207: The Entrepreneurial Leap: Finding What It Takes To Become An Entrepreneur With Gino Wickman
It is one thing to start a business at 25; it is another to turn a family business around from being deeply in debt and on the brink of failure to profitability at the same age. This episode’s guest is just as legendary as achieving this feat at such a young age. Mitch Russo interviews none other than the legendary entrepreneur, Gino Wickman, the creator of Entrepreneurial Leap and the author of the best-selling book, Traction. Here, Gino shares with us the story of his life and the mission he has set to do. With his book of the same name, Entrepreneurial Leap, he guides those who are undecided about becoming entrepreneurs to determine whether they have what it takes to be one. He takes us deeper into that and provides some great tips and insights on how to harness the entrepreneur that is in you. Save yourself from years of hell in your entrepreneurial endeavors. Learn when and how to take that entrepreneurial leap, minus the crashing and burning, in this great conversation.
The Entrepreneurial Leap: Finding What It Takes To Become An Entrepreneur With Gino Wickman
Welcome to this moment in time when you get to extract wisdom you can use to grow your business with your first thousand clients. We are here to support you by making sure you know what is working now in business and life. This episode is sponsored by VEA, the Virtual Entrepreneurs Association. In times like this, we need community and an organization where we can participate and share in everything that’s going on in our area and field. In the Virtual Entrepreneurs Association, you will find tools, resources, and even discounts on the things you use, including education and community, to help you on your entrepreneurial mission.
I want you to think about VEA as the AAA or Swiss Army knife for business. Seriously, this is an incredible value. For less than the price on lunch, you are going to get a community discount education. That’s all for an incredibly low price and you will up your game, instead of sitting home alone all day, not getting out there because we can’t, learn and do something to grow your business and grow yourself as a person. VEA is a great place to do it. This is an organization that a guy named Devin Michaels has created. He has a book called The Virtual Entrepreneur. You’re going to get that book for free by signing up for a trial at VEABusiness.com/mitch.
Onto my guest and his incredible story, starting with his own family business, which was deeply in debt and on the brink of failure. He discovered how to turn it around and return it to profitability all at the age of 25. Using what he figured out, he was able to grow it consistently for the next seven years and then fulfill the entrepreneurial dream. He sold his company, but the money he derived from the sale was not the real prize. It was the knowledge and the experience, which he obtained and received while turning it around and then scaling it. That became a legendary best-selling book. A team of over 300 people using his system to then help over 70,000 companies known as EOS, which is documented in his book called Traction. He’s a legend in the entrepreneur space and has created something new for us to benefit from as well. His book is called Entrepreneurial Leap and he’s here to chat with us about his life and his mission. Welcome, Gino Wickman, to the show.
It’s a pleasure to be here, Mitch.
I’m glad you are here. You are one of the guys that have created the foundation for what many consider is the core operating environment for entrepreneurs all over the world. I have used it and I have helped clients who are using it. It’s quite a legacy that you walk around with on your shoulders. I hope that you have received numerous praise and recognition for all of what you’ve done.
It’s funny all that. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say thank you to that. To me, I’m just an obsessive guy that obsesses about helping entrepreneurs and out of that spawn EOS. That has helped a lot of companies. Whatever the byproduct of all of that is, que será and so be it. I’m thrilled to have helped many.
Let’s talk about that obsession because that happens to be a characteristic we shared. It’s funny for me, I got obsessed as a kid with music and I had a rock band, and then I got obsessed with drugs. I got deeply involved in the drug scene and had to enroll in a rehab center, take a break from life, and come out of being addicted to hard narcotics. I understand the obsession, but then I turned it to business, and that’s when my life changed. Tell me about your obsessions.
It’s business. I’m a one-trick pony. I’m a simple guy. As we get into the journey, the old project, and the new project, you’ll see that it all revolves around business, more specifically around entrepreneurs. I can’t turn my mind off around helping them create freedom and creativity, express who they are and what they are, and helping them make an impact on the world.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Let’s talk a little bit about where all of this came from. You grew up in a family that had a business. What kind of business was it?
My dad had created a program that revolutionized how real estate agents were trained, so it was sales training in the real estate industry.
What part did you play at the early age of 25 in that company?
