The most powerful thing you can do to inspire an entrepreneur? Tell them something can’t be done.
Whether they admit it or not, every successful entrepreneur likes a bit of a fight – not conflict or negativity, but being told they “can’t”. It’s something in our DNA: the bring-it-on gene.
When I first had the idea to franchise 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, every expert I talked to said it would never work. It was exactly the spark I needed to figure out how to take junk removal global — and I did.
Successful companies find a way to activate the bring-it-on gene in each and every employee, not just their executives. They pass that same entrepreneurial spirit — scrappy, whatever-it-takes, willing-to-fail — up and down the organizational chart.
We don’t tell our team members “they can’t” (quite the opposite, actually), but we do encourage everyone, from our truck drivers to our sales department, to embrace their tenacious inner go-getter. Here’s how.
1. Get the Adrenaline Pumping
“When was the last time you did something for the first time?” is one of my favorite quotes for a reason: it’s a powerful feeling to throw yourself into an unfamiliar situation and find out what you’re capable of.
In January, 16 members of our sales team went to do the Nascar Experience. They hopped into high-speed cars and drove 200 KPH around a track, pushing themselves past their limits. Whether it’s sending our management team snowshoeing, setting up Tough Mudder training teams in the office, or encouraging every employee to create a list of 101 Life Goals, I believe that getting out of your comfort zone is the key to accessing the entrepreneurial spirit.
Entrepreneurship, after all, is about forging your own path and learning to embrace the risks along the way. Adrenaline-pumping activities, ones that challenge people to push themselves, activate that same sensibility. In a very direct way, these activities prove we’re all more capable, more brave, and more hungry than we ever imagined.
2. Huddle Up
Every morning at 10:55, the whole office gathers for a seven-minute standing meeting. We call it a huddle, and the sports metaphor is no accident.
Just like in a football game, the huddle serves a few functions: it’s a chance to celebrate. It’s a moment to review our systems. But most of all, it helps us rally the troops for the day’s challenges.
Right now, we’re all-hands-on-deck mode implementing Salesforce, a multi-million dollar, bazillion-hour project that’s requiring some serious late nights. Rolling out software is always a hard thing to do, but reinforcing that we’re all facing this challenge together gets that team spirit, whatever-it-takes vibe going. It kind of feels like we’re in battle, and having daily huddles to communicate our plan of attack gets everybody on board and in work-warrior mode.
3. Take Epic Risks, Embrace Failure
Entrepreneurship is a big-risk-big-reward way of life — which means failure is major part of it. If you’re not comfortable with the possibility of flopping as you chase big dreams, you’ll never go after huge opportunities.
The challenge is to foster the same willing-to-fail attitude in our employees: to show them it’s OK to crash and burn in the pursuit of greatness. So at O2E Brands, we have a willing-to-fail room — a symbolic space to dream big without fear of repercussions. We also talk about our own fails honestly and openly. For example, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s expansion to the UK was a colossal failure that wasted a lot of time and money. But we learned from our mistakes and found success when we moved into Australia. We’re even thinking of putting in a “fail wall of fame” to demonstrate our epic fails and what we learned along the way.
Every day in our office, I see examples that prove the bring-it-on gene is alive and well, from the team who devised and implemented a new online booking system to the innovators who got us to pilot Christmas lights with Shack Shine. If that’s not the behavior of a true entrepreneur, I don’t know what is.