and documentation. Because “checking the box” within our processes doesn’t deal with “the why’s” within each project. It only memorializes activities.

How’s our understanding of project and people dynamics? This has influence over the quality of a project manager’s life and the quality of project produced.


Since it’s Sunday, I’ll deviate from normal “business stories” and share one of faith. I hope you all enjoy it. It’s deeply rooted in many of the promises and truths of God.

If I tried to explain it, you’d hardly believe it….but it’s true.

It’s a modern day version of “Loaves and Fishes..” (Jesus multiplying the food for the crowd.)

The manifestation of God’s provision in our business week after week, month after month. Heaven touching earth.

Everyone in administrative support group is seeing it.

Without exaggeration, it’s brought out some awe, emotion, and some true jaw dropping responses.

I’ve “teared up” a few times and could hardly speak, but now I just smile and say “loaves and fishes.” It’s become a key phrase and truth for us, and it makes us smile.

The sprinkling of Gods love…..

It’s real and amazing

Have you seen it? Have you felt it in your life too? Do you know it?

Got a story?

If so, and if so led, share it here.

Happy Sunday. Happy faith venture.

SWOT Analysis – Threat to Opportunity

Threats that are defined in our SWOT analysis can actually be opportunities in disguise. Recently in a SWOT analysis review with one of our branch offices, the leader was reviewing a legitimate threat that influences our office’s ability in that market to procure work with certain clients.  I immediately noted that the threat was actually a veiled value proposition, an opportunity. If we could sell the clients on what we know about that space in the supply chain, we would actually do the supplier causing the threat a favor, and make more value for our clients as well. It’s just a different pricing paradigm on the front end in order to achieve a better bottom line for them in the future. It’s a win, win, win if discerned and communicated correctly. Now comes the hard work of communicating the value and overcoming entry barriers; getting referrals; designing a pricing structure and a delivery method.

Some threats are hidde opportunities. Like a “no” in sales and “risk” in innovation. We need to go beyond the surface and figure out if these things are worth pursuing.

Have you dug below the surface?

Leveraging Compliance

In my last post I discussed how compliance doesn’t confirm competency. However, compliance is necessary for the design professional. I don’t like being tied down by compliance needs, but it is critical to our business and has broad implications.

So how do I to take something I view as a real drain on my time as a CEO and business leader and turn it into something that is self multiplying and of increased value?  I make it my intention to book continuing education that is live (meaning with real people in a real venue), out of office, out of town, able to be accomplished for the year in 2 days, whether 1 event or 2 separate events, allows me to network with clients, and exposes me to new ideas as much as possible. This is a good grid. It works for the most restrictive states that require a certain percentage of “live credits” (webinars or in-person events), and it has a high ROI. In this way I am able to take something that is a drain, and turn it into as high of a leveraged activity as possible.

The second choice is in-house CEU events from vendors, risk managers, and others, that will present to a group of us over lunch. It still provides networking internally, with the vendor, and connects us to other industry activity.

If all else fails, or if it’s a requirement like Indiana or Florida Laws and Rules, I just turn to good-ole Red Vector. It’s inexpensive, quick, and I can do it anywhere.

Turn compliance requirements and other mandated things of lesser business value into positive outcomes to accomplish multiple goals.

Compliance vs Self-Education

I am a professional. One thing that distinguishes professionals in any field or industry, is self-learning. When we commit to being a professional, we commit to a lifetime of self-learning. I also happen to be a professional engineer, a “PE.” With becoming a PE, comes years of study, testing, and an ongoing obligation to the public and the profession to practice in our area of expertise; to follow clearly outlined by laws that regulate the profession. I am a big proponent of this.

