Can entrepreneurship make you a better person?

Yesterday, I told the teenage Panera workers making You Pick 2 meals all damn day that they’re amazingly good at their jobs, even when late-for-a-meeting Grumpy Pants Customer is shouting that they’re not.

Then I wondered: Has being an entrepreneur made me a better person?

Last May, I left my corporate marketing job to start a business: Jody Lamb Communications, Inc., a copywriting, PR and content marketing agency. People called me crazy and promptly shared the challenges that come with being an entrepreneur.

While I knew entrepreneurship would have a huge impact on me professionally, I hadn’t expected any change to who I am as a human being.

But since then, I’ve noticed changes in the way I live, such as:

Deeper appreciation for every dollar earned.

Somehow, when a paycheck came every two weeks, no matter what, I didn’t value every dollar as much as I do today. Now every dollar I earn is measured in billable hours. Prior to making a purchase, I consider how many hours will I need to work to pay for it? I’m just now realizing that the $5 chai tea latte is five dollars, which really adds up when you work at coffee shops at least a few times per week.

Now I’m putting back that pretty shirt that I don’t really need because I realized I have to bill X hours – plus account for the time spent securing the project and the administration of it. Forget it. I’d much rather skip the shirt and save the money for something else.

Greater generosity.

Owning my own business and being 100% responsible for the success of it, I have a clearer understanding of this: It. Is. Hard. For. Small. Businesses. To. Make. A. Buck. The small businesses of the world are powered by extremely hard-working people doing extremely hard jobs. I’m tipping more, smiling more, thanking more and complimenting staff and owners.

Enjoyment of people.

As they say, the less you experience of something, the more you appreciate it. Lunch with friends and clients is now something I really treasure. In some of my previous roles, lunch with pals and co-workers happened almost every day. Now those less frequent get-togethers are much more meaningful. I so look forward to their stories and their laughter.

Confidence to take chances.

I’m the big kahuna at my business. The only kahuna. If screw up, which I do regularly, it really only affects me. When I was on a team, all decisions I made impacted my team and my superiors. Now it’s just me. So, boom. Decision made. I’m taking more chances. No one has to wait while we discuss and think about it. More business is happening.

Patience with difficult people.

The world is teeming with unethical, stubborn, selfish and conniving individuals. I still have to work these kinds of people from time to time but since I don’t have to spend hours every day with them, I’m more patient and understanding about what motivates them to behave the way they do.

Back in the day, I sometimes had a hard time working day in and day out with people I felt lacked a proper moral compass.

Look at this photo of me in a business meeting years ago. This is my you make me lose faith in humanity face.

monkey

I displayed this facial expression a few times in my career.

Once, a colleague pulled me aside and in her best “kiddo, I’m looking out for you” tone, she said, “You really need to pick a side.”

What?

“You can’t be friendly with everyone,” she said. “You’re either with them [the non-program managers] or us.”

No, I’m cool with everyone, actually.

Office politics are real.

Fortunately, I worked closely with only a few of these types of folks in my career and I was pretty good at hiding my distaste for them, except for the day the above photo was taken.

Now, as an entrepreneur, I can decide to simply not work with divisive, toxic people.

I accept help with gratitude.

If people want to give me advice, I’m all ears. If people are kind enough to introduce me to So-and-So, I’m all about it. Before I became an entrepreneur, I reluctantly accepted help. After all, I thought, you’re supposed to make it on your own. As a business owner, this mindset makes survival impossible.

Business is still all about relationships and I’m grateful for every kind thing someone does to help me make it.

Appreciation for the now.

Nothing about life or business for certain. Somehow, without the security of a big employer with a twice-monthly paycheck and other little, comfy safety nets, I’m more aware of how fast everything could change. This helps me appreciate every new client, every new challenge, every successful project and every opportunity that enables me to keep living this dream.

I understand the power of listening.

In my 13-year marketing career, I did A LOT of talking to clients and on behalf of clients to media. Now that I’m writing about things totally new to me, I have to listen in order to learn so that I can write intelligently and accurately about them. I have to ask the right questions and then listen, really listen. It’s amazing what you learn when you stop talking and just listen. This power of listening realization is carrying over into all of my interactions and relationships. Lately, I’ve been wondering how much I missed out by not being a better listener throughout my life.

But above all, entrepreneurship has made me more aware of who I am professionally and personally, and that the hundreds of things we do every day are of greater impact than what we generally consider the big, important stuff. Now, I’m far prouder of these little things that impact other human beings than all of the accomplishments that earn spots on my résumé. They’re what matter most.

Has owning a business changed who you are as person?

