5 Books for the Entrepreneur in Your Life

5 Books for the Entrepreneur in Your Life

by Mark Fornasiero

If you’re scrambling for a last-minute Christmas gift for a book-lover we have some great ideas for you! These five titles are not typical business books, nor are they from the expected self-improvement genre, but if you want to stretch yourself (or the gift-receiver in your life) a little, you can’t go wrong with any of these:

1. Our Great Purpose: Adam Smith on Living a Better Life, by Patrick Ryan

There is so much more to Adam Smith than “the invisible hand” and the other economic theories we know him for. A succinct essay that highlights his first book, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”, published in 1759, Our Great Purpose presents some timeless, powerful philosophies on how to live a good life. Moral philosophy never felt so easy to understand!

2. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, by Carlo Rovelli

This international bestseller takes the usually dense topic of physics and presents it in poetic and charming prose – only 80 pages in length! Even if you are not curious about physics, reality, and beginning of time, you will be captivated by Rovelli’s writing style. His love for the topic is obvious and comes through in every word and line.

3. Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up, by Jerry Colonna

This one is a business book – well, sort of. Jerry Colonna has founded, run, and sold several Silicon-Valley-type companies. But where he has really found his place is as a coach and mentor to many high-flying tech entrepreneurs and founders. This isn’t a “how-to” book but, rather, a “how to be” book. Leave your preconceptions at the door before you crack the spine on this one. 

4. Hungry: Eating, Road-tripping, and Risking it All with the Greatest Chef in the World, by Jeff Gordinier

You are guaranteed to love this book. (Maybe just gift it to yourself.) Gordinier follows Rene Redzepi, the founder of Noma, the top restaurant in the world, as he reimagines his flagship location and then launches pop-up eateries all over the world. This story is not only inspiring but shines a bright light on what it means to be creative, a risk-taker, and following the road less travelled. My #1 gifted book this year.

5. Shoe Dog: A Memoir from the Creator of Nike, by Phil Knight

Okay, if you absolutely have to buy a business book, then you might as well buy the best one. The story of Nike – its founding, growth and how it totally redefined the business of sports – is one you won’t be able to put down. I put this book on my list last year, and I will probably put it on my list next year. The writing is superb and the story is almost unbelievable given all the twists, turns and near-death experiences the company faces. As a gift for any aspiring or active entrepreneur, you can’t go wrong with this choice.

Mark Fornasiero is the co-founder of ACE Coworking and an independent consultant specializing in growth-and-exit strategies for privately-held enterprises. Mark also provides professional consulting to entrepreneurs looking to launch and operate their own independent coworking spaces. 

The Dave Grohl School of Leadership

The Dave Grohl School of Leadership

by Mark Fornasiero

Did any of you catch SNL last week? It was amazing to see Foo Fighters, looking as fresh, energetic and relevant as ever, decades after their breakout in 1994. This post was inspired by that performance…

The Dave Grohl School of Leadership – Biz 101 with the Foo Fighters

 

Let’s consider for a moment the commercial success of the band’s leader, drummer / guitarist / singer-songwriter Dave Grohl. Did you know that Nirvana and Foo Fighters have combined to sell over 85 million albums worldwide? To reach that level of success in an industry that has gone through the degree of gut-wrenching changes that the music business has been through is nothing short of remarkable. The fact that he has done it while maintaining a high degree of integrity and creativity means there are probably more than a few lessons the business world can take from Mr. Grohl.

 

In fact, I recall an interview he gave a few years ago in Rolling Stone that struck me at the time as being awash in leadership and business advice (though he probably didn’t see it that way). So, let’s go to business school with rocker Dave Grohl and his band, Foo Fighters. Here are some quotes from that article and the implications for leadership and business strategy:

 

1. Dave: “I might be an earnest and nerdy guy, but it’s worked for the past 20 years.”

Lesson: Being genuine and truthful in life, or business, leads to lasting success. People want to associate, align themselves, and do business with, the real deal.

2. Dave: “Just remember, all it f**king (he swears a lot, let’s give him the poetic license) takes is for you to turn someone else on to something that’ll change their f**king life. Imagine all the s**t you can turn your friends on to…”

Lesson: Look for ways to impact people’s lives. The journey you will take them on will have huge rewards for both of you.

3. Pat Smear (Foo Fighters’ guitarist): “Dave has a vision. Our job is to meet that vision, or do something that exceeds it.”

Lesson: You know what Pat is describing there? An aligned culture. The leader sets the vision. His team fully buys into it and wants not only to achieve it, but EXCEED IT! How many business leaders reading this have their employees/team members talk like that about where they want to take their business?

4. Butch Vig (legendary record producer): “People follow him because they believe Dave is sincere. He wants to make records that have relevance.”

Lesson: Integrity. Honesty. Vulnerability. Do people in your company talk like that about their boss in this way?

5. Dave: “I would walk into interviews (for the HBO documentary) with real questions I didn’t know the answers to. I looked at them as lessons.”

Lesson: The guy behind two of the biggest bands of the last generation is looking for lessons anywhere he can get them. Life-time learner. Endlessly curious. Sounds like he should be heading up your innovation program.

6. Dave: “…there is so much opportunity in America. Why not find the thing you don’t know how to do and do it yourself? The opportunity is there.”

Lesson: He doesn’t want to keep repeating himself. He wants to get good at things he doesn’t know how to do. Tell me this guy couldn’t run a wildly innovative, creative, ground-breaking company in any industry he chose.

7. Pat Smear: “Dave told someone in another band not long ago, ‘You need to get a band that makes you sound really good. That’s what I did.’”

Lesson: Surround yourself with great people. Hire people who are better than you and let them do their thing.

8. Dave: “The great thing about being surrounded by people you love is you can come to them and say, ‘I have an idea, ‘trust me’, and they say, ‘OK’….

Class dismissed.

 

Mark Fornasiero is the co-founder of ACE Coworking and an independent consultant specializing in growth-and-exit strategies for privately-held enterprises. Mark also provides professional consulting to entrepreneurs looking to launch and operate their own independent coworking spaces. 

Your Small Business Can Grow… even during a pandemic!

Your Small Business Can Grow… even during a pandemic!

It’s Small Business Month, so we thought it would be the perfect time to invite Mark to share a few thoughts on how your small business can grow and flourish, even during a pandemic… 

The SME sector in Canada is the engine of our economy. The BDC reports that over 98% of all private companies in Canada have fewer than 100 employees and employ 70% of the entire private sector (learn more here). So, while a few big companies get all the hype, pretty much everyone you know is working for, or owns, a small business. 

What I want to focus on here is the 75% of all employers who have 10 or fewer employees and generate less than $1 million in revenue. What is it about those two numbers – 10 employees and $1 million in revenue – that seems to cap the growth of the majority of small businesses? 

Lack of ‘Infrastructure’ Investing 

As companies start to bump up against that employee count (10) and revenue number ($1 million), the demands on the owner become almost unbearable. She is likely involved in every aspect of the business: selling, operations, hiring, training, keeping the books, etc. What seemed manageable (but an awful lot of work) in the early start-up period of the company has become impossible to accomplish in a 24-hour day now. The only way to get over this hurdle is to invest in what I call ‘infrastructure’ that supports the business. This usually means hiring someone to run the operational side of the company – a general manager or operations manager, for example. That new role will also require some additional investments in software support (financial or HR, maybe) or other tools. I know, it sounds expensive. That’s exactly why this step is usually avoided, and the company’s growth stalls. 

