#31 Are Entrepreneurs Really Crazy? Escaping: The Vortex.

Enter: THE VORTEX. (click here) Prior to the semi-calm and orderly exchange pasted below, I entered what I called “the vortex.” This means I was nuts.  The Hot Mommas Project process is based on nominating dynamic women over the age of 18 to act as role models through writing their stories. Thus, I nominated women, re-nominated women, sent reminder emails, got the team to send reminder emails…the list goes on. This was all because of my passion for my project (combined with an inability to accept failure and a kind of control-freakishness). It was a gravitational pull.

The VORTEX IS REAL. It turns out, that many entrepreneurs literally do suffer from a kind  “Hypomania.” Only, because it makes people money, we celebrate it and call it “drive” and “persistence.”

Below, I deconstruct the VORTEX and explain how I escaped it. This was yesterday, however.

1. The situation (no, not my abs) If this pop culture reference escapes you – click here. Last night at midnight the second annual Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition came to an end. Today, we are playing clean up on some technical errors on the site.

What I want/deserve/should be doing: Watching Lady Gaga and Elton John’s Grammy performance as a reward for hitting nearly 200 case studies and – officially – being the world’s largest women’s case study database!

What I doing instead: Sending nerdy emails – like the following- because I am an obsessed entrepreneur. It’s a problem. Below, I not only address the current issue at hand, I start speculating about the future, the team that will get together, and roles. I’m thinking, “Can’t I just CHILL for ONE DAY?”

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Cast of Characters: “Dave” – Dave Juth, our developer at FMS Inc. , “Achin”Achin Jain our Learning Community Manager (in India), “Luke” Luke Chung – owner of FMS Inc.

Dave,

THE WOMEN HAVE ROCKED IT OUT!!! Our second annual case study competition ended last night. We are almost up to 200 cases now and officially the world’s largest women’s case study library. I was wondering about using FMS’s site, again, for judging. Thoughts?  Here is what Achin says:

“It would be nice to see whether Dave would let us use FMS server again for judging. Tell him that I will send him the database file whenever we are done fixing the technical errors and ready to move to the judging phase. He will just have to do a copy and paste job.”

Tell me if I need to ask Luke about this. Overdue, anyway, to talk to him (see PS)

Kathy

P.s. For LATER, planting seeds:

I also now have a list of things we need to fix, update, etc. and need to have a conversation with Luke.

Looking ahead, I was wondering – also – about including in our meeting some social media guys as experts to say “this will work, this won’t, this will be better for SEO and communities and mobile apps” and yada yada. I need to figure out what is possible for Achin to do, and what FMS needs to do, as we move forward.

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3. So, Are We REALLY CRAZY? Well in looking over this, I skipped #2, and am too lazy to go back and fix it. So, that’s not a great sign. A book by John Gartner on the topic of nutty entrepreneurs has the following quote:

Hypomania–a mild form of mania–drove many of America’s most famous leaders and entrepreneurs to succeed.

4. UH, OKAY, MAYBE THE VORTEX JUST = CRANKINESS. I read VCMike’s blog, I realize I bear almost NONE of the traits of hypomania. Here they are:

  • pressured speech; rapid talking
  • inflated self-esteem or grandiosity;
  • decreased need for sleep;
  • flight of ideas or the subjective experience that thoughts are racing;
  • easy distractibility and attention-deficit (superficially similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder);
  • increase in psychomotor agitation; and
  • involvement in pleasurable activities that may have a high potential for negative psycho-social or physical consequences (e.g., the person engages in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

I do tend to have a racing mind. But, that’s about it. So, basically my nuttiness was not leading to a grandiose entrepreneurial success. It’ s just nuttiness.  Time to ESCAPE THE VORTEX.

5. ESCAPE THE VORTEX – To escape the racing thoughts and panic, I first tried to do what earth-beings call “Letting Go.” I envisioned everything turning out okay, and that my worrying was pointless. It didn’t work.

6. ESCAPE THE VORTEX – PART DEUX – So I was onto Part Deux. One realization is that I had failed to set up “shifts” between the team members in advance of the last week of the contest. It made me feel better to recognize this blunder, and plan more effectively for next year instead of fashioning voo-doo dolls and putting them on a shrine in the corner of my room and lighting three candles and…KIDDING!

