5 Traits of Transformational Entrepreneurs

It seems as though business disruptors are everywhere these days. Do you want your company to become as big of a transformational force also? If so, here are five traits the visionaries behind these disruptors all share.

Throughout 2018, Mind Your Business will be reviewing the highlights of the 2017 BizConCLE event hosted by COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership. Today’s article focuses on the five things that define influential entrepreneurs, according to investor extraordinaire Mark Thompson. Read the other stories in this series here.

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    From Amazon to Tesla, there is plenty of disruption happening in the marketplace today. These companies are connected to their customers, and they are disrupting by zeroing in on exactly what their audience needs.

    During a keynote address at BizConCLE, early investor in companies such as Facebook and Netflix Mark Thompson said there are five characteristics demonstrated by entrepreneurs who share this knack for disruption.

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    Trait No. 1: A disruptive dream

    Thompson said the most disruptive companies have the same characteristics as a space mission: a big, hairy, audacious goal. They have a clear mission. And, beyond that, these business owners have a passion and sense of urgency, too.

    Game-changers such as Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and others didn’t get ahead by playing it safe, he said. They understood that big companies should never be disrupted and weren’t afraid to take risks.

    These luminaries also understood, Thompson said, the importance of building a strong team and that disruptors work best when they work together.

    Trait No. 2: Fanatic discipline and continual learning

    .Tesla’s Elon Musk is a terrific example of a disruptor who is not afraid to continue learning about his customers. Crowdsourcing insights into how customers use your product is a fantastic way to stay connected to what the fans of your business want.

    Trait No. 3: Productive paranoia

    Think about the worst possible thing that could happen to your business. If you had to rebuild your business from scratch, would you rebuild it the same way? Leading disruptors are thinking about this all of the time, Thompson said. And they’re not afraid to break conventional wisdom to keep their business fresh.

    Trait No. 4: Partnership

    As was alluded to previously, transformative businesses differentiate themselves through partnerships. Your technology and your processes can be copied. The strategic alliances you have, on the other hand, cannot.

    Thompson added that sustainable success is only possible when you give it to others, such as your customers, your team, etc. Relatedly, if you can identify who is making the buying decisions, it will make it easier for your business to be successful.

    Trait No. 5: Defining success

    No two people are going to define success exactly the same way. In fact, Thompson said Virgin’s Richard Branson addresses this at the beginning of a lot of his meetings by asking his associates, “What does success look like for us on this project?”

    It’s important for entrepreneurs to not assume that everyone who’s important to your business defines success the same way you do. Again, it’s critical to stay connected to your customers and consistently deliver what they want.

    Find out more about the 2018 chapter of BizConCLE and the inspiring speakers and educational sessions that are in store for you.

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    Next up: 5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Holiday Downtime

    5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Holiday Downtime

    Things can get a little bit slow around the holidays. But that’s not an excuse to let your productivity lag! Here are five ways to take advantage of any slowdowns this holidays season.

    For many companies—excluding, of course, retail—business slows down during the holidays as people take vacations and defer new decisions on purchases for the following year. This downtime creates a wonderful opportunity to reenergize yourself and your business.  

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    Here are five ideas on how to leverage your downtime this holiday season:

    Idea No. 1: Organize and refresh your space. Like many of you, I struggle to keep my business organized and clean. Clutter builds up, files get disorganized and the environment gets stale. The holidays are a great time to purge extra clutter, reorganize your files and update your décor. By concentrating on these tasks during the “offseason,” your team will be more productive and engaged throughout the rest of the year.

    Idea No. 2: Evaluate opportunities. Whether it’s identifying process improvements, talent needs or new innovations, now is the time to look at your business and see what opportunities exist for improvement.

    Idea No. 3: Plan for next year. The holidays are a great time to reflect on the past year’s goals, accomplishments and challenges and set new goals and plans for next year. Your planning can include setting new sales targets, adding new products and services and instituting new processes to improve efficiency.

    Idea No. 4: Conduct teambuilding and employee engagement activities. Teambuilding and engagement should be a year-round activity. However, the holidays create a unique opportunity to amplify efforts to improve your culture. The spirit of the holidays means appreciation for others and creating a feeling of family. Volunteering to serve food at a kitchen, throwing a holiday party and providing a gift to your team are great ways to bond and to show your staff how much you value them.

