2 Hours in Positano that Changed My Life

Written by Aaron Lee, founder & CEO at iluma Agency. The original version of this article appeared on Aaron’s LinkedIn blog.

Aaron graduated from EO Accelerator and went on to become an EO member in 2011. He says, “One of the most meaningful discoveries I made in EO Accelerator was that I was not alone as an entrepreneur. EO Accelerator allowed me to accept my mistakes, fill my experience gaps with wisdom and create an inspiring vision for my business.” Learn more about this life-changing program for first-stage entrepreneurs, and hear from other participants. 

Realizing the power of just one moment.
I can hear someone hammering nearby—more of a tapping than a construction project. It piques my curiosity and I start to wander around, trying to find the source.

I glance up cobblestone alleys and around the corner of a café, but all I can see are some tourists darting in and out of shops and some locals milling around as the day gets up to speed. The tapping continues and I’m starting to feel like the poor soul in Poe’s tortuous poem, The Raven.

Finally, after turning around several times, I isolate the direction the noise is coming from and head for a stone wall ledge off to my right. Bringing my wife Lisa into the hunt, we peer over and on a terrace below us is a cobbler, handcrafting sandals out of a small box of tools and beads. I felt like we had been transported back in time.

Not only was I satisfied for having tracked down the source of my curiosity, but the moment itself was just such a perfect snapshot of what I had imagined this place would be. I was so struck by the scene, that I quickly grabbed my camera and captured the moment so it would never fade from my memory.

Then something absolutely amazing happened that would alter the course of my life, from that moment on.

It was a cool morning in April of 2011 when I found myself wandering around this cliff side town of Positano, Italy. Truth be told, it wasn’t even on my list of “must see” places during this trip. We wouldn’t have been there at all if it wasn’t for my mother insisting that “we had to visit the Amalfi Coast before making our way to Pompeii.”

She knew. For those who have never been, Positano, Italy is one of several towns and cities that line Italy’s west coast near the Bay of Naples. Our tour bus journey from Naples to Positano was a winding path of roads that clung to the edge of rocky cliffs, weaving it’s way along the coastline.

On this chilly April morning the misty skies leant a surreal nature to the whole experience. After descending through what seemed like one impossible switchback after another (and witnessing some of the most miraculous mini-bus driving I have ever seen), we finally arrived in the heart of Positano. I stepped off the bus and fell in love with this unique Italian beauty.

Small shops, cafes and hotels line the cobblestone streets. Printed linens and lemons the size of small gourds hung from storefronts, and warm cappuccinos were being set down with biscotti’s atop outdoor tables. Arched pathways made of purple petunia flowers decorated our path as we set off to explore this cliffside wonder.

We shopped, tasted and drank in the postcard scenes all around us until finally we arrived at the stone wall overlooking the cobbler—and by then I was smitten. But I was also a little sad. Our morning was ticking away, managed by the tick-tock schedule of our Italian guide. After just two hours there, we boarded the bus again to make our way to Sorrento and Pompeii. Just as I had fallen in love, it was already time to leave.

That’s why the moment hit me so hard.

By this point in my life, I had already been in business for myself for 10 years. I had started with a flaming parachute leap from a dotcom startup in late 2000, and armed with just US$6,000 in savings and the equity I had built in my relationships over my career. From my living room—and with dogged determination—I found a way to survive for 10 more years, growing one client at a time.

But that was just it. After 10 years, I was still just “surviving” the creative agency I had always dreamed of building. I was able to support my wonderful family and my small staff, but we always operated one project to the next, navigating a predictably unpredictable cash flow. The hard truth was that my company really owned me. There was plenty of optimism but never any certainty (which meant profits were rare).

Eighteen months before I found myself here on the Amalfi coast, I was introduced to the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). I had spent a year-and-a-half learning from the experiences of a group of peers I never knew I had, fellow business owners.

