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COMPANY CULTURE

"Aha" Moments of 4 Small Business Owners
 

At a recent conference, entrepreneurs identified the most important takeaways they were bringing back to work with them.

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During the Small Giants International Summit earlier this month, I asked attendees if they had any "aha" moments. What I discovered was that most of the "aha" moments weren't groundbreaking or large in scale. They were bits of wisdom or information that, upon reflection, resonated deeply. It was great to see how a little bit of perspective helped turn moments into powerful tools for change.

Here are four lessons you can learn from the "aha" moments of other leaders:

Your biggest heroes made bigger mistakes than you did--and survived.

As an exercise during the conference, every attendee who made a financial mistake was asked to stand up until the size of her largest financial misstep was called out. The "aha" moment didn't come from the last person standing. It came from one attendee who sat down very early. At the end of the conference, she shared that she had resigned herself to the idea that she might not overcome what she thought was her huge financial mistake. But by sitting next to someone who'd made a mistake 1,000 times larger and gone on to great success, she realized the money she'd lost was counterbalanced by the experience she had gained. I'm not saying that mediocre finances won't end your business (they will), but you'd be surprised by what you're able to recover from.

Take on outside investment and your culture will be on the line.

I learned this a few years ago, but it was driven home by one start-up attendee who was facing the prospect of bringing in outside capital. As he sat through a debate between two private equity leaders who stated unequivocally that, yes, when new money comes in, old ways will go, he realized that no matter what is said, written, or inferred, outside investors will not have the same passion for his culture that he has. The end result? Deciding then and there that he was going to bootstrap it. If that prospect also leaves you up at night, taking on outside investors won't let you rest easy.

If it doesn't fit your purpose, drop it.

I love new ideas and opportunities. But the reality of pursuing too much was eloquently stated by one attendee: "To truly succeed, you need to fully embrace your DNA and make sure that you're working on projects that energize you and serve a higher purpose!"

Remember, shiny things may be fun to look at, but they're detrimental if they're not helping you fulfill your greater business purpose. Add the miscellany to your "Don't Do List."

You're only as alone as you choose to be.

When asked what was so important about being at the conference, one attendee stood up and said that because she thought of her definition of success as contrary to the standard, she often felt she was on an island all on her own. It wasn't until she took the chance to put herself out there at our values-based conference that she discovered she wasn't alone in her thinking. "I felt as if my opinion mattered, that I was heard and that others understood some of the challenges that I face running a small, family-owned business. There were so many brilliant people in the room, and it was great to be able to make connections and even begin friendships throughout the conference."

What are you doing to find this feeling and camaraderie for yourself? As you go out into the world, make it a point to open up your mind and take the chance that something you encounter today will provide an "aha" moment for you and your business. I think you'll find that moment is much closer than you imagined. Maybe you even just read it.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Jul 19, 2012

PAUL SPIEGELMAN is the chief culture officer at Stericycle and founder and former CEO of BerylHealth. He also co-founded the Small Giants Community with Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. You can read more at PaulSpiegelman.com.
@paulspiegelman




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