5 key skills every entrepreneur (and every company) needs to master

There was a time in the early stages of our business when we were stuck. 

I’m talking about ZERO sales. ZERO momentum. Totally and completely stuck.

This struggle lasted for several months. 

Finally, we’d had enough. We sat down and asked ourselves…

“What do entrepreneurs really need to grow their businesses?” 

And not just grow it a little bit… but to create rapid, sustainable growth. 

We brainstormed a lot of ideas, and finally, we settled on five key things.

Five little words that would completely transform our business. 

We devoured books, poured through research articles and got a little obsessed with figuring out how to implement these 5 drivers in our business. 

It didn’t happen overnight… but gradually we got ourselves completely unstuck.

Our business started gaining momentum. In fact, it started picking up speed like a freight train.

We started sharing these five things with our fellow entrepreneurs and business owners.

Over and over again, we watched as these five things helped people…

  • Go from feeling stuck to having massive momentum
  • Regain their confidence
  • Get CLARITY about how to grow their business
  • And so many other awesome results

The deeper we researched these five key “drivers”... 

The more we realized... 

These are the essential skills of successful entrepreneurs and companies.

No matter the size of your organization, whether you’re a solopreneur trying to make ends meet…

Or a mature company with a leadership team and a well-established business...

Applying these 5 drivers to your business is how you get to the next level of growth.

If you’re weak in any one of these areas, your progress will be slowed down.

Key Takeaway

Applying these 5 drivers to your business is how you get to the next level of growth.

Overview: The Five Drivers of High Performance 

We’re going to use a simple metaphor to explain each of these key drivers. 

Imagine you’re going on a long road trip from New York to Los Angeles. 

In order to make that cross country trip happen, you need a car that's performing well.

The car represents you and your company.

Each of these 5 drivers is like an aspect of your car. They keep your car on the road and help you get to your destination faster.

Here are the 5 key drivers:

1. Purpose & Vision

2. Belief

3. Emotion

4. Focus

5. Rituals

Like we said above, we’re researchers. So we’ll also explain the research behind why each driver is important as we go.

Also, we’ll give you some simple questions you can use to figure out how well you’re using each driver in your business.

If you have a team, we’ve included a brief description of how this driver affects your team. And some questions you can use to evaluate your team.

Ready to start this journey with us?

Then hop in the car and let’s get to the first driver...

Driver 1: Purpose & Vision

We cheated a bit here. The first driver is really two drivers put together. 

Even though they’re different subjects, they’re very related to each other, as you’ll see in a second.

Purpose

 In our road trip metaphor, purpose is like putting nitrous-oxide in your fuel tank. It helps your car reach greater speeds. 

Purpose is an accelerant to success. It’s like pouring lighter fluid on a fire.

Is purpose absolutely essential for making money? No, there are plenty of businesses who are profitable who don’t use the full power of purpose.

But using purpose in your business can help you reach your goals so much faster.

Now, let’s get something very clear:

Purpose is NOT the same thing as a boring, bland “mission statement”.

It’s about the impact you want to have on people’s lives… the value you want to bring to the world.

Key Takeaway

Purpose is about the impact you want to have on people’s lives… the value you want to bring to the world.

Purpose helps you:

  • Continually find ways to bring value to the market
  • Attract and retain the right employees
  • Stand out from a crowded field of competitors
  • Make far more money than average companies

There’s an abundance of research on how companies are using purpose to grow. Let’s look at a few of the studies...

Purpose makes you more profitable. 

Jim Stengel conducted a 10-year study of more than 50,000 brands around the world.

Based on that research, he identified 50 companies with exceptional growth over that 10-year period. He calls them the “Stengel 50”.

Stengel found that these companies had a 300% higher growth rate than their competitors.

According to his research, “An investment in the Stengel 50... would have been 400 percent more profitable than an investment in the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500.”

So, what made these companies so exceptional?

Purpose. 

Purpose was the single factor that separated the Stengel 50 from the rest.  

These companies built their entire businesses around what Stengel calls a “brand ideal”... 

A statement of the impact they want to make on their customers’ lives, or the world as a whole.

Outperforming the market 15-to-1

In their 1994 classic Built to Last, authors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras identified a set of breakout companies. These companies outperformed the market by 15:1. 

According to the authors, purpose was a central element of their success. They all had a “sense of purpose beyond just making money.”

Selling with Noble Purpose

Lisa Earl McCloud is a sales consultant and trainer. She did a 6-year study of sales reps to look at what traits separated the top performing sales reps from the rest. 

The findings of the study shocked her. More than any other factor, purpose is what separated the very top salespeople from the rest.

She found that the reps who were driven by a “noble purpose” sold 350% more than the average rep.

Purpose isn’t just for big companies! 

No matter how big your company is, whether you’re a solopreneur working from home…

Or the leader of a Fortune 500 company, you can use purpose to stand out from the market.

