In our last post in this series, we talked about the impact that working with a coach can have in fighting isolation, and leveling-up your business. However, another powerful way to access community, inspiration and direction is group business coaching.
In group coaching, your coach facilitates a small group, usually 6-8 clients, on a video conference call. The group usually meets several times a month, and clients can be supported with monthly private coaching check-ins as well.
What’s in it for me?
When I first heard about group coaching, I thought ‘no way.’ Why would I pay money to hear other people get coached? I want my coach to be solely focused on me, my business, my challenges, my needs. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and for reasons I never could have anticipated…
A coaching group gives you a cohort, a community, a built-in network of people like you, who are in the trenches alongside you, hustling, sweating, building their businesses. They get you. And when you watch them work through an issue they are having, it is very often similar to something you are wrestling with yourself. You get all the benefit of being coached to a solution, but with an objectivity that is, quite frankly, nearly impossible to obtain when you’re the one on the hotseat!
Plenty of time for you
Your coach’s job is to make sure that everyone on the call gets what they need that day -- the inspiration, the insight, or the resolution to a thorny practical issue. However, being part of a group is like a force multiplier for your business. I often find that I get more from group calls than even my private sessions with my coach.
There’s efficiency in working as a group; you gain perspective on everyone’s challenges, as well as your own. Even if the issues aren’t relevant to you that day, they almost always will be at some point soon, and then, voila -- you know exactly what to do! This is key -- I often hear solopreneurs struggle when sticky questions crop up in their business, and it’s partly because they’re not immersed in a community feeding them the answers every day.
There’s also an amazing bond that comes from being with your group on these calls. Offering suggestions and encouragement in the chat box, and feeling like you are part of their journey and they are part of yours. People in my coaching groups have become some of my dearest friends -- I am invested in their lives, and in the success of their business. Isn’t that what fighting isolation in solopreneurship is all about?
You are amazing!
One of the best kept secrets about group coaching is what it does for your own confidence. As you get to know everyone, you come to admire and respect them as people, as friends, as entrepreneurs, and vice versa.
You will almost certainly come to believe that these people are impressive, smart, capable human beings. So when you see them wrestle with mindset issues, accurately valuing their offering, or managing a sales funnel, it will surprise you. You’ll think, ‘But they’re amazing — how can they possibly doubt themselves?’
Then you realize that they are thinking the same about you.
And then you realize that you are also a smart, capable, impressive human being, and you suddenly feel ready to conquer the world!
Have you ever been part of a group coaching experience? What has been the most valuable part of coaching with others for your business?
I have a confession to make
This is the third article in a series on isolation in solopreneurship, and the truth is, I rarely feel lonely or isolated in my business.
Co-working has been huge for me, and I’ve had another secret weapon as well -- even before I actually started my business, I’ve always had a coach.
I’m lucky; I started working with my current business coach in my twenties. Years later, when I was getting ready to leave the corporate world behind, I hired her again to help me make the transition to owning my own business. Having a champion by my side, someone I already knew, liked and trusted was a big advantage in having the courage and confidence to make the leap.
Your coach shines a light for you in the dark
However, if you’ve never had a coach, their role can seem kind of mysterious. What do they actually ‘do’? How is it different from a therapist? Can’t my friends cheer me on from the sidelines?
Now that I’m a certified coach myself, I often find myself trying to answer these questions. Sometimes when I talk to potential clients, they think my role is to give them all the answers — like a sports coach, as if I have a secret playbook that will help them win the game.
That’s not how personal or business coaching works, and actually, you wouldn’t want it to. The real magic of coaching is having someone by your side to shine a light in the dark for you when you feel lost. It is far more valuable for an entrepreneur (or anyone, really) to feel empowered to solve their own problems than to feel reliant on an ‘expert’ or a coach.
Of course coaches offer ideas and perspectives that help you solve challenges, but for a solopreneur, having someone beside you, who has only your highest good in mind (and will hold you accountable for it!) is a game changer in fighting isolation.
I have friends for that...
At first, people sometimes think that this is something a friend or partner could or should do for you -- for free! But in fact, that’s not their job. The people who are closest to you can’t help but have opinions, views or agendas about what’s best for you. It’s their job to support you, but a coach’s job is to be objective, completely free of judgement, and have only your best and highest good in mind at all times.