7. ESCAPE THE VORTEX – PART THREE. Sealing the deal of “Escaping the Vortex” was MOVING ON. I mentally moved on from this year’s case study competition, and started thinking about next year’s. Who would be nominated? Would we do year-round training on case writing? What about early-bird submission prizes? Thinking about SOLUTIONS and moving on is what helped me fully exit the vortex…until this morning.

8. THIS IS YOUR LIFE. THIS IS YOUR LIFE ON CRAZY ENTREPRENEURSHIP. My kids did not in any way, shape or form agree to this last sentence. Yet, somehow I feel very frustrated when I am on my Blackberry needing to respond to case-writers about technical issues, and the munchkins claiming they are mine are relentless about wanting to play in the snow and watch Spongebob. Aha! In addition to having shifts for my staff and myself in next year’s case study competition, I definitely need to set up shifts for my FAMILY! For instance:

  • Example 1: If I had a staff member on a shift this morning, I handle the kids stress-free.  It would not be “battle of the Crackberry.”
  • Example 2: During the 11th hour of the competition, my husband was out of town and we had no sitter. And it snowed.  So, now I am getting my husband’s travel schedule for the ENTIRE YEAR so I can plan better next time.
  • I’m sure I’ll have some other brilliant realizations, but, now I am just tired from the Vortex’s G-Force.

9. DELEGATION & EXECUTIVE-LEVEL TOOLKIT BUILDING. This is really the key.

  • Lesson 1. Learning to manage and delegate – not just lead – is what I am growing here in my executive-level toolkit. My workplace is virtual and flexible. It requires a few more check-ins than a traditional office environment.
  • Lesson 2. Furthermore, when we entrepreneurs try to do it all ourselves, and then enter the VORTEX, that is when we feel bad, overwhelmed, unsuccessful.
  • Lesson 3. And, let’s be honest. Those close to us feel it right along with us. Escaping the VORTEX is not just a “nice to have,” it’s a “need to have.”

Conclusion: So, my belated New Year’s Resolution is to think and plan ahead as I never have before.

The goal: STAY OUT OF THE VORTEX.

10. FINAL ACT – TAMING THE VORTEX. In the final taming-of-the-vortex act, I WILL watch Lady Gaga’s Grammy performance. Heck! I may even watch Pink too!  And Beyonce! I am going to walk the Hot Mommas Project talk and realize that smart Hot Mommas know when they are using their powers for good, or using them for evil. And, the Vortex is EVIL! Time to exit, and focus on Grammy playbacks, reading over fabulous and inspiring cases that never cease to amaze me, and a night at home with my little munchkins while daddy is at a Wizards game.

What are your tools for escaping the “Entrepreneurial Vortex?”

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What is the Hot Mommas Project?

The Hot Mommas Project is an award-winning venture housed at the George Washington University School of Business.  We make women’s stories teachable using our “case wizard” at www.HotMommasProject.org . The Hot Mommas Project library is the first of its kind, providing scalable, global access to role models and virtual mentors that can be used by educators, trainers, and parents. We’ve been featured in Prentice Hall textbooks, the Washington Post Magazine, NPR and are the winner of a national Coleman Foundation case award.

How you can get involved: Write your story, or nominate a dynamic woman 18 or older.

Our call for 2011 nominations has begun. While the contest runs through January 31, 2011 – Start now! There will be prizes this spring and fall for early bird publishers.

How it works: Nominated women come online, write their story using our “case wizard,” and click “publish” to be permanently archived in our case library.  Winners will be published in a leading Prentice Hall textbook in addition to other honors and prizes. To participate, nominate a dynamic woman 18 or older (yourself included) here or find us on Twitter. No, you do not need to be a mom.

Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #14b: Confessions and Reflections

This is the second of two posts reflecting on what has worked, and what hasn’t, since conceiving and implementing the Hot Mommas Project case study competition. See first Confessions and Reflections post.

