INNOVATIVE LEADERSHIP: Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Procrastination at its finest.

As you can see, I have turned my website into my posting area for my masters coursework for the class I am currently taking. I have to say that I am really enjoying the creativity that is unloading from my brain with these assignments.

This assignment – “Innovative Leadership” is right up my alley because it required me to record a podcast and well…I love talking!

Hopefully you make it past my bad jokes and really see the point of the recording. In this podcast I am reflecting on a video that I chose called “The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers” presented by Adam Grant.

I truly enjoyed this TED talk and I hope you enjoy my thoughts.

The Original In Me (Elaina Hamilton – podcast)

A Chat with Colin Croat

Colin Croat (2020)

Outside of taking the same course work in the masters of entrepreneurship program, Colin Croat has been a stranger behind a GroupMe message, Blackboard post, or class email. I always speculated that we had similar thought patterns because of our reactions to class activities (group work can be so much fun!), but my thoughts were truly speculation. I had nothing real to base my thoughts on.

It wasn’t until recently that I heard Colin’s voice for the first time. In a brief interview about himself, it was his quote from North Carolina native hip hop artist J. Cole that made me reconcile that my initial thoughts about Colin were pretty much on point – we are very similar in more ways than we are different.

I asked five questions that are similar to questions that I ask applicants in job interviews to understand who they are as potential staff members. This time my goal was to understand who Colin was as an entrepreneur. He surprised me with a few of his answers, but I am always up for a challenge.

What is your background?

Colin describes his education interest and professional background as mixed. He holds a bachelors degree from Western Carolina University in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. His interest when it comes to public relations is crisis control because it allows one to understand communication on a deeper level.

As a student and young professional, Colin had several internships and jobs in student affairs. This has led to opportunities where he is responsible for overseeing undergraduate students.

This question evolved into the natural conversation about what is in store for his future. He has set goals for year five, ten, and twenty, but there is no direct path to how he will get there. Colin (pleasantly) surprised me when he said he once aspired to attend law school. I was surprised mainly because he’s currently pursuing a masters in entrepreneurship and innovative leadership (MILE). That doesn’t really scream attorney to me! The reason for not pursuing law school made perfect sense for me – going to law school wasn’t the most fiscally responsible decision for him.

See, we do think alike. That is one of the main reasons I took so long to further my education – more student debt, if I didn’t do it the right way. I figured out the “right” way for me, just like Colin.

How do you see what you are currently doing as preparation for your entrepreneurial endeavors?

Colin shocked me again. The degree he is currently pursuing (MILE) is more for the leadership aspect. I found that extremely interesting because I would assume most students are the opposite (pursuing the degree for the entrepreneurial gain).

As he continued telling me more about his plan, his decision started to make more sense.

Colin has an interest in politics. This degree – the leadership aspect – allows him to hone his networking skills. The readings and articles that are assigned in the coursework are transferrable in meetings and committees that will be essential in building communities.What do you believe are the essentials to a successful business?

Colin referenced the Surfers Rules of leadership. This was new to me. I would have never correlated surfing to leadership – but after looking up what those rules are, it works! Two other essentials that Colin feels builds a successful business are passion and impact.

“The hard part isn’t starting, the hard part is stopping.”

Relatable! Anyone that has ever been passionate about something knows first hand how true this statement is.

This was the question where Colin referenced our mutual lyrical connection with J. Cole. As a matter of fact, before writing this interview, I had to take a listen to “Love Yourz” on J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, even though I have heard it more times than I can count.

Paraphrasing J. Cole’s lyrics “…the good news is, you came a long way. The bad news is ….. you went the wrong way…”. Impact. Colin believes that re-evaluting his/your impact that you are making is essential not only to business, but life experiences.

What does retirement look like to you?

Colin talked more about his interest in politics. His fluid path was still prevalent in this question as he spoke about maybe one day being a mayor or governor to build communities. One thing he was sure of was his desire to be the youngest person ever elected as President of the United States.

Swoon. Suddenly I felt inadequate (in my goal setting – ha!) and then almost immediately I was inspired. There are obvious selfless reasons Colin aspires to be President of the United States of America, but his retirement vision doesn’t end there.

Colin hopes to be in a position, “at retirement age”, to look forward to waking up to what he enjoys and loves, even if that means waking up at 8:00 AM.

“It is important to always keep working”.

What truly defines you as a leader?

This question was somewhat impromptu after speaking with Colin about his background, goals and aspirations. I loved the vulnerability of his answer because it wasn’t a “cookie cutter” response. 

He said “A year ago I wouldn’t have known how to answer that question and in a week my answer may be completely different.” While some people may find that statement wishy washy, it makes perfect sense in the grand scheme of leadership – you have to be flexible.

It is clear from our short conversation that Colin has not only an entrepreneurial spirit, but even more so a leadership state of mind.

He describes himself as a motivator and supporter, which is backed up with the the last quote he left me with: “(I) unfill my cup for someone because I know I can fill it back up.”


