I’ve just left the corporate world. It’s been seven years and I don’t regret a single second of it.
You’d think I would have learned everything there is to know about business in the corporate world. I didn’t.
There were a lot of gaps which I luckily was able to fill in during my entrepreneur days.
Here’s what the corporate world didn’t teach me:
1. How to think for myself
In the corporate world, you’re often told what to do.
If you don’t have the answer then some smart person, in some department will probably have the answer for you. The answer may not be the latest and greatest strategy, but it will be based on some prior knowledge.
As an entrepreneur, none of this was available to me. I’d roll up to the old Milkbar that was our office, and I’d start stacking boxes into the little van we had. More boxes of soft drink and chips meant more gold coins in our vending machines.
Gold coins could be banked at our local branch at the end of the day and that’s how petrol, electricity, uniforms and the occasional Macca’s dinner was paid for. No one told me how to do that.
I either collected the gold coins, or I didn’t. No gold coins meant game over. As an entrepreneur, that meant failure and during your 20’s that’s often the last thing you want.
Thinking for myself wasn’t taught to me it was a survival tactic. I took this tactic with me to the corporate world and people were surprised.
As my former colleague said to me the other day “You don’t overthink Tim youjust get shit done while everybody else is scratching their head.”
2. Time management
The corporate world is full of big companies with lots of resources.
With an abundance of anything you always have wastage. The corporate world definitely didn’t tell me how to manage time.
What could have been a five-minute phone conversation often ended up in huge email chains. It was a bit of a game.
“Every email involved another person or persons being cc’d. The ultimate trick was to blind cc people within your company. Like magic, bombs start going off and no one can work out who did what. That’s the power of BCC”
None of this was good for time management though. Lot’s of time was spent trying to communicate with one another. Meetings are a thing in the corporate world.
Every problem that exists must have a meeting. Even if it’s about whether we call the shared folder “Sales” or “Customer Files” a meeting had to be held.
Meetings in the corporate world not only suck up time but are also a fashion parade where all the biggest egos can strut their stuff.
“I’m more important and have a better job title.”
“No, I’m more important!”
This dialogue goes on for days and sometimes months. Understanding the politics is often more critical than understanding the business. Still, none of this is good for time.
The time wasted is used by the tech startup opposition to improve a bug, rethink the customer experience or out-market corporates using social media.
3. A passion for what you love
Passion in the corporate world can often be lacking. Working at a corporate for many is a way to pay the bills rather than do their life’s work.
“Passion can often be traded for money, bonuses and even more impressive job titles — all of which leave you feeling more empty”
It’s not all full of zero passion, though. There are a few people that are insanely passionate and those folk shine through.
The corporate world taught me to put my passion on hold rather than use it to WOW customers with the very thing that sets me apart.
4. What people are really buying
Working at a corporate taught me that it’s all about marketing.
I knew, though, from the startup world that this very idea was wrong.
People are buying you. They’re buying the people they deal with and what those people stand for.
No client in my corporate career ever gave a damn about the commoditized products I was selling. All of my clients gave a damn about my obsession to inspire the world through personal development and entrepreneurship. They were intrigued by my five years as an entrepreneur and what I learned.
This led to customers becoming friends as opposed to people that bought widgets from me and had the money they laid tracked in a CRM as ‘revenue.’
“Not once in my corporate career did I have something to sell that couldn’t be bought from somewhere else, at a lower price or with better product features. The product feature my clients bought was me”
5. The power of an audience
People are often too afraid to be vulnerable in the corporate world.
I never learned the power of an audience during my career working in corporates. All of that was learned between 6 pm and 8 pm every night when I was at home from work posting on LinkedIn.
Social media is not so prominent in the corporate world because it requires you to remove the corporate mask and show your flaws. Fakeness on social channels like LinkedIn just doesn’t work. People don’t engage.
Many people told me that the audience I was building on social media was career suicide. I ignored every one of them and I’m so glad I did.
These same people that warned me to stay off social media are the same ones asking me now to help them with their own social accounts.
With an audience, you can test ideas.
With an audience, you can inspire.
With an audience, you can recruit people to your team.
With an audience, you derive meaning for your life.
6. Doing the important vs. the mediocre
In corporate business, there’s a lot of noise.
