It’s a Jungle Out There: Use it to your advantage
by Mary Hessler Key, Ph.D.
Today’s business world is more competitive than ever. Even so, many great entrepreneurial thinkers have survived and flourished in corporate jungle conditions. By examining those dealings, we can learn one key point: those who excel in business and have entrepreneurial tendencies share some common characteristics with one of the most resourceful and respected creatures in the animal kingdom–the Tiger.
Whether you own your own business, plan to start or buy one, or just want to be more productive in your career life, take heed to the mighty tiger’s advice. It could pay off financially, emotionally, developmentally and even spiritually. Here are the four main lessons that can accelerate your entrepreneurial thinking.
1. Do What Comes Naturally
Tigers don’t worry about what others think. Part of their considerable allure is their stoic attitude. They delight in their own independence. So should you delight in yours. Pick a career path that suits you and allows you to express your talents.
What do you love doing that others might find boring? Undesirable? Unique? What draws your attention? What are you passionate about? If you don’t know, try asking yourself, “What makes me mad?” The answer will give you clues about what gets you excited. The flip side of anger often tells you what you care about. Perhaps the most telling question of all is, “If success were assured, what would I do in life?” In other words, if you put aside perceived limitations, what would your dream career really be?
Doug Mellinger, CEO and founder of PRT Group, has been billed by Inc. Magazine as the next Bill Gates. He also knows why doing what you love is so important.
PRT helps companies develop technology solutions to their business problems. The company was started in 1989 and grew to $62 million in sales in 1997. In order to solve the problem of finding great programmers and avoiding the red tape in foreign countries, Mellinger decided to create a “country” for programming on the island of Barbados.
His innovative approach resulted in a 21st century high-tech community where workers, customers, capital and infrastructure have all been imported. When asked about his unconventional methods and how he accomplished this, Mellinger commented, “I never ask how can I do it, but who can do it.” Part of doing what comes naturally in business is finding “who” can get the things done that don’t necessarily play to your strengths.
That principle can help guide up and coming business leaders. Since active business people have a multitude of tasks to complete each day, they often jump from one task to the next, without the chance to savor the ones they truly enjoy. At first, due to budgetary issues, this may be necessary; however, as the business grows and the business person gets even more responsibilities, it is possible to lose focus. Instead of out-sourcing responsibilities or hiring an operations person to handle day to day functions, many people bog themselves down with tasks they dislike. This is a road to business burn-out.
Once your position is secure and the business starts pulling the necessary profits, consider hiring an assistant to take over the tasks you dislike. That way you can focus on the career aspects you enjoy, like sales, marketing, or finance, and take your career to the next level.
2. Be Curious and Find the Right Niche
Tigers prowl for opportunity. They explore their territory by sight and scent. Their ingenuity in finding food is unmatched. Successful entrepreneurial thinkers do the same. They take their products or services and explore old ground as if it were a new adventure.
What are some growth opportunities you see in your business? What do your customers want that they aren’t receiving? What are some ideas to improve your products or services that your customers haven’t even thought of yet?
As you read these questions, you may be thinking, “This costs money!” Not always. Think how you can use your current resources creatively. Many times you can create extra value for your products or service simply by offering your customers some free information or low-cost promotional products. Find out what your customers want and then creatively make it available to them.
Often, concern or fear keeps people from brainstorming and thinking up new, creative ideas. Wonderful ideas don’t surface because self-imposed barriers halt the creative process. Suspend judgment for a moment and ask yourself, “If resources were not an issue, what could I offer to deliver a unique mix of value to my customers?”
One of the main reasons people are attracted to the business world is the opportunity to imprint their style. Successful leaders are often creative and usually curious. They combine ideas or structures that already exist in a new way. Take the mega-company 1-800-FLOWERS as an example.
