Why Entrepreneurship Is Critical to Success

Creation Entrepreneurship
Since our founding in 1991, Creation people have had Entrepreneurship in our hearts

What do you think of when you hear the word “entrepreneur”?
A genius?
A millionaire?
An inventor?

Who comes to mind when you think of entrepreneurs?
Steve Jobs?
Bill Gates?
Debbie Fields? (Founder of Mrs. Fields cookies, one of my personal favorites. Yum!)

Hearing the word, ‘entrepreneurs’, I think that most of us conjure up images of famous business founders or owners. Or perhaps the images are of our family members or friends who have gone into business for themselves.

I would be willing to bet that, for most of us, the first image that comes to mind is not of ourselves.

Am I right?

 

Yet, at Creation, entrepreneurs are exactly what we’re encouraged be…to think like entrepreneurs, and act like entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship is one of Creation’s six Core Values, and for good reason.

In the dictionary, an Entrepreneur is defined as:

“a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk”. Entrepreneurship is defined as demonstrating a spirit of “initiative and risk-taking in the way we perform our day-to-day roles and responsibilities“.

So how can we become more entrepreneurial? And why would we want to?

I believe it boils down to three factors:

  • Sense of Ownership
  • Perseverance
  • Dissatisfaction with the Status Quo

 

3 Characteristics of Entrepreneurs

#1 Sense of Ownership

At Creation, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to purchase shares in our own company and literally become owners. You don’t need the shares or stocks, though, if you work for an organization where you don’t have this opportunity or if you aren’t in a position to invest.

Shares or not, we can all act like we’re owners of our company.

Owners take responsibility for results, look for positive ways to solve problems and remove obstacles, and do what needs to be done without being asked or told. Sounds good to me.

#2 Perseverance

One of my favorite definitions of Perseverance is, “picking ourselves up one more time than we fall, or are knocked, down.”

I always think of Rocky Balboa in pretty much every one of the Rocky movies. No matter how much of a beating he took, he always found the strength and courage to get up off the canvas and ultimately prevail over the ‘villain’.

In the workplace, this strength and courage translates into pursuing improvements even in the face of failure, criticism and fear.

The most successful entrepreneurs I know never give up.

#3 Dissatisfaction with the Status Quo

The minute we let satisfaction settle in to our daily outlook, we invite disaster. Try driving down a winding mountain road using only your rearview mirror!

That’s the best metaphor I can think of to describe an individual, team or organization that gets overly caught up in yesterday’s successes.

We all need a healthy dose of dissatisfaction with the way things are, even if we just made significant changes yesterday. Continuous Improvement is rooted in this mindset.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate achievements. We should.

We just need to remind ourselves that successfully navigating the hairpin turns behind us was exciting. And that there’s an endless road full of challenges ahead.

So let’s look through the windshield and identify our next opportunity.

Entrepreneurship in Action: Engineering, Operations and Supply Chain on one of our Customer-Focused Teams in our Milwaukee Business Unit spent a few hours a day for several weeks lending their skills in Manufacturing so that one of our customers could meet an unexpected
Entrepreneurship in Action: Engineering, Operations and Supply Chain on one of our Customer-Focused Teams in our Milwaukee Business Unit spent a few hours a day for several weeks lending their skills in Manufacturing so that one of our customers could meet an unexpected commitment

So what does Entrepreneurship look like at Creation Technologies?

I can think of so many real-life examples, like…

…The person who drove 5 hours to hand-deliver a shipment to a customer because it was produced after the last overnight truck had departed.

…The business unit leadership team that spent the last day of the month working in Manufacturing to ensure our shipping commitments were met.

…The countless regular and daily kaizens that use the best ideas of our people, customers and suppliers to drive improvements in quality, safety, materials, cost and throughput.

…The members of our production teams who proudly lead our customers and prospective customers on tours through their work areas.

There are endless other examples where individuals and teams show this entrepreneurial spirit of initiative and risk-taking. At Creation, Entrepreneurship is about going “the extra mile” for a teammate, customer or supplier.

And it’s always worth it.

How about you? Are you an entrepreneur? Do you see yourself as an owner? Do you have the spirit of “Rocky”? Are you using the windshield or the rear-view mirror?

What are the examples of Entrepreneurship you can share?

2 Things You Can Do Today to Harness the Power of Email

Want to Harness the Power of Email?
Want to Harness the Power of Email?

