WHAT IT TAKES
By: Steve Pulley, Co-Founder + Chief Operating Officer, Mortarr
There are thousands of books, podcasts, articles — you name it — on what it takes to be a great leader and to build a great company. My cliff notes below are what I have gleaned from them and what has worked for me. You need to get started, keep things running, and remember to pay attention to yourself.
Align your passion and business.
Work in a field that interests you. Work doing what you love because you are going to be working a lot. If you love numbers, do something with numbers. If you love to write, do that. The average adult spends the majority of their life working, and please, I beg you, try to have what you do for a living be something you enjoy. It sounds so simple, but it is not. That was a pivotal moment in my life — aligning my passion with what I did for a living. Doing so has provided me with the opportunity to not only work so I get that W2 but work so I have something that pays me when I am not working.
Focus your business, but retain your curiosity.
In business, it is all about focus. You cannot continually chase the next shiny thing. But remember to let your own curiosity run wild. There is an Einstein quote that has always resonated with me, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Read books and articles on different topics, listen to podcasts, learn about things — even when they do not directly relate to your line of work. Being open to new thoughts and ideas means being open to new ways of thinking and new perspectives. Why is Tesla such a special car company? Because they do not think they are a car company. Mortarr is a tech company that is servicing the commercial construction and design world instead of the other way around. That outsider perspective positions us well to shake things up. We want these companies, these professionals, to think about themselves and their work differently.
You need core values, and you need to live them.
Core values define who your company is and its place in the world. They help you make decisions, they help you stay focused, they help you attract the right people. And by right people, I mean those who hold the same value system dear but who think differently. We want people who are not like-minded. Diversity breeds great ideas.
Hire the right people.
We implemented Gino Wickman’s Entrepreneurial Operating System at my previous company and one of my favorite of their six key components is the people component. You have to surround yourself with great people, top to bottom, who follow your core values. With EOS every employee has to get it, want it and have the capacity to do it. GWC. That right there makes it easy to have the right people on your team. Leaders need to empower people, and then get out of their way.
CORE VALUES DEFINE WHO YOUR COMPANY IS AND ITS PLACE IN THE WORLD.
Find your secret sauce.
I tell my kids this all the time. Easy work, hard life; hard work, easy life. It is easy to be average, but if you want to be special, you need to find your secret sauce. You need to understand “your” marketplace and what “you” can deliver. Mortarr’s secret sauce is that it is the inexpensive option for pros and brands to be found in the commercial construction and design business.
Know what to do, but more importantly, know what not to do.
How? Experience. When you work for someone, watch what they do and what they do not do and keep note of what you like and what you do not. How do they listen? How do they make decisions? Are they flexible? How do they work with a team? Then use that knowledge to be your own leader. And be authentic. Do not try to emulate or imitate whoever is famous at any given moment.
Do not go at it alone.
Have a mentor, advocate or peer group to use as an advisory board. Of all the things that have worked for me, two easily rise to the top of that list – EOS and Vistage. While I was with my previous company, we got to a point where we hit a ceiling and could not figure out how to keep growing. A friend recommended Vistage, an executive coaching organization, and it changed everything. No one else in my group was in my industry, and it gave me the opportunity to meet with peers on a regular basis and have an honest conversation about how things were going. It got me out of my environment and challenged me to think differently. What EOS did was it allowed us to cut through the BS. Our holes became evident, and it became apparent that we needed to restructure. Things that were really hard, were made simple.
Leaders and businesses do not succeed overnight — their success comes in increments. Some big, some small, some earned, some stumbled upon. Think of it this way: You do not get in shape by only working out for eight hours one day. You get in shape by working out consistently and incrementally harder over time. I am sure there is an Einstein quote about that too.