Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Success is a CHOICE

“Success is a choice, when failure is NOT an option.”  – Terri Maxwell

Twelve years ago, I became an entrepreneur, failed miserably and lost everything (50k at the time). Despite the failure, I was hooked on the freedom, creativity and passion of building a business, and never wanted to go back to a job again.
As my grandfather taught me – try again. The company was someone else’s idea/product and money (since I had none). A year later we sold the company for a tiny bit of money. I then went to a start-up as their top marketing and sales executive (FlashNet) and soon became President of FlashNet Marketing, a subsidiary of the Fort Worth ISP.  We rocked it. Unfortunately, after the IPO, the owners of FlashNet mismanaged the company, and it crashed during the dot.com bust. Our stock went from $17 (before the IPO) to $60, and eventually to $3, at which time the company was sold to Prodigy (Now AT&T). I made lots of money, and lost a lot too. But, we had done something cool, and I wondered if I could build my own business.
Now as part of Prodigy I had a choice: work as an employee, or leave and do my own thing. I knew becoming an employee wasn’t exciting, but starting my own business, for real?  That pushed fear buttons. Could I really do this?  All I could see was past failure, what I didn’t know, what could go wrong.
So, I walked the easy route and took a job. I was miserable. Six months later, September 11th occurred and reminded everyone how truly short life is. Two days later I resigned. On January 1, 2002, I started my own company as a solopreneur.
I was petrified. I made mistake after mistake. I struggled for two years, but eventually matched my corporate income. It was time to go to the next level and turn it into a real company. In January 2004, I kicked off an aggressive lead program and hired a sales manager.
Our income the end of 2004 was the same as 2003, around $250,000. Flat. In 2003 it was just me, so I got to keep the money. In 2004, we had team members, so now I lost a lot of money. Flat revenues AND losing money. We failed. Nothing. Zip. Nada.
So, I stopped. My only thoughts were: “I can’t do this”. I thought about how I had failed. I thought that being successful as an entrepreneur was something other people could do. Not me.
I wondered…what DOES it take to be successful as an entrepreneur? If I knew the magic formula, maybe it could be learned. So, for the next two weeks I interviewed 100 successful entrepreneurs in Dallas, trying to find the common reasons for entrepreneurial success. Was it education? Money? Ideas? Hours worked? Product? A skill? Or maybe some special ingredient only they possessed?
The ONLY common denominator was perseverance. They would NOT quit. They were determined to figure it out, to learn what ever, and to make it happen.
All had failed more than they had been successful. They were grossly inept at the things that made businesses work (lead generation, sales, accounting, operations, processes).  But they didn’t care. Somehow, they would learn what they needed to learn and would do it. They didn’t just HOPE this would happen, they KNEW it would happen.
When I asked how they found that belief, they couldn’t tell me. They just said something snapped along the way, and they decided quitting wasn’t an option.
There was now a new choice to make. To quit, or to DECIDE never to quit. Deciding not to quit means the decision is irreversible. There’s no going back. You have to leave it all on the table.
By this time, I had already invested all assets and had no money left. Now what?
Decide never to quit. I snapped. I had a great brand, we had a handful of happy clients. I had an idea the company could be differentiated in the market. I wanted it. So I jumped.
I financed the next 90 days of my personal and business expenses using a second mortgage on the house.  I set an audacious goal for 2005… We would hit $1 Million in revenue, despite the last 2 years of only achieving $250,000 per year. I would NEVER quit. The team around me could feel the shift. Something had changed.
Every day, I started at 6am by opening our sales pipeline report. I found 3 leads to contact each day and implemented a disciplined fill, advance, and close focus that I still use today: “Three Good Moves Per Day”.  I reinvested every cent back into lead generation. At the end of March 2005, we had grown but were still losing money. This time, it was an easy decision. I would NOT quit. I financed the next 90 days on credit cards.
We made a profit in Q3. At the end of 2005 our revenue was $960,000.  There had been many mistakes along the way, but I was forever changed.  Success was a choice, but only because failure was no longer an option.
At the end of 2006, our revenue was $3 million…just a year later. All  debt was repaid, and I had money again. In 2007, revenue reached $6 million, and we sold the company in 2008.
The rest, of course, is history. And now I take those lessons to help entrepreneurs across the country grow successful businesses.
It all started with one decision: to never quit. Success is a choice, period. Entrepreneur (or being part of a start-up) means mistakes are just part of the deal.  The question is…will you quit?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Success is Like Driving a Car

Success is one of the most elusive and least understood concepts in our world. Second only to "love", success is written about, preached, taught, and lusted after by millions, yet it remains one of the most difficult concepts to explain.

