How processes free leaders.

If you have heard me talk about creating software, you know I believe software should free people to do what people do best: solve problems and serve others.

We have a new product coming out, and I just wrote the first blog post for the site.

Its about 4 ways processes create freedom for leaders.

It breaks my heart when I hear about leaders who feel trapped in their businesses. I was fortunate to receive great advice early on which has helped me avoid some of this pain (not all of it).

If you are interested in learning more about our new software, you can check it out here.

You can read the blog post here.

Feeling grateful.

I gave myself two areas of focus this year.

One. I wanted to run my business like I owned it. I am building a machine, not a job. I wanted to be free to figure out how to grow this thing I started into my original vision for it: create a place where people love to work, feel free and safe to challenge themselves and grow, and to make an impact in the lives of everyone it touches.

Two. I wanted to invest in my network. My opportunities, achievements, and most impactful come from people in my life. The best way to win in life is to be irrationally helpful to others without expecting anything in return. The thing is, it all comes around. This week has been confirmation of that. Life is about what you contribute, not what you consume.

These are the stairs I climb to get to my favorite breakfast spot, the place where I sit down and work on turning this dream I have into a reality.

Thank you to everyone who plays a part in this. You people rock. I love you, and I am so grateful.

How to balance work and family.

Someone recently asked me how I balance work and family life. For me, it’s a simple decision.

I found out I was going to be a dad when I was 19. At the time, I was a loser. I was unmotivated. I was failing at college because of a lack of effort. I had zero ambition whatsoever.

But the day I found out I was going to be a dad, despite the fact I was a teenager and had giant obstacles to overcome, a fire started in my soul that changed may life forever.

The first person my girlfriend and I told was our manager at the restaurant we worked at because we called out of work. We drove up to a park at the lake where we liked to hang out, so we could talk about our options.

I had so much clarity for the first time in my life. I did not care what happened in the future as long as we were a family.

Part of me was searching to replace what I had lost. My dad moved out of my house when I was a freshman in high school. I never let on, but that killed a part of my heart. That day, sitting in her SUV, in a parking lot at the lake, I decided I would do everything I could do to make sure this baby would not feel the pain I felt.

So how do you balance work and family? You decide what is important from day one. You imagine what you want your life to look like years down the road. You decide what you want your kids to say about you at your funeral. And then you make sure you behavior and actions match your ambition.

The reason I started a company was because I wanted to have the freedom to the be the family man I desired to be. I did not want someone else telling me when I could go see my kids’ school concerts, games, or go to their doctor’s appointments. I also wanted to make sure the people who work for me could enjoy those same freedoms. I wanted Envoy to be a place where people can define their priorities and act accordingly.

It’s why we make software that focuses on automation. I believe software should free people to do what people do best which is connect with others, serve others, and solve problems. You can’t do that when you are sitting in front of a computer clicking buttons. I want our customers to get their time back.

Success in life is living out your priorities. It’s not achievement. It’s not money. It’s not status or stuff. For me, it’s my wife and kids saying “He put us first. He chose us over everything else. He gave us his time. He made sure we knew we were loved.”

Honestly, I could care less about anything else. That’s how I balance work and family.

How much to charge.

If you want a healthy business, good customers, and enough time to grow your business, you have to charge more. This takes confidence and courage, and it’s completely worth it. It’s important to read this entire post because there is a critical component to this strategy. You have to get both parts right.

The advice in this post if for the person just starting out. You are a one person team and will be balancing providing services or supporting a product alongside running your business. If all of your time is spent on services and support, you aren’t running a business, you are working for one. It’s just yours instead of someone else’s.

We got this wrong when we first started. I errantly thought we could be a low price offering and built a product that simply covered the basics. As a result, we struggled to gain traction, worked really hard for small profits, and had a difficult time scaling our business.

To avoid this trap, especially if you are a service business, charge enough to earn full time pay for 37.5% to 50% of your time. This helps you in three major ways.

First, you will be able to spend 50% to 62.5% of your time working on the business. This includes sales, marketing, business development, creating processes, reviewing financials, and finding people to hire so you can grow.

Second, when you hire employees, and you apply this same principles, you will be able to cover their costs when they are new and make healthy profits as your business grows.

Third, the customers you attract will be customers who value what you provide and are invested in helping you create a healthy business. These customers are interested in longterm partnerships and want to invest in making sure your business lasts. It’s better for them that way, and it’s better for you.

Businesses fail because of a lack of sales and a lack of profit. If you max out your time because you don’t charge enough to cover your costs, you will always feel like you are behind, and you won’t grow.

Now for the very important detail. In order to charge more, your product or service has to solve a critical problem for your customer. Additionally that problem should either cost your customer ten times more than what they are paying your business or help them sell ten times more than what they are paying your business.

