The Courage to Really Step Up

The woman was handed the mike in our small room of about 150 people.  She was nervous about her question to the man on the panel just a few feet away from us.  And she had every right to be, given whom she was about to speak to.

And even though the woman was not 100% clear with her question, the man was extremely kind, patient and understanding what she was really asking.  For he had been through it himself before.

The woman needed a mentor or key angel investor to help her take her new green product packaging company to the next level.  In her voice you could hear her passion and commitment to her business idea.  And her frustration.

And Sir Richard Branson, the founder and chairman of Virgin Group, and a multi-billionaire, got this passion and frustration.  He was smiling at her as she spoke.  When she was done he briefly encouraged her to keep at it using her passion.  And she is doing just great so far.

And even though he had to leave this week’s Business Climate 2010 panel for green businesses, on his way out Sir Branson waived to the woman who had asked the question to join.

And with a huge smile of someone fully realizing she would remember this moment the rest of her life, she quickly got out of her chair and joined him.

Now it almost doesn’t matter what happened next with her and one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs.  But what does matter is the fact she had the courage to step up and act.

How many of us have memories of when we should have just acted, said or done something differently in the heat of a moment, how different things might be today?  I certainly do.

In business you can be dead in the water if you fail to quickly step up.

Particularly right now.  With the economy and environmental challenges we are facing, and as the Business Climate 2010 event clearly illustrated, here are the top three areas all entrepreneurs can seriously step up ASAP:

  1. Profitability—.  Playing small and thinking small gets you more of the same:  small results.  Sir Branson and other key speakers were saying all day how incredible, and challenging, the climate is for new, green businesses.  It is our duty as entrepreneurs to find ways to step up and build a profitable business model that works long term.  Thinking you are already playing big?  Keep in mind there is a difference between playing big and playing busy.  Understanding the differences can create a whole new world for you.
  2. Environmental integration—if you have not explored taking your product/service-based company green, you are rapidly outdating yourself.  In order to avoid being the manufacturer of buggy-whips at the turn of the 20th Century, you must step up in this area.  Find what environmental issues you can address and challenges you can solve.  It is no longer an acceptable excuse to say you’re too busy, or not a priority or you don’t know where to get started.  Stepping up will dramatically re-position your company.  Think you’re already stepping up?  Where have you NOT worked on?  Those areas of your business that is not helping to improve the planet’s natural resources is the place to start looking ASAP.
  3. Social—in his wonderful book, Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken explains how incredibly inter-connected both society and the environment are.  Additionally, it makes good, solid business sense to integrate the communities into your business practices.  It helps to create powerful brand loyalty, no matter how big or small your business is.  Without it, you will struggle.  Engage it through social media or events for your community and business will soar.  For example, I am most recently getting involved in two:  being a mentor at the Eugene M. Lange Center for Entrepreneurship at Columbia’s Business School and helping Fabien Cousteau (grandson of Jacque Yves Cousteau) with his Plant a Fish non-profit based in NYC.  Because of this, both have expressed an interest in promoting my next Green Entrepreneur Summit in November.

And when you decide to step up, I mean, really step up and stop playing small, things will start to shift dramatically for you.

Once you do you will look back some day, just like that woman will most likely do with her encounter with Sir Branson, and say, “That was the turning point for me in my business!”

Action Steps for the Week:

Where have you been playing small?  Holding back in your business?  Telling yourself the time is not quite right yet?  When x, y or z is in place, then I’ll be ready?

Well, stop it!  If it doesn’t happen now, it becomes exponentially less likely it will happen in the future.

Get clear on the following:

  • What are you most committed to?  Be clear on how much you are willing to do to make it happen.  Really happen!  Play nothing but full-out!
  • What will it take for that to happen?  Plan what you are going to present to the world.  Ask yourself powerful questions to ensure the likelihood of your success.
  • Implement your first steps.  Take any action.  Small and manageable “baby steps.”
  • Use a sounding board.  A mentor, coach, advisor, someone neutral and experienced that can help you play really, really big.

Lastly, manage the voice in your head.  You know which one I am referring to.  The one that tells you that you are crazy to go for it.  Just say, “Thank you for sharing, and now excuse me, I have work to do!”