Much like love, success is relative and each of us defines it differently. For me, Success is Freedom. To work when I want, from where I want, and with whom I want. It's the freedom to travel, dine at fine restaurants and enjoy the "toys" that come with success.

My favorite toy is my car. It's no secret that I like to drive fast, and doing so in a car that is the epitome of high-performance luxury is the ultimate expression of freedom.

I've learned, however, that driving a car is a perfect metaphor for achieving success. After all, much like with success, not understanding the nuances of driving a car will cause you to steer off course. These two driving lessons I learned changed the trajectory of my success and still apply today.

1) Look Where You Want to Go:

In 1999, I bought a Honda S2000, in one of the most hyped car introductions in history. The S2000 had the first red start button. It was simple really, but that change from turning a key to pushing a single button literally put the power at your fingertips.

My employees at FlashNet gifted me with a driving lesson at Motor Sports Ranch for my birthday, which is a race track for fast, every day cars. You strap in with a race car instructor, and take your fast car on a track to experience speeds up to 150 miles an hour. I was in heaven.

The race car instructor drives your car around the track first, teaches you a few important lessons, and then straps you in to see how well you learn these lessons, as you race around the track at speeds one can only dream about.

One of the lessons I learned on the track changed my life.

The instructor said "Your car will follow your eyes. Wherever you look, the car will go. If you look at the wall (as we are racing over 100 miles an hour!), you'll hit the wall. If you look to the left of the wall (good idea by the way), the car will veer left. Always place your vision on where you want to go, rather than where you are." 

Place your vision on where you want to go, rather than where you are. Wow. I've heard that before! My grandfather had taught me that "You get what you focus on."

Needless to say, I knew that lesson well, but to experience it in the driver’s seat and to feel the car physically follow my focus was a visceral, life-changing experience.  As we neared a hairpin turn, my tendency was to focus on where I didn't want to go...into the wall. We tend to focus on our fears, and on the problems of life, and that wall was creating a problem as my car came closer to it at breath-taking speeds!

"Shift your focus to where you want to go. If you look at the wall, you'll hit the wall." the instructor commanded.

Hard as I tried, I could not stop looking at the wall. The fear in my chest was overwhelming until finally, less than 3 inches from the wall, the driver grabbed the steering wheel and navigated us to safety.

"Stop the car," he said.

"Terri, the car follows your eyes. It goes...where you look. Focus on where you want to go, not where you're afraid you'll end up."

Something snapped. I GOT it.

I revved the engine, and sped off down the straight-away, breaking the 100 mile an hour mark, as I neared the next turn.

As I leaned into the turn, the car naturally moved closer to the wall. I felt the urge to look, but my instructor reminded me: "Put your focus on where you want to go."

As I shifted my focus to the left, I could see the inner rim of the track and the next point in the turn, and instantly the car moved away from the wall!

So lesson one for driving a car, and achieving success: Keep your focus on where you want to go, not where you are afraid you'll end up.

2) Your Perspective Changes with the View

I was about to head off to college, and had saved enough money to buy my first car, a Datsun B210. I loved that little car! Although I knew how to drive, my grandfather wanted to give me a few grandfatherly tips since he was about to send his beloved granddaughter off to college in that little car.

I could sense the driving lesson was bigger than safety 101, and any time spent with my grandpa was always a good investment, so I eagerly obliged.

We got into the car, and he talked to me about the basics: the importance of the seat belt, to keep the radio noise at safe levels, all of that kind of stuff.