A lightning-fast history leading up to that exact question. I’ve been an entrepreneur since 21 and I did a lot of different things. One of those was I got into the real estate business and I sold real estate. I was successful because I applied all of my dad’s teaching. I fell in love with his business and I wanted to run his company and set a goal to become the president of his company. He didn’t want his kids in the business and it was his partner that fought to get me in. I went from a six-figure income to selling my dad’s products door-to-door for $25,000 a year. I got my way in the door. I found a crack and then I worked my way up through the business and then discovered the business was in trouble. I wish I can tell you this perfect story where I was on the outside looking in, saw that it needed help, flew in with a cape, and saved it. It’s not that at all. It’s a scrappier challenging fight my way into that company to ultimately work my way up to the president and taking it over and turning it around.
You found that crack. That’s what entrepreneurs do. Entrepreneurs search for that place where they can insert themselves and add value and clearly, you did that. While you were doing this, who were your influences? Who were the people who guided you throughout this process? Obviously, your dad was one of them.
I always talk about when I turn that business around, I was armed with two books. One is E-Myth by Michael Gerber and the other one was Reengineering The Corporation. Those were the two books that led and guided me through that turnaround but then I had two amazing mentors. My dad was my people mentor and then Sam Cupp was my business mentor. It was those two gentlemen that took me under their wing and taught me everything they knew and I was a sponge for knowledge.
First of all, I have to acknowledge the fact that you picked two incredible books, the E-Myth, Michael Gerber’s book. Michael has been on my show and he was unstoppable. That book had such an influence on me as well. When I started my software company at the age of 26 or 27, that book had not yet come out. When I finally got my hands on it, it was one of the accelerators I use to grow the business in later years. I can certainly understand. What do you think was maybe the most important element of what you figured out or learned after growing your dad’s company?
There are many things. It’s hard to pick the one thing but I have this ability to see patterns and trends. I don’t know how to put it into a nutshell, but I saw entrepreneurship and my dad is a pure entrepreneur. I saw how he operated and how his brain operated. Learning from my business mentor, learning practical tools, running on a scorecard, discovering how to meet, and watching human energy, I could keep going with all his examples. In all of that, I saw patterns and trends in how to manage human energy and ultimately, put that into an operating system that then became EOS a few years later.
These are the things that we, as entrepreneurs, all look for. We look for shortcuts, systems, and people who could help us get to the next level. Clearly, you had some of that and you invented some of that. You fulfilled the role of the entrepreneur by helping others, which is an incredibly empowered and important role that all entrepreneurs have. I feel that we as entrepreneurs have a responsibility that if we are and when we are successful, we reach down with a hand and help others up, which is something that makes us who we are. What you’ve done with this new book is this is a book that in many ways, I’m glad I didn’t have and wish I did have in my twenties. As I started reading the book, it reminded me of an incident.
I was an electrical engineer and I was working with a company demonstrating and helping clients. I approached the divisional head of the sales department and said, “I’d like to be a salesman. I’d like to work with your team. I’d like to sell and I know I could do a great job. I could do a better job than everybody else.” He turned to me and he said, “Mitch, I’ve got to tell you. You’re a great engineer, but you’re not born to be a salesman. I’ve seen many salesmen come and go and you don’t have it.” I look him straight in the eyes and I had three words go through my mind. They were simple. The words were, “I’ll show you.” For the next ten years, I could not let that go.
There were nights I thought about how I was going to repay him for the beauty of that passion, which he gifted me at that moment. The reason I tell the story with you is because one of the things that you say in your book is that you either or not an entrepreneur by nature. If that were the case, I don’t know if I ever would have started a business. If I had read that, I would have felt like, “Maybe I shouldn’t do this.” That’s why I bring it up. I highly recommend your book. There’s so much there that is a value. If I am sitting and I read your book, and I start to think, “Maybe I was not born with it. Maybe I should become an accountant.” What would you advise me?
I want to create a little context and then answer that. What I teach in this book, first and foremost, is you’ve got to confirm that you’re an entrepreneur-in-the-making. A true entrepreneur has six essential traits. They are visionary, passionate, problem solver, driven, risk-taker, and responsible. You’re born with those. My answer to your question about you is that you would have taken an entrepreneurial leap somewhere, whether you read this book or didn’t read this book. I love that we disagree a little bit because that is what’s going to help your audience learn better, understand, choose a side, and make a better decision for their life. You are giving your boss credit for that leap but you were just looking for an excuse along somewhere. I can’t imagine if he didn’t say that to you, you’d still be there as a salesperson. It was always in you. You don’t quit a job and start a business because you’re bored. You do that because you have a genetic makeup. Your DNA is such that you’re going to take a leap. Working for someone is not for you. There’s my fastest answer, and we can go as deep into that as you’d like.