Learning to Let Go 

Besides the perceived cost, there’s another barrier I see all the time: a company can’t grow if the owner doesn’t give up some control and power. Letting go can be very difficult for a founder-owner. They’ve built the company from the ground up; they know where every dime goes and who does what. The problem is they can only keep track of every detail of what people are doing up to a point. That point is up until they have around 10 employees. (Usually fewer, in fact.) So, if you want to grow your business, you’ll need an operational or management team to support you. And that means you need to make the energetic choice to let go of some control. This will require a significant shift in your mindset.

“Cost” vs. “Investment” Mindset

When I suggest to owners that it’s time to start paying for operational and infrastructure support, the trigger response is often, “Are you kidding? I can’t afford that!” I’m not suggesting you start spending your hard-earned profits irresponsibly. What I am suggesting is that you need to think of these potential spends in terms of investments. If you need to spend $50,000 to hire a manager, what kind of return can you expect on that investment? If turning the day-to-day operations over to someone else frees up your time to go out and sell more of your product or service, search out new markets, find joint-venture partners, or design new products, then you can calculate whether this investment will generate a worthwhile return. But, if you see every dollar that goes the door as an expense – one that needs to be reduced to the bare minimum – then you’ll never put yourself in the growth mindset that you need to get over that elusive $1 million revenue hurdle.

Is growth possible without relinquishing some control, building a support team, and adopting an investment mindset? Maybe, but in 20 years in business, I haven’t seen it happen. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please share in the comments.

 

 

Mark Fornasiero is the co-founder of ACE Coworking and an independent consultant specializing in growth-and-exit strategies for privately-held enterprises. Mark also provides professional consulting to entrepreneurs looking to launch and operate their own independent coworking spaces. 

Why We’re Excited About the Future, and the Future of Work

Why We’re Excited About the Future, and the Future of Work

by Mark Fornasiero

Welcome to post #1 of our ACE Coworking blog! We’re excited to be sharing insights for your business and personal growth here. We are going to discuss a wide array of topics. Although we’re not sure exactly where this will take us, we look forward to giving a platform to our community so that they can share their knowledge, skills and insights. Let’s go!

Image by Sam Fornasiero

Why We’re Excited About the Future, and the Future of Work

We know there’s been a lot of hardship experienced out there since the onset of the pandemic. That pain is real. We acknowledge it, and we were not immune to it either. BUT, there is so much to be excited about for the future of business growth, especially in our industry. We are all in the midst of embracing new ways to work, figuring out how to fit it into our unique lives and situations. The future will almost certainly involve more coworking, collaboration, and community. The trends were heading this way before COVID showed up anyway; the virus just hit the accelerator pedal. And in a big way!

Coworking is on pace to grow another 15% in 2020 (lower than the 25% of the previous few years) and will continue to make its way into the suburbs and cities outside major metropolitan centres. Today there are two million people working in coworking spaces globally. That’s a tiny fraction of the working population. With the trend pointing to that number growing to more than 5 million by 2024, you can see why we’re so excited about the future.

More than three quarters of coworking operators are looking to add space and expand this year. That is pretty amazing. The average coworking space is very similar to ACE: about 7,000 square feet and 85 members. That means lots of room for independent owner-operated coworking spaces that focus on building a community and sense of belonging.

In the post-COVID world, coworking consumers will be looking for more private offices and flexibility in membership terms. We anticipate more investment and innovation in this sector from space owners and operators.

This is great news if you are a coworking space owner/operator. But, what if you’re not? No matter what field you’re in, remember this: huge shifts like the one we are experiencing always create as much opportunity as they do mayhem. The trick is to slow down, turn off the noise machine, and make balanced assessment of your situation. You may have to tweak your business or do a major overhaul. Doing nothing is probably not an option. But there are definitely opportunities out there for you to grow and change your business or career.

You know, COVID might be the perfect excuse you need to make that big change you’ve always thought about. Now there’s something to get excited about!

Mark Fornasiero is the co-founder of ACE Coworking and an independent consultant specializing in growth-and-exit strategies for privately-held enterprises. Mark also provides professional consulting to entrepreneurs looking to launch and operate their own independent coworking spaces.