Everything looks important. Everything looks like it could become a lawsuit (especially for a corporate). Everything looks like it could become a PR scandal. Everything looks risky to that next job promotion and to the business.
That’s where mediocrity thrives. With so much noise it’s easy to spend your days filing bits of paper or moving widgets from Point A to Point B without having any clue of why you’re doing it or how it contributes to humankind.
I didn’t learn the discipline of doing the important work in corporate life.
Doing the important came out of the entrepreneurial trait of problem-solving through a vision. It came from wanting to see things better than they are.
Doing the important was fuelled by a desire to achieve a goal that everybody said wasn’t possible. It’s a rebellious philosophy that pushes mediocrity the hell out of the way.
7. The way to have a meeting (ideally no meeting)
Running a meeting in corporate life follows a formula.
This formula will put almost all attendees to sleep. It’s why when you walk into a corporate board meeting, most of the execs are looking at their phone rather than paying attention to who’s speaking.
The formula goes like this:
- Introduce everybody in the meeting (most don’t need to be there)
- Pretend there’s an agenda (it will get hijacked…guaranteed)
- Pretend to solve the problem by agreeing to invite more people to a future meeting
- Pass ownership around of the problem whilst ignoring the potential solutions
- Assigning action items which everybody ignores (thus triggering another meeting)
“The best way to have a meeting is not to have a meeting”
Meetings are needed in the corporate world because of a lack of trust and having too many cooks in the kitchen.
Have only the people that can solve the problem in the meeting, make it short and trust in the outcome and vision you’re trying to achieve.
That very philosophy makes meetings for the most part irrelevant.
8. How to make better PowerPoint presentations
You’d think with all the PowerPoints you have to do in the corporate world to educate internal stakeholders, you’d be a freaking expert at doing them.
Quite the opposite is true.
Because of the number of PowerPoint decks you have to do in the corporate world, you get worse at them.
The decks get longer, filled with more words, more acronyms and more promises to take more action.
It’s like for every year in the corporate world you add another acronym to the sentence you’re currently writing.
The belief in the corporate world is that all problems must first begin their life in a PowerPoint.
No problem can be solved without a PowerPoint. I once tried to do a presentation with only one slide. Once I explained the one slide I had prepared with a simple diagram that a four-year-old watching Peppa Pig could understand, I then blacked out the screen.
I wanted the attention on what I was saying instead of some Times New Roman, white slide, with Size 12 Font that nobody could read.
Death by PowerPoint is a real cause of death in the corporate world. It kills dreams, ideas, free speech and the will to live.
9. The way to treat people
The corporate world taught me nothing about how to treat people.
Treating people well came from my eBay days where I learned that if you give someone on eBay the thing they want, and do what you say, you’ll get what you want.
This philosophy didn’t translate into corporate life. I was told to treat people well based on what they could do for me. If they couldn’t do anything for me then what’s the point of knowing them? Right?
The people I treated well who seemed to have no benefit to me ended up becoming the Managers, General Managers and Inspiring Leaders five years down the road.
By not asking for stuff all the time, by treating these future leaders with respect and by being as close to a good human being as I could be, I got all the promotions and all the hard to reach opportunities.
My career in the corporate world looked like it was entirely built by luck. It wasn’t. My corporate career was built on respect, honesty and treating people well because it makes sense in the long run.
10. The true meaning of startup buzzwords
Lean startup. Agile. Disruptive. Act like a startup. Minimum viable product.
We hear these words every day in the startup and tech world. Every corporate is trying to adopt them as their own. I didn’t see any of these buzzwords in my corporate career ever be used successfully.
Lean startup meant “Throw seven figures at it and see if it swims. If not, kill it fast!”
Agile meant plan the next five years of a new product, try to deal with every possible situation in the beginning and invite some management consultants.
Act like a startup meant adopt the word but still be a corporate because a sizeable business always knows best.
Minimum viable product meant fix every customer pain point in existence and build the mother of all solutions that’s going to take years to build and leave all competitors for dead. Let’s not fix one thing when we can fix everything thus fixing nothing in the process.
So what can you learn from the corporate world?
It’s not all bad. Park my humor for just one second. You can learn plenty in the corporate world and it’s not all bad.