Let me respond because everybody here who’s reading is taking the leap. We’re in the middle of a lockdown due to COVID-19. Maybe individually, as a category group or as a race, we’re at a turning point where we’re learning about ourselves in a forced way. We’re learning how to slow down and take a look at ourselves. As you know, the planet is benefiting from all of this as well. We’re seeing clear water and blue skies in cities for the first time in many cases. We’re also looking inside as well and our internal landscape is without a doubt changing.
Some people who are looking to take this entrepreneurial leap wants to take it but do not have the vision and passion. They are probably, in many ways, not a risk-taker and have never truly been responsible for anything in their lives before. I’m not talking to those people who are generally not on this show. The people who read this generally have many of those characteristics. I’m thinking of the people in general who are out there, forced into isolation and may need a book like yours to see their way of identifying these characteristics. How does this potential forced isolation help us discover these six essential traits?
I’m going to give you two answers. Number one is these times are going to spawn many great new entrepreneurs. I launched a 16 Day Entrepreneurial Leap Challenge because people are home and they’ve got time. It’s working your way through a sixteen-day journal, doing a deep dive into these questions so you can decide, but the point is these are times that spawn entrepreneurs. Just like your boss gave you an excuse to take a leap. This is going to give a lot of entrepreneurs-in-the-making an excuse to take a leap, so that’s part one.
Part two is if you’re saying you have someone who’s sitting there and they’re not visionary, passionate, problem solver, driven, risk-taker and responsible, do not take the entrepreneurial leap because you are going to crash, burn and fail horribly. You’re going to experience ten years of hell. With that said, at this point that you’re making about the discovery, your home and your soul searching, what happens is you’re going to discover that you have these traits if you don’t already know that.
When you read the first third of the book and you read this three-page riff that I do on what an entrepreneur is, you’re going to know that that is you. You’ve been this your whole life. You’re exhibiting these traits in little ways, big ways, small ways, or whatever it is. It’s going to percolate to the surface by all means, and that is my cautionary tale on this book. There are many people that think they’re entrepreneurs and want to be entrepreneurs. I am trying to save them from ten years of hell. The ones that are, I want to find them. I call it the 4%. They’re in the corporate world, inner cities, Africa, military, colleges and universities.
I want them to realize what they are so they can realize their potential. The last point is it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s not this elitist pinnacle that you reach to become an entrepreneur. We’re freaking crazy and we’re screwed up. It’s a psychological disorder. It’s not a rite. It’s not the ultimate achievement. It’s just what entrepreneurs happen to be and the world needs the other 96% and all the other careers that exist. We need doctors, police officers, nurses, and teachers to make the world go round. Hopefully, that answers your question.
In part, I would like to say that the pool is bigger than 4%. That fireman, policeman, any individual, even just one of them can take any one of your six essential traits and become passionate about a mission, topic, product or service. By becoming passionate about that, in a way, that handles some of the traits that you discuss. Let’s say you’re a fireman and you get passionate about creating a valve that other fire departments can use. This is a true story. The guy decides that he’s going to create this valve. He’s never been anything. He’s never been an engineer or a salesman, and never raised money but he was passionate about his idea that he became a problem solver.
He became driven and risk-taker. People called him a visionary for having figured this out. That’s the danger of saying upfront that if you’re not one of these things now or you don’t have most of these traits, you shouldn’t pursue that action. That’s why I am saying to my readers to just try and don’t worry about the failure part. You’re supposed to fail. We’re manic depressive. We’re bipolar. We swing from extreme happiness to disappointment and sadness. I don’t know how many times in the same day sometimes.
