Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Billy's Twenty-ninth Law: Entrepreneurs are forward looking,"Future people".

Don't stop, thinking about tomorrow,
Don't stop, it'll soon be here,
It'll be, better than before,
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone.
Christine McVie

Entrepreneurs share many characteristics.  We are focused, persistent and often stubborn.  One characteristic shared by many successful entrepreneurs is a forward view of life.  I thought that this was normal until a friend of mine recounted a recent episode he had with a customer.
This customer didn't treat my friend's staff well.  He was interfering, critical and downright rude.  My friend is a great believer in customer service, however; he draws the line at this kind of disrespectful behaviour towards his people.  He brought it up with the individual involved and nothing changed.  He then went over the head of this individual to the customer's boss.  My friend told the boss that he was at the point of refusing the work if the situation did not change. The situation improved, but the bad blood remained for years.
My friend is a proactive fellow.  He doesn't like 'bad blood' so he visited the individual in question.  He went to his house (it's a small town) and wanted to resolve any issues.  He man was so angry he was shaking.  He accused my friend of costing him $20,000, presumably in bonuses.  They had a drink, talked it out and my friend left on better terms.  This happened four years after the original event!  This customer had held on to this for four years...all the time still working with my friend's company.

So Bill...what's your point?

People live lives in one of three ways.  Some people live in the present.  They really live for today.  I envy people like that as they don't tend to worry or fret about the uncertainties of the future or the mistakes of the past. They can take life as it comes and enjoy each moment for its own pleasure. 
Some people live in the past.  They remember the 'good old days', which were often not nearly as good as they thought that they were.  They dwell on past successes, they obsess about past wrongs.  They cannot get past their previous mistakes.  I think of Bruce Springsteen's song Glory Days:

Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days

Entrepreneurs live in the future.  They learn from, but don't dwell on mistakes.  They have the sense of urgency to get today's work out today, but keep the medium and long term in mind.   Things are always going to get better.  Mistakes are just 'water under the bridge'. (OK, we use many clich├ęs as well.)  Entrepreneurs are 'future people'.
There is a psychological concept called 'egocentricity'.  It can mean self-centered, but it can also describe the ways in which we see our own behaviour as normal.  If you are forward looking, you assume that everybody else is forward looking as well. This is a problem, especially when communicating with an individual rooted in his or her past.  This difference in perspective causes difficulty, especially in the work place.  When communicating with a backwards looking person, consider the following:

  1. Acknowledge the importance of the past.
  2. If the past was positive emphasise ideas such as carrying on the tradition.  If the past was negative, emphasise the importance of learning from past mistakes.
  3. Sharing your future vision is less important than celebrating past successes. Watch your present/past/future ratio.
  4. Realize that you communicate differently and that you value different things.
Awareness is half the battle.  Effective communication means adapting to the receiver.  This is especially true when communicating with customers and employees.  Remember, not everybody is a forward looking entrepreneur.  Keep this in mind next time communications difficulties arise.

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