My coaching sessions with entrepreneurs often focus on helping them to ask the right questions, examine the resources at their disposal, and make decisions about how to clear the road blocks between where they are and where they want to be. Friendship and partnership are two-way streets, but when you hire a coach, you are investing in a relationship that is all about you, your business, your dreams.
A funny kind of alchemy
Coaching is, actually, a bit mysterious... on the one hand there is a structured way of working together, and on the other hand there’s a funny kind of alchemy that happens during sessions. Sometimes it’s the ‘a-ha’ moments, sometimes it’s flashes of inspiration for how to solve nagging problems, sometimes it’s just being seen, heard, and feeling much, much less alone.
I know for certain (like, about a million percent certainty) that I a better, happier, wiser person, businesswoman, leader, and coach because I've consistently invested in having a coach. My business is stronger, and I've avoided countless pitfalls I doubtless would have stumbled into if I'd insisted on going it alone.
Private coaching -- working one-on-one together, is amazing, but it’s not the only way to get coaching support for you and your business. Group coaching is another really powerful way to beat isolation -- check out our upcoming post on the topic!
What’s been your experience working with a coach? How has it helped you and your business? How would you describe the power of coaching?
I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to the first article in this series -- ‘One is the Loneliest Number: The Dangers of Isolation in Solopreneurship.’ Clearly, the topic has resonated deeply with so many entrepreneurs working to build businesses, and struggling with all the mindset challenges that working alone can bring.
This series explores solutions to the loneliness that often plagues solopreneurs, so I’d like to share one of the factors that has made a huge impact for me in building my business -- co-working.
When I first ventured out on my own, I had a perfectly good dining room table at home, fast internet, and a laptop, and it would never have occurred to me to pay for a co-working space.
Many people who work from home report feeling the lure of laundry and dishes. I’ve always had the opposite problem; I open my eyes and my laptop in the same breath, and then don’t look up again until it’s 4pm, only to find that I’m still in my pyjamas, unshowered and hungry. I used to wonder where the day had gone, and then feel a little depressed that I hadn’t gone to the gym or brushed my teeth.
Still, I couldn’t see the value in paying money to go sit somewhere else, at a desk that wasn’t even mine, surrounded by strangers. It seemed sort of desperate, sad, and like a waste of money.
Then one day, an entrepreneurial acquaintance who was working out of the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC,) invited me to visit for lunch. I had never heard of CIC, but quickly learned that it is iconic in the Boston startup world. Next door to MIT, it claims to be home to ‘more startups than anywhere else on earth,’ and is one of the first innovation centers in the country.
When I visited CIC’s dedicated co-working space for the first time, my whole world changed. I suddenly realized that you aren’t really paying for a desk and use of the odd conference room -- you are paying to be part of a community. Perhaps it’s the nature of being an ‘innovation center,’ but CIC is exceptionally focused on creating an ecosystem of entrepreneurs that take their responsibility as members of the community seriously.
Not all co-working spaces are created equal; I know I’m lucky to be part of such an awesome community. However, the shift in my mindset from ‘working at home’ to ‘having an office’ is, I believe, relevant to many solopreneurs.
When I joined CIC, I voluntarily started to commute an hour each way -- I take the bus and then transfer to the subway, at least three days a week. I use the time to listen to podcasts or audiobooks, brainstorm business ideas, mentally plan my day, and sometimes just stare out the window and day dream. My commute has become one of my favorite rituals as an entrepreneur. More than once, I have caught myself, walking from the subway station to my office, smiling for no reason, just happy to be part of the rhythm of the city.
I love the feeling of walking into my ‘office’ and seeing familiar faces. I usually sit at the same desk, and near the same group of people. I consider them my co-workers, and if I’m out of town for several days, I will often get a text from one of them asking where I am.
Some days I go in, work all day and leave without ever actually talking to another person, and still feel happier and more alive than if I had done the same thing sitting in my house. Other days I relish walking around the co-working space saying hi to people, and stopping for coffee chats in the kitchen.
Of course, there are definitely other business benefits to being part of a co-working community; the relationships I’ve developed, clients I’ve met, and the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of my customers’ needs have all been vital. There are never-ending events and workshops, so I’m constantly learning. I also draw inspiration from other entrepreneurs facing the same challenges as me.
Certainly the routine of brushing my teeth and leaving the house every day to go to a co-working space has been helpful in beating isolation, but I believe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s the bus ride, maybe it’s the coffee chats, maybe it’s just being surrounded by other entrepreneurs. I suspect it’s a combination of all of those factors that has made me better at dreaming up creative solutions to business problems, and helped me maintain a healthy perspective on the highs and lows of building a business.
It turns out, I'm not alone in this discovery; recently the Harvard Business Review published its findings on the value of co-working in combatting isolation, and with some pretty compelling statistics -- 84% of respondents reported that working in a co-working space improved their work engagement and motivation. Most also reported being able to concentrate better due to fewer distractions compared to working from home or in coffee shops.
There are more shared workspace options available than ever before, and clearly, the demand is growing. Co-working spaces are generally month-to-month memberships, so it’s easy to try one out and see if it works for you. They also often offer different pricing tiers depending on how often you use the space, so you can still control your costs, and your schedule.
For me, the investment has been a game changer, and I don’t know where I’d be in my business if I had stubbornly refused to leave my dining room table.
What’s your experience of co-working? Have you found a balance of ‘home’ and ‘office’ time that has worked for you? Do you love working from home and don’t really get why anyone would want to go to an office? What works for you?
This is the second in a series of posts about the dangers of isolation in solopreneurship, and how to combat them. Read the first article here. If you have tips and tricks that have helped to keep you a happy, thriving solopreneur, please share them, and we may include in a future post.
Don’t go it alone -- join our group!
Due to popular demand, we are about to launch a new group membership program called Solopreneur Connection -- we'd love to have you join us! Click here to learn more about the program, and to submit an expression of interest.
We’ve been so pleased to see our clients getting such value from working with Dewpoint Communications -- and in some cases, even just working with us to articulate their Mission, Vision and Values statements has helped their business to leapfrog ahead.
Recently, we sat down with Tish Hicks, (pictured below) CEO of the V.O Dojo, to talk about how working with Dewpoint Communications has changed the way she talks about her voice over training offering, and the impact it’s had on her business.
The V.O Dojo, based in Burbank, CA, has been training actors pursuing a career in the voice over industry to since 2011. Tish’s own extensive career as a voice over artist has made her a highly sought-after instructor, and the Dojo has been steadily growing.
Last year, it was time for Tish to think about where she wanted to take the company next. She was building her team, exploring partnerships with other artists, and looking for clarity around what the V.O Dojo stands for to help guide these relationships.
As with each Dewpoint Communications Mission, Vision and Values development engagement, Tish and Victoria began by exploring the company’s purpose in the world -- why does it exist in the first place? Tish’s vision for the Dojo turned out to be the answer to the questions she was asking about the future of her business -- and even some she hadn’t thought of yet.
“Remembering that the true heart of the Dojo is ‘aligning people with the power of their own voice’ helped me realize that the value of our programs is much deeper than learning the nuts and bolts of doing voiceover,” recalls Tish.
“I think the most eye opening part of this work was taking full responsibility for articulating the vision clearly. I had a stumbly year of hiring, and wanted go back to the basics so I could learn how to support my team.”
“When we first started unpacking the Mission, Vision and Values, honestly, part of me was like, oh yeah, I’ve got this -- while it was happening, I didn’t quite understand how impactful it would be. And as we went deeper, the vision got stronger and clearer.”
And as Tish got clearer on her vision, and more confident articulating it in her marketing efforts, an interesting thing began to happen.
“The next time we ran one of our intro workshops, I was approached by several young women who were feeling extremely disempowered in their own lives --and especially, politically. The idea of learning how to access the power of their own voice, and bring that into the world, was magnetic to them.”
Once Tish started to align the way she described her offering to the market, she naturally began to attract clients who were not specifically pursuing a voice over career, but definitely did want to learn how to ‘align with the power of their own voice.’ This opened up a market segment for the Dojo that Tish had never previously considered.
“One of these women came to the workshop, having hated the sound of her voice for her entire life, and left with a whole new understanding of what was possible for her. She signed up for the full year of training!"
This clarity of purpose and vision has, in turn, given Tish renewed focus and ease around how to manage her own team, and other partnerships.
“It has really allowed me to remember that the Dojo’s vision is my vision, and that I can trust in what I am creating. Now when I bring people on, in whatever capacity, I know that I am inviting them to participate in Dojo vision for a very specific purpose. This has created a sense of ease and transparency that been really helpful.”
Working with Dewpoint Communications has also helped Tish step into her role as leader in a new way.
“I now better understand that I am responsible for creating and maintaining the gravitational force that will keep someone in orbit, and in full connection with the Dojo, and this has been a game changer. Every interaction I have in developing and maintaining someone as part of the team means that I need to strive to embody what I am asking them to be.”
So what’s next for Tish Hicks and the V.O. Dojo?
“There have definitely been a number of new opportunities that have opened up that I never could have foreseen -- in part because defining our Mission, Vision and Values statements has allowed me to better focus our marketing efforts. I’m more confident now in what differentiates us, and I know that how I want people to feel when they interact with the V.O Dojo.”
“The Mission, Vision and Values work I did with Victoria has reminded me that this is the core of what people are responding to, and it has given the V.O. Dojo a whole new universe of possibilities to explore!”
If you'd like to learn more about how working with us to articulate your company's Mission, Vision and Values statement can benefit your business, feel free to get in touch.
I've become convinced that isolation is a silent dream killer for solopreneurs. Working alone is like the opposite of ‘groupthink’ -- but no less destructive to a small business.
You know the story, a small, service-based solopreneur works out of their second bedroom, or maybe the occasional Starbucks. They plug away, always on the hunt for clients, ‘doing all the doing,’ reading the right business books, constantly working ‘in’ the business, not ‘on’ the business and just hoping they’re getting it right. They worry about revenue, that they’re working too hard, and ultimately wondering if it’s all worthwhile -- whether they might not be better off working for someone else...
Whenever I hear solopreneurs report this kind of grind, I’m almost certain that the root of their frustration and anxiety is prolonged isolation. Why? Because the number one challenge that all entrepreneurs share is mindset. The laundry list of common issues includes imposter syndrome, burnout, inertia, creative blocks, anxiety and depression.
And it’s no wonder. Building a business brings up everyone’s deepest fears and insecurities -- am I good enough? Will anyone pay me what I think I’m worth? Is there a sustainable market for what I’m offering? Will I have consistent revenue? None of these are helped by sitting at home alone, toiling away in isolation.
Entrepreneurship is a team sport, which doesn’t mean that you have to hire a staff, but it does mean that you need community. Here’s why:
That laundry list of mindset issues? They’re a lot easier to manage when you know you’re not alone. When you have a community of peers, you realize that anyone building a business who doesn’t have imposter syndrome is playing it too safe, and at the expense of their bottom line. When you’re growing, you’re always going to be doing new things that you’ve never done before, so it’s a good idea to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. This is a lot easier to do when you have other entrepreneurs -- people in the same boat -- to talk to.
There are a million ways to build a business, but you only know what you know. Fortunately, there are lots of other entrepreneurs out there trying to solve the same problems, and sharing information and ideas is a great way to break free of creative and productivity blocks. For example, you may be struggling with keeping on top of emails and calendaring, but someone else in your community may have already successfully used an automation platform that could do all this for you. No one can keep on top of everything, so knowledge sharing is vital to success.
When you work alone, you’re also stuck just thinking your own thoughts every day, which creates huge blind spots. It’s hard to solve business problems creatively when you’re stuck in your own head, with not enough external input.
Referrals and Partnerships
You may know your own market, but have no idea how to access adjacent markets, or even that they exist. When you have a community of entrepreneurial peers, you’ve instantly increased your pool of potential customers. Similarly, you’ll also be able to start tapping into vibrant referral networks -- hard to do sitting at home alone at your laptop.
That all sounds helpful, but how do you make the leap from thinking your own thoughts all day every day to breaking into the wellspring of ideas, innovation, empathy and encouragement that you need?
More to come!
Welcome to the first in a series of posts in which we’ll explore some of the ways that I, and other entrepreneurs, have found effective in beating isolation, and building our businesses. We’ll look at the benefits of co-working, coaching, and community-building. We’ll also examine the role that mindset and resilience play in the success of solopreneurs.
In the meantime, what are your top tips for combating isolation as a solopreneur? What tricks have you discovered to master your mindset? Share them here and we may contact you to be part of a future post.
Due to popular demand, we are getting ready to launch a new group membership program called 'Solopreneur Connection' -- we'd love to have you join us! Click here to learn more about the program, and to submit an expression of interest.
Whenever I talk about ‘hiring for culture fit,’ I get strange looks. I know people are wondering if hiring for culture is really a euphemism for ‘hiring people you’d like to have a beer with,’ or people you might have gone to school with – basically code for hiring people just like you. After all, isn’t this the behavior that perpetuates ‘bro culture’ in Silicon Valley?
On the contrary, this is actually a plea for companies to actively define their ‘culture’ through clearly communicated mission, vision, and values. Too often the term ‘company culture’ is misinterpreted as ping pong tables, kegs, and wearing jeans to work, when in fact, it’s a much deeper, and more powerful concept.
When you have a strong, clear, purpose-driven culture you’re better placed to recruit (well, just in general, but also) for diversity because you’ve already defined an objective ‘shared’ culture that everyone who works for you has understood and agreed to. This can help bridge individual cultures of origin in the workplace. This practice helps to normalize gender quality and diversity and inclusion for companies – the very opposite of perpetuating a ‘bro culture.’
Smaller companies, under intense pressure to make successful hires, may not feel like they can take a chance on someone that they’re not sure will be a team fit. This opens the door to an onslaught of unconscious biases. And yet, we know that workplace diversity encourages different perspectives that yield greater innovation and employee engagement, which in turn help grow stronger businesses.
Please allow a brief digression to make this point more clearly – bear with me, I promise I’m going somewhere with this:
There are some people who are merely fans of the 1990s Aaron Sorkin political drama ‘The West Wing,’ and then there are people who love the show so much that they, even now, in 2017, listen to a podcast called ‘The West Wing Weekly’ in which each and every episode of the seven seasons is dissected in painstaking detail. I, myself, fall into this latter camp.
Very often on the podcast, there are guest interviews themed to the show’s story lines. Recently, on a Canadian-focused episode, the hosts interviewed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. For a variety of reasons that will be obvious to any West Wing fan, this was an exciting turn of events. But what was even more exciting to me was something Justin Trudeau said about Canadian culture that makes my point about how to start creating a diverse and inclusive company culture.
West Wing Weekly host, Hrishikesh Hirway, asked the Prime Minister about Canada’s stance on refugees, and whether assimilation was a big part of their policies in this area. The Prime Minister articulated what it means to welcome immigrants to their country.
“Canada was always stuck…and that sort of helped us live in a place that is too cold, too big, too empty for too many months of the year. We learned that surface identity doesn’t define you, and through the waves of immigration… people are proud to keep their heritage, and we celebrate them. Being of every different background makes it difficult to point out what a typical Canadian is.
I mean, just the French versus English meant that we had to accept that someone totally different from us was just as much Canadian. So we went through long stretches of angst of being unable to define what the ‘Canadian Identity’ was, until we sort of figured out that the Canadian Identity is just not shaped around surface attributes like religion or ethnicity or language, it’s shaped around the shared values – shared core values of openness, respect, compassion, a willingness to work hard, a desire to be there for each other, a search for justice, for opportunity.
These kinds of things that most Western countries sort of aspire to, Canadians tend to take as definitional... And what that does is that that means that wherever you’re from, whatever your background, if you come and accept those values, which are positive, inclusive, open values, you get to be Canadian.”
Without dwelling on the nuances of Canadian politics, I do think that Justin Trudeau’s sentiment effectively articulates my point; shared values essentially form a social contract that bind people together, certainly well enough to create a strong, thriving company of diverse talents and perspectives.
When you recruit for a values-driven culture fit, you are saying, ‘this is who we are, this is what we stand for. This is what we celebrate, this is the behavior we expect, and this is what we won’t tolerate. This is what we’re offering you, this is what we need from you. This is how we treat each other, and this is how we engage with our customers. This is why we come to work every day, this is why we keep at it, even when the going gets tough.’
Naturally, there will still be issues around how we effectively manage diversity in our businesses, but I have seen, throughout my career, that creating a strong shared culture yields significant benefits, and expanded access to top talent is just one of them.
If you’re a people leader who’s seen the movie Wonder Woman, you may be wondering how you can get your own small business’ employees to leap tall buildings in a single bound, remain relentlessly committed to their mission, and innovate their way out of every challenging situation.
You may, or may not, want your team to turn up to work in full costume (every day,) but you absolutely can turn them into a band of superheroes –greater than the sum of their parts.
We know that companies with highly engaged employees are more profitable, productive, have lower turnover and better work quality than their competitors – all of which directly affects your bottom line. And, (spoiler alert!) as you know from the movie, not having Wonder Woman-like employees on your team can lead to some pretty grim consequences.
So what’s holding them – and your business – back?
Assuming that your business is generally well run, that you’ve given your people the tools they need to do their jobs, and that you’ve got a solid organizational structure and decent talent, you may be scratching your head thinking, “what else can I do?”
1. Clearly communicate your company’s Mission, Vision and Values
In the movie, Wonder Woman is very clear why she’s leaving Themyscira – she wants to kill Aries, and save the world/humanity. When the going gets tough, she’s able to recall her mission, and why it’s so important to her.
She also uses her mission, vision and values as decision-making criteria – when faced with choices and compromises, she’s able to act decisively (understatement!) and in alignment.
However, for mere mortals in business, this can be more challenging. Many companies, especially smaller ones, haven’t fully articulated their mission, vision and values, or they're languishing as conference room posters instead of activating greatness.
The truth is, the smaller your company, the easier it is for your values to bring out your employees’ inner superhero. See below.
Back on Themyscira, Wonder Woman was content to trust the values of the Amazons on faith – after all, her mother was their queen. Eventually, she uses those core values and beliefs to forge her own path – that’s innovation.
However, your employees may need a little more involvement in determining why and how they do what they do every day at work. Small business leaders often say that they don’t have a mission, vision and values, but that’s usually not actually true. Collectively, you and your employees probably have a pretty good intuitive understanding of your company’s purpose and how you can best achieve your goals.
If you’re very small – like a startup – you should develop values before you start hiring – they’ll have a big impact on who joins your company, how they behave once they’re there, and how long they stay with you. However, if you’ve already got a merry band, then get together, brainstorm and co-create your mission, vision and values as a team. When you develop them as a group they will be more resonant, and less likely to serve as the aforementioned, oft-ignored conference room art.
As a reminder, your:
Mission statement articulates the reason your company exists
Vision statement describes the successful future state of your business
Values are like a social contract; they describe how and why you work together.
3.Walk the talk
As a leader, you yourself may not feel fully confident (yet) deflecting machine gun fire with your shield and/or wrist bands, but that shouldn’t stop you from leading the charge when it comes to exemplifying the values you (and your team) have identified.
Remember, part of the value of values is that they serve as decision-making criteria, and that starts at the top.
For example, if you’ve selected ‘Celebrating our Successes’ as a value, then be sure that you actively recognize your team member’s amazing work. When you do, be sure to reference your ‘Celebrating our Successes’ value so that your people know that living them every day is an important part of who you are as a company, and a team.
Your people are your secret weapon
To be sure, those scenes of Wonder Women felling bad guys with her golden lasso and amazon warrior skills are pretty cool. But remember, it’s her empathy for the starving woman she meets in the trench that compels her to act. And maybe this is the most important lesson that Wonder Woman can teach us about how to run a company; human-centric businesses outperform others. When you prioritize employee experience and engagement, you too can reap the rewards – your very own band of superheroes.
For more information on building a values and purpose-driven company, check out the Resources page on our website.
I listen to a lot of podcasts, and again and again I hear interviews with entrepreneurs crediting their ceaseless hard work and unending toil for their success.
They keep saying things like, “You have a choice, you can either chill out and watch Netflix at night, or you can work on your business.”
But I disagree. I don’t think it is either/or. I don’t believe that switching gears and ‘chilling out to watch Netflix’ really is bad for your business. I’m pretty sure it’s completely necessary, at least for me.
I also keep hearing about entrepreneurs who say that they get their best work done in the morning, and I've certainly found that to be true. I usually wake up with an idea or an instinct, and leap out of bed (to get coffee, and then) to pursue it. I do my best writing in the morning. Saturday mornings are when I do my best sustained thinking work – I love being able to spend six or more uninterrupted hours on a project or product development.
By 5 or 6pm, my brain is usually done with the 'strategic work" part of its day, however. Hello, Netflix! Or Hulu. Or HBO Go. Or Amazon Prime.
However, even though my brain might be a bit fried by the end of the day, there are still a lot of important tasks that can be completed in the company of streaming entertainment – tasks that actually enable my entrepreneurial activities during my fresher hours.
I pay bills. I take care of online shopping. I track expenses. I do laundry, cook dinner – you know, all the normal life activities that need to be done whether you’re trying to build a business or not. I’ve also found this is when I’m at my most relaxed to network, coach clients, or visit with friends.
And I think there are a couple of important points to make here. First, your business cannot be built in a vacuum. No matter how driven you are, in order to really understand product-market fit, you need to actually live in the real world. And in the real world, there are cool shows on Netflix. Personally, I often use popular culture references as metaphors or analogies in my work to help articulate subtle concepts.
I also use shared understanding of culture to connect with clients, partners, and colleagues. Being able to laugh over a funny line on Silicon Valley helps build and cement relationships. It demonstrates that I am, in fact, a human (wow, that sounded very Laurie Bream). A television-watching human, and not a robot that works on its business 24 hours a day. That’s just weird.
The second point, in the same vein is, your business also cannot be built in a vacuum. Arguably, no one is working harder than Arianna Huffington to prove this point. Her organization, Thrive Global, is dedicated to shifting our perceptions of what and how we succeed in business. Fighting burnout requires not only sleep, but psychic rest, and sometimes that means Netflix.
“Recent science has shown that the pervasive belief that burnout is the price we must pay for success is a delusion. We know, instead, that when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, creativity, and productivity improve dramatically,” writes Huffington.
The model of working around the clock, fueled by 5-hour energy drinks and a dream is outmoded.
In his blog, Tim Ferriss speaks to the necessity of ‘deloading’, and a conscious period of “strategically taking my foot off the gas,” and “for lack of poetic description — unplugging and fucking around.”
This brings me to my final point, what’s with all the entrepreneur-shaming? Why are we still engaged in this competitive battle over who can work the hardest? This isn’t college; you don’t look cool because you pulled an all-nighter to finish a paper. Why are people who deny themselves awesome shows on Netflix somehow more worthy of success than those who don’t?
Everyone in this game is juggling life priorities. Everyone is walking the tightrope of time management. And most of us also know that horrible feeling when you realize that the only thing standing between you and what you want is your own time/ability/hard work/innovation/drive/delivery/insert-whatever-else-is-standing-between-you-and-what-you-want-here.
We also know that entrepreneurship is a mind game. It takes resilience and mental toughness. You have to be able to ride the rollercoaster every day. So at the end of the day, I’d suggest that you put your feet up for a while and watch The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. It’s very good. Then you’ll be ready to take on the world again tomorrow.
How do you battle burnout?
Have I got it all wrong? Is entrepreneurship really fueled by 5-hour Energy Drinks and a Dream?
Season Four of the HBO comedy “Silicon Valley” has just begun, so it seemed fitting kickoff Dewpoint Communications’ inaugural blog post with a look at how leadership and workplace culture may be affecting the gang at Pied Piper, everyone’s favorite fictional startup.
Specifically, we wanted to examine the topic through the lens of one of the show’s most noteworthy characters, software engineer, Bertram Gilfoyle, aka, Gilfoyle. Fans of Silicon Valley will be very familiar with his ascerbic wit, however, even if you’re not familiar with the show, you’ll surely recognize some of the same personalities described in your own workplace.