Let me tell you something that’s important. At this point in the conversation, I want to create another piece of context that helps clarify this debate in this conversation. I create something and share something in the book called Entrepreneurial Reigns. If you picture in your mind an arc and on the far-right side of that arc are true entrepreneurs, and on the far-left side of the arc are what I call self-employed. Anybody that has a business is somewhere on that range on that arc, and on the left side are self-employed, the one-person shows, somebody with a side hustle, freelancer or consultant. On the far-right side are the greatest entrepreneurs of all time like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey and Sara Blakely. Anyone who is self-employed fall somewhere in that range.
What’s important to understand is I’m talking about the right side of the range, people that possess these six essential traits, people that go out and build organizations with people. On the left side, I am not discounting somebody that has a side hustle, takes that leap or is a consultant. They’ve taken a risk. They own their own business and they don’t have to have all six essential traits. That context is important. I love what you’re saying because I believe it’s nature over nurture and you’re born with these things. I understand that half the world agrees with me and half the world doesn’t. You talked about this fireman that discovered this idea. I’m saying that person always had it in them. It just didn’t come to light until later and you’re calling that they learned how to do that.
One last point is I talked to this successful entrepreneur worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He realized he was an entrepreneur about age 25. He said, “I don’t believe I exhibited these traits. I don’t believe I was an entrepreneur my whole life.” He talked about how his dad was an engineer and his mom was a teacher. What they always expressed in him is conservatism, get a real job, and don’t take risks. We had the same conversation you and I are having. He looked back and said, “You’re probably right.” Once he got out from under that and expressed himself fully, he realized, “I am visionary, passionate, problem solver, driven, risk-taker, and responsible.” It’s just my humble perspective.
Let’s pivot a bit here and shift gears. Let’s say we are interested in being an entrepreneur and let’s say someone reading this has that great idea and wants to pursue it. We get to the precise mathematical formula that I followed all the time when I was younger, which was, “Ready, fire, aim.” Unfortunately, entrepreneurs tend to learn the hard way but these days, the reason that people are reading is they’d like to learn from other people’s wisdom and mistakes. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the critical mistakes entrepreneurs make that potentially can leave them in a place where they no longer have the confidence or fail. I remember in the book, you mentioned a few of them, such as not having a vision or hiring the wrong people. How do you know how to deal with those problems if you’ve never encountered them before?
That gets to one of the major reasons I wrote the book. It creates a little bit of context. The book is written in three parts. I call it confirm, glimpse, and path. What you and I have talked about is the whole confirm step. I want everybody to know there’s a free assessment they can take online to help get a sense of an answer if they do possess these six essential traits. Let’s pretend that person confirms or even let’s pretend that they can learn all these things. As a result of reading that part, they now learn it, believe it, and want to pursue it.
I then take them to glimpse, which is where we are to show them all the possibilities and the reality of what being an entrepreneur is. From there, we go to path and that’s showing them exactly how to avoid half the mistakes. They’ll still make the other half. The reason I say that first is it is truly a psychological, philosophical, and emotional journey of discovery and taking this being on to decide if this is right for them. When you say, “How do they know?” I urge you to read the book so that you know. That other point I made, you’re still going to make half the mistakes.
With that, what you’re talking about is in glimpse, I share the eight most common mistakes almost every entrepreneur makes when taking their leap and how to avoid them. I have the luxury of speaking from experience because starting two businesses. I was able to avoid all eight because I learned so much in my twenties. My intention is to hopefully help that entrepreneur-in-the-making learn them now so they can avoid all of the mistakes, worst case, most of the mistakes. I’m willing to drill down, but I wanted to start with that context and see if that prompts anything for you. If not, we can drill right into the eight most common mistakes.
First of all, I wish I had your book when I started, but maybe I shouldn’t have. The reason I say that is because the only thing I had when I started Timeslips Corporation was a vision. I didn’t know how to hire people. I didn’t know who my customer was even. I didn’t know what to charge. I didn’t know even what numbers made sense. I didn’t know anything about roles, responsibilities, or even the structure of a company. You do cover a lot of this in the book, which I loved. This is the stuff that people need to be aware of. There are things you can learn on the way to success and there are things better to learn before you set out on that path so that maybe you can get there. Other than the vision, which is the basis for almost every company, what do you think is the most important characteristic that people need to have to avoid one of these eight problems?
