The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Leadership Excellence

Navigating in today’s marketplace.

Published in Sales and Service Excellence, November 2008

By Marilyn McLeod

The current economy is tough.  Global competition is changing the workplace, so career advancement is more competitive.  You need to take control of our career and be proactive.  Take some lessons from those who have made a career of branding their own product or service, and taking it to the marketplace as entrepreneurs.

I help people develop behaviors to become more effective as leaders in dealing with their customers and other stakeholders.  Successful leaders accept responcibility for their lives and careers; they put in the effort required and find creative solutions until they get the important things done.  Less successful leaders find someone to blame and tend to whine about not getting the right opportunities.  It’s impressive to blame others whenyou’re the only one calling the shots.

Take Seven Steps

            Here are seven steps you can take to owning your career path and professional development:

  1. Accept that you are the one who must champion your new creation.

            You may think your product or service is your starting point, but your key is closer to home.  You are the one who will be putting in the long hours to bring it to fruition.  You have to be healthy to carry this responsibility, and you have to be happy to carry it long enough to make it work. 

            What makes you happy?  Wdo you especially enjoy doing, and who do you most like to spend time with?   What are your values?  What roles most appeal to you?  Define a career that matches who you authentically are as closely as possible.

  1. Adjust your goals, products or service to suit your customers.

            You may have the greatest product ever, but if the timing isn’t right nobody will buy.  You must either sign up to create a new market niche, or consider adjusting your goals to fit your customers.  This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your pet project.  It’s about being realistic with current trends.

            Spend some quality time with the people you most enjoy being around and listen to them on their terms.  Learn what they need, and from that perspective start thinking about what valuable improvement in their lives you can provide.  A customer is more inclusive than just the people you’re hoping will buy what you’re selling.  Think about the people who support you … your co-workers and your family.  They have needs, too, and will be more receptive to help if you’re interested in making their lives better first.

  1. Seek and listen to feedback about your business.

Regardless of who you are and what you bring to the marketplace, I suggest you actively seek input from others.  You could save yourself significant time and money over the long term.  Once you are better acquainted with what makes you happy and what your customers need, consider adapting your business model to match your market.  Keep your original ideas on file.  I find my first ideas are often inspired and it’s helpful to remember what they were when the right time finally does come around.

            Don’t expect yourself to be good at everything.  Find strategies or other people to help you with the necessary tasks you don’t do as well.  If it’s not necessary, take it off your list.

4.  Focus on tasks that are most important.

            How well do you keep track of your time and resources?  Do you know what you did with each hour?  Or do you begin each day running and you just keep going until there’s no day left and you’re exhausted?  Are you spending most of your time on your most important tasks?

            Create a list every night of the next day’s most important tasks or priorities.  If the list is too long, make it shorter or circle the one or two items that will make the most difference.  Then schedule at least 20 minutes to one hour of quiet, uninterrupted time to focus on just those few items.  Don’t multi-task during this hour.  Just make progress on your most important items. 

           Do this every day, the same time each day.  Let people know which part of your day you’re available, and which part of the day your door is closed and your phone unanswered.  You can create a system in case there’s an emergency during that hour, but usually the world can adjust and allow an hour for concentrated, focused work.

5.  Sell your personal brand along with your product.

            For any business to be successful, someone has to sell something.  If you’re managing your career, you’re selling your personal brand.  If you’re shy, join Toastmasters or get involved with a professional group.  Practice talking with people.  Think about what you have to offer professionally, and learn to convey this in brief statements that people respond to with interest.

            How likeable are you?  Do people trust you?  Read What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith and see if you can discover ways you can become more effective in your interactions.

6.  Ask how you are doing and follow up.

           Resist the urge to just keep going along the same track without asking your customers how you’re doing.  Why don’t we ask?  People like being asked for their opinion.  It conveys respect and appreciation, which is what you want your customers to feel when they think of you.  There is so much valuable information to be gained by asking.

           Whether they are right or wrong, remember that you are listening to their perception and they’re the ones writing the check.  Even if they have a negative perception, you need to know what they’re thinking.  If you ask the question, they can let you know the problem, and you have the chance to fix it.  If you can’t fix it, you can at least let them know how much you value the relationship.

7.  Celebrate and have fun.

            Life and business are so much easier when you’re having fun.  People are more attracted to you when you’re light hearted and inspired.  Remember what makes you happy, and include it as part of your day.

            Think about what makes your customers happy, and spend part of your day doing something fun for them you know they’ll appreciate.  That little extra really makes a difference.


Marilyn McLeod has been coaching entrepreneurs since 1980 in time management, 1990 in computer technologies, and 2002 in Goldsmith behavioral coaching.  She is the author of 7 Steps to Success in Business & in Life:  During Recession or Recovery published on Kindle 2009.  Her current clients include Marshall Goldsmith, Gary Ranker, Chris Coffey, and Cathy Greenberg.  You can find her at, and reach her by email at or 760-644-2284.

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