 

How to survive a group interview

You’ve never been more mentally prepared for a job interview. Just ask your cat who listened as you perfected answers to HR’s fav cliché questions. You stalked your future employer all over the internet. You’d totally kill a company trivia game. Wow them, you will.

But when you arrive at your future employer’s facility, you find a row of eager people who want your job, too.

A. group. interview. Side by side with your competition. Gulp.

Earlier this year, before I started my copywriting business, I found myself unexpectedly in a group interview situation. It was, dare I say, a fun experience. I know! Total game changer.

The whole idea of this group interview phenomenon intrigued me so I did some digging. Turns out it may be a great hiring strategy for all businesses, just not time-scrapped small business owners and overloaded HR folks in larger organizations. I suggest that the group interview, in many cases, may be best for the applicants, too.

If you haven’t experienced a group job interview yet, odds are that you will soon.

Group interviews are increasingly common as companies say they:

  • Save time. Hiring managers can get to know four or more candidates in the same amount of time as they would meeting with one.
  • Give a clearer, more effective view of the candidates’ strengths, weaknesses and ability to thrive in particular corporate cultures.

Essentially, group interviews are reliable BS detectors.

But let’s be real. Group interviews can be totally awkward, uncomfortable and terrifying by nature for the interviewees.

As first, you’re going to fear the worst. You’ll politely introduce yourself to your competition and predict the ones who’ll sabotage your performance and cost you the job.

But a group interview may actually help you get the job

You’ll get to know the company and its hiring managers on a deeper, more personal level, giving you important insight about if the company and its culture is a good fit for you. If it seems awesome, then you’ll be better armed to make your case why you’re exactly the one they should hire.

You’ll have more opportunity to demonstrate your personality, competency, leadership, communication skills and general awesome-ness. You made it to the interview so you likely beat out hundreds of other applicants. It’s likely that you and your competition are all qualified and offer something special for the role. Now’s your time to show how you’re different and why you’re the one for the job.

How to survive a group interview

1. Pretend it’s not an interview when the icebreaker questions fly.

Group interview questions often begin with icebreakers – just a notch above your college dorm welcome weekend’s goofy, RA-led opening sessions. The hiring managers may kickoff with a round of random get-to-know-you questions that have jack-squat relevance to the position but are designed to calm your nerves and make you look like a relatable human. Since you’re in interview mode, this may throw you off a bit. Remember they aren’t trick questions and the hiring managers won’t psychoanalyze your replies.

Go ahead and describe that mushroom burger from The Burger Joint and confess that you occasionally stay up way too late to catch your favorite MLB team in action. Don’t say your dream vacation is to visit museums in Paris if you’d much rather go on a cross-country brewery tour. You’ll be judged more for your obvious BS-ing than anything else.

2. Really, truly listen to everyone, even though you’re prepping your own answers.

Do your part to make the company’s awkwardness-deflating plan work with a true conversation. You may be mentally prepping your own answers, but make a conscious effort to pay attention to what your fellow candidates are saying in their responses. Wait until they’re done speaking and make an encouraging comment, ask a question of genuine interest or share your anecdotal connection to the topic.

Go out of your way to make the other people feel comfortable. Smile when people speak.

These are future watercooler convo-esque interactions. The HR folks are paying attention and visualizing how you’d behave in real life with their company.

 

3. Share your story humbly, but with enthusiasm.

The 60-second elevator pitch about who you are and what you offer still applies in group interviews. Be ready to offer a rambling-free presentation. While the interviewers already know about you, they want to see how you deliver your story to the others.

Like the LinkedIn profile, there’s a fine line between what’s seen as egomania and confidence. Focus on passion for your work, what you liked about your previous roles and what you do well as a result of enjoying your work. Speak from the heart, make eye contact with everyone and smile.

4. When the group project brings out the &*%holes, just be a good person.

At this point, 1.) everything falls apart or 2.) you bring home the gold.

Some group interviews include panel-style questions. Others will include more hands-on work.

The interviewers may ask you to work on assignments individually and as a group.

Listen carefully to instructions and ask for clarifications. The hiring managers will likely present real company challenges and ask you to prepare possible solutions as a group. The company reps will leave the room or relocate, providing you privacy to collaborate.

Give kudos to your competition and always credit them when you piggyback on ideas.

If there’s a jerk in the group, don’t show your distaste for him/her. Instead, channel your inner diplomat and focus on encouraging others in the group. Your leadership and communication skills will shine and the jerk will be seen for exactly what he/she is.

5. When #$@% gets weird, don’t go all competition-reality-TV-show evil.

Toward the end of the meeting, the interviewers may ask some ridiculously uncomfortable questions like, “So, during the group projects, who brought the best ideas to the table? Who was the leader?”