How SaaS and Other Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue

Authors: Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin

In my last reflection I talked about the focus of my reflection: addressing are Ross and Lemkin’s Seven Ingredients to Hyper-Growth.

The first ingredient is Nail the Niche (Part 1). This whole first section focuses on Nailing the Niche in four (4) chapters:

  1. “Niche” Doesn’t Mean Small;
  2. Signs of Slooging;
  3. How to Nail It;
  4. Your Pitch.

This seems so simple and yet, most companies aren’t doing this “right”! I think most people do not get it right because it is difficult to focus on one thing when you have many interest and/or talents, but who said you cannot have more than one business! Each business should essentially have its own niche – what works best.

Ross and Lemkin indicate that you know you have nailed the niche “when you are able to find and sign up unaffiliated customers. Unaffiliated. Paying. Customers.”

What does that look like? The authors talk about the “Arc of Attention” in respect to nailing the niche. Below is the same image from the book on Aaron Ross’ website.

To put it simply, the authors describe the “High Trust” zone as a business’s early adopters – family, friends, and people you know. The “Gap” is the difference in marketing to people that you may or may not know. The “No Trust” zone is the mainstream buys – mainly people that you do not know.

“The whole point of Nailing the Niche is to help you cross the Trust Gap, moving from depending on buyers on the right side (trust) to being able to better market and sell to buyers on the left side (no trust).”

So HOW do you nail the niche? Chapter 3 speaks directly to this. Here are a few points that Ross and Lemkin make:

  • Specialize in a specific “pain” you save, but don’t get so narrow that you can’t find anyone that has it;
  • Make lists that will produce tangible results to determine your niche (“stop” lists may be most important because it should list the projects that have failed);
  • Stop talking and start proving;
  • Get customer feedback before you build it – surveys are a great way of doing this;
  • If nothing happens, that’s not a failure if you see it as useful information, too.

The last bullet stands out most to me because I believe “failure” produces growth and opportunity to learn. Business is about relationships, even through failure. One of the first things that we learn to do in life is build relationships – whether good or bad. We build relationships with our parents and sibling (family), then friends (and foes) at school, we move on to learn how to build relationships with classmates and coworkers, romantic relationships are sprinkled throughout, and in entrepreneurship we build relationships with clients.

Those entrepreneurial relationships are important beyond building revenue. They are important with learning how to build your business or take it to the next level. In your early stages building relationships will be critical in finding your niche.

(D) Week Two Reflection: From Impossible to Inevitable

How SaaS and Other Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue

Authors: Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin

The opening in the preface says “There’s never even an easier time to grow a business. Ironically, tough, wile everyone else around you seems to be crushing their goals, does it feel like a struggle for you?”

My first thought after reading that was “bingo”. That sentence feels true about most facets of life. Thoughts that have loomed in my head: “I’m not doing enough”, “I’m not going hard enough”, “you can sleep when you’re dead”. All in the name of success. It’s unrealistic, but perception is reality.

It is perceived that in order to be successful, you have to do the right thing, but what is the right thing?

One reason I believe that we have the feeling of struggle while others seem to be yielding success is that it is really easy to overly focus on the things around you instead of focusing on your own goals (and small wins!). Most people also tend to struggle through certain ventures because they are prideful – not interested in asking for help or guidance because it will make them appear that they are not capable of gaining success on their own. 

This book is extremely important to any entrepreneur that desires success or to jump above their current plateau because it is written by two entrepreneurs that used a specific formula to build success. We get to learn from their experience. Experience that would take us years to gain.

As you continue to read my reflection on this book, I am writing with the following in mind – regarding hyper-growth:

  1. “Why aren’t you growing faster?”
  2. “What does it take to get to hyper-growth?”
  3. “How do you sustain it?”

The second set of things that I will be addressing are Ross and Lemkin’s Seven Ingredients to Hyper-Growth.

  1. Nail the Niche
  2. Create Predictable Pipeline
  3. Make Sales Scalable
  4. Double Your Deal Size
  5. Do the Time
  6. Embrace Employee Ownership
  7. Define Your Destiny

Don’t Call it a come back

I’m pretty ashamed to come back to my site and make my first post in nearly 7 years. I have no *good* excuse for being gone so long. Besides the fact that I do not find the same joy in blogging as I do in being creative in other ways.

BUT, I have a great reason for returning.

For years I ran away from furthering my education because I didn’t want any more educational debt. I stacked up enough debt while obtaining my bachelors degree. Not as much as others, I am aware. I’m grateful for that.

Last summer I stopped making excuses and applied for a program that I had been researching for years. It was finally time to make that leap. I chose Western Carolina University’s Masters of Innovative Leadership and Entrepreneurship (MILE).

I am currently enrolled in a course titled Entrepreneurial Innovation (ENT 601-50). This course has led me back to my blog. Sorry if you are chocking on the dust.

Over the next fe weeks I will be posting my responses to books I am reading, assignments that I am completing or maybe just to say hi.

Happy reading!