Top Business Advice to Young Business Leaders for 2015

Tuesday 12/30/2014 @ 10:30 A.M.

While it is customary for publications to wax eloquent about the coming year’s issues and opportunities, it’s always a challenge for me to find copy that actually makes sense for business owners. All business owners.

As we enter 2015, can you think where you were 10 years ago? 20 years ago? 30 years ago? Or even 40-50 years ago?

Now, as painful or as joyous as those memories are, how equipped is your business to withstand the changes you will find next year? Changes in technology, changes in suppliers, in markets, in culture, in political structures—no one, if they are honest, really can tell you what you will find in 2015.

One of the books we had all of our executive team for the National Association of Business Coaches read in the 1990s was Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great. Granted, some of the ‘example companies’ Mr. Collins mentioned in his most popular business book are not around these days, but his advice for the leaders who were reading his book was solid.

Now he comes out with a great ‘top 10’ list that I find it hard to not commenting on. So instead of dredging up war stories on each of the items listed below, I’m going to quickly comment so you can get to work in your own business.

Hint: Advice line item #2 is my choice for the top discipline need for myself and for all organizational leaders in our Quad State region! What’s yours?

Jim Collins’ Advice to Emerging Leaders

Build a Personal Board of Directors –those are selected not for their accomplishments but for their character

Even if you are a one-person company, this advice is sound. Character is the main thing—not money or influence. Really.

Turn Off Your Electronic Gadget – effective people take time to THINK. Begin the discipline to put white space in your calender…Engage in the glorious pocket of quietude

The most important advice in the list of 10 in my option. We get so hung up on e-mails and social media, our business suffers from our lack of thinking time.

Work on Your Three Circles.

If you’ve not read the “Good To Great” book, you can Google the Three-Circle postulation by Jim Collins. Basically it is a) What are you passionate about, your drive in that direction; b) What you can be the ‘best in the
world’ at, your talents; and c) What can you get paid for? (You are looking for circles or areas in your life and working on where those three circles intersect. Having your own business coach makes this a fun and profitable reality.)

What is your questions-to-statements ratio and can you double it.

With my own business coach who coach me and with those who hire me as THEIR business coach, the most valuable skill is to learn to ask the right questions in the right time and in the right way so that the best, most-beneficial answer results. This is simply learning to ask more questions than your pontifications. You learn more that way!

If you woke tomorrow morning and discovered you inherited $20 million, and had discovered you also had terminal disease with 10 years to live, what would be on your stop-doing list?

This is a time-tested time management question a lot of good advisers use. But it is nevertheless a solid question that we all can profit from.

Start your stop-doing list. We all have some form of a to-do list. But how many have a stop-doing list? Think about not what you’ve done, but what you’ve stopped doing. The real task is always clear what not to do.

Hands down, the best book on asking good questions—of yourself or anyone else for that matter on #4-#6 above—is Bobb Biehl’s “Leadership Confidence.”

Unplug the opportunities that distract you. Just because it is a once- in-a- lifetime opportunity doesn’t mean it is right for you. There will be always once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

This is probably the hardest thing I have had to learn in my business life. And many of my clients felt the same way. To learn to say no, consistently and in the most productive way to ‘good things’ as opposed to the ‘best things’ in your life, is to build up your ‘best things’ to such a big ‘yes’ that there is no room to say yes to something else.

Find something with which you have so much passion, that you are willing to endure the pain.

Are you noticing a thread theme here? When you decide on those things where you are going to drive your stake because you are so excited about them, then setbacks, distractions, poor decisions and more can be joyfully endured.

This is a great time of life to articulate the values you will not compromise.

For Quad State business owners, looking at a brand new year is not going to come without great strides and accomplishments—along with the pain. But the wise owner will have their core values so established in their lives that any temptation to go around them for momentary gratification will be easily dismissed.

Prepare for a life that you are 1/3 through your work at age 65. Now that I am a little past 65, I am finding so many business owners in their 60s, 70s and even 80s and more who really don’t want to ‘retire’ per se. They may change directions at a certain age, but Mr. Collins means something else here. And you have known these kinds of people—those who still come to the office in their 90s and 100s. The idea is that they are SO excited about their opportunities that they are seeing ancillary opportunities springing up all over the place. They joke that they’ll need to live to be 120 to get to all of them. Is it true what is being written about in our Boomer publications that 70 is the new 50?

Which one or two of Jim Collins’ top 10 resonate with you?

About Steve Lanning

Steve Lanning is a nationally recognized entrepreneur who has been creating his own paycheck since 1975 and loves to help others do likewise. As the founder of both the National Association of Business Coaches (sold in 2002) and the Consultants National Resource Center (for all marketers of professional services), he and his family have lived in three of the four states in our Quad State region. His passion is to see individuals and small businesses, start-ups to mature, discover and promote their strengths in building revenue streams individually, that, collectively, make for a strong region as reported on and celebrated by the Quad State Business Journal. He can be contacted at

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