The corporate world can teach you:
1. Leadership fundamentals
2. Corporate decision-making
3. Community values
4. The rate of technology disruption
The corporate world in some ways shows you what the past looks like so you can build the future. It shows you that size does not necessarily mean better results or more improved solutions.
What I’ve outlined above comes from dealing with hundreds of corporates over the last seven years and the commonalities around how they think.
The grass is not greener.
The corporate world sure has its problems. So does the startup world. So does medium sized business as well.
All business just has a different set of problems to solve.
The way to deal with this conundrum is to become an expert problem solver who enjoys the challenge. It’s not always easy to do.
The business world can get you down and suck the life out of you.
That’s why you need to take a break and get some perspective. Try small, medium and big business for yourself and make your own assessment.
The grass may be longer, shorter or in need of a mow but it’s definitely not greener.
You Are The Problem With Your Business
A great way to screw up your company is to get into the habit of blaming your suppliers, the market, your staff or your product for your failures.
I recently heard a story of a business that had set up a website. They sold various products and services focusing on helping people with psychological issues. The business owner was smart. The product solved a problem.
Unfortunately, the company was making almost no money. They’d hired someone to help them with their digital marketing and it wasn’t working.
Plenty of traffic was coming to the site, users were having a look around and then not buying a single thing. Who’s fault was this?
Well, according to the business owner it was the person running their digital marketing. As a result, they wasted approximately eight months marketing a website that couldn’t make any sales. The reason the business was failing according to the owner was because of the keywords that were being targeted in the marketing campaign. This is a horrible excuse.
The reason your business fails is because you’re blaming someone other than yourself. It’s the quickest way to bankruptcy. Don’t do that.
Your company is a reflection of you.
It took me a long time to figure out that a company is a reflection of its founder.
One of the businesses I had, had a toxic culture and a bunch of people that were rude to customers, arrogant and not nice people. That was a reflection of exactly who I was at the time.
The company was reflecting the flaws of my own life and what I refused to admit.
In the case of the business owner above, what was obvious is that they were good at telling lies to themselves. It was easy not to change as a business owner and insist that the change needed was nothing to do with their vision.
The issue of their company was not the digital marketing strategy but their lack of understanding around what their customer wanted.
The thought that their products were too complicated, not solving a real problem or priced incorrectly was an admission of guilt they wanted no part in. Hence the eventual demise of their company.
Take responsibility and it will change.
When you own the business, everything is your fault.
You have the power to solve any problem you choose. It starts with you being brave enough to admit that there’s a problem, and then secondly, being bold enough to insist it’s your fault and that you can change it.
The problems in your business can all be solved. That’s what it took me a very long time to understand. When I changed as a person and faced up to my hidden battle with mental illness that I didn’t want to talk about, the odds turned in my favor.
Had I have not taken responsibility for my mental illness, I would have never become a leader in a business or started another side hustle. I would have been crippled by the big, bad world that I thought I could control.
Control came from responsibility, and responsibility solved the major problem in my business: me.
Change is a must.
Not with your digital marketing strategy.
Not with hiring new people.
Not with developing a new product.
“Changing yourself is the *must* because YOU attract the problems and the solutions into your business”
You can’t find the solutions or stop the never-ending problems until you stop the cause of it all: you. You’re the problem with your business. The good news is that it’s entirely within your control to fix.
Not the business.
The Different Ways of Measuring the Success of Your Start-Up
You’ve probably heard people use the term “unicorn” in a business context. This means a privately held start-up whose value has grown to at least one billion American dollars. Think Airbnb, Uber, and so forth. There is no doubt that some start-ups have been major financial successes. And many smaller-scale start-ups are doing great as well, working hard and turning a steady profit. But that begs the question of whether finances are the only way to measure the success of a start-up. As it turns out, they might not be. At least, not always and not on their own.
How to Evaluate Success
As anyone who’s been involved with start-ups knows, you need a fair amount of flexibility to do well in this environment. Take the division of labour for example – rather than strict roles, you’ll often see everyone do a bit of everything. The same principle extends to measuring success. It can be vague and mean different things to different people, and it can change over time.
But amongst all that vagueness, one thing has become clear. Predicting the success of a start-up is very difficult for external observers. As a matter of fact, it’s often impossible. Therefore, in order to evaluate how successful a start-up has truly been, we need to know the goals of its founder(s).