But then, as we were driving down the highway he said, "I want to show you something. Do you notice how big the windshield is?

I said, "Yes. So..."

He followed, "If you knew where you wanted to go, would you use the windshield or the other mirrors?"

"The windshield, Gramps. That's the only way to see where I am going."

He said, "Good. Now look in the rearview mirror. What do you see?"

I was getting a little nervous, because cars were whizzing past me, and I wasn't totally comfortable yet driving on the highway.

"I see stuff behind me. What's the point, Gramps?"

"Stay with me. Now look in the side view mirrors. What do you see?

"I see the stuff behind me, and the cars that are passing me."

He pressed, "Does the stuff behind you look the same?"

I responded, still not getting it. "Yes. Well...No, actually, it doesn't. It's from a different perspective."

He said, "Great, pull over for a second."

And then he grabbed my face and made me look him straight in the eyes, with his steel blue eyes piercing my soul.

"Terri, driving a car is the same as achieving success. The first step is to spend more time looking out the windshield at where you want to go.

The second step is to occasionally look at the smaller rearview mirror to remind yourself where you've been. The key is to not spend too much time there, because where you've been is behind you.

But the third key is to also view your past from a new perspective. The past won’t guide you to where you want to go, but if you use the side view mirrors, you'll gain a different perspective on your past, and it will help you navigate both where you want to go, and anything blocking you from getting there."

And, with that perspective, I headed off to college with new found wisdom on how to achieve success:

1) Spend more time looking forward, at where you want to go, then looking back at the past.

2) Occasionally, check the rear-view mirror to remind yourself where you've been, but more importantly, how far you've come.

3) Use the side view mirrors to look at the past from a different perspective, and to observe what's passing you by, WITHOUT taking your eyes off of where you're going.

Success is like driving a car. And, just as my love affair with luxurious, fast cars, so it is with success. I prefer ridiculous abundance, and I want it fast.  Unfortunately, success doesn't always show up that way, but the key is to remember to "look where you want to go."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Talent Revolution – Are You Prepared?

You’ve heard us say it before, but it’s worth repeating: There is a revolution happening that is creating a new way of work. The jobs “lost” during the recent recession are not coming back. The work is there, but now it’s in the cloud. Jobs are being fractionalized and virtualized.

So why this shift and why now?

Work skills are changing faster than ever before just to stay in alignment with the rapidly shifting technology available today. Businesses are hard pressed to predict the types of skills they will need in six months. Rather than incurring expenses recruiting, hiring and training a full-time employee, many businesses find it more effective to hire freelancers. And, many of these freelancers work virtually.

The Talented Have Choices

Because technology has provided the ability for talented people to work whenever, where ever and however they like, there is now a new breed of worker, a new business model and a new job marketplace. The talented worker can demand more freedom, perform work that he or she is passionate about, and choose the companies they want to work for, rather than the other way around.

The reality is that talent is in high demand, and now businesses can recruit on a global scale to find the best talent for the best price. Furthermore, the fractionalization of work creates an opportunity to outsource in a way that was never before possible. Think of it this way:

As a small business owner I need marketing help, but prefer to not hire a generalist. In the new world of work I can take the 40 hours I might have given to that person and give:

  • 10 hours to a social media person
  • 10 hours to a content person
  • 10 hours to a researcher
  • 10 hours to a communications expert

My business benefits because I’ve hired people highly skilled in those areas who are passionate about the work, rather than a jack-of-all-trades who may have some but not all the skills needed to perform a stellar job. My business benefits because I’ve got truly passionate talent, and my costs are minimized through a virtual freelancer model.

Maximize the Talent Revolution

There are shifts required in current thinking and business models to maximize the talent revolution. First, define your culture as being less about location and more about performance and goals. Set key performance indicators and ensure that they are being met by all contributors – virtual and on premise. Second, infuse the culture with a healthy dose of freedom. It’s not about where your team is at what time, but rather if the job is getting done and done well. Finally, reward performance with freedom so that the culture continues to move in a positive direction.