Self-Assessment: 

1. Do you have a magnetic, exciting purpose that is a driver of growth in your business?

2. How well do you use purpose to grow your business? (Ie. Communicating it internally to inspire your team, externally in your marketing campaigns, sales meetings, etc.)

How purpose affects your team

We’ve already shown how purpose-driven companies are much more successful than average companies. 

Here are two important reasons why...

Purpose helps you attract and retain the right employees.

Your purpose can unify your leadership team behind a shared intention.

According to management guru Peter Drucker, “The most successful company is not the one with the most brains, but the most brains acting in concert.”

“The most successful company is not the one with the most brains, but the most brains acting in concert.” - Peter Drucker

In other words, your purpose gives your team a common mission they can work towards. 

Consulting firm Deloitte has studied purpose in organizations extensively. 

In terms of employee engagement... 

Their research shows that 73 percent of employees who work at a "purpose-driven" company are engaged

In comparison, only 23 percent of employees whose company doesn’t value purpose are engaged. 

Having engaged employees is essential for being successful.

Another study done on employee engagement shows that organizations with the most engaged employees have...

  • 65% greater share-price increase
  • 26% less employee turnover
  • 20% less absenteeism
  • 15% greater employee productivity
  • Up to 30% greater customer satisfaction levels

Team Assessment:

1. How much does your team believe in your purpose? 

2. Is everyone on your team crystal clear about how their role in the company brings your purpose to life?

Vision

In our road trip metaphor, vision is like plugging your destination into your GPS.

When you travel from New York to Los Angeles, you don’t just tell your GPS to “travel west”. 

You plug in a specific, exact destination of where you want to end up so the GPS can guide you along the way.  

If you don’t know exactly where you want to go, how will you know how to get there?

That’s what vision is… it’s a very clear image of where you want to be. 

Vision is NOT a bland, boring “vision statement” filled with corporate jargon.

Vision is a clear, exciting, detailed description of what your future success looks and feels like.

Key Takeaway

Vision is a clear, exciting, detailed description of what your future success looks and feels like.

Vision helps you in so many ways. It helps keep you excited when you hit the inevitable rough patches along the way.

It also helps you make important decisions; every new opportunity can be evaluated against your vision. 

Here’s the biggest problem we see with most entrepreneurs’ visions:

They base it on what they BELIEVE they can achieve, not what they truly WANT to achieve.

In other words, they’re thinking too small, so their vision doesn’t truly excite them.

Self-Assessment:

1. Do you have an exciting vision of your future success that pulls you forward?

2. Is your vision what you really want? Or is it what you believe currently you can achieve?

How vision affects your team

Most companies do a really bad job of communicating their vision and goals to their team. 

This is another factor that leads to disengaged employees. 

When they don’t see how their work contributes to a big vision, team members can become apathetic.

Working toward a shared vision together can be incredibly motivating to your team.

Your vision should absolutely include the impact your work makes on the world. (Purpose)

Instead of pursuing only financial-based goals, which won’t motivate your team very much…

You can make a goal that’s based on your purpose.

For example, Digital Marketer has a goal of helping 10,000 businesses double by 2020.

Everybody in their company is motivated by that goal. 

Note: We’re also big believers in encouraging individual employees to create their own personal and professional purpose and vision. 

Team Assessment:

1. How clear is your team on your company’s vision and goals? Are you pursuing financial goals, or purpose-based goals?

2. Does everybody on your team clearly understand their role in making your vision come to life?

Free Mindset Training

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Driver 2: Belief

In our road trip metaphor, belief is what’s happening in the engine, “under the hood” of your car.

If you have strong negative beliefs holding you back, it’s like having a serious problem with your engine…

It can cause your car to sputter or even completely stop.

Belief is a very deep subject that takes a lot of unpacking. So we won’t explore it in depth here. 

But here’s the brief version:

Beliefs are the foundation of your success. They drive your behavior in ways that most people aren’t aware of.

Key Takeaway

Beliefs are the foundation of your success. They drive your behavior in ways that most people aren’t aware of.

Psychologists have discovered two types of beliefs: 

Explicit Beliefs and Implicit Beliefs

To keep it simple, we call them Conscious Beliefs (Explicit) and Subconscious Beliefs (Implicit).

Research shows that your subconscious beliefs are far more important for being successful than your conscious beliefs.

Negative subconscious beliefs can hold you back in so many different ways. 

Here are just a few areas that we’ve seen entrepreneurs struggle with. They might...

  • Lack confidence in themselves
  • Struggle with making sales
  • Be fearful of “putting themselves out there” and being judged
  • Lack assertiveness
  • Struggle with chronic worry or anxiety
  • Avoid doing certain tasks in their business
  • Think too small
  • Feel like they don’t deserve success
  • Commit acts of self-sabotage
  • Judge themselves harshly

Of course, the reverse is also true... 

