It’s A Mindset Not A Toolset

Day 37 of 365 - "Pan-nis" anyone?
Anyone ever challenge you with a frying pan? From Riyazi's Flickr photostream

I love entrepreneurs and owners. They are fiercely independent and tenacious. It’s the fuel which helps them persevere and overcome obstacles and continual uncertainty. Most of my clients fit this breed, and I can understand their mentality because I share their spirit of independence.

One of the things I observe quite frequently with independent people is that they sometimes ask the wrong questions. They ask a lot about tools. They think that knowing the tools, they can align an organization, develop customer processes or build business systems that work. Sadly, it’s not the case. There are plenty of businesses I see that have world-class tools without being close to success. It’s never the tools. It’s the mindset.

A few years ago, Andy Roddick, one of the top American tennis players, played with a frying pan against a guy. He went toe-to-toe using a ridiculous tool for a racquet! Now, who would you rather be – the guy with the amazing racquet or Andy Roddick? Obviously, the bigger variable was the talent, not the tool.

In business today, the tools are increasingly cheaper and more accessible. However, they still have to be used correctly and with execution, collaboration and leadership. Now, what entrepreneur wants to admit they can’t execute, collaborate or lead? Would they even know? It takes a person with character to even recognize the deficit.

I chuckle inside when I hear the inappropriate questions, “What software are you using?” “Where did you learn what you know?” or “Can you send me over all this stuff so I can look at it?” It’s not something you would say to a mechanic. You wouldn’t ask him to show you how to work on a car. Similarly, for professional services, you would not ask your attorney about how he files legal briefs, what tools and databases he uses, and if he can give you access?

I guess the etiquette has to work itself out for some people in the new economy. Ultimately, success today is in the mindset. Here is what really matters:

  • Can you lead? Do you know what your business should look like? Does each process present clarity? Can you keep people accountable, and are you consistent?
  • Do you have talent? If someone has spent thousands of hours mastering something and you have not, there is an immense difference. Even the perspective on the problem is different.
  • Are you humble? Can you recognize talent, and are you able to partner well?
  • Are you cheap? If you always are looking for something for free, then it will not only alienate people, but will obscure what the true cost of mastery looks like.
  • Are you growth-minded? There is not very much that can just be turned on and run for business processes. Iteration and perseverance is required. You have to be able to test and work with your team to develop coordination.

Tools require mastery. The more people you have involved, the more coordination and leadership is also required. The real cost is not in tools. It is in paying the price of mastery.

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