Entrepreneurial Lessons in 2009

[viddler id-7ac31f31 h-370 w-437]

2009, you sucked! Good riddance to you! That was a horrible year that I just get sick thinking about. As it pertains business matters, it all started in late 2008, the second half of September to be precise, when the economy tanked. The entire country panicked, and the global economy didn’t respond any better. It really was the Global Economic Crisis, and as NPR is now reporting apparently it’s been “abated” but the effects are to linger for quite some time. One thing is certain, CitySquares was affected greatly and quite immediately. I won’t go into the details and the describe the punches we took, those we handed out, and the battle scars we have to show for it, but I will highlight some of the challenges and battles that really stand out in my mind:

  • As soon as the hard times hit I saw an immediate response by the staff at CitySquares. For the most part, the team held together and today we’re tighter and stronger for it. Like a tribe, we stuck together and hunkered down while battles and storms happened all around us. We were not well fortified but we survived and now we’re about to thrive! On the other side of the coin, a couple of our tribesmen demonstrated an inability to persevere and overcome these challenges, and some weaknesses were exposed and ultimately eliminated. Thankfully that ended rather quickly and the tribe was/is better for it.
  • Small businesses, specifically brick and mortars and mom-and-pops, got their asses kicked much like we did. Those who hadn’t yet learned to fly unfortunately fell from the nest and met their demise in ways that were hard to watch. Balances went unpaid, phones disconnected, and personal stories of financial tragedy were common. It was truly heartbreaking to see. Yet many also survived and are resurfacing with tougher skins and stronger businesses!
  • Beyond the staff at CitySquares I also experienced something completely new and foreign to me – board members and shareholders reacting in different ways. The vast majority of them demonstrated a wisdom and calmness that really impressed me and taught me a whole lot about pragmatism and experience. That, however, was not always the case. In a couple of isolated incidents I witnessed naked panic, fear, and fright and this came from the worst places possible in the corporate structure. I will not divulge the details not for lack of transparency but for reasons of respect and professionalism – that is a fine balance you know! As a result of these panicked and frightened reactions it was apparent to me that something had to change and change immediately or the company was destined to collapse for unacceptable reasons. It’s one thing to fail because a business model fails, or because of timing or market and/or economic reasons, but its another to fail because of human emotions, poor judgement, and failure to communicate and work as a team. At the end of the day, however, our shareholders demonstrated their commitments to the company but continuing to support us financially and through other supportive means. Again, we are now better for it!
  • As a leader I learned so many lessons in the past 12+ months, but two in particular that I will not ever forget. For the sake of brevity there were a few incidents in the first half of 2009 when I lost control of my emotions and let anger and fear win. These incidents are not something I care to revisit in detail and am embarrassed to detail. I have made amends in both instances. These two cases taught me some huge lessons, lessons that took me months to truly understand and apply to life and work.
  • In a tribal organization like ours, loyalty, communication, and teamwork are absolutely vital. What became incredibly apparent to me was how strong the tribe is when communication is at its best, when leadership is performing in the right ways, and when the tribesmen are truly committed to each other and to the tribe’s visions and beliefs. There is something almost dogmatic about a small company! I saw people step up to the plate in the most amazing ways. It’s still happening today. People are not willing to settle for less, nor willing to sit back and be OK with the way things are or may be heading, they expect more from themselves, from the others, and from the tribe as a whole. There is much of this happening right now, as it should always be! A sort of shuffling is happening internally, and its happening in a way that is uniting the tribe only more and making the company better and more focused and determined than ever before.

These points are the major ones that stand out for me, as an entrepreneur and as the chief of the tribe. There’s lots of business related stuff too, like how we got through the last 15 months, and what changes we made to our business/model/execution, etc. And those things are continuing to happen, but the reality is this: CitySquares is stronger, more successful, and closer to our goals than ever before! Its because of the above points, among lots of others, that we are here today.

A few of my entrepreneurial goals for 2010 are as follows, and I will soon be blogging about these things:

  1. Continue to grow and mature as an entrepreneur, as a CEO, and a tribal chief. How? Continue to identify and improve those leadership traits where I am weakest, and harness and cultivate those where I am strongest. I cannot do this alone either, I need my tribe to help me, I need to read and learn more, talk less, say more, listen more.
  2. Blog here more often, with transparency, and with purpose.
  3. Create and participate more in entrepreneurial circles, networks, and communities (e.g., The Founder’s Quandary)

I am still working on these ideas and a couple others. I will be blogging again here very shortly. Stay tuned for more!

2010 is going to be an extremely good year for CitySquares. No doubt we still have lots of lessons to learn and battles to fight, that’s par for the course. But if we can survive and unite the way we did in 2009, than 2010 is really going to be something else!

Happy new year to you all, may your 2010 be filled with new found freedom, with health, and prosperity.

Resolution: Project 365

(Click here or scroll to the bottom of this page to see the latest pictures from my Project 365)

One of my new years resolutions for 2010 is to have more fun. Some people might think this’s funny or imply that I already have a lot of fun, as I discovered yesterday! And if that’s the perception among some people, well, that’s fantastic! I’d rather have that be the perception than others.

One of the ways I’m going to have more fun is to focus more on the things I truly enjoy and am passionate, like music (listening and creating), photography (studying and creating), and other things like more outdoors activities and travel. For the sake of this post though, I’ll stick to photography.

For 2010 I’m going to try my absolute hardest to take at least one picture every day. That’s 365 pictures this year, at minimum. This is going to be a challenge because it’ll force me to be more aesthetically aware each day, but the ultimate goal is to make aesthetic awareness more engrained into my daily awareness. This is not some new concept that I whipped up, mind you. Check out what popular photo site Photojojo has to say about Project 365:

WHY DO IT?

Taking a photo a day is a big undertaking with big payoffs. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider doing it:

  • Imagine being able to look back at any day of your year and recall what you did, who you met, what you learned… (Often we find it hard to remember what we did just yesterday or even last night, let alone a whole year ago!)
  • Your year-long photo album will be an amazing way to document your travels and accomplishments, your haircuts and relationships. Time moves surprisingly fast.
  • Taking a photo a day will make you a better photographer. Using your camera every day will help you learn its limits. You will get better at composing your shots, you’ll start to care about lighting, and you’ll become more creative with your photography when you’re forced to come up with something new every single day.

I will use any imaging device that I have around me. In most cases that will be my iPhone 3GS because it’s with me 24 hours a day and there’s some nice iPhone apps for photography that I can use. I may also use my Canon SD750 point-and-shoot, and in some cases my Canon EOS 40D.

Yesterday, Jan 1, 2010 I took my first picture. Today, January 2nd, I’ve yet to take one and have no idea what it will be. This is the fun part, always being aesthetically aware and in my own personal way. All my pictures can be found here on Flickr under the set titled “365 in 2010.” I will also try to include a widget up here on this blog that shows my daily photos, and will also keep a blog entry on BenSarenPhotography.com showing the progress, as well as below…
 

Latest from Project 365

Click a pic to see it a bit larger. You can also see larger versions of them on my Project 365 Flickr set.

I’m trying to take pictures that capture the theme of the day, or a mood. So far, so good. What do you think?
[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157623117114636″ flickr size=”medium”]