Freedom is a primary motivator for these virtualized workers, as well as gratifying work. Taking steps to ensure your organization can maximize this global pool will certainly provide a competitive advantage while also giving you better work products and higher performance. The revolution is here, so take steps to maximize your organization’s ability to take advantage of this new world of work!

For more tips on making the most of the new world of work, visit www.newworldofwork.com. Learn more about our new book, The New World of Work: From Cube to the Cloud.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

You are NOT Your Business – The Top 3 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

Building a business is harder than it looks, despite the unbelievable rewards a successful business can bring.  Second only to raising children, building a business is a roller coaster ride of extreme highs and gut-wrenching lows.

It’s easy to think that we’re alone in facing the challenges of building a business. The truth is…many have gone before us, and they not only paved the way, but successful founders can teach new entrepreneurs how to avoid the pitfalls of business ownership.

As one of those pioneers with a track record of launching and growing numerous start-ups, there are 3 key pitfalls to avoid.

1)    The BIGGEST mistake entrepreneurs make is that they BECOME their business. They allow themselves to be defined by their business’ performance, from revenue, profit, employee and client satisfaction. They work harder than the need, and they make things more complicated then they have to be…all to prove that they are good enough.  You are NOT your business. Your business comes from your passion, but it is not who you are.  Just like your children have a mind of their own, your business has a life of its own, and you can’t BECOME the business. Build your business, but don’t become your business.

2)    The second pitfall business owners make is that they confuse quality with perfection. Entrepreneurs have a deep desire for quality, control and excellence. They were born to set the standard and they are relentless perfectionists who obsess over every detail. They think their obsession is a commitment to quality, but it’s actually an illusion of perfection. Quality is relative, subjective and situational. What the entrepreneur thinks is a “quality product” a customer may devalue. Perfectionism is NOT quality, and in many cases, by needlessly chasing perfection, the entrepreneur will take his focus off of the things that matter.  Business owners chase perfection when they make that all-time faux pas of becoming the business. When we unknowingly believe our value rests in the perfection of our business, we are doomed to fail. Business is perfectly imperfect. Get used to it.

3)    The third mistake business owners make is they obsess and minute details versus spending time prioritizing the things that really matter to making a business grow.  There are ONLY 3 priorities for business success, and all resources (including the entrepreneur’s time) should be allocated against these priorities.
a.    Generating New Business: By focusing on lead generation and sales activities with more than 50% of the business owner’s time, the business will maintain its growth. Businesses, like people, are either growing or dying, so if the entrepreneur’s focus isn’t on growing the business, it will start to die.
b.    Growing and Serving the Business You Have: 40% of all prioritization of resources should be placed on growing the existing business, by providing the best possible experience and ensuring customers are delighted. In addition, spend time thinking of ways to GROW with your customers. How can they become champions of your business, and tell your story.
c.    Driving Efficiency: Believe it or now, only 10% of a business owner’s time should be spent here, even though most entrepreneurs obsess about details with time that would be better spent elsewhere. Building a business is messy. Make it better AS YOU GO. The reason why entrepreneurs spend too much time driving efficiency is because of the next two pit-falls.

So, regardless of where your business is on the scale of perfection, rethink your priorities, remind yourself that business is perfectly imperfect, and separate your value from your business.  You are MORE than your business. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

There’s a New Breed of Workers Changing the World of Work

By Terri Maxwell

By now you've heard something about the new world of work, and probably have sensed my passion about the topic.

But there is something you don't know...that will either strike fear in your heart, or put joy in your step.

What is powering the new world of work isn't the economy, or the disruptive technologies sending work into the cloud. No...those are just enablers. What is powering the new world of work is a new breed of worker who has turned talent into a marketplace, rather than a workplace.

This new worker is intrinsically motivated, rather than seeking motivation externally. This new worker puts passion for work, above rewards for work. This new worker knows they can command better pay, and won't buy into the old corporate system that used benefits, and regular pay checks as a drug that got workers trapped in doing jobs they didn't enjoy for people they didn't trust or even like.

