The Business Owner’s Champion

6 Winning Practices to Build Your Nerve and Your Business

by Brad Farris
A N C H O R A D V I S O R S

The Business Owner’s Champion by Brad Farris

Introduction
I’ve never worked for a publicly held company. The biggest office I ever worked for had just over 300 people in it. I’ve never worked more than three layers down in an organization (e.g., my boss’ boss’ boss was the BIG boss). So, I’ve always been able to see, pretty directly, how my work impacted the company. I’ve worked for a lot of different kinds of companies, from a venture-funded startup, to two brothers who ran their business “like a family.” I’ve worked for people who were billionaires and worked on $100 million deals, but I’ve also worked for founders who scraped together cash from their friends and families and put their inventory on a credit card. These companies made aerospace parts, automotive components, awnings, intercoms, garage door openers … the list goes on. As different as these jobs were, there were similarities. The best jobs I ever had were ones in which I worked with teams of excellent people. I worked with peers who were so good at what they did that I was fired up to go to work every day, not wanting to let them down and looking forward to what I might learn from them that day. At my favorite jobs I worked hard, not because anyone asked me to, but because it made a difference. These businesses were large enough to have structure and process, so that we all knew what to do each day and how our success would be judged; but they were small enough to allow us to make meaningful contributions and to see the fruits of our labor and how our efforts each day helped to make progress. This type of opportunity is more prevalent in privately held, founder-led businesses. These types of businesses are in the building stage, creating opportunities for growth for the company and for those working inside of it. There are no layers of bureaucracy, or rules and red tape that hold smart, creative people back from innovating solutions to problems and seizing opportunities. You don’t have to fight through turf wars and entrenched bureaucrats to bring a good idea to life. There are always new challenges, new 2 customers and markets. Invent a new service today, sell it tomorrow, and it’s on the homepage next week! But, not all founder-led businesses have this dynamic. Some businesses are micromanaged, with no freedom or innovation outside of the founder’s. Others have so much freedom that no one knows which way is up. Maybe the founder has the control right, but hasn’t found the right niche. Or, he doesn’t know how to communicate the value the company provides so the business is starved for resources and is working handto-mouth. Others have all the work they need, but they haven’t priced it right, or they can’t manage the clients’ expectations so they always run 100 miles an hour and get nowhere. Are these types of business owners aware of their shortcomings? Yes, they are painfully aware; whether they will admit it outloud is another matter. Of course, a good day will push them to think they are superhuman without any faults at all. But then there are the not-so-good days, when they’re struggling to make

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payroll or dealing with a personnel issue, and they feel like they don’t deserve to have their own business. They think, I’m not the smart, successful business owner everything thinks I am. What if everyone finds out that … I’m … a … fraud? First of all, making a mistake here or there, unless it involves breaking the law, doesn’t make any business owner a fraud. But when all eyes are on you and you can’t perform, it’s easy to draw the comparison. Further, your team expects and wants you to know everything, but you can’t know it ALL. So, when they discover you aren’t omnipotent, it can really smart. Believe me, I know. I’m a small-business owner. But what business owners really feel is fear – fear that they can’t build a business that they love, filled with a team of people whom they respect and whom earn them a fair return on their risk. This fear debilitates them, causing them to make a series of other fear-related missteps in their businesses.

Here’s what you don’t realize: Running a successful business doesn’t require an MBA, or a PhD, or even fancy math. It does require you to be honest with yourself, to get good constructive feedback from your customers, your team, and some outside people whom you trust, and to commit yourself to making some changes that will feel uncomfortable. And most of all, it requires the confidence to do all these things. Confidence and fear are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. How do you go from being a fearful business owner to becoming a confident business owner? I’m glad you asked! You’ve come to the right place for your answer.

As you read along, you may find yourself identifying with some of the scenarios I use. You may be reading this as one of my past clients or as a business owner whom I’ve met once or twice, and wonder if I am talking about you or your business. I assure you that the dynamics I refer to in this book are common to many smaller, founder-led businesses.

