Don’t Mourn; Organize
Leapfroggers don’t fall prey to the paralysis of bitterness or sorrow. When they get shafted, they turn anger into energy. When things go sideways, that energy becomes the fuel for their creativity and drive. In the words of Ebony founder John H. Johnson, “When I see a barrier, I cry and I curse, and then I get a ladder and climb over it.”
Is the universe (or the people in it) giving you resistance? Go out and use that energy to demand you get your shot. Ask for unpublished opportunities and special consideration. Be crafty and adaptable. Make necessity the mother of your reinvention. You’ll get plenty of nos—but they become more oxygen for the flame of action.
Don’t mourn; organize.
Forget Getting to Yes. Get to No.
Throw out the guides on getting to yes. The most important way to get to success today, on our terms, is getting to no. Let’s examine all the things we have tacitly accepted as the status quo. We have been saying yes to too much:
- Yes to getting paid less for doing the same jobs as our male colleagues.
- Yes to workplace “asks” such as organizing events that distract us from projects that lead to promotions and power.
- Yes to double standards in the workplace.
- Yes to taking on the majority of the economic and social burden for our families, for our elders, and for our children.
- Yes to doing the majority of the housework when we’re in heterosexual partnerships.
- Yes to doing business with companies that don’t take care of their workers or the environment.
There’s a place at the table for you—so let’s collectively agree to say no to all the bullshit:
- No to unequal pay.
- No to being the social clerk of our workplaces and our families.
- No to shouldering the majority of the economic burden.
- No to doing all the housework.
And for goodness sake, no to companies that harm workers and the planet.
It’s time to fight tooth and nail for the time and focus we need to launch our businesses and put ourselves and our values at the center of our success stories.
The DIY Business School
There’s no product that’s out there that’s going to help you do exactly what you need. Besides, the art of leapfrogging is about getting better results than everyone else. Use a cookie cutter
one is going to walk up to you with an acceptance letter and a curriculum for the business you’re launching. Be assertive in doing the research, knocking on doors, and building the relationships to create the learning experience you need.
Forget Passion. Find Things You Want to Punch.
Maybe you’ve heard the word ideation get tossed around and aren’t quite sure what it means. Well, it’s exactly that—coming up with business ideas—no technical language or MBA necessary. Two more words that can intimidate and confuse are vision and passion. You don’t have to have your eye on interstellar travel or world peace to make a solid, scalable business. And we’re all passionate about plenty, but funneling those passions into a business isn’t always easy. But things we want to punch? Bring it on! Launching a business is infinitely easier if you know personally what needs fixing. Sometimes the best ideas don’t need much vision at all. They’re right in your own backyard.
What’s making your life difficult? Fix it. Crack open your creativity by starting from the impossible and working backward.
Let the Techies Tech
TECH ALMOST ALWAYS brings a leapfrog effect. Incorporate it into your business model, and you dramatically increase your chances of scaling and attracting customers. You don’t need to be a coder to make it happen.
Being slow to embrace new technology can get you into trouble. Be relentless in picking apart your business, from scheduling to marketing to customer service, to see where an existing application could add value or help you find and serve new customers.
Squeeze Out Every Drop of Value
THE FORMER CFO of McDonald’s famously said, “We’re not technically in the food business. We’re in the real estate business.” What he meant was that McDonald’s made more money by buying real estate and leasing it to franchise owners than it did from hamburger sales.
You don’t need to be a cynical meat-patty mogul to work this hack. Whatever your core business, you owe it to yourself and your customer to be relentlessly creative about looking up and down the value chain to see where you can add revenue, improve margins, and create as much innovation as you can for the business and for your customers.
When the Bar’s Low, Dance on It
WHEN YOU’RE RUBBING two pennies together, you can feel the urge to scrimp or to sacrifice your own values for industry norms. Resist it. Figure out what values differentiate your product, and stick to them relentlessly.
Being proud of your product will make you more successful, and it also increases the chance that you’ll create a real legacy.