“There’s no problem that email can’t make worse!” – Unknown

Running across this modern-day “truism” made me reflect on the challenges that I have encountered with email over the years. I’ve experienced my share of frustration with this vital communication tool – too many, unnecessary, inappropriate, too long, missing attachments, confusing, ALL CAPS, and so on.

Any of these ever bothered you?

A key part of the Creation culture is Continuous Improvement, and so we began wondering what we could do to improve our own use of email.

Guess how many e-mails are generated by Creation people in a typical day?

Our company of about 3,000 people sends between 6,000 and 10,000 external emails each day, plus those we send internally. That’s a staggering number any way you look at it.

There were many things running through my mind as I researched email best practices from a variety of sources – the internet, prior training and current teammates. What follows are my preliminary findings and my first top 2 recommendations for improving the way we use email.

Do you want to significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your work habits and help your own company succeed? Read on.

2 Easy Ways to Improve Your Use of Email

    1. Take Your Hands off the Keyboard

      Did you know some experts believe that 93% of all communication that takes place is non-verbal and non-written?

      Let’s start at the beginning. Why are we sending the email in the first place?

      Is it going to someone in the same building in which we are located? If so, would a face-to-face discussion be more appropriate? If not, would a phone call be a better choice?

      If you’re giving direction, feedback or recommendations that have any degree of complexity or emotion in them, a face-to-face discussion is always better.

      Email is one-way communication and is a very poor method of conveying emotion. A huge part of communication is through our facial expressions, gestures, body posture and voice inflection, none of which can be conveyed adequately by email no matter how many emoticons we use! 😉 😕 🙂

 

  1. Limit Distribution & Be Clear about the Action You Want Recipients to Take

    “What do you mean you didn’t do anything about it? I copied you on the email!”

    There are plenty of good uses for email.

    Maybe you’re forwarding an important communication or document from a customer, supplier or teammate. Maybe you’re documenting a conversation we had on a topic that needs to be communicated in writing, or needs to be sent to many people so that everyone gets the same message at the same time.

    When you are sending an email like these ones, don’t fall into the trap! We tend to make two critical errors here – we don’t make clear who we expect to take action, if any is necessary, and we include too many people on the communication.

    Always limit the distribution to those who need to take action or know the information!

    The “To” field should only include those who are expected to act on the email. Ideally this is just one person if follow up of any type is required.

    The “Cc” field should only include those that have a “need to know” for some reason but who do not need to take action on the email. That reason should not include the common “CYA” (Cover Your Assets) to prove to someone that you took action. This behavior is muda (wasteful) and is a sign of a low-trust environment.

    Address the trust issue instead!

    Finally, the “Bcc” field should never be used except in the special case of mass mailing of information where you want to preserve the privacy of the recipients. Using it to communicate “secretly” is a violation of trust – it’s like talking behind someone’s back.

Remember the game of “Whac-a-Mole”? Well this is “Whac-eMail”! How many emails can YOU whack?

Whac-e-Mail... The Email Version
Whac-e-Mail… The Email Version

Seriously, though, if we can all be a bit more intentional by applying some of the simple principles outlined above (and more to come in future posts plus those in this great earlier post by Landon, Are You A Slave to Email? aka Master Your Email Inbox. Today!), we can make a significant reduction in emails which will free up time for all of us. Who couldn’t use a little more time?

What do think? Is email management an issue for you? Are you struggling to stay current with your inbox? Have you had any significant email “breakthrough” experiences? Do you have some favorite email tips that you would like to share?

Company Core Values: What Makes a Value “Core”?

Fruits of the seeds planted across Creation
Our Core Values: Fruit of the seeds planted across Creation

Familiarity breeds contempt. In the case of vocabulary, this means we might use words freely and regularly without respecting them, or examining or revisiting their underlying meaning.

(Of course, if you looked up the definition of every word you use on a regular basis, you wouldn’t have much time to write or talk).

I find it useful, especially when I’m writing or speaking about a topic, to try and take a “fresh look” at a word to see if there are any insights to be gained.

As I prepared to blog about Creation’s Core Values, the word “core” jumped out at me. Why do we call them “Core” Values?

So I went to first place most of us go when we want to find an answer…Google, of course! (Quick trivia quiz – how many of you remember “Ready Reference”?)

Here’s the first definition that met my eye:

Core: (noun) The tough central part of various fruits, containing the seeds.

Obvious, yet so illuminating.

An apple probably came to mind for many of us when we thought of this definition of “core”. I don’t know about you but I’ve eaten my share of apples and thrown away the cores when finished.

Wait a minute! That can’t be it. “Core” Values aren’t meant to be thrown away.

