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?

Healthy or Healthy-Enough?

Are we truly “healthy” or “healthy-enough.”

Being “healthy” is objective. It is based on established criteria medically, physically, relational-ly, emotionally, financially, spiritually and so on. It is manifested in results, in metrics and in outcomes.

Being “healthy enough” is subjective. It’s based on what WE think, and our own determination. We justify why we are okay. “Well, I’m healthy enough.” It’s a moving target, a widening boundary.

I recently got some results that I was a bit surprised by and not pleased with. Then again, I should have known. I had been justifying my actions and decisions on some lifestyle choices by being “healthy enough.” That means I make healthy choices when I need to, but the rest of the time I can move the bar wherever I decide to move it.

“Healthy” pre-determines our boundaries and commitments. It establishes our indicators for performance and choice.

Healthy-enough allows the fences to drop, the gates to open, and the walls to come down when we feel like it. This is true in every area; exercise, relationships, business, our work, sleep, nutrition, finances, spiritual life and more.

Are we “Healthy” or “Healthy-Enough”? Within each of our given contexts we all have choices. It is up to us to decide, but to not be fooled by our choices when we see the results.

Let’s not fool ourselves. Let’s be honest and know which one speaks to our life and choices. Commit to “healthy.”

The Middle vs The Edge

Why I can’t stand the “Middle”

The “Middle” is comfortable; or is it?

The Middle feels safe, but it’s not

Most suburbs are the middle

Luke Warm, not hot or cold, is the middle..

Mid-Sized business, not small or large…

Comfort Zones

What holds me back from the “Edge”

The “Edge”….

Acquire a lot or a little

Live big or small

Love deeply or not at all

Step in or step out

Do something great, not all things average, or do nothing at all

Seeking comfort is fleeting

The very thing that I find comfortable, is the very thing that will kill me

Stay on the edge; one end or the other

Stay out of the middle

Stay out of the middle

The New You?

We woke up to a New Year, but did we wake up to a new “me,” a new “us?”

We carry our same old self into the new year unless something changes on the INSIDE. Circumstances influence us but should not define our reality.

How will we MAKE 2018 different. What will dominate our thinking, reality, identity? Whom will we serve?

Your choice. My choice. In good, bad or mundane circumstances.

Let’s encourage one another

#beintentional

Hats

When we started our company in 1994 my partner and I were the employees, technicians, marketers, officers, and owners. We both wore all of the sales, marketing, administration, and operational “hats.” At one time I was a project engineer, engineer of record, marketing VP, building envelope engineering VP, and President. If we liken roles and job description to hats, I wore five different hats depending on the day or hour of the week.  I actually did this for quite some time. It’s necessary for most of us in business start-up, boot-strap, entrepreneurial mode. I can be exciting and fun for a short time, but the problem is that it’s unsustainable for the long-term. It works well only if we want to kill ourselves and go to an early grave, or as a minimum, become disenchanted with owning a business and not make it. The goal for all of us as business owners should be to wear only one hat, the one that fits the best according to our most unique ability, to shed the extra hats, and hire others to wear them.

Educated and trained as an engineer, in the early days, I was a classic micro-manager and control freak. This works well when everything is dependent on  me alone. However, I recognized quickly that we needed to write job descriptions, build and organizational chart, and structure the company so that others could wear the additional hats we had to take on and off daily. I remember writing job descriptions (defining hats) on planes, at my kid’s piano lessons, and during the work day between urgent project work. Slowly, each role and realm began to take shape.

