Solopreneurs: Create Your Culture of One

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Solopreneurs: Create Your Culture of One

Today’s guest contributor is Kristoffer Carter a/k/a KC. KC is a spiritual catalyst for individuals and culture catalyst for business. Husband, Father of 3, and sales executive by day, KC also channels his hyper-creativity and rock energy into his blog: This Epic Life. His multi-media manifesto on inspired living, The Framework, launched in November, 2012 (Go download it now!)

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Like it or not, the minute you launch your website, print cards and debut your one person business, it becomes an organization.

You’ve got an “org chart,” even if you don’t know it yet. And your name is in every one of the bubbles. There are roles that need to be carried out every day in a way that is closely aligned with who you are, what you believe in and what you want to build.

Translation – there’s a culture that needs to be built, even if, for now, it’s a culture of one. This will help you not only run the biz, but create a well-defined ethos that guides your growth and provides a cultural container for potential employees to step into should you decide to grow beyond you.

Earlier this summer Deloitte released a survey of 1005 employees and 303 executives that sought to differentiate exceptional organizations from mere employers. Exceptional organizations, they discovered, create a culture that engages, and motivates employees and focuses on the “intangible” elements of culture-building.

And nobody goes into business with the quest to create mediocrity. We all want to built an Exceptional Organization. So, even if you’re currently the janitor, ops team, and executive of your own C-suite, you need to embed culture into every process, as often as possible.

How I figured this out…

Six years ago I opened a regional office for Centro, a fast-growth tech start-up in the online advertising space.

I was the 44th team member. What attracted me to Centro in the first place was its amazing culture. Centro would go on to be named the #1 Best Place to Work in Chicago two years in a row by Crain’s Business in 2011 and 2012, (ahead of Google, Microsoft, and countless holding company agencies with offices there).

But, I was set to open the first satellite office, meaning…an office of one. Even though I was responsible for a team and traveled to Chicago regularly, on a day-to-day basis, I work alone. On my way out of orientation, our COO pulled me aside and warned: “You have a lot of energy, which will serve you well in sales. But have you thought about working alone every day?”

I blew it off.

Sure enough, building the territory was fun and rewarding. Yet, I underestimated how isolating it would be working alone. It took a few more months for the challenges to become straight-up debilitating.

My solution became clear. I needed to borrow the most inspired aspects of the greater organizational culture, and catalyze them into a Culture of One that would fuel, inspire and leave me feeling connected.

Here are five critical elements of my Culture of 1:

1. Communicate in an authentic, friendly way. Ninety-five percent of Centro’s communication is handled over email, so session 1 of New Hire Orientation mandates authentic, friendly email for every transaction. This seems like it should be so obvious, but as the pace of business and life picks up, if it’s not elevated to the level of cultural ideal, friendly and authentic can quickly devolve to efficient and curt.

Keeping it human, friendly and real is important. Staying sincerely curious, friendly, and solution-oriented despite all circumstances creates an armor-like reputation that precedes you, builds deeper connections and a stronger sense of internal alignment.

2. View your work through the lens of your core principles. Every organization operates more efficiently (and compassionately) when aligned with its values. I train our new hires to fasten our 4 core principles to the “lens” they bring with them to work. Your principles shouldn’t be the product of some forced mission statement exercise, or a mess of borrowed ideas from people you respect. You have to identify your most resonant, mission-driven, and motivating concepts, and then wrap your Culture of 1 around them.

3. Design the ideal workday and enforce it. How many solo acts exalt their “freedom”, but then squander it daily, working well past the point of diminishing returns? To maximize your output, you have to establish rituals that support your most productive states. In chapter 4 of Uncertainty , (Find Your Certainty Anchors), Jonathan sums up all the research and best practices in one place.

4. Document Raving Fans. Print and collect positive feedback that rocked your world, or made you want to show your parents. Hang them in view. Reread them time to time. Make “Mind. Blown!” emails a KPI. Centro holds monthly and quarterly contests for the most profound “Raving Fan” emails. These let us know our organization is rocking the core principles. And, more importantly, they serve as regular reminders that what you’re doing is making a difference.

5. Make your clients your coworkers. Create frequent opportunities to connect with clients beyond simply solving their business problems or selling them something. Host a hang-out or a meet-up for your favorite customers. Connect them not only to you, but to each other. Be a reliable figure in their busy lives, (within reason of course.). Someone they can turn to and someone you can connect with to create an “extended” culture that fuels both of you to do and be more. Human to human contact is crucial to seeing the tangible effects of our work.

Now, in the comments below, share what other elements would YOU add to your Culture of 1…

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Kristoffer Carter (or “kc”) is a spiritual catalyst for individuals and culture catalyst for business. Husband, Father of 3, and sales executive by day, KC also channels his hyper-creativity and rock energy into his blog: This Epic Life. His multi-media manifesto on inspired living, The Framework, launches in November, 2012. 

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5 responses

5 Responses to “Solopreneurs: Create Your Culture of One”

  1. Mary Krause says:

    I’ve enjoyed KC’s work for awhile now. His great energy always inspires. Thanks for sharing these tips!

    • Oh, Mary. It’s you. Awkward running into you here. Kidding, thanks so much for the love and support today! I know you mean it when you say you dig the work, and that means the world to me.

      Can’t wait to hear more about your new company and their culture. Thanks again,

      kc

  2. Great read – I can relate. Although my wife Angel and I are a two person company, these same principles apply. After Angel quit her job earlier this year to work full time on our blog, we have experienced and implemented much of this firsthand. Documenting our raving fans has been a big one for us. Their feedback has helped steer our writing and fuel our motivation.

    As for adding to the list, how about staying up to date with industry happenings by networking with other entrepreneurs in your industry? This is something Angel and I have slacked on over the years. We’ve literally let numerous opportunities slip by simply because we were ‘too busy’ to respond to joint venture opportunities, etc. (sad I know). This year, however, we’ve spun a 180 and are now committed to networking and getting involved with our peers (for example, we’ve already registered for the upcoming Blog World and WDSummit conferences).

    Marc

    • Hey Marc (and Angel!)… Love that you travel as a 2-person Wolf Pack. :) What a beautiful arrangement you two have working!

      Thanks for checking out the article. Love the early-prep on networking events. That’s huge. Getting those on the calendar as far out as possible and making them “non-negotiable”. I booked WDS last minute this year, but was SO GLAD that I went. You 2 will have a blast.

      I’d lump booking those in with any “long view” activities where you can pull up out of the work, take a step back, and get really intentional with setting up the big potential opp’s. In my first 5 years as a seller, booking sales travel came first, with everything else sort of falling in line.

      The Magic happens face to face, with humans. I talk a lot about this in my manifesto…making time for what really matters usually begins with unplugging the clock.

      Many thanks Marc. And Angel!

      kc

  3. Cynthia says:

    This is brilliant. Your #1 point was the thing that really stood out about you when I first met you. You bravely wrote and sent emails with total voice and style and humor and personality…all while maintaining your ‘professionalism’. I learned a lot from you on that point.

    The other points, I think I have covered but really, do I? These serve as a reminder and also a call to action – to act straight from my core.

    Okay, #5 is a new one for me, and duh! I love this idea and am working it into a program I’m creating for my clients next year.

    I love what Marc and Angel had to say about peer interaction. So important. See you at WDS!

    Great post. SO needed for those of us who have created our own silos at the home office. Thanks for sharing some of your secret sauce.