The Four-Word Phrase That Gets Shit Done
YOU’RE LAUNCHING A business, or you’re in the early stages. You’ve got a thousand items on your to-do list and a clock ticking. Here’s a shortcut to plowing through every to-do list ever written: Throw it out. Spend some time working on other people’s lists instead. Weirdly enough, this approach helps clock on own problems again and again. The four-word phrase that gets the most done isn’t What do I need? It’s What do you need?
Try to set aside a monthly or quarterly budget for gifts, even a tiny one. A thoughtful token—however small or silly—can be surprisingly profound, even for people who think they aren’t “into” gifts.
Don’t Ever Be Sorry; Be Fabulous
THE POWER COMPLIMENT is a tactic that speaks to the larger challenge for women: How do you communicate power in a world that still wants its women soft and pliable, tricked out with makeup and better tuned for whispering secrets than giving commands? There’s tons of information out there that can help you deal with overcoming these socialized expectations; see power posing, body language, and assertive language.
Don’t wait to be at the negotiating table to practice, say, strong asks. Take advantage of low-stakes business exchanges to exercise the communications muscles that are weak for you—like when you’re talking to customer service about an order that got screwed up.
How Not to Choke on Growth
IT’S EASIER THAN you might think to lose yourself in the excitement of rapid growth. You can wake up one day and find you’ve become a monster or created one.
As a microenterprise, it was just you. The impact you had was limited in scope. But as your business grows, your team will, too. Your operating principles will be theirs. If you empower people, they’ll thrive and pay it forward. If you’re a monster, they’ll mirror that. You’ll be setting the tone
for a culture that will ultimately pervade the rest of the organization, no matter how big you grow. And not only is that problematic from a human point of view, it’s also why many companies sometimes hit a wall. (Uber, anyone?) It’s more than how people are treated in the workplace. What happens inside the walls of your company leaks out into your product, your marketing. Nothing truly great can be built and sustained over time by a culture that sucks. The shortcut: Get it right now, while it’s just you or a few employees. If it seems hard with a few, imagine doing it with a thousand.
Build a Movement, Then a Market
THERE’S YET ANOTHER reason to be clear on the values you stand for before you attempt to grow. It becomes your marketing campaign. Actually, let’s not even call it that. Your real focus shouldn’t be growing a market. It should be building a movement.
you don’t start a movement by thinking about your customers as isolated targets. Community building starts on day 1.
Hire Smart and Tap a New “Monster”
WHEN IT’S TIME to hire up, don’t do it yourself. Just don’t. Hiring is the most difficult task business owners face and one of the worst places we can screw up. A bad hire can gut punch your entire business, particularly when you’re small.
But beyond that, there’s a risk in relying on your own networks or traditional channels to make hires. It’s an easy mistake to make: The candidate whose résumé comes in referred by someone you trust feels like a sure thing. But here’s the problem: Referrals limit your search to your existing network or one step beyond. In most cases, that approach assures that the candidates you get are going to look and think like you: same ethnicity, same socioeconomic background, same schools, same clubs.
you’re too small to hire a recruitment firm, here are three things you can do to improve your chances of creating a team that’s both talented and diverse:
Make sure that everyone involved in vetting candidates is assessing them against a clear checklist of skills and experiential requirements for success in the role. No one should be giving anyone a thumbs-up based on instinct or their shiny personality.
Don’t make hiring decisions based only on direct referrals from your network. Share job postings with connectors and resources that you know will reach beyond your personal bubble, whatever shapes it.
For help fighting gender bias, check out Iris Bohnet’s book, What Works: Gender Equality by Design, which offers tips to ensure women aren’t turned off by your job ads. For example, keep the list of required qualifications limited to the must-haves, not the nice-to-haves. Women are less likely than men to apply to jobs for which they don’t meet every listed requirement.
Do Good and Make Money
Thinking that someday in the future as a wealthy mogul you’ll sign Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge is no leapfrog. Neither is mistakenly thinking that nonprofits are the only way to change the world. Do good and make money simultaneously; that’s the leapfrog. It’s how you maximize impact, both in your pocket and in your community and maybe even beyond that
So get out there, plant your own seeds. Make money, do good, and HAVE FUN DOING IT!