“If it feels or sounds familiar, it’s because your problems are common. So if you find yourself nodding, and looking over your shoulder, rest assured, you are in good company.”

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1. Share 2. Assemble 3. Trust 4. Delegate 5. Manage 6. Enforce

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How many late nights did you spend getting your business started? Maybe it was working on a client project or maybe it was worrying about how you were going to meet payroll. At first, didn’t meeting a new client, going to a networking event or selling yourself completely terrify you? Starting your business and building it to this point have probably cost you a lot of sleep. You took risks and years of your life went into making this business the success it is now. And then your employees walk in there like they own the place, like it was created just for them! They think they deserve comfy chairs, juice in the fridge and dinner at home with their families. No one appreciates how hard it was to get here! My people are just walking in here and they haven’t proven anything. Don’t they know they have to earn this? They do take it all for granted. They don’t treat your business like the precious thing it is. That’s because it’s a job to them, not a baby! They don’t come to work thinking they have to

earn your trust or prove they care. They come to work believing they have something to offer to you! They should earn your respect through the sacrifices they made to learn a skill that you can use to serve your clients and make money. They want to work hard, contribute to building your business and serving your clients, AND get recognized for their contributions – even if they don’t involve the sacrifices you made and the risks you took. People who start their own businesses have to have a healthy-sized ego. You have to believe you have something valuable to offer to the world and have the courage to offer it, and offer it, and offer it, before someone finally pays you! Running a business does require strength of ego, and I don’t want you to give that up. Nevertheless, ego can get in your way when it causes you to trust too much in your own ideas and decisions, and value your contributions more than the contributions of others.

Chapter One
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Business owners whose egos get in their way have a few common traits. How many of these fit you? • Are you too critical of the talent in your company? • Is there more criticism than praise in your office? • Do you talk with distain or derision about some of your key team members or customers? • Do you hire supportive team members who are not likely leaders? • Do you avoid adding team members who have the potential to be better, or are smarter than you are? • Do strong team members leave after a few years? • When you talk to clients, do you use the word “I” more than you use the word “we”?

• Do you blame staff members when things go wrong? Do you take credit when things go well? Do clients think you did everything on a project, even when you didn’t? • Has it been more than a month since each team member has heard you say, “Thank you”? Have they ever heard you apologize? • Is your business named after you, or does the brand contain your name? • Are people constantly waiting for your approval or edits before they can complete their work? • Do you frequently rewrite or rework the deliverables that your team produces? • Do you have clients that are “your” clients? Do they ask for you when they call, and other team members just can’t seem to make progress with them?

If you looked at these questions honestly and answered “Yes” to more than half of them, your ego may be getting in your way.
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If you want to build a thriving business that goes beyond what you can do, you need to check that ego. For some business owners, it’s ok the business completely relies on them and they are essential to every project. But if you want to do things like take a vacation, go home when you’re sick without threatening the business, or focus on doing the part of the business you love, the truly creative and visionary tasks, you need a team – and you need to get over yourself. Jim Collins, in his landmark book, Good to Great, identified the concept of the Level 5 Leader. The Level 5 leader was most often identified in those companies who made the leap from good to great. These leaders coupled a fierce resolve and drive for excellence with a clear understanding that it was not about them. In fact, a hallmark of these leaders is that they drew on the insights and influences of many minds to get the best ideas to drive excellent outcomes. When things go well, they look at what others have done to
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contribute; when things go poorly, they look at what they could have done better. It’s important to have strong people around you. But, strong people are drawn to smart, successful people who can share the spotlight. As your company grows, you don’t always need to be in the limelight. In fact, it’s ok if you’re never in the limelight. Now, I know that you have worked hard and taken extreme risks to get to the point where you can have the spotlight on you. No one – not your clients or your team members – know how hard you have worked or the sacrifices you have made to get here. But the truth is, they don’t care! The strongest team members will be anxious to learn all they can and grow with you; but if they sense there is never room for them in the spotlight, they will leave. The team that will take you to the next level isn’t going to tolerate you looking over their shoulder all day. They want to have the freedom to send an email without you proofreading it (and likely rewriting it!). 7