I want to grab a word you said, which is aware. That’s the whole idea behind glimpse. I’m trying to give that potential entrepreneur a glimpse of what life looks like because once that awareness is set, they’ll automatically avoid some of these mistakes. You ask a question I get asked so often. Which of the eight is the most common or the most important? The reality of it is there are about 50 mistakes entrepreneurs make. What I picked are the eight almost everyone makes, so they’re not weighted. What I’ll do is I’ll pick one fun one, but they are all equally weighted and they’re all the most common. It stems from the real world.
There’s not one ounce of theory in what I’m teaching because this is what I’ve done with every single client and what I’ve learned from every single client that I’ve tested with entrepreneurs. Almost every client that comes to us in EOS are suffering from having made these eight mistakes. They’re currently making them and we’re fixing those mistakes. Unfortunately, when they have 10 or 250 employees, we’re going to head that off in the past. A fun one is always not charging enough. This is a fascinating mistake because an entrepreneur that takes their entrepreneurial leap and is typically losing money in the early stage is 10% away from surviving, making a profit, and not losing money.
Instead, another way is a simple 10% increase in pricing is the difference between losing money going out of business, making money, and surviving forever. It’s a psychological issue because most entrepreneurs undercharge. They can charge more and they should charge more but psychologically they don’t think they’re worth it. Psychologically, they’re afraid. Two fun little disciplines for your audience. Number one, Dan Sullivan’s quote, which is, “When it comes to pricing, pick the number that scares you the most and add 20%.” Number two is an amazing video by Casey Brown. It’s a TED Talk and she goes right into all of the psychology behind why entrepreneurs keep underpricing themselves and how to price right. That’s a fun one but it’s incredible. It’s a universal challenge for most entrepreneurs.
There are ways that not charging enough is a clever strategy for undermining your competition, getting out there in a world of high-priced options, and making a name for yourself. What do you think about that?
I don’t like that one so much. Here’s what I would suggest. There is a perfect price for everyone. That TED Talk video will help you understand this a little bit better. When I say the perfect price, that is assuming you know how to educate your customers and clients on the value you’re providing, the perfect number that’s going to get you all the business you want. The perfect number that you’re truly worth. Whatever that number is, let’s call that $10. Even if that’s what your philosophy and strategy that says, “Let’s undercut everyone else so that we can build our business.” Most entrepreneurs psychologically charge $9. It’s a psychological issue. Hopefully, that answers the question.
If I were to choose one of these that was my greatest mistake in building my first software company, it would have to be hiring the wrong people. I had criteria when I first started hiring. My question to myself and to my team was, “How much do we have to pay that guy?” That was the criteria.
That was your whole interview process.
We were a startup and we had $5,000 in the bank. We didn’t have a lot of money and in most cases, we were able to infect the people we interviewed and eventually hired with the passion that we felt about our mission and our vision. With that, we were able to get some amazing great people at a reasonable salary but they only got us to stage one. The problem was I didn’t know there was stage one. The worst problem was I didn’t know that I needed to get different people to get from stage 1 to stage 2. That’s what I meant by I didn’t know how to hire the right people. In your situation and when you advise your clients, do you talk at all about this? How do you describe this process of understanding in advance that either you need people who can take you from phase 1 to phase 3, or know that you need to fire your entire management team as I did after two and a half years and start over?
Those are two scenarios. Let’s talk about one which is the existing business and the client that comes to me with employees having already made this mistake. That leadership team that I’m working with, and I’m not even talking about all the employees in the company, I’m talking about the 3 to 7 at the helm of the organization, 80% of the time, at least one of those people is going away getting changed out. I’ve had seven clients that completely replace the entire leadership team. That’s correcting the mistakes that were made early on. From the sounds of you, you were more sophisticated than most entrepreneurs in a startup. Let’s now go to the startup entrepreneur and talk about what it is that they do and how to head that off in the past.
A more sophisticated answer in what I’m teaching them in terms of their entire hiring process. This entrepreneur that takes the leap and is about to hire their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd employee, what normally happens is they all of a sudden started a business, their product and services working, they’re generating revenue, they’re at capacity, and they need a body so they grab the closest body to them. They hire their mom, dad, brother, sister, uncle, spouse, or whoever it is, and throw that body to the organization to keep going. They do that again and again. All of a sudden, they find themselves a year or two later with all these people that they got to get rid half of them because they don’t have their core values and the skillset. The solution to that is to know your core values going into the leap and only hire people that have those core values. That’s where you are sophisticated, but also hire for skillset. Going in with those two awareness, you’re going to hire better as opposed to throwing a body at the problem.