More than anything that I learned from the expert business resources I had access to, my thought process was mostly altered by the realization that my peers each had a different relationship to their business. Mine was very personal, while theirs seemed much more objective overall. I began to realize that the only business plan I had ever had was, “Just don’t go out of business”. It had been a long 10 years, never knowing what tomorrow would bring. I knew then that it didn’t have to keep being that way.

Back in Positano, I grabbed the handrail in front of me, looking out at the misty waters ahead. A vision suddenly came into sharp focus and I grinned as a powerful wave of emotion rolled over me. These moments in life are rare, and if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to disregard them as some silly daydream. I knew enough to stop and say it out loud to someone who would hear my words for what they were. I turned to Lisa (pictured above) and said this:

“We are going to come back here in ten years and spend six weeks here over the summer, and at the end of those six weeks I want to be able turn to you and ask ‘do you want to spend another six weeks here?’”

I knew if I could afford to freely ask that question, I would have completely transformed my business from being one that was still surviving, to one that was finally thriving. So how has that moment shaped my life? It has been nearly six years since I made that commitment in Positano and today my life is right on course to fulfill my vision.

My firm, iluma Agency is growing aggressively and profitably, with a strong leadership team and incredible focus. We know what makes us tick, who we are, and how we add value. As a result, we’ve enjoyed being named to the Inc5000 list of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies, for three years straight. I’ve also been serving as the president of the EO South Florida chapter that I joined just seven years ago, volunteering many hours each week, while developing critical leadership skills and experience. And just yesterday, I booked a flight for a week-long trip back to Italy  with Lisa. We’re going to spend three days in Positano and this time I’ll begin scouting out our perfect 2020 summer home just three years from now.

I can’t wait to send you that postcard.

Looking back on my life since that moment, here’s what I’ve realized. If you never create an inspiring vision for your future, then all of your daily choices will only be filled with repeated lessons from your past.

Imagining myself on that cliff—and asking my wife that one simple question—has shaped my response to countless decisions. In that moment, I had no idea how I would make it a reality. Every day since I’ve been presented with countless, seemingly inconsequential choices. Over time I’ve tried to guide my answer to each one by asking myself, “Does this get me back to Positano by 2020?” And every small choice has built upon the last one, until now when I look ahead—and what once seemed like a dream—now looks like a clear and predictable future.

So ask yourself: What’s your Positano?

Aaron Lee graduated from EO Accelerator and went on to become an EO member in 2011. He says, “One of the most meaningful discoveries I made in EO Accelerator was that I was not alone as an entrepreneur. EO Accelerator allowed me to accept my mistakes, fill my experience gaps with wisdom and create an inspiring vision for my business.” Learn more about this life-changing program for first-stage entrepreneurs, and hear from other participants. 

The post 2 Hours in Positano that Changed My Life appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

5 Tips for Smart Scaling

Written for EO by Christina Sanders 

You’ve started a business, and it’s taking off. It’s a great feeling.

Now, the next hurdle is quickly heading your way: scaling. Taking your business to the next level can be a challenge—but only if you’re not prepared for it.

Here are a few lessons that I learned from scaling my own business, plus advice on avoiding the obstacles I experienced. 

1. You Need a Plan

“I want to scale my business” isn’t a plan. To scale successfully, you need a specific list of goals and tactics.

Those goals should be reasonable and measurable (think SMART), and the tactics need to be customized to your business. For example, I was able to expand my business by creating a stronger presence on LinkedIn.

That might not work for you.

Take time to lay out a plan that’s well-thought-out and well-researched. You’ll save a ton of time in the long run.

Hear directly from the master of scaling, Verne Harnish, during EO’s weeklong virtual learning event, EO 24/7. Programming begins Monday 12 November, 2018. Register now!

2. Resources Don’t Manage Themselves

While you’re planning your scaling tactics, make sure to keep your schedules, resources, and files organized. You’ll need to coordinate more employees, keep more projects and tasks aligned, and find a way to manage an ever-increasing amount of marketing materials.

Invest in the tools to keep everything organized earlier rather than later. It’s a lot easier to establish superior organization practices before you grow. Investments like project management software, a marketing resource management system, and an effective customer relationship management (CRM) program go a long way.