So if this is a problem for you, here are 6 steps you can take? Start small; say thanks.
Be grateful every day for something or someone. I made it a daily habit to write a note to a person who made me grateful that day. Try it. When a client compliments your firm’s work, ask him to send a note to your team member, or forward the email or VM along to your team member or even to the whole team (with specific thanks to the team members who did the work). Make sure the team member hears and experiences gratitude from you and your clients. Don’t wait for your team members to be perfect before you thank and appreciate them. Even when they are imperfect, they do things that need to be recognized and appreciated.

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Listen to your employees as well as you listen to your clients.
If you got this far in business already, you must have learned how to listen to what your clients need and want. Now, use that skill to hear what your employees need and want. Many business owners will bristle at this: Why do I have to listen to my employees? They need to listen to me! Yes they do, but if you never listen to them, if you don’t see them as adding value with their own ideas, they will not be engaged in your business. They may show up and fill a chair, but their best work will be going somewhere else.

Try not talking.
Go to a client meeting and bring the team that worked on the deliverable. Now, don’t talk! Let your team do the talking. Of course, prepare them for what you’re doing. This is going to be tough! You will find that they may make some mistakes, and there will be things you need to train them on, but ultimately the meeting will go fine. And if you are really honest, you’ll admit they did a little better than you would have in some parts. Most importantly, your client is now building a rapport and relationship with your whole team instead of just you.

Don’t go anywhere alone.
Once you’ve learned that you don’t have to talk all the time, take team members wherever you are going – to new business pitches, networking meetings, client debriefs, wherever. You want them to see you in action (so that they can learn) and you want to see them in action (so you can learn).

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Make two to three times more positive comments than negative ones.

This one is hard. If you are in the habit of being critical, you have to make some radical changes in order to shift the balance. First, you must compliment – their clothes, their smile or their ability to always turn their work in on time. Now that you have ramped up the positive comments, skip some of the negative ones. Think before you correct. How serious is this mistake? What is the consequence? Of course, you can’t let things go out that are wrong. But, if it’s just a matter of style, or if you want to improve it a little bit, you are showing that you want to put your own mark on everything and to make it yours. Check your ego. Avoid this if you can.

Eliminate the use of “I” from your conversations with clients. It should always be “We.” Always.

Changing the way you talk will change the way you think. After all, the team, hence the “we,” contributed mightily to that client’s project and its success didn’t they? To say “I” in that case doesn’t just diminish the value that the client got from your team, but it also undermines your integrity.

Your years of hard work, late nights and risk-taking may never get recognized. But which is more important to you – recognition or success? The irony is, if you give up looking for that recognition, if you take a backseat role instead of the front seat, you may find people will be more interested in just how you got to this place – and you may find the recognition and appreciation you have been missing all these years.
For Further Reading: Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve by Jim Collins from the Harvard Business Review July/Aug 2005

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The Death of the Charismatic Leader (And the Birth of an Architect) By Jim Collins first published in INC magazine October 1997

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Like what you’ve read so far in The Business Owner’s Champion: 6 Winning Practices to Build Your Nerve and your Business? There’s plenty more!
In the chapters that follow, author Brad Farris addresses the six practices that can help you build your confidence, which in turn can help you build your business. Confidence is what gets you up in the morning. It’s what makes the magic happen in front of a client or prospect. Confidence gives prospects the confidence to buy, and it gives your team members the inspiration to do great work. It attracts people who will want to help you. It allows you to focus on success, instead of all the reasons you might find for failure. How do you develop your confidence as a business owner? It requires a combination of six practices that will lead not only to a profitable business, but to an added perk – if your business is running smoothly, your life outside of the business can stand to improve as well.  Now it’s your turn to show some confidence, the confidence to keep going on this journey.

