A dose of wisdom for high-performing entrepreneurs and executives, an inquiry of five simple – yet essential – questions.
Many entrepreneurs, myself included, often exhibit the propensity to dive in, drive hard, and devote herculean levels of energy, enthusiasm, and endurance to their enterprises.
This is the so-called “grit” that is regularly celebrated as a defining characteristic shared among successful entrepreneurs. But does this grit and grind necessarily get us where we want to go, notwithstanding major commercial success?
In my twenty-five plus years as an executive (CEO and CFO), start-up entrepreneur, and special advisor to many entrepreneurs and executive teams, I have developed a better understanding of the critical importance of some other considerations that ought to be given due time and reflection prior to “pulling the trigger” and “diving in.”
It seems there are five key questions entrepreneurs ought to first ask themselves (and discuss with trusted advisors) prior to launching, and that more seasoned executives – perhaps much further along in their career arcs – ought to ask as well about their new projects, next steps, and even possibly, if so fortunate, wholesale pivots.
Here are the five questions – you are encouraged to consider each of them, some may surprise you!
Profitability & Durability?
It seems obvious to most business leaders that profitability is essential to the success of the enterprise. But, is the business model profitable at every scale, and does it have durability as it scales (i.e. sustainability in terms of organizational capacity, personnel, supply chain, customer relations, technology, and leadership capacity)?
As I experienced with my “Food Hub Fail” last decade, many-a-year and many millions can be fruitlessly invested in a business model that lacks this durability at every scale!
Essential Skills At The Table?
Entrepreneurs generally possess strong skills across many of the essential domains required for healthy company management, but rarely does a single individual possess all of the requisite expertise, and, moreover, even if she did, it is wise to have others at the table with such skills in order to “myth-proof” and “de-risk” assumptions that a (typically optimistic and enthusiastic) entrepreneurial leader might otherwise miss.
The five critical skill set categories are: Financial, Legal, Marketing/Communication, Operations, and Technology. Oh, and don’t forget: Experience – Yes, “gray hair” at the table is essential to de-risking and blunder-avoidance, especially when the primary entrepreneur is young or early in her career trajectory!
Still A Yes With $1 Billion?
Would you still do this exact same thing if $1 Billion suddenly fell into your lap? If not, it’s time to reconsider!
Mission Driven? (What’s The “Why”?)
Does your business model exhibit advanced leadership in the critical arenas of environmental stewardship, regeneration, and enhanced health and wellbeing (i.e. detoxification and de-stressing) of all of your stakeholders (team members, supply chain partners – from source to destination, customers, and communities in which your products and services are offered)?
If not, it is certainly time to reconsider – your business is likely NOT going to do well into the mid-twenty first century as our global society and global economy rapidly pivot toward stewardship, regeneration, sustainability, and care of people!
To learn more about notable executive leaders who have themselves asked these questions, see Y on Earth Community Podcast episodes with Dr Jandel Allen-Davis MD, CEO of Craig Hospital; Bud Sorenson, former Whole Foods Director and Federal Reserve – Boston Director; Tom Chi, Technologist and Eco Investor at One Ventures; David Sandoval, Founder of Purium; Miguel Gil, CEO of Organic India USA (forthcoming); and David Beasley, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme.