3 simple skills for working well with me: dream big, get stuff done, have fun.

Hat tip to LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner for this one. His post (and associated Venn diagram) is spot on.

If you are going to work, work on big ideas. Do things that matter.

If you are going to work on big ideas and things that matter, make sure you get shit done.

If we are going to work together, you better be willing to have fun. Work with no balance rarely changes the world.

The Founding Entrepreneurs

I have been listening to the cast recording of Hamilton quite a bit over the last two months and decided to read a biography on George Washington to better fill in my understanding of the time period. I’m now up to George Washington in his first year of the presidency. It’s amazing how similar the issues faced by the Founding Fathers are to those faced by entrepreneurs and businesses today (albeit with fewer armed conflicts).

First, the population of the US in the 1780s was only between 3 and 4 million people. New York was not the most populous city in the country. Leaders were usually not pure political figures but were made by their written words or actions (it also usually required significant wealth to enter the conversation).

Now imagine the development of the US Constitution and the first years of the new government. It’s basically the story of the small business of America becoming a well-run organization. There were many, many, many ways that the organization could have failed. In fact, it was more likely it would fail than succeed – just like so many businesses.

The early leaders in the new government were essentially tasked with building their own businesses. Alexander Hamilton’s Treasury Department was the largest branch of the government in the early days. Thomas Jefferson in the State Department had to develop new policies for everything along with protocols. President Washington had to spend significant time just helping determine the proper way to address the person in his role (the early Senate recommendation still included “His Highness”).

The federal government also faced stiff competition from state governments that thought they held the highest standing. Nothing came easy and there was no blueprint for success. Facebook at least had MySpace to see what to do/not do.

Pop business theory is all well and good but if you really want to read about a true blue ocean strategy, read about the achievements of the Founding Fathers. It’s good for mapping their experience onto your own but also for better appreciating what we really have today. Well established institutions can survive for many reasons and the federal government in its early days established a very effective path to creating long-term sustainability. Not everything is perfectly applicable but more is than I ever expected.

Inefficiency can rise from overly flexible work hours.

One of the great things about agile working/work-from-home is the ability to set your own hours. When your performance is measured based on what you actually do, you are liberated from the need to simply tick a timecard.

There is a downside to this flexibility. When your peak productive hours vary dramatically from those of your colleagues, you lose the ability to leverage each other effectively. The misalignment of these hours leads to a reduced ability to ask questions, longer time between back and forth responses, and less ability to brainstorm outside of the day-to-day tasks.

My favorite part of being part of a team is learning from the people around me. I love to learn and ask questions and get an insight into areas I’m not intimately involved in. I definitely try to work on the timezones and schedules of those around me to take advantage. Are you doing the same to ensure you are not just a cog in the machine?

The only person that can stop you from being successful is you.

There is only one person in this world that has the ability to stop you from being successful: you. It’s surprisingly easy to keep yourself from succeeding by doing any of these:

  • Setting unrealistic goals for yourself.
  • Underestimating your capabilities based on your current work instead of understanding your current capabilities.
  • Not creating systems for yourself to excel over time and allowing yourself to get stuck in what you do today.
  • Not setting any goals for yourself.
  • Not being willing to accept that you can succeed and do better for yourself.
  • Letting others dictate your path.
  • Trusting in luck to get you through instead of trusting in yourself.
  • Not creating strong relationships with people you can actually trust.
  • Trusting people who are not worthy of your trust.
  • Stopping too early.

It’s never too late to start on your path but it can be too early to quit. Focus on you. Who you are, what you are good at, and what you want from your life. Don’t let the success others seem to have on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites influence your definition of your own success. I’ve never met two people with the exact same goals and dreams for themselves.

The best CRE lease decisions are completely independent of lease costs.

A lot of times we can get caught up in financially engineering a lease to save an extra 5 or 10%. This is why we bring in quality brokers that know their markets, landlords, and customs. It is also just good business to negotiate the best lease costs possible and structure it around the best terms possible. But this part of the process is the tail end and happens because it needs to and not because it is actually business critical.

The best real estate decisions shouldn’t need to consider the real estate costs at all. Real estate is a force multiplier. Without it, you can’t do the other business functions that you need in order to grow, thrive, and succeed. If the difference between a good and bad decision is a slight change in NPV then you have lost sight of the strategic objectives.

Is cost an important factor? Of course, once you have decided on the generally correct area and have a full business case put together. But at that point, you know the five or ten buildings that are acceptable to support the case and we just need to optimize cost and design to ensure the most optimal outcome. It’s now trivial because even at the non-lowest cost the decision makes sense.

After the very first decision to locate in a market, then cost becomes the critical factor every decision point after unless there is a reason to reassess the strategic basis of the location. The financial negotiation is important but really a few percent of additional cost against the benefits that real estate allows is almost inconsequential.

You aren’t successful until someone thinks what you do is a commodity.

A commodity is something considered easy to get and safe to procure. It’s something that people feel just happens without a lot of complicated efforts. Everyone wants to avoid being a commodity because it’s considered entering “the race to the bottom.” But anything too complicated is too difficult to sell.

I strongly believe in working yourself out of a job. There is no task too complicated to automate or eliminate. If it’s something that adds value it should be automated (or at least greatly simplified). If it doesn’t add value it should be eliminated. Over time you should not be doing any of the activities you started out with if you are doing a good job. You’ve been even more successful if you’ve made the process look easy.

If someone looks at the work you do and thinks it is a commodity, that is often the sign that you’ve successfully simplified it to the point that you can move on to the next job. If you are the only one capable of producing a commodity item, you have the market cornered by definition. When people can sell themselves on what you do and none of your competitors can replicate it, that’s the very definition of winning.

The emotional/rational journey caused by change.

Responses to change occur on a spectrum between emotional and rational. Based on how much experience they have with the particular type of change they are being faced with, they may respond out of fear or out of inquiry.

During the course of any change event, people will change their response type as they learn more. Sometimes they will move from rational to emotional because they suddenly realize there may actually be an impact to their job. Other times (and hopefully usually) they move from emotional to rational as they realize there will be less impact to them than they originally expected.

Knowing where your audience is on this spectrum will allow you to better communicate with them. Never share messages targeted at managing emotion at a rational audience. They will simply see a message that implies they should be concerned and start to wonder why they aren’t. Similarly, rational messages targeting an emotional audience will be completely ignored because it isn’t addressing the concerns that people are feeling.

Communications are the key to successful project outcomes. Effective communications start from understanding not just the audience but the audience’s state of mind. When both components are brought together, you will be in a much better position to drive your change project to a successful conclusion.