Are they??

Who wants to be Johnny Appleseed?

I’m quite sure many of us were read or told the story of Johnny when we were still too young to peel our own apples.

Though the real Johnny (Appleseed) Chapman was actually a pioneering nurseryman, the story most of us know is of Mr. Appleseed traveling the world eating apples and planting the cores.

As the cores naturally degraded, the seeds inside were released from “captivity” and took root in the soil. Over the years, nature took its course and we ended up with apple orchards scattered throughout Creation (pun intended!).

Is there a moral to this story (or at least an end)?

Glad you asked.

Consider this… What would have happened to the apple seeds if there had been no core?

That’s right! Johnny would have swallowed them.

And then what?

Well if Johnny had lived in the age of indoor plumbing, the seeds would have ended up at the sewage treatment facility. What a tragic ending for the apple trees and orchards! Talk about things going down the toilet! 

I digress.

All this talk about apples is making me hungry…

Core Values: A Foundation for Growth

I think we’re all hungry – for attention, recognition, guidance, partnership, learning, growth, making a difference, and winning, to name a few examples.

The founders of Creation Technologies, Geoff “Applereed”, Dave “Pettiseed”, Paul “Appleclark” and Barry “Henderseed” understood this hunger.

Like many strong business leaders, they knew that in order for a company to satisfy these needs for its people, it would have to grow into a tree, and then eventually an orchard.

So they drafted a list of values that they thought would preserve and guide Creation through good and bad times.

Then they debated, re-drafted, consulted and debated some more.

And then . . . Creation’s Core Values were born!

Boldness, Entrepreneurship, Integrity, Openness, Preparedness, and Respect have been at the “core” of Creation’s success ever since. Every time we honor and live these values we plant seeds for the next trees.

Think of that the next time you eat an apple!

“Of cores” I’d like to hear from you!

Do you have personal Core Values? Family Core Values? What are they? How do you “connect to them” and live them? When is the last time you reflected on them? Is your “orchard” bearing fruit? What kind?

High Trust Leaders & Loyalty to the Absent

High Trust Leaders and Loyalty

Not too long ago, I failed to practice what I preach. It was a painful and illuminating experience that I hope will provide a long-lasting lesson to me. Maybe you can learn from my mistake, too.

It started innocently enough.

I was on a teleconference with about 10 of my teammates across 4 different locations, and I’d volunteered to share my screen so everyone could see the data that we were reviewing.

We were having some fairly pointed discussion about a particular customer request for quote— what we hadn’t done properly and what we should do to salvage the opportunity.

I was a bit frustrated with the situation, as well as the response from one of my teammates during the meeting. His leader was also on the call so I thought I’d “clue him into” my frustration by sending him a quick instant message stating that I expected more from the individual in question.

One problem — everyone on the call saw the message since I was sharing my screen.

Needless to say, it was embarrassing to realize my technological screw up.

More humiliating was my violation of the principle of “Loyalty to the Absent.”

What Is Loyalty to the Absent?

“Never say anything about anyone in their absence that you wouldn’t say in their presence.” These are words upon which I have based my leadership career.

Without following this commonly understood—but not commonly practiced—guideline, you cannot effectively build trust in a team, organization, family or community. And without trust, you have no collaborating, sharing or healthy debating between people and, therefore, an ineffective team.

Stephen Covey has used this term in his discussion of the principles behind the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

“If you want to retain those who are present, be loyal to those who are absent. The
key to the many is the one.” – Stephen R. Covey

He refers to gossip as “bad mud” that will eventually cause the disintegration of the foundation of a relationship, team or organization.

By the way, in today’s era the same guideline applies to “silent conversations” taking place during meetings via texting or instant messaging.

Given that I have been facilitating ‘7 Habits’ workshops for almost 15 years, you’d think I would have known better.

Why Is Loyalty to the Absent Crucial?

You send very specific messages when you criticize a person in their absence. Consider what you are doing:

  1. You’re jeopardizing a relationship.

    When the person you criticized finds out, they will likely lose whatever trust they had in you. Try getting them to help you the next time you need it!

  2. You’re providing a ‘trust indicator’.

    The person or people to whom you are speaking about the “absent” individual are getting a clear indication of your basic trustworthiness. They know that you are just as likely to speak poorly about them behind their backs.

  3. You’re changing how a teammate is viewed by others.

    Last of all, and perhaps most important, we “poison the well” by speaking poorly of others in their absence. Impressions will be formed in the minds of our audience which can lead to bias in their future interactions with the “absent” individual.

Family Matters

This principle of remaining loyal to the absent extends beyond the workplace.

How often have we criticized a family member, relative, neighbor, teacher or coach at the dinner table without a second thought to the effect these words will have on our family and friends? On our children?

What good can possibly come of this activity? Has anyone ever experienced a positive outcome from gossip/backstabbing?

Having true character and being a High Trust Leader and teammate means biting our tongues until we can address an issue in a one-to-one private setting, providing constructive feedback in an effort to help.

Admitting My Mistake & Earning Back Trust

So what happened? How does the story end?

Well, I realized my mistake and continued to facilitate the meeting.

Immediately after the meeting, I called the leader I’d instant-messaged, and expressed my regret and my intention to contact the “target” of my disloyalty to apologize.

Then I followed through and made that phone call to apologize to the individual. Luckily, after that, we were able to have a productive conversation about expectations…what should have happened in the first place.

I concluded by sending an e-mail to all participants in the teleconference to express my regret in violating the same Loyalty to the Absent principle that they have all heard me preach over the years.

The result? To a person, they all appreciated my apology and expressed support for me. I have a great team.

What about you? How would you characterize your adherence to the principle of being loyal to the absent?

On a personal note, a great human being has passed away, but his legacy will live on in the hearts, minds and souls of those he and his teachings touched. I had the honor of meeting and speaking with Stephen Covey twice and have to say he was one of the most influential people that has lived in our lifetime. He will be missed.

What Is Company Culture? How Do You Measure It and Nurture It?

Annual Car Wash Fundraiser
Folks from Creation’s BC locations having fun at an annual Car Wash & BBQ fundraiser for The Boys & Girls Club and the children of Bulembu, Swaziland

What is the Creation Culture or Character?

If we do not have a firm understanding of what it is, how do we plan for it, measure it and understand what needs to be done to achieve it? How do we know we are progressing? Or are we already there?

Can you really put a hard number on a soft topic?

Great questions to be sure.

These were posed to me by a Creation team member following a recent People & Culture Scorecard input session. The People & Culture Scorecard is one tool we use to assess our progress on the journey of never-ending improvement in culture. It consists of several categories and includes some results from our People Survey, small-group interviews and review of observable data.

One of the areas of focus on the Scorecard is how we’re doing as Leaders, and in particular whether our Business Unit Leadership Teams take an active role in developing the Creation Culture.

So how do you define a Company Culture, or Character? How do you measure it?

I’m sure many of us at have had, or been asked, these same questions ourselves. My take on it is that I’m not sure if there is a “hard” answer.

I can understand the challenge of putting a “hard” number on a “soft” category like culture. In my mind, the Creation Culture, and a company’s culture in general, is simply “the way we do things around here”.

The way we think about people (paradigms), drives the way we act (behaviors), which drives the outcomes (results).

It’s the basic See-Do-Get model from Stephen Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.

If we truly embrace our Purpose and Core Values, it will affect, drive, and influence the way we see people. This will influence how we behave toward people. And together this will influence the results we get.

As part of a collective company culture, we have the ability to change the experiences of our teammates, suppliers, customers, family, neighbors, partners, etc., really everyone we interact with.

Building on Trust

Another way to look at it is that trust is the fundamental building block for teamwork, and trust requires trustworthy people.

Trustworthiness = Character + Competence

In this context, the company “Character” is one that exhibits the company’s Core Values and pursues its Vision.

How do we know where we are or if we have arrived?

 

First of all, let me say that at Creation we’ll never arrive because that would not be consistent with Continuous Improvement which is at the core of our Pursuit of Excellence® philosophy.

But in terms of judging where we are, we can ask ourselves some questions.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with “10” being the most amazing experience I could imagine and “1” being the worst:

  • How is my team doing at living our Core Values and pursuing our Vision of “Enriching lives by sustaining strong, profitable growth in an enjoyable and caring culture”?
  • How is my Business Unit doing?
  • How is the Business Unit Leadership Team doing?

On a scale of 1 to 10, with “10” being extremely well and “1” being extremely poorly:

  • How do we resolve conflict as a team;
  • As a Business Unit;
  • As a Business Unit Leadership Team?

There are many ways to identify and understand a company culture. Of course, it’s all relative to a point of comparison and so different people will have different answers.

The important thing to determine is “are we improving, staying the same or getting worse?” Where we are is not as important as where we are heading and the slope of the line.

What do think? What’s the slope of the line for your team? Business Unit or operating center? Company? Family? How are you contributing to culture in these environments?

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