Gilfoyle is happiest when he’s torturing his colleagues at tech startup, Pied Piper, and no one more so than his gullible counterpart, Dinesh. Gilfoyle’s unflinching, deadpan delivery keeps audiences in stitches as we watch his zingers land like bullseyes.
In one Season 3 episode, Gilfoyle delights in a colleague’s misfortune:
“Let me put this in terms you'll understand. I'm like a suicide bomber of humiliation. I'm happy to go out as long as I take you with me. Your shame is my paradise.”
Gilfoyle is, without a doubt, what Arianna Huffington would call a ‘ Brilliant Jerk’. So as much as we love Gilfoyle, the character, do we really love Gilfoyle, the colleague?
Remember the time that Dinesh finally got a love interest, only to have it flame out quickly? Gilfoyle was the first to kick him when he was down.
“Either she froze time, met and married the man of her dreams, unfroze time, and hopped back on to vid chat with you, or... you're the dogface. Which do you think it is? I'm on the fence.”
Much has been written about the importance of the ‘First 10 Hires’ in a startup. This core group, on board from the very earliest days of a company’s history, in many ways define its origin story.
Patrick Collision, co-founder of Stripe talks about the importance of those early employees in this How to Start a Startup lecture.
“The first ten people you hire, the decisions are so important [because you] aren’t just hiring those first ten people, you are actually hiring a hundred people because…each one of those people are going to bring along another ten people with them.”
This idea, that those first 10 hires are, in fact, creating the DNA of your company culture, is talked about a lot in the startup world, and there’s no better popular culture depiction of this universe than “Silicon Valley.” So, assuming we can put aside the fact that we’re actually talking about a television show, and that his character is critical to a range of other plot dynamics, the question must be asked, would you hire Gilfoyle?
On one hand, Gilfoyle exemplifies many of the qualities you want in an early employee; he’s brilliant, resourceful, playful, and surprisingly loyal.
On the other hand, Gilfoyle is also negative, combative, and actively creating the kind of toxic culture that Pied Piper could become when it grows up. As much as he rails against giant soulless corporations like Hooli, in fact, his cynicism and mean-spirited attitude towards his colleagues is actually sowing the seeds of the same corporate culture he rejects.
So what are some of the qualities you do want in those first 10 hires? What kind of person contributes to a high-performing team and a company that’s set up for success? How can you create a strong culture for your company from the start?
Ironically, the Silicon Valley character who most closely mirrors these qualities is Jared. While often the punchline for Pied Piper jokes because he seems so guileless, in fact, Jared Dunn is positive, professional, resourceful, scrupulous, loyal, constructive and relentlessly focused on the success of the company.
“I'll admit I'm sleep challenged. I just spent 4 days trapped in a steel box out in an oil rig full of robot forklifts. But now I'm back, and I am recovering, and I am focused, and we're going to pivot. Don't lose faith guys. Look at me, look at me. We've got a great name, we've got a great team, we've got a great logo, and we've got a great name. And now we just need an idea. Let's pivot. Let's pivot.”
Sure, sometimes Jared seems a little…sad. He’s more than a little odd, definitely psychologically damaged, sleeps on a cot in the garage, er, server room, and is always the butt of the team’s jokes.
“I mean, we're all cool here, but we know each other. So obviously, when Dinesh calls me retarded Frankenstein… or Gilfoyle refers to me as effeminate K.D.Lang, I know this is a joke among friends.”
But what would Jared be like if Gilfoyle wasn’t in the picture? What would any of the Pied Piper gang (except, let’s face it, Erlich) be like if they weren’t constantly shell-shocked by a barrage of negativity and insults? Maybe Richard could finally be the leader he’s trying to be. Maybe Dinesh would flourish and own his own genius. It definitely wouldn’t be a very good TV show, but it would almost certainly be a better company.
High performance cultures start with constructive, collaborative, highly engaged teams. It’s worth thinking about the kind of culture you want to create while you’re still huddled around someone’s dining room table like the Pied Piper gang. By the time you start scaling, the DNA of your company will already be embedded, and harder to change.
What do you think?
Have we got Gilfoyle all wrong?
How are you building a great culture in your company?
Victoria Dew is the Founder and CEO of Dewpoint Communications.