It ain't pretty. Computer + Face Mask = Fake Relaxation

It ain't pretty. Computer + Face Mask = Fake Relaxation

Pictured here, I am “relaxing” with my computer open.  Quite unsightly on a number of levels. First confession: I may be a part time working mom physically, but I am full time-plus mentally. I am constantly thinking about the project. I’m freaking exhausted. I seriously think I have carpal tunnel in my shoulder. Continue reading

Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time # 13: Leadership and Management

Here is another installment in the Hot Mommas Project path to becoming a million dollar venture/organization…while being led by a mom working part time. Can it be done? We’re here to figure that out. Our big thing right now is the Hot Mommas Project Case Study competition. Click here to nominate someone. As you’ll learn below, we need to get 200 women to write their cases by January 31, 2009. (We are double checking – now – that this is REALLY the number we need to achieve. Oy. I hope it’s not. More on this later.) This blog post is on management and leadership because:

1. I’ve read a lot about this area (hasn’t every business junkie?)

2. As discussed above, I’ve been going through some semi-useful OTJ training lately.

3. Heard Cameron Herold speak, former COO of 1800GotJunk, and I plan to regurgitate a lot of what he says with which I agree.

Management

The Team

Team

This is who I’m managing right now. Pictured here Achin Jain, Esther Leff, and Kaitlyn McAuliffe. We’ve recently added Ximena Iacono, primarily because her name begins with an “X” which is really cool.

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INTERLUDE

[Music starts: Marvin and Tammi rocking out to “Aint No Mountain High Enough“–because that’s what’s on Kaitlyn’s iTunes right now]

First, let’s have our interlude about self-management, perhaps the hardest management of all.

9.00 – 9.45 am – Extensive conversation with director of my son’s school. Don’t ask.

10.00 am – Back home, at computer. The team and I need to get 200 women to write cases by the end of January. [Voice inside my head] “My number one priority today is to do this blog so Kaitlyn can work her social marketing magic and drive people to www.HotMommasProject.org to write their cases.” I click on my email inbox to find notes from Cameron Herold’s talk to EO.

10.53 am – “What was I looking for?” I spent the past 53 minutes cleaning out my emails. Bad girl!

[music stops]

11.10 am – My window of opportunity is lost. I have to start prepping for a client meeting.

3.00 pm – Back from client meeting. Open email in box again to look for Cameron Herold notes.

[music starts]

4.23 pm – I’ve spent the past 83 minutes finding a new photo for www.HotMommasProject.org. Bad, bad girl!

[music stops]

5.30 pm – It’s time for a call with Esther. I have spent the past 67 minutes texting with Achin about the website, emailing with Esther and Kaitlyn about their tasks, emailing with Jennifer Moore (of Pink Heels), answering student questions via email, and posting stuff for my course on Facebook.  

[Music starts]

That’s management folks. It’s balancing, powering through, doing what needs to get done….and, if you miss one goal, you clean up real fast. I prioritized things above the blog because – well – they were more important. Including the next event. 🙂

5.45 pm – Both my kids run into my home office naked and laughing. I inform Esther our conference call is officially over. I think she says “okay.” Am hoping I didn’t hang up on her.

11.00 pm – In bed with computer. Husband is next to me in bed on computer. Blog is STILL not written. frankensteins_monster_boris_karloffWatching Skins get spanked. Trying to resist Twitter. Feel like this: “Must.Pick.Brain.Up.Off.Floor.” (Said in Frankenstein voice – Go Mary Shelley!)

END INTERLUDE

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What’s the big deal about management and leadership?

People talk about management and leadership all of the time because it’s hard. Really hard. I realize now I was a very spoiled manager. I’ve walked into situations in the past where killer teams had been picked or were part of a machine-like recruiting process. I’d manage them, and think I had something figured out. Even my past teams of Hot Mommas consultants (see first or second post on this) were pretty plug and play. They had all been senior executives and what not. On top of it, they were moms so – by definition – they could run a small country. Now it is a whole different ball game.

So, what’s really been a bad idea? The following things have been a bad idea:

1. Hiring a warm body – In the past, I have hired warm bodies. Someone says, “I want to work with the Hot Mommas Project” and I would say, “Great!” Those days are gone. (This is not true for you Liz and Meredith!)

2. Going with less structure – I work with a lot of students. Structure, structure, structure seems to work best for me and for them. (Examples below).

3. Not praising or encouraging – These people are not slaves, they are people. I see a lot of entrepreneurs treat employees badly. This is namely because they treat themselves like badly.

So, what’s been working?

The top 3 list.

First, here is the Top 5 list basic principle which I learned from Cameron Herold.