If your product or service does not provide your customers this level of return on cost, you will have a hard time acquiring new business. Make sure your business solves a problem or provides a benefit that your customers value and desire. Also, make sure your product or service delivers on this process. It’s better to take your time before you leap out to make sure this part is right so you don’t feel the pain of working too much for too little down the line.

This is not about making more money. Money is a tool to help you achieve your goals. It’s about making sure you have the resources to build a business instead of work for your business. It’s about freeing you to grow and provide jobs. It’s about making sure you are there for your customers down the road.

Charge more.

How to start a business.

When people find out that I am an entrepreneur, they often ask for advice about starting a business. This is a loaded question, one that I usually flip into a better question: are you ready to lead a business?

The hardest part about starting something is that all of the responsibility shifts from you working on someone else’s ideas to you working on your own ideas. I can tell you first hand, it’s way easier working on someone else’s ideas because often you are executing on a plan that has been laid out for your. Or, you are working towards a goal that’s been given to you. If it’s the wrong plan or the wrong goal, it’s easier to deal with.

But when it’s your goal, and your plan, you carry all of the responsibility. There is no one to point at and say, “I was just doing what I was asked.”

Now, this is a terrible mindset to have because failing to take responsibility for your actions and outcomes won’t get you anywhere. As a leader, one of the things I never want to hear my employees say is “my boss won’t let me…” This phrase is a cop out. When someone says this, what they really mean is “I don’t want to take responsibility for my idea and the outcome if it fails.”

If you are thinking about starting a business, you need kill this way of thinking. Your need to adopt an attitude of initiative and responsibility, and the only way to do this is through action.

While at your current position, you have to look for ways to create value, make things better, and take action towards that end. I am not advocating anyone to go rogue and do whatever they want. You need to get your job done to 110% and on top of that work hard to understand the goals and vision of your organization so that anything extra you contribute is sure to benefit the organization and get you noticed. (Seth Godin talks about this in his must read book, Linchpin.)

If you fail, you need to be prepared to take responsibility for your decisions and actions. You have no one to blame because you decided on your own to act on your ideas. If you succeed, you have to give all of the credit away to the company and anyone who helped you succeed.

Do this a few times to condition yourself and build up emotional strength. Learn what it means and how it feels to take action against your ideas. Learn how it feels too fail and try again. Learn how it feels to give all of the credit away.

Until you can do this, you are not ready to lead a business.

I was the second employee at a startup and helped lead the company from $1M to $10M in annual sales in under 4 years. I practiced this method, taking responsibility and taking action for the entire time I was there. I failed and I won. And when I branched out on my own, I still underestimated the toll it took on my mind and emotions to do this for myself. But had I not received this advice and put it into practice, there is no way I would have been tough enough to lead my company.

So be patient. Practice now for the day you step out on your own. You’ll be happy that you did.

My phone, technology, and social media.

I spend the last week of April and most of May on a digital detox. I deleted all of my social media apps from my phone, disabled notifications, and adopted a paper notebook for most of my work outside of communication and writing this blog.

I made the decision to go on the detox because I could see I was trending towards very passive and consumptive online behavior. I was consuming more content than I was creating. I felt like I was losing my mental edge, and I couldn’t stand the feeling.

I really enjoyed. I liked the clarity I found and the space to think. I regained some of the mental sharpness I felt I had lost. Changing the way I worked and eliminating most of my entertainment sources was refreshing.

In the end, I decided to install my social media apps and turn on notifications for some of the apps on my phone. This is why.

The argument to delete social media and reduce technology use is because all of the information and stimuli we experience on a daily basis is bad for our brains and happiness. It’s a relentless stream of opinions and comparisons. The Jones’s are no longer next door, they are in every stream of every app in your pocket.

I get it, but the problem is not the tech itself. It’s me and you, and every person who falls for that way of thinking. Comparison only affects those who compare themselves to others. Distraction only affects people who lack intentionality.

Smartphones are not going away. They are going to get more powerful. Constant connectedness will increase. This is the way humans will engage with each other, and just because we don’t like it doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. Instead of avoiding it altogether, it’s more important to be intentional about the way we use it which only comes through self-reflection and making adjustments.

This is no different than exercise, food, education, relationships, etc. You can either engage your life and your behavior with intentionality or you can just take what comes your way. If you are a passive participant of your life one of these areas, you will be more likely to be passive and participant in the other areas. Avoiding this problem perpetuates it.

I love technology. I love the internet. I love social media. If it was not for these things, I many not have the career I enjoy, the friends I have made, and the education I have received.

But I have learned that shutting that stuff off for blocks of time during the day so I can get work, think deeply to create a solution for something at work, or have a face-to-face conversation with someone brings a great return.

My life is fundamentally better because of technology, social media, and the unbelievable amount of free information available online. The reason I consumed too much is because I stopped being intentional about my time, my focus, and stopped thinking about what I want out of life.

I am leaning in, all the way in, but with my goals and ambitions in mind.