3. Identify a Source for Funding

Scaling your business typically is not cheap. Determine if you’ll be hiring employees, increasing production, or investing in software.

Yes, you’ll be able to pay for these things when you start bringing in more money. But most of that needs to happen before you scale, not after.

That means you need to bring in capital. Will you get a business loan? Pursue funding? Put up your own cash? Any of those will work. But you need to set your plan and your goals for profit and paying off any loans.

4. Focus on Your Customers

If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re scaling your business, you’ve clearly made a habit of delighting your customers.

Don’t lose sight of that.

It’s easy to get too focused on your business when you’re scaling. Remember that, without exception, successful businesses are customer-focused. It’s not about your financial goals or your growth roadmap—it’s about how well you’re meeting the needs of your customers.

Customer focus is what drives business success, and scaling is no exception.

5. Invest in Employees

Your employees drive your business. They’re the beginning and end of your scaling process.

There’s a reason that big companies offer amazing perks and great pay—because they know their employees are the key to their continued growth and success.

Find the money to make certain your employees are happy with their pay and involve them in the scaling process. They’re an invaluable resource.

Scale Smart

Scaling your business is exciting—but don’t let that excitement get the better of you. Start with a solid plan and build from there. You’ll be glad you did.

Christina Sanders is a marketing expert with nearly a decade of experience in digital marketing and communications. She is currently an associate manager at Lucidpress, a design and brand management platform. Connect with Christina on Twitter or LinkedIn.

The post 5 Tips for Smart Scaling appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Learning to Listen to Your Heart

Written by Claire Algarme, EO Melbourne administrator

Peninsula Luxury Retreats founder Peter Noble had carved his path as an entrepreneur by launching and running Citrus, a marketing automation business, for almost 20 years. Along the way, the marketing landscape changed, the trail transformed and his passion cooled. Feeling tired of the grind, he reflected on what he wanted to do going forward. In 2016, Peter made the bold decision to close his business and embark on a new journey in the hospitality space. Here’s his story. 

It was in 2015 when Peter Noble attended an EO Melbourne forum retreat in Byron Bay. Despite feeling ill, Peter pressed on. He didn’t want to miss the retreat, where a meditation teacher would be sharing Ayurvedic techniques. His wife, Kristina, had been practicing it for three months, and he had noticed positive changes in her. Peter left the retreat feeling better and lighter, and he continued his meditation practice, even through a family move to Sydney the same year.

“I came out of a meditation session by the beach in Sydney, and it just hit me like a lightning bolt. I realized I was not enjoying the business part of my life. I didn’t feel that I could be true to my staff by coming in and talking about the vision for the business anymore. I needed to get out. I wanted to be true to myself,” he says.

“I didn’t feel that I could be true to my staff by coming in and talking about the vision for the business anymore. I needed to get out. I wanted to be true to myself.”

From the moment he decided to close to the actual date of closure, a mere four weeks passed. He flew to Melbourne and broke the news to his Citrus staff members. “It was very emotional, but they also understood. They were proud of me, and they were happy that I was truthful. I made a promise to each one of them that they would have a new job within those four weeks. We delivered on every single person,” recalls Peter.

Mentally, physically and spiritually, it was a difficult time in his life. He needed to unwind and re-calibrate his life. Peter and his family took an extended break to Europe for eight months. Reflecting on his entrepreneurial journey to this point, Peter understood he had opted for an unlikely exit. Entrepreneurs generally either build a business that lasts a lifetime or sell the business and move on to another one.

First launch

When he decided to start Citrus, he was working for a multinational company. He felt a burning desire to hit the road and launch his own business.

“I felt like I had more to offer and could impact more people by going out on my own. I felt I needed to get out and do something and show myself—more than anyone else—that I could thrive, not just survive, in the entrepreneurial world. The desire builds up in you over time. Eventually, you have to make a decision to either jump and see if you fly or just stay where you are. I decided to jump,” he says.