1. Always have a sense of the top 5 most important tasks you’re working on.

2. Write it down.

3. Carry it with you. Review it throughout the day.

5. Spend the last 5 minutes of each day making a list of the top 5 priorities for tomorrow.

6. Be accountable – Every day, an email should be waiting for you in your inbox from your staff with their top 5 from day before and what they hit or not and why.

THE TOP 3 LIST – our version of the above. (In a total contradiction to an earlier post, much of the team works virtually. Also, my team is part time because they are undergrad and MBA students.)

1. On your desktop have a document which says has the following: Top 3/On–Deck/Accomplished. Our Top 3 are focused on a specific goal or outcomes (measurable), and each week the actions change to meet that goal or outcome. It is immediately clear from the updates if weekly actions support a Top 3 item or not. These are our major goals right now.  Hit the following case number (number of written cases on site):

Kathy – 100 (How: Partners, personal network, HARO, Twitter, Facebook, PR, events like the American Mustache Institute Stache Bash and BlogHerDC. Earlier post =full scoop)

Esther – 40 (How: Partners with social media/women’s groups, personal network, PR, events, Twitter)

Ximena – 30 (How: Academic/faculty focus, e.g., “assign case writing to your students”)

Kaitlyn – 15 (How: Personal network, bloggers)

Achin – 15 (How: Personal network, bloggers)

If anyone out there has other ideas for us, please post here. P.s. We have no money. We spent it all on @djuth from FMS (We love you Dave! You’re worth it! ) I am so busy with the above goal have no time to raise money and am almost completely relying on GW’s development department.

2. Monday the Top 3 list is sent from the team to me.

3. I spend Monday to Wednesday coaching the team on the list and supporting them. I do this via email and/or phone. Email really takes a long time unless the list is pristine. We’ve worked a lot on that, strangely…formatting, business writing, info I need to know.

4. Wednesday is a team meeting. Since Monday through Wednesday was spent on task management, I try to focus the mid-week meeting on a discussion of results and visioning (e.g., This is where we’re heading).

5. Friday – Another update is sent. The team is cutting and pasting their list for the week, and beginning to project their top 3 for the following week. Coaching takes place via email on Friday and over weekend (when some of my team members catch up on some of their work, especially if it was mid-terms…which is was last week).

6. Rinse repeat.


7. Motivation and inspiration. Esther also mentioned that having goals, and reaching them, is inspirational/motivational/etc. So, I send out frequent updates with things that are happening. “XYZ just said they’d be a judge.” or “Look what this case-writer said!” or “This company just signed on to provide prizes.”  I put FYI in the subject line so the team can filter. We also did the a version of the “can you imagine” wall described below after last Wednesday’s meeting.

Esther’s wants to see Hot Mommas Project become a datasource of women-friendly companies.

Kaitlyn’s wants to get the Millionaire Matchmaker, who she loves, to write her case.

5 things to do to build a company and wrap up:

Kaitlyn has suggested I do shorter posts, and post more frequently…so, I’m taking her advice. Before I sign off, here are a few leadership nuggets from Cameron Herold5 things to do to build a company:

1. Painting a picture – Visualize the future of your business and communicate it to employees. Show them an example. Share it. It is not about “how.” Example: The “can you imagine wall” at 1800GotJunk where staff wrote creative ideas and dreams for the business. Here is Cameron Herold’s painted picture.

2. Great people – Like Jim Collins says, “Get the right people on the bus.” Use Top Grading by Brad and Geoff Smart plus a scorecard (letter grade for employees every 6 months). Example: Group interview process at 1800GotJunk focused on core concepts: “Do I like them and do they fit?” The goal is to raise the average skill set of the group with the hire.

P.s.

The Dream by Matthew Kelley. If you care about your staff’s dreams, they’ll go through brick walls to help you.

– At 1800GotJunk, all employees get 5 weeks vacation. Wow!

3. Reverse engineer the future – Look at every sentence of the painted picture and say, “What can we do to make this come true? What are the missing pieces?” Rank in terms of urgency and impact. Use a spreadsheet in conjunction with the painted picture to clearly see the complexity of the future. Example: 1800GotJunk asked, “How many trucks will we need in x years? What are the bottlenecks? Have we called the truck supplier?” They did. It changed their supplier relationship and way they did business. Numbers also gave them the ability to think about people they needed to hire. They were growing 3 or 4 percent a week. We did this the other day when we mapped out, numerically, how many individuals we’d need to contact to make our case goals. It was an eye opener.