That's what the new world of work is about: workers who shed the old system, and in their search for freedom and meaning, they changed the game by turning talent into a marketplace. In this new marketplace the best pay goes to the highest quality work, to the workers filled with passion and to skills that the market values. Think about it: in a marketplace, the MARKET sets the price, not the supplier. So, in the new world of work, your compensation is set by the market, not the employer. It's a totally new game!

This article from Inc. Magazine outlines the leadership characteristics of this new worker. 

In the new world of work, leadership is essential, but passion and internal drive are the fuel to success. Those professionals who "take what they are given" will settle for less, while the professionals who "create what they want" will win the game.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shark Tank: The Power of Perseverance Over Ideas

by TERRI MAXWELL on APRIL 30, 2013

I was blessed to participate in 2 Shark Tank pitches for business owners who have gone through our programs.

I realized that one of the reasons the sharks want to see that entrepreneurs have sold their product without money, is not just to validate the idea. It's because they want to understand the level of perseverance. Are you willing to do WHAT EVER it takes to be successful?  Including finding ways to get your product sold without money.

Believe it or not, there are zillions of ideas floating around Dallas: from Cajun Turkey bites, to Social media apps, to a device that turns regular shoes into bowling shoes or golfing shoes.

As I watched these budding entrepreneurs I was reminded that the power of entrepreneurship is not the idea. Ideas are a commodity.

What makes a business concept work is the level of perseverance of the entrepreneur. 

You have to be ridiculous passionate about your concept.

You have to believe in yourself when no one else does.

You must dust yourself off when you fail, and find new ways of motivating yourself when the walls seem bigger than your ability to overcome.

Building a business isn't about the entrepreneur's idea. It's about the power of perseverance that beats in the hearts of those who refuse to quit.

As I've always said: Entrepreneurs have great ideas and no money. Business owners work hard and have a little money left over. CEO's do what is necessary to become financially free. Choose wisely.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thriving in the New World of Work Requires Finding Your Why

The most important question for businesses and professionals attempting to navigate the New World of Work isn't where we are going, but why it matters in the first place. The ever-increasing pace that sets the tone for our life and livelihood puts many in a situation to wonder why they do what they do. From a business standpoint, competition for talent is immense, and that talent wants to know why your business is important. The talent is also looking for why they matter and how all that can align to create a positive solution for everyone involved.
It comes down to searching and learning one thing – why they matter. Truly, it’s a quest to find their purpose.
Purpose Matters for Business
Purpose is a definitive statement about the difference a business makes in the world. If a company has a purpose and can articulate it with clarity and passion, employees are better able to understand WHY the company exists and how they can add value.
Management is aligned, employees know why their business matters and everyone is clear about how to achieve the purpose. When companies find employees aligned with their purpose, these employees are intrinsically passionate about the work.
With the New World of Work, businesses can source talent from virtually anywhere. On one hand, it may seem as if the business has the power. However, the real benefit of the New World of Work is that talent can find work anywhere. There are no boundaries to job searches, and they can literally pick up projects globally. The best talent, both salaried and contract, will be attracted to companies that have a clear sense of purpose—a clear why.
Professionals and Purpose
For professionals, you too must know your purpose – who you are as opposed to what you do. Start by asking yourself these questions:
  • Which areas of your work do you truly excel?
  • What are your passions?
  • How do they serve?
The more clearly you understand your purpose—your why—the easier it will be to evaluate work opportunities as you chart your path in the New World of Work.
Purpose isn’t something you do when you retire. Purpose is who you are.
Your purpose was the same when you were a six-year-old, and was what probably attracted you to a particular field of study in college. If most of us had been left alone to follow our passions, our careers would have looked dramatically different. Your purpose will be the same when you die. The question is whether or not we will live our purpose in-between our life and our death.
Purpose is your personal and professional why. It’s who you are, and it’s what you’re meant to bring the world. It’s your unique gift, and it can be the best compass for charting a path in this New World of Work.

For more tips on making the most of the new world of work, visit www.newworldofwork.com. Learn more about our new book, The New World of Work: From Cube to the Cloud.