That’s a great way of describing it and I like the language you used as well. I love that you talk about this because this is something I share with many people and many young people as well. The other thing that I got out of the book is the value and importance of having someone to guide you, a mentor, a coach or someone who you can go to with questions that you wouldn’t have the courage to ask your colleagues. Talk a little bit about how the mentor in your life, which was probably your dad, changed that for you? What was that relationship like and how did that relationship evolve over the years?
It’s a critical context. We’re into the third part of the book, path. I lay out a handful of specific disciplines and awareness on the path. Things like college or not, how to find your passion, how to find a mentor, the power of tenure thinking, eight disciplines to increase your odds, and the nine stages. This mentor question, how did it affect me? It had a huge impact. I describe it as a speed pass. Two scenarios, no mentor or eight mentor, you’re going to be further ahead with a mentor because you’re getting their knowledge. My research shows, of all of the successful entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed, worked with and help, about 60% had formal mentors and 40% did not. It’s not a death sentence if you don’t have a mentor, but it will absolutely expedite. I had two mentors, my dad and Sam Cupp. My structure with my dad was informal. Whenever we needed to meet, I brought him my issues, questions, and ideas and he would impart his wisdom. Sam Cupp was formal. We meet every month for two hours. I bring my issues and questions and he would impart his wisdom. Ultimately, the mentor relationship is customized for what works best for the mentor and the mentee or protégé.
It’s dependent on the individual. You made that point. When I was growing up, my mentor was someone I never got a chance to speak with, and that was Tom Peters. He’s a guy who speaks from stage, but I considered him my mentor because every time he would rant on stage, it seemed as if he was talking directly to me. I would follow him around city to city. Even if he was saying many of the same things, I felt like I was learning every time I would show up in front of him. I was like a sponge. I try to absorb everything I could because he had the wisdom that I needed at that moment. I want to stress that sometimes, you can find someone to learn from. As I got older, I truly needed that coach, that person who I could ask questions and be guided by and trust that what they were telling me was the path I needed to be on. You say that in the book as well.
I’m glad you went there because we’re talking about mentoring. If somebody can’t find a mentor, I don’t want them to feel defeated. The final chapter is all about a lifetime of growth, learning, and motivation. I give a ton of free resources to get that education, get those mentors, and follow people. You are savvy enough to go find that thought leader that you followed and I had a ton of thought leaders that I follow. There are many free resources if you can’t find a mentor, but I would first try because the process is simple. You think about somebody who is where you want to be.
Reach out to them and have multiple options. You’re going to hear some noes. Ask them if they’ll be your mentor. You’ll eventually get a yes. Once you get a yes, meet for an hour and share your vision and questions. They share their life stories, insights, and wisdom. If it feels right, you then schedule the next meeting and agree on a format. As that journey continues, constantly express appreciation and constantly show them how you’re applying what they’re teaching you. Mentors want to leave their legacy. Where a lot of people fall short is taking that relationship for granted.
One of the things I would add to the almost perfect explanation of how to choose and engage a mentor is this. If you are lucky enough to get the mentor that you truly want, you should be spending time enriching them in some way. What I mean by that is, whether it’s as simple as liking and commenting on their social media, helping them find clients, or introducing them to people you think would be a value to them, that to me is how a true mentor-mentee relationship can work well. Let’s continue down this idea of the path. You talk a little bit about 10-Year Thinking. How do you start a company and somehow acquire ten-year thinking?
I hope that somebody at a young age is savvy enough to embrace this. It’s less likely for a twenty-year-old to embrace it than a 40-year-old to embrace it. I discovered it at around 35 and it transformed my life. When you shift to ten-year thinking as opposed to the “I want it now” or one-year thinking, time slows down. You make better decisions and ironically, you get there faster. I do everything in my power in that chapter to convince the reader of this, how does that happen? Hopefully, somebody like me or someone else teaches it to them and they believe it. At some point, you’re going to. Worst case, by 80 you’re going to, which unfortunately may be too late, but we’re all going to be living past 120 years. With that, I hope they learned it and they believe it. In my twenties, knowing me, I probably would not have embraced it. There are plenty of twenty-year-olds that will and some that won’t. Who knows? It is powerful if Tom Peters told you that years ago, you probably would have listened to him.