    Idea No. 5: Work on yourself. Many of us work long hours and wear many hats. Our time is stretched. As a result, we have less time to work on self-improvement. With downtime during the holidays, you can read an extra leadership book, brush up on skills and work on areas that can help you become more successful in business and life.

    By doing one or all of these activities, not only have you set up your business for more success next year, but you have figured out how to gain personal value at a time when business is slow. Keep in mind that, above all else, it is important to take time to enjoy this time with family and friends. That is what the holidays are all about! 

    Nevin Bansal is the president and CEO of Outreach Promotional Solutions. 


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    Next up: 5 Ways to Recognize Millennial Employees (Without Digging Deep into Your Pocketbook)

    5 Ways to Recognize Millennial Employees (Without Digging Deep into Your Pocketbook)

    Sure, money talks, but so do these five ways of recognizing the amazing work your millennial employees are doing.

    It’s no secret millennials are job hoppers. On average, Millennials change positions four times within the first decade they graduate from college and that number is only increasing. What’s more telling is why. They are looking to grow and for opportunity. Often times that comes with a new job and maybe a better salary, but there are other ways to help millennials grow without offering them a promotion or salary raise.

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    Consider these five tips to keep your millennial employees satisfied.

    Tip No. 1: On the job skills and training

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    Do you have a millennial employee who is hitting it out of the park? Recognize this individual by giving them special projects and such to work on. Show them you appreciate what they are doing and are going to give them ways to grow inside the company. Sure, that college degree matters, but what matters more is real life experience and getting as much of it as possible.

    Tip No. 2: Acknowledge their work

    This can be done by giving them a title that accurately reflects their work. After some time, if your administrative assistant is really the office manager, give him or her that title. This shows you are understanding of the extra work they are putting in and are acknowledging it.

    Tip No. 3: Provide professional development opportunities

    Encourage your millennial employees to participate in professional development opportunities that will help them to grow and pay for it. Many of these seminars are relatively inexpensive, but will show your staff that you care about them and are supporting their growth.

    Tip No. 4: Suggest your employees get involved in civic organizations

    They can join a young professionals group, a nonprofit board, etc. There is nothing harder than managing volunteers, so not only will they learn to give back to the community, they will learn some new skill sets that will help them grown and transfer back to the company. How is a young professional supposed to get management experience to get promoted if they are not supervising anyone? The answer is through civic experiences. You can help by paying the dues, becoming a member, etc.

    Tip No. 5: Sell them on Northeast Ohio

    Sure, someone can leave their $50,000-a-year job in Cleveland for a $70,000-job on the West Coast, but they will also be faced with a much higher cost of living. Help your millennials grow by showcasing how much Cleveland has to offer them. There are a few sayings I live by in Cleveland, “You can be a big fish in a small pond” and “There is one degree of separation between you and most other Clevelanders.”

    What’s your strategy for recognizing the amazing work your millennial employees are doing? Let us know on Twitter!

    Ashley Basile Oeken is president of Engage! Cleveland, a nonprofit whose mission is to attract, engage and retain young, diverse talent to the Greater Cleveland area. Learn more about her organization’s work by clicking here.

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    Next up: 8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.

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    Next up: 8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.


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    Next up: 9 Smart Money Ideas to Get Your Business Off to a Great Start in 2018

    9 Smart Money Ideas to Get Your Business Off to a Great Start in 2018

    From consolidating debt to putting a succession plan in place, here are nine ways you can ensure your business is well-positioned for 2018.

    Smart companies realize three things:

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    No. 1: The importance of making their balance sheets healthy.

    No. 2: How to access the extremely low cost of available capital.

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    No. 3: Recognizing the demand in our economy is rising at a healthy 3% growth. 

    All three of these realizations will help your company to maintain or expand market share.  

    Now is a good time to review, correct and forecast your financial strategies to better leverage your firm for growth. This year-end review and forecast is important, due in part, to the changes underway on Capitol Hill and new federal policies on finance and regulations. The federal changes will have impact on most all businesses, no matter the size.

    Here are nine ideas that could help your 2018 get off to a roaring start.

    Idea No. 1: Taxes. The Big Elephant in the room. Contact your accounting firm to ensure you are taking full advantage of all your options to reduce taxes based on the new federal tax laws currently underway in Congress.  This also applies to your personal taxes.