There are group interview horror stories about candidates turning on one another at this point. Compliment. Point out the unique skills and clear strengths that each group member brought to the discussion and project.

Make each other look good and you’ll look good, too.

If you have fun banter going with the guy across from you, great. But don’t push the other people out of the fun. Include everyone in the conversation.

Since you probably won’t be alerted that your next job interview is group style, remember that performing well in a group interview comes down to simply showing the real you.

If the position is the right fit, the group interview will make the job yours.

Had a group interview? Hired via group interviews?

Please share! How’d it go? 

I’ve been called crazy 11 times in the last 7 days

JodyLambIt started at a barbecue. I was 21 and drunk on fresh dreams and hard lemonade.

Aspiring journalist I was, but as my friends swapped their “Someday, I’ll start my own ____ business that will…” ideas, their entrepreneurial dreams excited me.

“What would your service/shop do differently than the others?” I asked.

They each had a brand vision, a set of unique goals. Inspired by the go-getters around me, I wondered if maybe I could be an entrepreneur, too. One day.

“I’ll help you with marketing and tell the world why your business is awesome!” I promised.

I pictured each of my friends older, but just as enthusiastic, at ribbon-cutting ceremonies and accepting awards for game-changing strategy at industry events.

The world was evolving, led by the internet and rapid technological advances, and we had enough spunk and determination to achieve our dreams and run successful businesses. We were going to do it all, those entrepreneurs and me, and create incredible grownup lives with the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song playing in our minds.

Then came graduation, financial pressure, corporate ladders, comfort in stability and time constraints tied to hyper-scheduled lives.

And, for me, entrepreneurship became an adventure reserved for the superhuman.

During my 13 years in PR and communications in corporate and agency environments, I worked directly with founders and CEOs who ran businesses of all sizes – from startups to global companies with thousands of employees. I threw these entrepreneurs a zillion questions, as a former journalist would. I listened to and analyzed the tales they shared of sleeping at their desks overnight to get the projects done, the rejections, the unwise business moves, the partnerships gone bad and the big breaks and wins.

My coworkers often described these leaders as CRAAAAZY.

Indeed, they were nuts. Every single one of them. They obsessed over seemingly trivial matters, while showing little interest in taking deep dives on topics we collectively considered critical.

Irrational. Stubborn. Sometimes cheapwads. Sometimes over spenders. Control freaks. Perfectionists.

Working closely with them was often incredibly frustrating but inspire me, they did.

In fact, those bizarre businesspeople fascinated me.

With all of their entrepreneur-itis quirkiness came an abundance of admirable qualities.

They were extraordinarily intelligent strategists. Slick business development experts who wowed clients and closed impossible deals. Pioneers who looked at everything differently. Challengers who bluntly spoke the truth.

Above all, they were fiercely, fearlessly determined.

I began looking at entrepreneurs with extreme awe, assuming they were born with inherent business intuition and know-how like the Shark Tank moguls.

I felt I’d always stay in that comfortable role working for them.

Earlier this spring, I felt it was time to look for a new career challenge. I began interviewing with other companies but found no position that truly excited me.

The difference between my perspective on entrepreneurship back at the barbecue and as I neared the quarter marker of my career, was the disappearance of my belief that I could actually make it as an entrepreneur myself.

One day, I sat at my desk at the office far too late on a Friday, and one of the many crazy entrepreneurs in my life said something that struck me.

“I have no regrets,” he said. “I did everything I wanted to do. I wanted to enjoy coming to work every day so that’s what I did. That’s all I’ll ever do.”

Is that it?

Is that goal strong enough to push a person, despite odds of success, to be an entrepreneur, to do what he/she knows he/she must do – or at the very least, try like hell to do?

Just wanting to enjoy coming to work?

Some sleepless nights later and halfway through another job interview, the idea of starting my own business seemed more and more rational until I concluded that it’s the only possibility for me right now.

I felt a sense of urgency, an expected surge of confidence, an extreme thirst for adventure and a passionate eagerness to use my experience and skills to help other businesses grow.

I wondered if this outlook, with determination, would be enough for me to make it as a small business owner and I wondered if there would ever be another time in my life to take such a leap of faith and discover the answer to this question. Probably not.

So before I could change my mind, I began planning for my business and gave advance notice to my employer so that I could ensure a smooth transition for all.

This is my first official week as an entrepreneur, a business owner and my own boss.

I’m 77% excited/thrilled/eager. 23% terrified.

I’ve been called crazy 11 times in the last week, as I shared news of my new adventure. A good sign? That’s how I view it.

Entrepreneurs? Your advice for this newbie entrepreneur, please. I am all ears.