When I remind myself of the days of building that startup and operating on the tiny budget that we had, if you would have told me something about ten-year thinking, I probably would have had a good belly laugh because we are involved in fifteen-minute thinking at the time. Most of what we were doing was making decisions almost on-the-spot based on the available information that we had in the moment. The idea of long-term thinking comes later and it came later for me. When I realized that we were no longer just building a company to make some money, that we’re now engaged in an opportunity to create enormous value and have a big impact on people. That’s when ten-year thinking took hold for me, but it wasn’t until a little bit later down the road.
I can grab that because you’re describing the paradox perfectly. I call this chapter that we’re talking about, take action but be patient. It’s this balancing of two things, the yin and the yang, because you want to clearly see the ten-year vision and know where you’re going to land and know that you’ll be successful. You’ve got to make those fifteen-minute decisions and take action. You’ve got to move, be decisive, and do lots of things right now. Each one of those fifteen-minute decisions you’re making is all in alignment with the ten-year plan. With no ten-year plan, you’re going to be making fifteen-minute decisions for these fifteen minutes. With ten-year thinking, you’re going to make the fifteen-minute decision based on where you want to land ten years from now.
This is something you go into the part three of your book, which you called the path. You talk a little bit about the nine stages of building their business and how they move from wanting to just generate cash, and then going a little bit further, defining and articulating your core values. Once your core values are articulated and others can now understand them, you have to do something which is a little uncharacteristic for most entrepreneurs. You have to hold yourself accountable. It turns out that accountability is a passion for me and I’ve built software to help people find accountability partners. I’d like for you to talk a little bit about how to hold yourself accountable at that stage when you are finally past the generating cash moment where you now know that there potentially is a live business or a real business for you to build.
You’re getting into the nine stages and I always say these nine stages are not sequential and linear but this one needs to happen early on when you take your entrepreneurial leap. You got to hold yourself accountable. I want to make it practical and useful for your audience. The way I can best describe it is to know the three most important numbers you have to hit every week. That means cashflow, profitability, and company survival. That should take you about 30 seconds to come up with because one of them certainly is generating cash.
Know those three numbers and then simply hold yourself accountable to those three numbers. You can do that in lots of ways. I love your idea about accountability partner. You can create a little scorecard for yourself and make sure you’re looking at that every week. I’ve always been a disciplined enough entrepreneur to do that myself. If you can’t, the fun exercise I always like to suggest if you want to hold your feet to the fire is to tell your significant other what those three numbers are. I promise you, you’ll hold yourself accountable from there.
For me, I was siloed in my world. I got an impulse at one moment in time to reach out to other CEOs of software companies that were similarly situated and engage them in a friendship and eventually, into the equivalent of what we’d call a mastermind. It was in that room every month that each of us stated our goals and we’re asked to be held accountable and checked in on throughout the month. At the next meeting, we will report on what we had said.
I want to grab two things that will give your audience a specific. When I started EOS and I was building my practice as a coach, it was little of me for the first five years. My formula was 4-2-1. It was a monthly formula. What that meant is that I needed to generate four warm leads every month. I had to do two 90-minute meetings as we call it, and I had to generate one new client. Fortunately, as EOS implementers, we don’t need 1,000 clients, which by the way, I love the name of your show. For an EOS implementer, twenty clients create a nice life but the point is, I was obsessed for the first two years. My mantra was 4-2-1. I was disciplined enough to hold myself accountable but if I wasn’t, I will either tell my accountability partner, my mastermind or my spouse, “I got to hit 4-2-1. Kick me in the ass,” so I love it.
I wanted to shift gears and get to what we call the personality questions. These are questions that I asked every single guest. I don’t know why but audiences love this. I love it too because it helps me get a little bit of a glimpse inside of a person from a different perspective. Here’s the first question. Who in all of space and time would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?
For me, it feels easy. The name just popped to the top of my head and it’s George Washington. I consider him to be one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time. Most people see him as a president of a country and would be king if Americans had their way. The truth of the matter and the little known fact is he had an incredible entrepreneur experience. He had tons of failures. He’s one of my idols as somebody who kept pushing through some of the most grueling setbacks and challenges any human being ever faced.