“The desire builds up in you over time. Eventually, you have to make a decision to either jump and see if you fly or just stay where you are. I decided to jump.”

He started Citrus with his wife and sister-in-law. While a business partnership with a spouse could be a challenge for many entrepreneurs, Peter and Kristina found their personal and business relationship to be a winning recipe. Says Peter, “For us, it was a very major part of our success as a couple, and we’re still married 20 years later. So, it worked obviously, which was good. But it was a little scary.”

Staffing, culture and ego

As with all new businesses, Citrus weathered challenges and opportunities. “We had a difficult start because there was the dot-com boom back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was a bizarre time to be in the space where we were at that point. There was this incredible excitement globally about what the internet could do for business and humanity. We were on the cusp of that. Our business was within the digital marketing space. It was very new,” he explains.

With the rapid rise in the web and digital marketing, young employees were being hired and poached by top agencies. Since Peter and his partners couldn’t afford to match the salaries that larger corporations offered, Citrus lost some staff members. Among those who remained, a strong bond developed.

“The challenge is how to build a team that has the skills you need, the culture you’re trying to build and an understanding of the vision you want to create. When you’re busy being busy, it’s sometimes difficult to sit back and look at the bigger picture of things and ensure that the team you have are the right people.”

The team culture, employee and client relationships as well as the company’s relatively small cost base helped it survive when the financial crash eventually came.

“Business is about relationships and how you build them, whether they’re done online or face-to-face. They are very critical parts of a successful business, whether they be with staff or customers or partners,” Peter says.

“Business is about relationships and how you build them, whether they’re done online or face-to-face.”

When two buyers expressed interest, they eventually provided the same feedback: “They said, ‘while it’s a great business, we feel that you are such an integral part of it that it’s too reliant on you as an individual.’”

Looking back, Peter realized that there was a lot of ego associated with holding on to the business. He became so attached to his venture that he was afraid to let it go. “I thought I was very important to a whole lot of people. Very quickly, though, you realize how unimportant you are when you step away,” he says.

Support and guidance

The pressures of running a business also took a toll on him. Peter found support and guidance from other entrepreneurs through EO Melbourne. “Fellow forum members were able to provide the right guiding experiences, ideas and friendship. I have made some of my best friends in my life through EO.”

He took a break from the organization, but rejoined two years later. Peter reveals, “I was looking at re-imagining the Citrus business. I thought to myself, I’ve stopped thinking big. I’ve stopped thinking as a visionary. I’ve stopped looking at the possibilities of the business. I remembered then what EO had done for me, and how much I’d enjoyed being part of that group. I don’t think we were successful at the time I wasn’t in EO. So, I rejoined, and I haven’t looked back since then.”

“I don’t think we were successful at the time I wasn’t in EO. So, I rejoined, and I haven’t looked back since then.”

Inspiration to happiness 

It was the EO community that helped Peter find his way from the business he no longer loved to a tour through Europe with his family. While traveling through the continent, Peter and Kristina put a few of their properties in the short-stay accommodation market, including Airbnb and HomeAway.

“Interestingly, we made more money while we were traveling around Europe and not working than we had in the previous six to 12 months of running the agency. When I got home, I thought, ‘Hang on. There’s got to be something in this.’ So, I decided to take on building a portfolio of properties that we could own, manage and run. That’s been building successfully over the last couple of years,” he shares.

With his new baby, the Peninsula Luxury Retreats, he has never been happier. “We’re looking into buying more land and building some properties. I’m doing that with a partner, and we’re going to build that into a brand in these luxury retreats. We think that it’s a really exciting opportunity based on the market that’s here in Australia and overseas,” he disclosed.

Most of all, he is happy that he can now devote more time to his daughter. “She was born in 2011, and for the first two or three years, I missed so much of her growth. I would leave before she had woken up and get home after she’d gone to bed. As a dad, I missed so many things in my child’s early development that I can’t get back. What I’ve been able to do now is achieve complete flexibility and freedom. I think my relationship with my daughter has changed. We get to spend a lot more time together.”