Some years ago, regulators and PE’s serving on state boards, working together, decided it would be a good idea to require continuing education in order to renew and maintain one’s PE license. This sounds like a good idea, but does requiring continuing education to be completed define whether a professional is a self-learner or not? Were the bylaws, the ethics, and the essence of what we agreed to do and adhere to not enough? Can professionals not be trusted? If they can’t be trusted then there are rules in place to discipline them, or remove their license. Before that would happen, they would likely be discarded by clients or their employer. Is this not enough compliance? What’s my point? (I’m glad that you asked)

Practicing any craft well requires a continual commitment to learning. It’s a necessary part of the process. Am I a believer in continuing education? Yes. Does requiring it as part of a compliance regimen guarantee the right outcomes? No. Taking coursework is good, but it doesn’t define self-learning. Checking a box is simply that. We can complete an exercise, walk away, and not learn the rest of the year if we choose. If we are self-learning, we are “checking the box” every day.

Compliance doesn’t confirm competency.

The Gate

There was a gate that led to the beach in the neighborhood where we were renting. The instructions to access the beach were very clear, and access required a key.

I was met by a tall chainlink gate with a deadbolt for a lock. I inserted the key, opened the gate, and headed to the beach. Once through, it was about 115 steps downward to the water level; a switchback set of steps, riser after riser. This was a rugged beach. A Puget Sound area beach. There were seals in the water at a distance, bald eagles perched on rocks, and also flying above. Ships could be seen heading out to sea and at close proximity. Blackberries were everywhere, draped on the vines, swollen and ripe with no competition for them. There wasn’t another soul to be seen while I was there. Not a single person, except for my family.

The best places and spaces require more work to access and experience; a path less traveled. “Blue water” and “empty spaces” are usually hard to find. They make us sweat. They stretch us. They require effort and intention to access and dwell within, but the experience offered is unique.

The same is true in our businesses, departments, families, relationships, and work. Unlocking the gate, working to get to a differentiated space, takes effort. But there’s no crowd. The crowd prefers the easy route. The commodity route, the crowded space.

What effort are we willing to put forth to be unique, to be differentiated, to define as a niche?

Our “Why”

It truly is always about “The Why”…the essential reason, the purpose, that clarifies our “what” our “context.” (Thanks Simon Sinek)

For instance, when my partner and I built our most recent office space, we wanted to support a new expression of our vision, one that would also permit us to grow, to showcase our brand, to attract and retain talent, to host clients within, and to be happy to work from every day. We also wanted some flexibility of space and options. We wanted to express a more refined version of our trade-marked brand of “Creating Structure.” We wanted to facilitate more collaboration, more inclusiveness, more connection. We wanted the building to functionally express our “why” within its surroundings and architecture. We defined a budget and we got what we envisioned. The same is true with our company’s branch offices. We want them to be the best expression of our values, for the context within their geography.

Everything we do as people comes from the internal expression of who we are, why we think we exist, and from where our identity is defined. What we do (the behavior) is driven from who we are (our identity.) And everything we do should be with thought; it should point to our purpose and mission. It should express our brand in tangible ways. In fact, it does whether we know it or not.

Why not make it intentional and meaningful? Why not do all that we can to support our “why” in everything we do?

Selling “Experience” – The Gas Stations

There are two service stations in my town. Both are within blocks of each other. Both charge within pennies per gallon of each other for gas. Both are national-level name brands.

One always has receipt paper at the pump. The other doesn’t. One always has full window-cleaning fluid troughs at each pump. In fact, at the one, the fluid smells like Wintergreen. The other rarely has enough fluid, if at all. It smells like regular cleaning fluid.

One has an ample stock of snacks and beverages inside and a clean smell. The other is always under-stocked and has an awful odor like a bad hospital smell inside.

One has nice canopies at the pump stations, well intact, with clean lines. The other always seems to have some maintenance issues going on at the pump stations.

One has uniformed attendants inside that typically respond with a polite greeting. The other has people with no uniforms, and generally a dis-interested person behind the counter.

The price is almost the same at the one or at the other; sometimes even the exact same price. But even if not, it’s worth the extra thirty to fifty cents per fill-up, to use the one.

At which one would you purchase your gas and snacks?

In a commodity business, “the one” has learned at how to differentiate. The other doesn’t care. It is always possible to differentiate within our existing revenue stream and context; to deliver value with some thought and care for the customer’s experience.

How about your business? How about mine? What experience do we want to create? What experience are we delivering?