As an example, he was a persistent fellow. When he started running for politics, he did not have quick success.
I don’t know that he necessarily ran for politics as much as they made him the president but he did desperately want to be a great entrepreneur and he also wanted to be a great soldier. He was driven by those two things.
We’re at the point where we have the grand finale and this is the change the world question. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to change the world?
I’m going to pick the one that is probably the clearest and easiest, and it’s what I’m doing. This passion project as I call it, the mission is to impact one million entrepreneurs-in-the-making. To find that 5% in the world wherever they are, the seven billion-plus people that exist, 4% of them are true entrepreneurs and most of them don’t know it. Where we started with, I’m obsessed about helping entrepreneurs. The words I like to use is I like to help these people realize total freedom, fully express their creativity, make a huge impact on the world, and hopefully, do that with humility. That’s my mission. That’s why I do what I do every day.
Here is the free gift that Gino has prepared for us. It’s cool. Gino, I’m going to describe what it is you’re offering and then you can maybe fill us in with some details. If you go to E-Leap.com, you’re going to find a screen that will give you the opportunity to take an assessment. To me, assessments are incredibly powerful because they answer questions that you may have and the person who created the assessment has knowledge that you want. Therefore, you will receive a response that is measured in logical and well-formed for who you are, what you’re offering, and the questions that you’ve answered. There’s the 16-Day Entrepreneurial Leap Challenge. Can you tell us a little bit about this?
We are experiencing the Coronavirus and social distancing. A lot of people are laid off. They’re at home and they’ve got time. The 16-Day Entrepreneurial Leap Challenge is assuming you’ve read the book, have seen the content, and feel like you might be an entrepreneur-in-the-making, there are nine free tools on the website. One of which is the Leap Journal. It’s a sixteen-day exercise, 30 minutes a day, chapter by chapter. You answer thought prompts that I give you and then you journal for 30 minutes. What this does is it helps deepen your clarity, certainty, and conviction around whether taking it an entrepreneurial leap is right for you.
The assessment that is free, what I would add to that is I beg your audience to please fill that out and be honest with yourself. You’re only hurting yourself if you’re not honest. If unfortunately, you don’t get 90 or higher in terms of your score, if you still have a passion for entrepreneurship and you want to be entrenched in entrepreneurship, simply partner with an entrepreneur and join forces. You’ll be this magic dynamic duo that build an amazing company. It’s not a death sentence if you don’t get 90 or higher.
Do you think maybe someone who doesn’t score as highly as they’d like can almost use this as a screening tool to interview others and potentially work with them as a partner?
Yes. The one thing we didn’t talk about is I wrote a book called Rocket Fuel. This isn’t for your audience to go read, but the point of Rocket Fuel is this discovery I made about the dynamic duo that take companies to the next level. I call it the visionary integrator combination. That entrepreneur that has these six essential traits is a visionary entrepreneur. A great visionary need to be counterbalanced with an integrator. That’s the person that harmoniously integrates and orchestrates all the pieces of the business and runs the day-to-day. When those two people come together, it is like rocket fuel. Some of your audience that are true visionary entrepreneurs, simply might be integrators. The reality is my research shows that there’s only 1% of the population that are integrators, so you’re even harder to find. If you are one and that is your destiny, look out, you’re going to help take some visionary in an organization to the moon.
That’s a great example of an explanation because it does take a great integrator paired with a great visionary to create a great business. I’m glad you mentioned that. Gino, this has been an incredible pleasure for me to get to know you, speak with you, and share what you know with my readers. I want to say thank you. This has been wonderful for me. Readers, if you enjoyed this interview and if you feel as if this got you a little bit further down the path, then go to iTunes or which is now Apple Podcasts and leave a review for this show. It’s these reviews that help us get up there in the rankings and get more incredible people on to this show for you. Gino, thank you.
Thank you, Mitch. This was a blast.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Virtual Entrepreneurs Association
- The Virtual Entrepreneur
- Entrepreneurial Leap
- Gino Wickman
- Reengineering the Corporation
- Sam Cupp
- Michael Gerber – Past episode
- 16 Day Entrepreneurial Leap Challenge
- Casey Brown – TEDx Talk
- 10-Year Thinking
- Rocket Fuel
- iTunes – Your First Thousand Clients with Mitch Russo
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