As the business has grown to five offices, two divisions, and many times the initial number of employees, I’ve worked myself slowly out of wearing all but one or two hats, mostly. I wear one primary hat as the leader and President of the organization, and then put on specific operational, developmental or sales hats depending on a project need, a unique ability I can apply in a specific realm or issue, or to support my colleagues. I say emphatically that if you are a business owner and are growing a business, it a disservice to yourself and your colleagues to not work yourself out of multiple roles and to find other hat wearers as quickly as possible. Our role is to be the owner, leader, facilitator, supporter. People are counting on us. You and I have a primary unique ability or two that we do really well. So do others working for us. They wear many hats better than we do. Our businesses will benefit the most by applying our unique ability, while also letting others do what they do best around us. If we do anything less, we are eroding the future stability and sustainability of our organization. We’ve got to build strategically all the time while working on the urgent matters of the day and still moving forward. Otherwise things stay status quo and can remain that way for a long time. This is not of any value in building and growing a business.

Often times what we experience in a business and life is due to our own lack of awareness of these issues. The more I’ve learned and the more I’ve grown and gotten inputs, the more the business has improved. While it may be a big challenge as a small business owner to have a 100% sustainable business without our presence 100% of the time other than for financing, leading, and providing strategic direction, that should be the goal. The people who work for us, our staff, our colleagues, all the clients, constituents and collaborators that are attached to and support the business, will all benefit.

Do yourself a favor and build in this manner. Give colleagues, and all those in your charge, the confidence that we are charting a course to allow for long-term growth with as little necessary input as possible from us as an owners. The less an owner has to be involved in day-to-day decisions, the more valuable the business. The more and owner can stay out while having their staff executing the sales and operations of the business, the more valuable the business to the staff, the world, and future acquirers. It may look good on the outside that we are involved all the time and working mega-hours, but in the end it’s counter-productive. Visualize yourself not in the business and reverse-engineer it. Figure out how to put others in the right positions and build something of value. Build the business. Build up the people. Share hats. Give away hats. See how good others look in them. The picture will look much better and the future will be much brighter.

Margin and Creativity

For me,

Margin (space, reflection, free time, lack of pressure) is necessary for facilitating creativity.

This is not the same as getting things done. Pressure and deadlines get things done.

But creativity needs time to flourish. It needs margin – the “space” found in a run, a hike on the trail, time away from work, a change of pace, dinner with friends, Saturdays, playing music, backpacking, long flights, collaboration with the team, an offsite for the day. (You can fill in more venues…)

Great ideas need “room.”

In our world “space” or “margin” doesn’t just happen. We have to make it happen. We have to shut off the noise. Don’t your best ideas typically come after you’ve had some time to simply dwell or think and not just “do”?

Maybe space truly is the final frontier, just not the one we typically think about.

Connectivity and Engagement

A few recommendations related to business, networking, connectivity, engagement:

Be the most connected,

Hardest working,

Fastest responding,

Proactively communicating,

Actively  networking,

Self learning,

Team oriented,

Client focused,

Innovative,

Most engaged,

person in your space.
That’s it today. Do it. see what happens

Communicate back to me

PS: GIVE IT TIME!

MY OFFICE

…..is about the smallest one in the joint. When we built our current office about nine years ago, my partner and I wanted our people to have the highest ceilings and the most square footage that we could afford in order to facilitate creativity; facilitate “room to breathe.”

We push hard. We work in a high-stress field; its deadline-driven; time-sensitive. Margins can be tight and decisions are critical. As owners we have a lot of responsibility, but we also have opportunity and options that others can not experience. As an owner, why take the biggest office? What kind of culture does that facilitate? Do we really believe in valuing our people? Do we really care? Are we willing to put our money where our mouth is? Are we willing to build a space and an environment that represents and manifests that we care?

Not to mention that the bigger my office, the more paper I accumulate. I wanted to be forced to delegate; to get stuff off of my desk! I wanted to be able to keep as little in my physical office space as possible. The smaller my space, the less time I need to spend in it.

That means more time being mobile and less paper on my desk. It means more work being put in the hands of others for them to take ownership, and to build a name for themselves within the organization. It means more electronic work and digital files. It forces disciplines in the right areas for me.

