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What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Corporate Leaders – Mary T. O’Sullivan

By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL

“One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you.” – Jeff Bezos

When I coach leaders, often they’re confused about what they are doing wrong and how to change direction and go the right way. I’ve found that the same is true for entrepreneurs. And getting entrepreneurs on the right path is even more critical because they have more invested, in fact, their entire living may depend upon success in their business. It’s even more critical for solopreneurs who work alone and can get off track easily.

In my experience, helping entrepreneurs grow personally and professionally takes a lot of trust in the coach and belief in themselves.  Developing trust and embracing belief is where most entrepreneurs waiver. They often can’t articulate exactly what they want to accomplish. They struggle with embracing that ONE THING.

To put an end to the confusion and uncertainty entrepreneurs face, I focus on five essential elements to a direct path. For many entrepreneurs, teasing out what they are primarily good at is the big effort, so it takes some time and work on their part to get to the core.

Here are the five things I’ve learned over the years that work to bring both leaders and entrepreneurs the success and accomplishment they crave.

  1. Clarify direction and vision. I ask people what their vision is for themselves and their future. They need to think about where they want to be in six months, 12 months, 3 years, 5 years. Most entrepreneurs can’t envision themselves out of the trenches, doing anything differently, working harder than anyone else, and unsure of their next steps. I ask people if they could have the business that they’ve always wanted what would that look like, and most are stymied at the question. One way to articulate a vision is to create a vision board. The vision board makes the dream come into focus. Each piece on the vision board represents what people really want and when they want it. Unless people are completely clear about their direction, they can’t take the necessary actions that will strategically place them on the road to realizing their vision.
  • Strategize your actions. Once the vision has been established, it’s important to encourage people to think on a strategic level. We want to eliminate as much random action as possible and tie actions back to the vision. I like to compare strategic actions to going on a diet; when you want to lose, say, 20 lbs., you exercise and watch your intake of food. Those are strategic actions directly tied to a specific goal. And keep in mind, it’s one goal, not a constellation of competing objectives.  For instance, it’s not a good idea to go on a diet, quit smoking and alcohol all at the same time. The success rate for any of these drastically drops when you’re stretched thin. The same goes for being an entrepreneur. The most important lesson to learn here is to stick to what you’re good at, in other words, your core competencies. If you’re a great copywriter, don’t try to be a web designer or graphic artist. The results can be disastrous.
  • Upgrade your skills: Is there some additional training or certification you may need? If you are calling yourself a coach, do you have all the proper credentials and degrees? If you are an accountant, do you need a CPA to distinguish yourself from everybody else? If you’re an independent designer, is there a specific software you need to learn? In most cases, your credibility depends on your training and background. If you want more customers and clients, you may need to demonstrate your abilities through formal instruction. This is especially the case if you get hired by a company rather than an individual. Companies are looking for training credentials they recognize, and don’t want to guess if you are good at what you do.
  • Optimize your environment. What is your work area like? Is there an unmade bed in the background of your Zoom calls? Do you have a quiet place where you can work uninterrupted? Is there a comfortable chair and a table that is the proper height for you? Is there constant barking from dogs or babies crying in the background? Do you physically get out of the house and network with other business owners? It’s important for your frame of mind to have a physically pleasant and comfortable space to work, and to get out and among other people. Your business shouldn’t be conducted from the kitchen table among dirty dishes, plates, and kids’ homework assignments. To get your mind in the right place, your environment has to be relaxing and cozy. You’ll be more productive that way.
  • Master your psychology. Look deep at you and your relationship to your business. It can be scary. But those fears and insecurities hold you back. Learn to put them aside, to banish them.  You’ve got to work to identify fears quickly when they come up and get support for the right systems and tools to help you break through. Your inner game is the most important element of your success. You must believe in yourself and your ability to succeed. Embrace your vision and work to make it real. That only happens when you have the right mental attitude, the right mindset. Look at some of our great athletes. They believe they can play the game long after other players have retired or suffered injuries. How do they do this? They prepare mentally and believe they will prevail. Keep your vision top of mind as you plan your steps to success.

Trying to do these things all on your own can be daunting, and people who have the best outcomes are those who get help. Think back to those athletes. They have coaches for every aspect of their lives. So, what about you? Are you ready to realize your vision of the future in the next three, six, or 12 months? Or will you stay frustrated and blocked from making the progress you want? A coach can help you. And you’ll be glad you worked with a coach rather than struggle along making the same mistakes in your business and in your life over and over.

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein


Connect with Mary:

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Read all of Mary’s columns for RINewsToday, here:

Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, “Senior Certified Professional. Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas.

Member, Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society.

Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University.

Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.