“As a dad, I missed so many things in my child’s early development that I can’t get back. What I’ve been able to do now is achieve complete flexibility and freedom.”

Peter found the courage to make the big leap because he trusted his inner self. “The biggest lesson? Listen to your heart. Listen to what is important for you as an individual. If you’re not happy, if your work is a grind, if it’s a slog, if you’re unable to listen to what’s going on inside, then it will stay difficult,” he counsels.

Read more about Peter Noble. To learn about EO and how it supports entrepreneurs across the globe, visit EOnetwork.org.

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How 5 Expert Entrepreneurs View Success and Failure

While there is no how-to guide for navigating the successes and failures you’ll face as an entrepreneur, there is plenty of brilliant advice and insights to be gained from individuals who have survived their own setbacks and gone on to thrive.

What can you learn from the stories of five entrepreneurs who share their stories on setbacks, challenges and unexpected opportunities? Read on to find out!

1. Bruce Eckfeldt

Business coach and EO New York member, Bruce Eckfeldt, has grown his professional consulting firm into a highly successful business. As part of this growth, Bruce recognized even the best-laid plans don’t guarantee success.

Check out Bruce’s Inc.com article, Not All Bad Outcomes Are The Result of Bad Decisions, Here’s Why, and use his outcome-decision matrix to analyze your own actions and results. 

By analyzing both success and failure, you can better understand what was a bad decision, bad timing, bad execution—or simply bad luck.

2. Lisa Sugar

Lisa Sugar’s part-time pop culture hobby grew into the wildly popular media outlet, PopSugar. Transitioning from her full-time advertising agency career, Lisa took a risk that paid off: Today, PopSugar reaches one in two American millennial females and has offices in five major cities.

“You have to start small,” she said in a 2016 interview with the LA Times. “A lot of people think you’re supposed to do these things overnight and see success, but you have to be patient.” These are words to remember, especially on those days victory feels like it’s been out of reach for too long. 

To hear more of Lisa’s words of advice, listen to her on Wonder, the EO podcast focused on women entrepreneurs.

3. Hal Elrod

At 20 years old, Hal Elrod was hit by a drunk driver, considered clinically dead for 6 minutes and then told he would never walk again. Later, he ran a 52-mile ultra-marathon. At 37-years-old, Hal’s organs began shutting down due to an aggressive form of leukemia. One year later, Hal is cancer-free and healthy.

Now a bestselling author and international speaker, Hal is a treasure trove of inspiration in the face of challenges, and speaks extensively on how the right mindset can influence your success.

Listen to him speak on an EO 360° episode to find out how his morning routine prepares him to face his day. This episode will leave you with an overflow of hope.

4. Michel Kripalani

When is failure not a failure at all? When it leads to something greater.

President and CEO of Oceanhouse Media, Michel Kripalani, had committed to writing a book before his fiftieth birthday. As his deadline drew closer, he had to face the reality that he hadn’t written a single page.   

That’s when this EO San Diego had a breakthrough idea.

In his Inc.com article, The Unsung Power of Establishing Audacious Goals (Even if You Fail), Michel explores how focusing his unique talents ultimately led to success—even if his initial goal went unmet.

Perhaps your last failure was only setting you on the right course.

5. Arianna Huffington

Long before the birth of her media empire or the sale of the Huffington Post for US$300 million, Arianna Huffington’s second book was rejected by 36 publishers, leaving her to question her future as a writer.

Throughout success and failure, however, she turned to her mother’s advice. “My mother used to call failure a stepping-stone to success, as opposed to the opposite of success,” she recalled in a 2013 Inc. article. “When you frame failure that way, it changes dramatically what you’re willing to do, how you’re willing to invent, and the risks you’ll take.”

Entrepreneurs like Arianna Huffington remind us that it just might be your 37th attempt that leads to success—or something even better.

The post How 5 Expert Entrepreneurs View Success and Failure appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.