I don’t have a parking space with my name on it either. I’ve never been a fan of that scenario. I think its pompous. If anyone should have a parking spot with a name attached, it should be for the “servant of the month,” or maybe the person that has to put up with me the most. I’ve also got a hand-me-down chair for visitors. I have an Ikea wrap-around desk that works just fine. I’ve got a backpack rather than a briefcase, and it’s my mobile office. I do have a triple monitor system and a docking station that I use in order to make things super efficient. It allows me to work as productively at my desk as possible. I prefer to invest in tools and people, not needless perks. Ownership, when done right, has enough built-in perks. Ownership has other privileges. I’ll pass on the bigger offices and parking spaces. How about you?

Inclusive or Exclusive

So are you inclusive or exclusive?

Most of us like to think we’re inclusive. Our opinion, however, doesn’t really matter in this regard. What matters is the opinion of those who are on the other end of the experience with or around us.

Most of us are far less inclusive than we think, and that’s stating it kindly.

Do you know who’s responsible for being inclusive? Everyone. But it needs to be, as a minimum, the person who is, or is becoming, a leader. It’s easy to take the simple route by excluding people. It takes effort and intention to be invitational. Leadership is intentional. Leadership is inclusive.

We’ve all felt the pain of being excluded. When we take that experience and become inclusive with the folks that may not crack into our group, our perceived social structure, our meeting, or our inner circle, we are reversing the pattern.

When we share with other people for their benefit, information we’ve learned at work, that’s being inclusive. When we invite into any space a person that we don’t always understand, don’t know well, or that is different from us, we are being inclusive.

Are you and I being more inclusive or exclusive? Try going outside the comfort zone and extend an invitation. Broaden the circle. When circles get larger, they capture a broader area. Sometimes they overlap with other circles. The overlapping space can lead to something special. We might be surprised at what happens.

Working Remotely

If you own and operate a business, and if in particular you are a business start-up founder like me, you’ve got to have the ability to work outside of the office. It’s important for a variety of reasons. First you’ve got to build tools and systems that allow for efficient work whether in or out, and also have dashboard monitoring of financials, marketing, operations, CRM, etc. Without this the business has not started to become an enterprise that is scalable. Also, if you’re like me, or share my experience at all, you may have held many of the job titles or positions in the business on your growth path. This is a strength and a weakness. When you know the work and business deeply at many levels, there’s a tendency to want to over-compensate and plug the gaps yourself. This is good and necessary when bootstrapping, but it’s a liability once you’re trying to build a team and a maturing organization. Being embedded inside of the office does not allow an objective view for the highly engaged owner. You can’t see things as clearly from within, despite what you may think. People depend on you; you’re efficient; you can get stuff done; it feels good to “know your stuff.” It also is a major empediment and roadblock to future growth. You’ve got to get out of the way. Forcing yourself to “go remote” offers a step in the right direction and completely new perspective. You aren’t physically present. It CAN’T be the same. Once out you’ll be able to see very quickly where you’re over-compensating, where there are real gaps, lack of process, people isssues, unclear role definition, positives, negatives, who is stepping up to assume responsibility, and how well the business functions without you directly involved. You’ll be able to assess functionality from a people and systems-based set of solutions; from results orientation. Strengths and weaknesses are exposed very clearly. It can be uncomfortable because you’ll have to allow for new types of mistakes. You’ll have to coach to the mistakes and not fix them yourself. You’ll delegate in a way that was not known prior. Our mentality should be “always present just not always physically there.” And you should connect daily with your people so that you manifest this reality in your actions. Get used to it. Try it on. Adapt. Phones, mobile devices, cloud, computer tools, apps, and other remote tools can facilitate this while you untether. If you don’t, you’ll hit roadblocks. You’ll limit growth. Plus if you, your staff, clients, and interested observers are really thinking, everyone will know that the more sustainable an organization, the more it functions without the direct daily involvement of the owner(s), founder(s), the more valuable it is to all involved. Stay tuned as I share more experiences on this topic.