Having a strong foundation of positive subconscious beliefs is a key secret to being successful.

Self-Assessment:

1. Do you have a strong foundation of belief in yourself? (Ie. Do your beliefs support or hinder your success?)

2. Are there any important tasks in your business that you avoid doing? (If so, you might have some negative subconscious beliefs.)

How beliefs affect your team

Beliefs play a big role in creating a team culture. 

You want people who share a common set of beliefs (or values). 

Many successful companies make hiring and firing decisions based on their Core Beliefs / Core Values.

These Core Beliefs or Core Values help guide people’s behavior as they make important decisions.

For example, here’s one of our Core Beliefs: 

“Everybody does the best they can given what they know.”

This belief causes us to feel compassionate towards ourselves and others. 

We seek to always understand the root causes of behavior first, instead of casting blame.

Team Assessment:

1. Does your team have a set of Core Values or Core Beliefs that guide their behavior?

2. How well do you uphold and reinforce your Core Beliefs / Values within your organization?

Driver 3: Emotion

In our road trip metaphor, emotion is the fuel in your car. It’s what causes it to move forward. 

More than anything else, your emotions drive your behavior.*

*Note: Emotions often go hand-in-hand with subconscious beliefs, but that’s a deep subject and a story for another day.

Cultivating positive emotions is an ESSENTIAL skill for being successful. 

Here’s why…

Positive emotions not only make you feel better, but they also help your brain function better!

Shawn Achor is a psychologist who taught a wildly popular happiness class at Harvard.

He refers to this phenomenon as “the Happiness Advantage.” 

The “Happiness Advantage” is all the good stuff that happens to your brain when you’re feeling positive.*

*Note: The reverse is also true: Negative emotions “downshift” or weaken your brain, causing you to be a lesser version of yourself.

Most people think that they have to be successful before they can feel happy.

But this is totally backwards!

Research shows the opposite is true.

 Positive feelings help you: 

  • Find creative and novel solutions to your problems
  • Focus and get more stuff done
  • Sell more of your products or services
  • Be more successful long-term

Here’s what we’ve found in our work with entrepreneurs…

We all have an emotional “set point”. This happiness set point can be measured on a scale of 1-100. 

One secret to being more successful is increasing your happiness set point.

Luckily, there are simple research-based ways to increase your happiness set point.

Self-Assessment: 

1. Do you stay resilient in the face of challenges? Do you bounce back quickly when things don’t go your way?

2. How positive and excited are you every day?

How Emotions Affect Your Team

We’ve all heard the saying, “I’d rather be feared than respected.”

As we’ve shown above, this is a totally backwards way of thinking!

Companies that have a culture of positivity and happiness FAR outperform companies with a negative culture driven by stress and fear.

Key Takeaway

Companies that have a culture of positivity and happiness FAR outperform companies with a negative culture driven by stress and fear.  

Researchers looked at over 225 academic studies and found that happy employees have, on average:

  • 31% higher productivity
  • 37% higher sales
  • 300% higher creativity

On the flipside… Companies with cut-throat work cultures have stressed out employees.

These “high-pressure” companies spend 50% more money on health care. Their employees have more heart problems and fatalities. 

Here’s a crazy stat…

The American Psychological Association (APA) estimates that negative emotions and stress cost companies close to $500 billion dollars in lost productivity each year. 

Almost 550 million workdays are lost from excessive stress!

The research on emotion is crystal clear. 

Positive, happy employees do amazing work, have better ideas, stay more productive, etc. 

Stressed out employees get sick more often and perform sub-par work. 

Also, we’ve seen many times the disastrous effect a single toxic person can have on the culture of the team.

Team Assessment:

1. Do you encourage and promote a culture of deliberate positivity within your company?

2. How positive are the interactions between members of your team?

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Driver 4: Focus

In our road trip metaphor, focus is like driving on the direct path to your vision.

 Many entrepreneurs we’ve worked with suffer from “shiny object syndrome”.

They stop and start projects. Distractions pull them away from their vision. (If they even have one!)

That’s like driving from New York to Los Angeles and pulling off the highway every few miles to check out the scenery along the way. 

It’s going to take you a long time to get to where you want to go if you aren’t good at staying focused!

Key Takeaway

It’s going to take you a long time to get to where you want to go if you aren’t good at staying focused!

Focus is a key skill for successful entrepreneurs and business owners.

It really comes down to two things… what we call the “Two Ps”:

  1. Prioritizing 
  2. Productivity

Prioritizing

Prioritizing is about working on the right things, at the right time, to move your business ahead.

It doesn’t matter how productive you are if you’re working on the wrong things at the wrong time.

You can be spending a lot of time doing low-value activities that don’t really move your business ahead.

Now, you might feel busy and productive… but you’re fooling yourself that what you’re doing really counts.

This is what marketing trainers call, “Optimizing a turd.” It won’t lead you to where you want to go. 

Productivity

The second piece to focus is productivity. 

Once you’ve identified your key priorities, that’s where being productive comes in. 

Productivity is about getting stuff done.

The world’s most productive people are good at managing two things--time and energy.

Most people only talk about time management, but they skip over the energy piece of the equation.

That’s a big mistake. Human beings are not like machines that can keep running 24/7 without fail.

Our energy supply ebbs and flows throughout the day. We need to take breaks. We need to do things to stay sharp and perform at a high level.

Self-Assessment:

1. How clear are you about the key priorities in your business? Are you 100% sure you’re working on the right things?

2. Are you structuring your time and ENERGY for maximum productivity?

How focus affects your team

Teams also can struggle with the same focus issues that plague entrepreneurs.

When goals, roles and expectations aren’t clearly established, employees often spend time working on unimportant details.

This can be a huge drain on your success. 

Likewise, many employees don’t know how to manage their time and energy effectively to maximize productivity. 

It’s not because they’re “lazy”. They might just have some negative habits around productivity. (See next section on rituals.)

Team Assessment:

1. How clear is everyone on your team about what their top priorities should be?

2. How well does everyone on your team manage their time and energy?

Driver 5: Rituals

In our road trip metaphor, rituals are all the things you do to keep your car running and performing at a high level.

It’s things like doing regular maintenance, filling up your gas tank, etc.

If you’re trying to drive across the country, but you’re not willing to stop and fill up with gas...

Let’s just say you’re not going to get very far. 

Likewise, if you’re not willing to take the time to install new rituals, then you’re not operating at full capacity.

So, what is a ritual?

A ritual is just a deliberate “success habit” you put in place. 

Rituals help you perform at a high level. Or help you get more of whatever you want in life.

Key Takeaway

A ritual is just a deliberate “success habit” you put in place. 

Rituals help you perform at a high level. Or help you get more of whatever you want in life.

High performers understand the power of rituals. They know how to deliberately engineer their behavior for success.

Here’s the thing with rituals: 

You only need a few key rituals to fuel your success. 

Having the RIGHT rituals in place can be the difference between success and failure.

Self-Assessment:

1. Do you have a set of key success habits (AKA rituals) that keep you performing at a high level… day in and day out?

2. Do you take time at least once a quarter to review your rituals?

How rituals affect your team

There are always habitual ways that your team members interact with each other.

Like all habits, some of them are productive. Some are not. 

For example, many companies are notorious for having meetings that are unstructured and unfocused. They end up being a waste of time for everybody involved.

Sometimes, company leadership can encourage habits that are non-productive.

For example, we worked with a large non-profit. 

Their executive director encouraged all their team members to immediately respond to client emails.

This one habit created an enormous amount of stress for their team members... 

They were constantly getting interrupted by notifications on their phone. They stopped and started projects. They always fell behind on work. 

We encouraged them to create a ritual for checking and responding to their emails at a specific time, leaving the rest of the time for productive work.

Just like with your personal rituals, it’s a good idea to take a look at each team members’ rituals once a quarter.

You can do this as part of your quarterly performance evaluation.

Team Assessment:

1. Does your team have a set of key success habits (AKA rituals) that drive their performance?

2. Do you review each team members’ rituals at least once a quarter?

Recapping the 5 drivers of high performance

We’ve covered a lot of ground here… We’ve been on a long trip, all the way from New York to LA. 

So let’s recap the five drivers of high performance using our road trip metaphor.

Purpose is the nitrous-oxide that causes you to move faster to your destination. It helps you attract the right team members, motivate your employees, and ultimately make a lot more money. 

Vision is like plugging your destination into your GPS. It’s a very clear, detailed image of your future success that pulls you forward. 

Emotion is the fuel in your car. Positive emotions give your brain the “Happiness Advantage” and help you perform at a high level.

Focus is like learning to drive on the fastest, most direct path to your vision. It involves identifying your top priorities, then structuring your time and energy so you can accomplish your goals.

Finally, rituals are all the things you do to keep your car performing at a high level and on the road.  

These five drivers are the core skills that every successful entrepreneur and every company must master.

If you’re weak in any of these areas, or if your team is weak, it can completely kill your momentum.

It means your business is on the slow path (or no path) to growth. 

With these five drivers in place, your car will run like a well-oiled machine… 

You’ll be driving down the “superhighway of success”.

Want some help implementing these 5 key drivers in your business?

Sign up for a free Strategy Session with the Learn Your Brain team.

Free Strategy Session

Sign up for a free Strategy Session with the Learn Your Brain team. Get clear on your goals and the obstacles keeping you from creating a high-growth business you love. 

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