“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” – Marianne Williamson
When people think about business, it’s common to boil matters down to the finances. And it certainly is possible to use numbers to measure and predict the performance of a start-up business. Net worth, gross margin, customer acquisition cost – these can all be indicators of success. But, a start-up can post impressive numbers for a while, perhaps even attract large investors, and still shut down in the end. So does this make it a failure?
The answer to this depends. If the founders wanted to start a lasting business, then yes, they failed to meet their goal. However, that isn’t always the case. If they were looking for a short-term solution and came out with more money than they had coming in, a closed-down start-up needn’t be unsuccessful. It can actually be the opposite of that.
So, looking at the figures isn’t enough, and there are different perspectives to consider. When they start planning their business venture, start-up founders may not have any particular numbers in mind when it comes to profit. Instead, they can judge their success according to some of the following criteria.
1. Happy Customers and Solving Problems
The story of a start-up often begins with a problem. The desire to help people overcome a specific issue can be the spark which ignites the creation of an entire business. And in the end, that may be all that matters to the founders.
This is closely connected to the happiness of the customers. If the resulting product or service has made people happy by helping them solve a problem, that is all that may be required for a start-up to be a success. Now, no business wants unsatisfied customers. But in cases like this, happy customers aren’t the way toward the ultimate goal – they are that goal.
In other words, some start-up founders don’t just use financial reports to measure how much they’ve achieved. To them, the one metric which stands above all others is the quantity of positive feedback they’ve received. The main area of focus is customers who use the start-up’s products or services to solve a problem they were having.
Every start-up founder likes doing well in terms of revenue. But for some of these entrepreneurs, the profit is merely a side effect of what they actually set out to do – impact the world in a positive manner. You can see an example of this line of thought with Elon Musk. He said that back in college, he had wanted to be a part of things that could end up changing the world. The continuation of this philosophy is evident in his electric cars (which aim to reduce pollution) and the SpaceX program (which strives to break down some of the barriers of space exploration).
In both cases, the furthering of mankind is the ultimate goal. Many other start-up founders feel the same, even if they have smaller goals in mind. To these people, there is no greater proof of success than if their company has had a positive impact on society or even a small segment of it. In their view, to make a difference is to succeed.
“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.” – Tony Robbins
For some, starting up their own business is less about getting rich and more about gaining the freedom to conduct their business the way they want to. In this case, financial success is just a means to an end. The endgame is to be your own boss.
The fact is, some people don’t do well when they’re constantly receiving orders. They are simply hardwired to be free thinkers and they require an environment that allows them to do things in their own way.
Being in a position where you hold all the cards can be exhilarating. The knowledge that your decisions are final is very empowering, and many strive for such freedom. If a start-up can allow such people to go from being a regular employee to being in charge of making all the decisions, then it has already achieved all the success that it needs to.
4. Time for Friends and Family
As many people know all too well, a job can easily turn into the focal point of your daily life. Instead of being a way to support your lifestyle, your work dominates your time. And when that happens, the time you have to dedicate to your loved ones becomes scarce. Combating this is precisely what some have in mind when they decide to take the leap and start their own business.
Now, running your own company is no mean feat and it will require a lot of effort. But the beginning is the most time-consuming part of the process. Later on, it can be possible to create a system which leaves you with a lot more time on your hands. You can spend this time with your significant other, your children, or your friends. A start-up which gives you this opportunity is perhaps the greatest success of all.
A start-up is an extension of its founders and so are that company’s goals. Some entrepreneurs are in it for the profit, but not all of them. In the end, there is no single way to measure the success of a start-up. It all comes down to the specific aims of those who established it. But if the founders can end their day on a happy note, then the venture is a success even if it doesn’t fit some standard definition of the term.
The Problem Is Not Your Website Or Your Product.
I spend a lot of my time talking to business owners. They focus on their product, their marketing channels and trying to make more profit.
I met one such business owner who was in the plastic surgery business. Their product (boob jobs and nose jobs) was not working. Their website sucked and people clicked off as soon as they visited it.
People would call their office, get put on hold, listen to the on hold message and hang up.