Some highlights from the remaining chapters:
Farris offers empathy … “What business owners really feel is fear – fear that they can’t build a business that they love, filled with a team of people whom they respect and whom earn them a fair return on their risk. This fear debilitates them, causing them to make a series of other fear-related missteps in their businesses.” … real-world scenarios … “No one appreciates how hard it was to get here! My people are just walking in here and they haven’t proven anything. Don’t they know they have to earn this?” … some “tough love” … “Oh, you must be so miserable! You have hired every incompetent person in the whole industry, and to prove it you let each of them fail catastrophically, and then YOU saved the day by working extra hard. It’s like this is your sentence, your fate. If I were in your place, I would be crying!” … but most of all, direction … “As you move from an individual contributor to a manager and leader, more and more of your time is going to be spent with people and less and less with tasks. You will spend your time planning and coordinating work that others will be completing. That’s called leverage; your planning and knowledge enables the work of several others.”

Buy the whole book now for just $24.79
It will take less than an hour to read, but you’ll be reaping the rewards for years to come. 

Buy The Business Owner’s Champion now. With a money-back guarantee, there’s nothing to lose – but plenty to gain!

The Business Owner’s Champion by Brad Farris

About the Author:

As principal advisor of Anchor Advisors, Brad Farris has spent the last 9 plus years working with over 100 businesses and business owners to find new levels of growth and success. Prior to joining Anchor Advisors, Brad spent over 10 years managing business units with sales of $2 million to $25 million for a privately held conglomerate. During that time period, Brad built and led teams conducting product-development projects, mergers and acquisitions, strategic planning processes, as well as quality and efficiency improvements. Brad is married with 5 children and lives in Chicago, Illinois. Find Brad on the web at Linkedin or follow him at Twitter.com/blfarris or www.facebook.com/anchoradvisors

Brad would like to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Bridget Ingebrigtsen of Write on Command who edited and rewrote this book. Without her contribution, this work would not have been possible. The whole team at Anchor Advisors, Ltd. contributed their ideas and encouragement, with particular contributions from Stacy French Reynolds, Kyra Cavanaugh and Julie Roth. But it is our clients who contributed the most; their stories, struggles and successes all shaped the ideas that appeared here. Thank You.

Brad Farris Principal, Anchor Advisors

The Business Owner’s Champion by Brad Farris Published by Anchor Advisors, Ltd. ©2010 Brad Farris

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About Anchor Advisors, Ltd.
Anchor Advisors, Ltd is a Chicago based team of advisors dedicated to advancing the state-of-the-art in the leadership of founder-led businesses. Anchor Advisors works with business founders with 10 to 200 employees who have seen growth and success in their business, but need to develop systems and processes so that decisions can be made at a lower level of the organization, freeing the business owner to monitor the results and apply their talents where they are needed most. Developing these systems allows the business to grow beyond the business owner’s personal efforts by creating a fully-functioning middle-management layer; often resulting in 30% to 50% growth. These systems also make the business less dependent on the owner’s personal efforts, allowing more freedom and flexibility for the owner and creating a high valuation if the owner decides to sell the business later.

Ways you and your company can connect with Anchor Advisors, Ltd
* Sign up for our FREE monthly newsletter at http://www.anchoradvisors.com/pages/sign_up_for_business_wisdom/26.php * Become a fan of our FaceBook Page http://www.facebook.com/AnchorAdvisors * Follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AnchorAdvisors * Join one of our roundtable groups either in person or on-line. More information at www.anchoradvisors.com/pages/peer_groups/84.php * Contact us about a consulting engagement http://www.anchoradvisors.com/pages/contact/7.php * Telephone: 773-282-7677

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Anchor Advisors, Ltd. 5366 N Elston Ave Suite 203 Chicago, IL 60630 Call 773-282-7677 www.anchoradvisors.com

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