4. Meeting rhythms – Plan your work. Work your plan. Example: 1800GotJunk has a very regimented process for running meetings. The basis are:

a. All meetings have a purpose and a maximum of 3 desired outcomes.

b. No agenda, no attenda – If there is not an agenda, no one will come.

c. Book for half of the time you need – You’ll get it done. This didn’t work for us Wednesday, but will keep trying.

5. Technology Accelerators – Accelerate performance through technology. Examples: Buy staff lap tops, not desktops (Employees will work additional hours for free at home). Have 2 to 3 monitors up at one time for time savings (clicking between screens wastes time). Blackberries and iPhones at blackberryguy.com (Manage the blackberry, don’t let it manage you.) Turn off notifications. Buy headsets (www.headsets.com). Have wireless in the office. The list goes on and on.

At the end of the day, Cameron believes that the secret formula is an equation: Focus, faith, and effort. Read more in his book BackPocket COO.

PARTING THOUGHT:

Since I’m giving our promotional card to everyone ranging from my Zumba instructor at Golds to strangers on the street, I feel it would be hypocritical not to give you the plug as well.

The Hot Mommas Project is an award-winning women’s leadership initiative housed at the George Washington University School of Business. We’re building the world’s largest women’s case study database which will be free, online, and available to women, girls, and educators worldwide. Read this for detail. Read promotional postcard for short attention span version. Go to our main site and WRITE YOUR CASE! Be a Role Model…Tell Your Story…Help Others…Get Published.

HEY! If you, or someone you know is a role model whose story could help women and girls, and could be taught by educators in classroom, email us and include “nomination” in the subject line. Click here to see how cool it is to be nominated.

Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #2: Triage

I spent two nights at the hospital this week with my mom who is getting a bionic  knee.  Triage in the literal sense there. In the figurative sense, my schedule and prioritization process needs major help.  Plate clearing MUST happen NOW for me to be able to act on the plans below.  Otherwise, I’m just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

 

Pictured here is my daughter Delilah (aka Lilah) at my mom’s house where I am playing nurse.  She is under the Jim Jones-like trance of “Cory in the House.”

 

 

 

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I. SCHEDULE TRIAGE:

 

Why is my plan (to which I committed in the last post) not complete already? This is not a great start folks. I was busy doing the following instead of my plan: Playing nurse, playing mom, other people’s work (client projects), and teaching. There’s always some reason, right? Here is how my week went with 28 hours available to me to work:

 

12 hrs- Other people’s projects

 6 hrs – Hot Mommas Project

 6 hrs – Teaching

 1 hr  – Alzheimer’s Association board call.

 3 hrs – G*d knows what – I logged my hours, distractions, and accomplishments one day when I was working at home. Here is an excerpt:

 

“It is now 11.03. I am supposed to be doing my client work. Instead, I have done the following:

  • Printed the outline for the client work – good. On task.
  • Started cleaning my email in-box – bad.
  • Respond to an email from our lawyer – bad.
  • Look at a text from my best friend right under the email from our lawyer – bad.
  • Installed the latest version of Quicken – okay, this is getting ridiculous.”

There is a management crisis in America today outlined in a book called A Bias to Action by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal.  Apparently, many, many, many workers out there are confusing effort with results. I definitely think I am contributing to this management crisis right now. Time to overhaul my schedule:

 

1. G*d knows what time – don’t have this to spare.

Action: Log time and be accountable through this log.  Reel yourself back in woman. Don’t give into the time-sucker tasks. It’s like task crack.

Time gain: 3 hours.

 

2. Teaching

Action: This will go away in a couple of weeks when the semester is over.

Time gain: 6 hours.

 

3. Other people’s work

Action: No other projects until I magically develop more time.

Time gain: 12 hours!

 

4. Alzheimer’s Association

Action: None. I am the chair of the management committee and like to stay tied to the aging community so am not giving this up.

Time gain: 0 (but, is not every week, so – can use this hour for some “ongoing roles” in plan).

 

NET NET: I will gain back 21 hours per week.

 

Parting Thoughts: Holy moly. No wonder I haven’t been getting anything done.