For long distance floral delivery, FTD and its participating local florists were the only game in town. You never really knew what your gift arrangement would look like, and the recipient would often be reluctant to say anything negative. Then one day someone said, “Why not look at distributing flowers in a whole new way? Why not show pictures of exactly what the floral arrangements look like and let people order direct?” Offering a unique mix of consistency and convenience to its customers, 1-800-FLOWERS was born.
Another way business people can come up with new ideas is by booting up their computers. Technology has made it possible for businesses of any size to track customer demographics and conduct advanced customer research. You can go “data mining” by looking at routine data found in your accounting program, contact-management files and other sources. Analyze all the information you currently have about your customer base to learn more about them and what their needs are.
3. Focus While Hunting
Tigers stalk their prey with 100% focus. They don’t allow distractions to get them off track. People who are successful seize the opportunity because they know what their picture of success is when they see it.
It’s important to have a clear vision of your breakthrough goal. That way when it comes up in your environment, you seize the chance. A vision is an inspiring, credible and dynamic picture of the future. A prime example of unwavering vision is hotel mogul Conrad Hilton.
Back in the stock market crash of 1929, Hilton lost his entire fortune. He was reduced to borrowing money from his former bellman just to buy food. Destitute, he cut out a picture of the Waldorf, the grandest hotel in existence, and carried it with him as he re-built his business. He would literally place that picture under the glass on his progressively larger desks. Next to the picture he wrote the phrase, “The greatest of them all.” Eighteen years later, he purchased the Waldorf.
Focus is about being proactive in making your dreams and goals come true, versus reacting so much to the pressure that you give your best energy to lower priority activities. Focus while hunting takes concentration and commitment.
One way to foster commitment to your vision is to make specific goals and commit them to paper. While saying your goals to yourself and keeping them in mind are a good start, writing them on paper is the first major step to reaching the next level.
Writing your goals holds you accountable. They’re no longer just a mental plan; they’re written out as your road-map to success. But don’t let accountability hold you back. Just like anything in life, your goals should be flexible and open to change. As your career grows and develops, so too will your goals.
4. Make the Leap
Tigers aren’t afraid to pouncewhen necessary. They gauge the distance they want to cross then strategically position themselves to spring with confidence. They are fearless.
Fear of failure can keep even the most talented people from leaping to new heights and fulfilling their dreams. Once you discover a natural direction for yourself and find the right niche, develop your plan. See yourself succeeding and take the plunge. Even if at first they miss their mark, tigers land on all fours, ready to leap again. So can you.
What do you want to do next that presents the greatest challenge? What keeps you from leaping? Whether it’s to start a new business, reinvent the one you’re in, or make a career change, moving to a new height isn’t usually easy. Past experiences and anticipated problems can stand in the way of making a commitment.
Robert Deutsch, founder of General Physics Corp., is a man who took a major leap in the twilight years of his life. At the age of 63, Deutsch was ousted from the company he started and grew to more than $115 million in annual sales. Instead of taking his “retirement package” in silence, he let the public know he’d been fired and wasn’t happy about it.
Within a month, Deutsch used the money he’d made to fund a technical training business. Started in 1988, RWD Technologies retrains front-line workers to use developing technology in the workplace. Deutsch noticed the frustration corporate management experienced when it invested in new technology and employees didn’t know how to use it. He saw the possibilities for productivity gains, assessed the necessary steps, and then made the leap. How many of us would make another leap at age 63?
These are just a few ways tigers and entrepreneurial business people cross paths. Observe what you love. Allow ambiguity and suspend judgment as you look at yourself, your motivations, and your vision for the future. Take time to be curious and explore your environment. Examine new niches and see old ground from a new slant. Get your plan in place, take a deep breath . . . then make the leap!
Mary Hessler Key, Ph.D. helps people and organizations grow. She is the author of The Entrepreneurial Cat: 13 Ways to Transform Your Work Life .
To order, visit the Big Cat Rescue Gift Shop. For more about Dr. Key, visit www.marykeyassociates.com or call 813-831-9500.