This business didn’t seem all that special. I’ve talked to many businesses and didn’t think for a microsecond that a plastic surgery clinic could ever teach me anything valuable.
I’ve been to Hollywood on holidays and the issues of body image are all too apparent to me. Anyway, this post is not about body image.
I ended up losing this business as a customer — not that I would ever have sold anything to them if it were up to me. I sat down one afternoon and thought about why we no longer did business with them.
That’s when I realized it’s not about your product or your website. All the issues with this plastic surgery clinic and a lot of other businesses I’ve dealt with stem from one thing. Let me explain in more detail.
Your Google Reviews say you’re an piece of work.
I looked up their Google Reviews and their customers said they were assholes.
They spoke down to clients, they didn’t deliver their clients what they wanted, they argued with their staff in front of customers and they treated people like they were nothing more than a dollar sign.
All I had to do was read their Google reviews to see that the problem wasn’t their product or their website.
Your clients tell you every day that you suck.
I asked the plastic surgery what their clients said.
Many of their clients told them that their services sucked and they would prefer to go to places like Thailand where they could get a better product at a much lower price.
The business owner made the mistake of thinking it was their product that was the problem and that a new website will tell clients a different message.
That wasn’t it.
You abuse your staff and they consistently leave.
I spoke with many staff that worked for this business.
Every single one of them hated the company and were not afraid to say what they thought of the business owner.
The business owner would sit outside on a nice sunny day and look across the street at all the yachts and the people boarding them.
They’d sit there and think that every lead they got was going to take them one step closer to owning their very own yacht.
“If only I could deliver more boob jobs, maybe I could have one of those,” they thought quietly to themselves hoping that no one else could hear how ridiculous this sounded.
I can remember multiple times being on the phone to the business owner and having one of their staff burst into tears halfway through the call.
The first time it happened I didn’t think much. After the third time, I got the message. During the short time I dealt with this business, people consistently left. If you made it to the six-month mark, you were some sort of hero and would probably be given a free surgery to say thank you for your work and make you feel worse about your own body at the same time.
It was free noses and boobs in return for daily abuse.
The problem still wasn’t the website all the product.
You don’t solve real problems; you solve your own problem.
A good business solves a problem.
That problem typically affects human beings and solving it is how you make money in business. Solving problems can start out with a problem that affects you, but at some point, you’ve got to start solving that same problem for other people/businesses.
This owner of this plastic surgery clinic was only trying to solve their own problem which was making more money to buy fancy items like yachts.
Only solving your own problem is not just selfish but bad business.
Good business is solving a big problem or lots of small problems for entire strangers who you don’t know thus doing something valuable for the human race.
Solving only your problem will make you poor.
The problem still wasn’t their website or product.
Creating more problems.
Everything this business owner sold created more problems.
They’d film videos to purposely make people feel like their body wasn’t perfect.
They’d write articles suggesting that everyone needs botox to feel young.
They’d take photos of men and women who were supposed to be perfect so that young people would dream of looking like them.
Not only was their business not solving a real problem; it was also creating more problems every day that it existed.
If your business creates more problems than it solves, you’re in real trouble.You need to take a long hard look at the business and become obsessed with doing everything you can to change it — and do so damn fast to limit the whirlwind of problems you’re creating behind you.
The heart of the problem.
It’s the business owner.
The business I mentioned will fail. That part is certain. The problem with the business is not the website or the product.
The problem is the business has no heart because the business owner has no heart.
You cannot focus on your own selfish desires, create really bad problems in the world, treat other human beings like garbage and expect to go buy a yacht and live happily ever after. It just doesn’t happen like that.
Whether you are a plastic surgery clinic like the one I described or a solo entrepreneur, the problem with your business is you.
Fix the problem of YOU. You can’t get away with being horrible forever.
Being horrible is bad business.
Being respectful, kind and valuable is the final answer to the problem with your business.
18 Must Read Business Books for Emerging Entrepreneurs and Startups
Reading is both relaxation and training for the mind. Who reads, dives into another world. Learning, entertaining and breaking out of everyday life for a short moment. One could go even so far as to say reading is the second most beautiful thing in the world! Whether it is non-fiction or a novel of all the world’s man has created, the book is the most powerful tool. That is also, why we wanted to find out which business book you should undertake in the new year. (more…)
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