Saturday, November 26, 2011

When the student is ready...EntreLeadership

When I first realized I was probably going to "have to" take this little Truck Buddy idea to whatever conclusion I had to, I wished for a manual to tell me what the hell I needed to do. There was nothing out there. Sure, there were a million books about business, but nothing that gave me the bare bones "This-is-what-you-must-do" kind of book. That's because it hadn't been written yet. Now, fortunately, it has been: it's Dave Ramsey's EntreLeadership.

Actually, I probably would have passed on the book had it existed four years ago. I was looking for a book specifically about the moving industry that didn't bore me to tears. I needed to know things like how to find insurance, what KIND of insurance I needed, what regulations applied to my kind of business, and, of course, where on earth do you find the things you need to comply with?!? (Let me tell you -- there's nothing more unnerving than knowing you don't know much about what to do, but knowing that that ignorance WILL sink you if you don't learn it fast.) EntreLeadership isn't that kind of book, but it's a must-have if you're interested in creating an authentic company culture, having some idea of where your company is going, and how to avoid letting little deficiencies turn into big, fatal problems later.

Reading it now, after four years of experience, I realize that it couldn't have come at a better time for me personally, and for the business. I might have dismissed it as theoretical fluff -- which would have been a huge mistake. It's not theory. It's as he says -- "20 years of practical business wisdom from the trenches." This is, as Ramsey says, they're playbook for their business. Four years ago I was pulling out my hair (with predictable consequences, as I'm now almost bald) trying to figure out the nuts and bolts of a new business while on a shoestring budget. (Actually, I had about half a shoestring). I didn't have the time or patience for such a book. Now, nothing is more valuable on my bookshelf.

As you might have gathered from the title, it's about leadership for entrepreneurs. It's all in there -- goal-setting, decision-making, marketing systems, personnel management and more. One theme runs through every chapter -- how to stay on target with your goals, and how to encourage everyone on your team to reach for that goal.

He stresses service in everything his company does -- service to both his customers and his staff. Not fluffy sloganeering, but actual, authentic service to everyone. As far as Ramsey is concerned, there's no other way to conduct business. I was particularly gratified to read that because I've tried to stick to the same principle with My Truck Buddy since Day 1. If you're not serving people, you may have some success, but not as much as you would otherwise.

He's an unapologetic Christian, and that might turn some people off, but he doesn't beat you over the head with the Bible. Whatever you might think of Christianity, the bits of the Faith he slips into the text are unarguably relevant to running a "socially conscious" business striving for a servant mentality.

I've been listening to the audiobook on my daily epic commute. I was thrilled to realize I've been doing about half of what he suggests. And, I was mortified to realize I'd neglected approximately the other half. In fact, some things I'd been doing I'd thought were really clever or shrewd were actually bad. EntreLeadership has re-aligned my whole mindset about my business, and business in general. We've already been busy preparing for 2012, but this book is giving us a much, much better foundation.

The book isn't for everyone. If you have no intention of ever running your own business, or you have no plans or expectations to ever be in charge of "team members," you won't get as much out of it. Don't get me wrong -- you'll get something out of it -- but, it's really for people who want to be the best leaders they can in all areas of their lives. God forbid I ever become some kind of business guru, but if I were to ever give anyone instruction in that area, this would easily be the first, perhaps only, book I'd ever recommend.

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