I have been an entrepreneur for over 20 years and have had a lot of successes and made a lot of mistakes. In the end there is no success without failure. In this article I will list the most important things I did that helped me grow as an entrepreneur.
1. Priorities and Focus. I have made so many mistakes with priorities and focus in my career that it is almost amazing my companies have been so successful. My ambitions, ideas and vision many times lead to doing too many things at the same time. In the end the quote of Steve Jobs says it all: Setting priorities is not about deciding what to do, but about deciding what cool things not to do. Since a few years I became much better at setting priorities. It made live easier for my colleagues and it also made Openprovider grow 600% in the last few years.
2. Entrepreneurs’ Organisation. Becoming a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) has made a huge impact on my life. Sharing experiences with other entrepreneurs that cover your whole live (business, personal and family/friends) was really a life changer for me. Combined with the really cool learning and social events EO helped me grow as a person and that has also improved my company and private life.
3. Be a coach and being coached. A few years ago I really was allergic to everything related to coaching. How can coaches charge so much money without being able to guarantee any results? I could never understand this. I had to learn that in coaching the result is not the most important thing but the road you take to get to the changes in your life is the most important part of coaching. Especially Vincent Hooplot and Inzicht have been amazing in my personal development. And from hating coaching I now even enjoy being a coach for my colleagues.
4. Core Values. Developing a set of core values that represent you as a person and that are fundaments for the path the company has to take has been a key factor in the success of Openprovider. We live and breath our core values and they help everybody to make the right decisions. Our core values are:
– Be a Wolf not a Sheep – it is all about seeing opportunities in the market and go for them, not being a follower but a leader and being proactive instead of reactive.
– Quality results in Quantity – we invest a lot of time in providing high quality in everything we do. Although we made a lot of mistakes the focus on quality in our products, services, software platform and suppliers seems to be paying of.
– Knowledge equals Power – we try to educate ourselves and our customers about trends in the market, knowledge about the products and services and general knowledge. We have weekly huddles with our offices to learn about interesting topics that can help you grow as a company and as people. We also invest a lot in educating our people.
– Enjoy what you do and do what you Enjoy. Since you spend 40-50 years of your life working it is a waste of your time if you work at a company without having fun. We try to create an environment where people can have fun.
5. It all starts with WHY. Many companies know what they do and how they do it. But WHY they do it is not always very clear. Our WHY is that we believe companies have to constantly reinvent themselves to stay relevant and competitive. That is why we invest so much in our software platform and our people. Our people are the key to our success. Figuring out and communicating our WHY has been essential for employees, suppliers and customers to understand and believe in my companies vision. Understanding Simon Sinek’s Golden Circles has been key for our growth.
6. Read Read Read. I have the feeling I never read enough and could also do better. However the books that brought me the most value sofar have been:
– Chet Holmes – The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies . This is a very practical book for boosting your sales results.
– Verne Harnish – Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm . Mandatory reading for every business that wants to grow fast.
– Jack Stack – The Great Game of Business, Expanded and Updated: The Only Sensible Way to Run a Company . Make sure your employees know their value for the company and teach them the financial side of running your company. Once they know they get more involved.
– Geoff Smart – Who . Great book on hiring the right people and how you should invest time in building a network of A-players and what to do when you interview them.
– John P. Strelecky – The Big Five for Life – 2012 Edition . Really cool book written as a novel that describes that everybody should have 5 big goals in live and should enjoy the journey to reach those goals more than the goals themselves.
– Daniel Pink – Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us. Must read book about intrinsic motivation and how rewards and punishment cultures don’t work.
7. Meeting the right people at the right time. I don’t believe in luck or coincidence, but sometimes you meet people at the right moment in life and they make a great difference. In my case my first meeting with Serguei Beloussov and Soeren von Varchmin in 2003 was a real game changer. They showed me how to grow my hosting business from almost nothing to a multi million euro company. And they actively helped me do that in those early years. Many other people have influenced my business career but this meeting changed everything.
8. Think big and follow your dreams. Nothing is impossible and it is better to aim high and fail than to aim low and succeed (quote by Michelangelo). Therefor we have set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for ourselves that is huge but the funny thing is that when your people start believing it anything is possible. In our case we want to manage 25 million domain names in 2023. And we are speeding up our growth year over year so we will get close. The goal itself is not the most important thing, but creating the mindset needed for this growth and figuring out the journey to the goal is fun and exciting.
9. Don’t micromanage. Most entrepreneurs including myself are very good in solving problems and giving quick solutions for anything you can think of. It is in our DNA. However giving people autonomy over their jobs and stimulate them to solve their own problems and allowing them to make mistakes to learn from them has been an important lesson that I learned. Most people are very good in self-management once you give them the room and support to do this.
10. Work AT your company and not IN your company. Probably the most important lesson to learn when your company is growing is letting go. My job as an entrepreneur is to make sure the company will last forever so that all stakeholders involved with the company can benefit from it for decades to come. It has not been an easy transition but the better I get at it the more success the company has. It is impossible to do this when you are involved in day to day operations. Letting go is not easy, but it is very rewarding I can tell you….