    Idea No. 2: Investments. For most, this has been a robust year in the investment arena.  Review with your investment advisor your yearend picture to determine if there is a need to make any changes to better reflect your risk in the market on both the company and personal investment side. The deadline for your investment changes is Dec. 31.

    Idea No. 3: Insurance. Look over all company and personal insurance policies to ensure your assets are fully covered. These policies could include:

    • general liability insurance
    • professional liability insurance
    • business owner’s policy
    • directors and officers insurance
    • data breach
    •  property insurance
    • commercial auto insurance
    • worker’s compensation
    • homeowner’s insurance
    • renter’s insurance
    • life insurance
    • personal automobile insurance.

    Idea No. 4: Debt consolidation. Interest rates have been at historically low rates. Look at all outstanding loans, consider consolidating outstanding notes for a better rate. Credit cards continue to offer great rates for as low as 0% until 2019 when you consolidate debt from other credit card companies. Make sure you understand the fine print. Analysts forecast the Fed rate will increase before year end, and again slightly in the new year, however, will remain low in 2018, following retiring Janet Yellen’s past performance.

    Idea No. 5: New capital acquisition. Growing companies require more working capital for operations, inventory and equipment.  It takes money to make money. While conventional banks have kept interest rates attractively low, overall 12-month business loan growth is at the lowest since 2013. But they are still lending. Consider reviewing alternative financial options including interviewing potential private equity or venture capital partners, joint ventures/alliances with compatible companies that compliments your business strategy, large corporate sponsorship or grant funding,  public/private government sponsored funding. The beauty of preparing your 2018 business plan and forecast, is that you will be able to strategically see where and when you need funding. When you do sit down to negotiate new financing, most capital sources will ask to review many of the items listed here. Know where your realistic capital options are, including the requirements to secure the capital, before you need it.

    Idea No. 6: Leases. Capital spending on equipment leasing in the first three quarters of this year has risen at 7.3% annual rate, fastest in the past three years. Instead of outright purchasing equipment—whether a $5,000 video-conference system or a $500,000 injection molding machine—seriously consider leasing rather than tying up this capital that could be better used elsewhere. Additional leasing benefits include $1 buyouts at the end of the lease and the ability to upgrade equipment during the term of the lease to take advantage of newer technology platforms.  The trend today is for  larger equipment to have  built-in computer and artificial intelligence.

    Idea No. 7: Owner draws and distributions. Review with your CPA how your firm is paying out draws and/or distributions and how this impacts your overall tax picture.  The difference between a draw and a distribution is significant for tax reporting purposes. A sole proprietor or single-member LLC can draw money out of the business—this is called a draw. It is an accounting transaction, and it doesn't show up on the owner's tax return. A distribution or distributive share, on the other hand, must be recorded (using Schedule K-1) and it shows up on the owner's tax return. Further, depending on your tax bracket and forecasted 2018 compensation, determine if it would be better to take money out in 2017 or 2018. 

    Idea No. 8: Succession plan. Discuss and review any needed business succession planning updates. During the year were there retirement events, disability or death of an owner or other foreseeable events affecting the company? Review age of the owner(s) and family stage, business stage, size of the business, direction of the business and future leadership. Ensure that succession viability, retirement exit strategy, transition strategy in place.  In the event of death or disability of an owner, take into consideration tax planning, family law considerations, shareholder’s agreements and determining the selection a successor and future management to liquidation of assets or sale of business.

    Idea No. 9: Estate plan. Review and update your will to reflect current situation. Consider a trust if you have property and you don’t wish to have your survivors to go through the sometimes long and arduous task of going thru probate court.  Review and update health care directives, financial powers of attorney, beneficiary forms, protect your children’s property, estate taxes, funeral arrangements and expenses. Store your documents with your attorney-in-fact and/or your executor, the person you choose in your will to administer your property after you die. You will sleep better knowing your wishes are in place.

    Marsha L. Powers, a finance and strategic development professional, author, entrepreneur and investor is the founder of Powers Advisors and Shale Capital Resources. She has been a contributing writer on Finance for Crain’s Cleveland Business for nine years. Her management consulting areas of expertise includes finance – ranging from senior debt, government finance programs to private equity, market strategy, operations, marketing communications and economic development.  She’s a recognized award-winning leader with proven strategic direction and leadership to over 1500 companies, from early stage to Fortune 50 companies. You can reach Marsha at (216)965-3633, marsha@powersadvisors.com and www.powersadvisors.com to learn more about how she can help your company succeed.

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