My Last Arrow

I just finished reading The Last Arrow by Erwin Raphael McManus. The sub-title of the book is ‘Save Nothing for the Next Life.’

I loved the book. It reminded me as a leader that I must make sure that I am giving my all to everything that I do. It reminded me that work isn’t just about the output or good processes. It is about the results that you give. The and the results that I want to be delivering are a positive impact on people right now. Erwin McManus focuses on how we should do our best work now, and make our best contribution right now, because we don’t want to leave anything in the reserve tank when we die. (Because we all know that we aren’t taking it with us.)

Shortly after reading this book I heard a commercial on the radio that said ‘just as important as the impact that you have on people in this life, is the legacy that you leave when you are gone.’ It was a commercial for funeral arrangements, so I understand their selling point, but I don’t agree. The impact that I have in this life is much more important to me than a legacy that I leave. I want to know that people are able to do their jobs better because of what I have done today. Whether or not they remember me after I’m gone doesn’t matter to me. . . because I won’t be around.

If I do a good job today, then people will benefit – hopefully long after I am no longer here. It does inspire me to make sure that I am giving my all today, and not holding back for a what-if in the future. It also inspires me to make sure that I am providing the same opportunity for everyone else. If I can make sure that people aren’t doing tedious repetitive work when they could be doing creative, empethatic work, then the world will be a better place for both the employee and the customers. I would rather have a customer service representative have a caring conversation on the phone with a customer who is having trouble with their account, than have that employee spend their time flipping through screens trying to figure out where the notes from the last conversation were.

My job is to fight for you to make sure that you can do your best work. If I keep doing this, right to the end, then I will have fought to my last arrow. I don’t want to save anything for the next life.

Grow Every Day

I attended the Global Leadership Summit last week. I sometimes forget how important it is to break-away and think very intentionally about your leadership and what you can do to be better. It was a good two days and learning an improving.

One of the sessions was with John Maxwell. John Maxwell has been around for a long time teaching us about leadership. In this session he mentioned that one piece of advice that he received that really helped him was that if he wanted to become strong in an area, he should focus on studying it for an hour every day for 5 years. John said that he put this into practice, and that is how he started his journey into leadership. Because he gave it an hour every day for 5 years.

I did the math, and an hour a day for 5 years is 1825 hours. (365days x 5years.) This means that if you learn for an hour a day on a topic for 5 years, after five years you will have spent the equivalent of almost a full-time year of work on learning. This is pretty impressive. I am also sure that if you were learning for an hour a day, your other activities and focuses would also start to gravitate towards the same topic. There would be a natural gravitation towards the subject that you are studying.

There are two keys to being successful in learning in the way that John Maxwell suggests:

  1. Discipline. You have to commit to learning about the topic for an hour every day. And you have to be willing to do it for a very, very, long period of time (5 years is an eternity. Think about where you were 5 years ago, and where you are today.)
  2. Focus. You have to commit to learning about one topic for 5 years. This isn’t about watching various youtube videos and Ted Talks that suit your flavour-of-the-day. This is about spending dedicated time on one subject each and every day.

John’s advice is good. But I’m not going to say that it is easy. I would love the benefit of 1825 hours of study on one topic, but I don’t know if I have the discipline or the focus. I want to study business, and become very effective at it. If I want that I will have to put in the time. Will I be able to do it?  I guess it will just depend on how badly I want it. My actions in the next 5 years will describe my commitment to what I say that I want.


Mission Statement

A mission statement should be simple and easy to evaluate whether you are succeeding in your mission.

To find out how you are doing, turn your mission statement into a question. The answer should be an easy yes/no. In the business planning stage for FortyFour-Three I decided that our mission statement would be: Act to make every process productive. It is easy to figure out if you are living out your mission. Am I acting to make every process productive? If the answer is yes, we are living our mission. If the answer is no, then we have work to do.

As a small company, I could say that we are succeeding in our mission. We are acting to make the processes that we come into contact with productive. If we continue to strive to achieve our mission, we would scale to make more processes productive. With the goal of making all processes productive. The how is unclear. But that is the job of a start-up: to figure out the how.

But that’s not who we are. . .

As we get into the journey, I have realized that our mission shouldn’t be only focused on making processes productive. Our real goal is to make people successful. Making processes productive is a noble cause, and it would make the world a better place, but it is not our cause. We are hear to help people to do their job better. Most likely this means that we will make their processes productive. When we are doing this we want to make sure that we are answering a different question.

When we scale, we want to be able to say that are making more people successful. That is where we want to focus. In order to do this  I want a mission statement that when you ask the question, ‘are you doing this?’ The answer is yes. This yes means that people are getting better.

The products we offer are the same, the benefits to the customers don’t change. The focus does, and I think we are better for it.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce our new mission statement:

Use technology to help people do their job better.

This is what we want to do, this is who we want to be. We hope that we succeed in changing the world!

My First Million

I was reading a book today. In it the author was saying how she put a picture of a stack of cash up by her desk. The caption of the picture read ‘My first million.’ This visual reminder lead her to make her first million dollars, and many more subsequently.

Here anecdote made me think about my focus and purpose of starting a business. I think that I will also look for a picture that will inspire me towards my first million. But I’m not interested in my first million dollars, I am more interested in my first million users.

I want what I do to be about helping people to be better at their job. Whether I make a million dollars, or a buck-twenty, the money that I make shouldn’t be my measure. Users is a much better measure, because if someone is regularly using our products, then we can assume that we are helping them in some way.

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t going to give everything away for free. I just can’t afford that. The reason that we charge for the products we offer is so that we can build better products that we can offer to more people. We are not a non-profit, so it is possible that we will all make a million dollars some day, but again: that isn’t our goal.

We will measure the number of users who are active in the current month. These are the people that we are using technology to help them do their job better.

Now that we have our metric defined, I will do my best to make sure that it is displayed in a prominent place on our website.

Solve the Problem

I have a client solution right now that I am not able to get into their office to install. It involves a report of daily statistics and analysis that are useful in their daily operations. Because of my schedule and my need to balance a few priorities I won’t be able to make the office appointment for at least another week. But that doesn’t mean that I can solve the client’s problem.

I have set up the extraction automation to run every morning. The analysis report is then emailed to the business owner. It’s not running on their computer, so it’s not the solution in it’s final form, but it gets the client exactly what they need: an updated report every day.

It’s not always about implementing the requirements as described, sometimes it is better to give the client what they need. In this case they need the report to make decisions. And that is what I can deliver right now. The client can make the decisions they need to, and we get to install the full solution next week when my schedule calms down a bit.

I just want to help

Starting a business is hard, but not impossible.

I want to start something that will:

  1. Help people
  2. Make the world a better place
  3. Feed my family (and maybe give us a family vacation now and then)

I am a hard worker, have some good ideas, and really, really want to help people.

I’m going to blog about starting a business. The challenges, and the joys. Hopefully I’ll get some good advice along the way, and maybe something I share will help someone else some day.

Let’s get started.