At lunch the other day, a friend and client was talking about her company and made the comment, “Jim, I’m all in.” I must have had a quizzical look on my face, because she quickly explained, “If this doesn’t work, I am in trouble…personally.”
Several days later, I heard the same statement again from another entrepreneur/client whom I respect and trust. He also owns his own business and has invested all of his time, energy and personal assets in his company’s success.
“Jim, I’m all in.”
Those words resonate deeply. On the surface, they communicate personal commitment and focus. But is there more to the phrase, “I’m all in” than commitment and focus?
An “entrepreneur” is someone “who organized and manages an enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” The term “enterprise” means “a project undertaken…especially one that is important or difficult or that requires boldness or energy.” Dictionary.com
While those definitions may be sufficient to describe what an entrepreneur does, it only hints at why a person would take on a project that involves “considerable initiative and risk.” There is something else at play here; an intangible force that compels someone with an idea or service to do whatever it takes. That something cannot be measured or quantified. But you know it when you see it.
It is the underlying motivating force behind the statement, “I’m all in.” All successful entrepreneurs have it. Everyone else wants to enjoy their success but may not share that same devotion. What is it?
Passion is what carries you forward when all the data screams that you should give up. Passion is the quest for something greater than yourself – the knowing that your efforts will benefit many, even when it seems impossible. Passion is that undefined “extra” that you know to be true even when no one else believes in you or your mission.
Passion Without Processes is not Manageable or Scalable
Why do some businesses thrive while the majority of small to medium companies flounder or eventually fail? Was the initial idea flawed or is something else at play?
Even the greatest, most innovative ideas can get stuck in the execution. The quality of the idea is one factor; the processes and scalability of the execution is an entirely different consideration.
To be an effective entrepreneur, your passion has to be sustainable. To be sustainable, the business must have processes and systems in place that manage five critical areas of the enterprise:
- Conflict/Risk Management – what are the risks/rewards for customers, vendors? What about pending or threatened litigation – is it a one-time event or a symptom of a systemic problem?
- Contract Review – are standard terms used in contracts that protect the company’s intellectual property interest and other interests? Is there a consistent contracting process that involves sales, operations and finance?
- Human Capital – are management roles aligned with the compensation model and business objectives? Is there an exit or succession plan in place for key executives? Is the company protected if key employees leave?
- Finance – are current financing terms consistent with business model? Are there audited financial statements and accurate reporting of finances for internal, investor and external use?
- Corporate Governance – are management roles aligned with owner objectives? Is there an effective Board of Directors composed of valuable advisors?
When one or more of these areas are not effective or efficient, it impacts the entire organization. Without systematic processes surrounding each of these critical areas, more money, time and effort are required to resolve conflicts and maintain momentum.
Implementing processes takes time. You probable spent years bringing your passionate idea to the marketplace. If the success you now enjoy is not up to your expectations, there is probably a system of process in one of the critical areas that needs to be analyzed, revamped or strategically managed.
The Bottom Line
You know you are an entrepreneur when you commit all of your time, talent and energy to your passion. But to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be “All In.” Surround your passion with proven, time-tested methodologies and systems to ensure success.
Jim Shields is the founder of Shields Legal Group, an innovative law firm focused on helping private middle market companies, capital managers and investors improve their processes and systems to achieve the highest profit and valuation. In the role of Outside General Counsel, the Firm advises Companies in their Growth to Exit planning by focusing on strategic business objectives and implementing best practices. Shareholder value increases, as well as overall enterprise worth.
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