The last nine months have been an absolute sprint at The Iron Yard. We have staff running 9 campuses. That’s almost 1 per month. We’ve changed a huge number of lives (which has been a privilege) and personally I’ve learned more in this recent journey than in any other time in my life—both in work and in life.
Today—an overcast day in late September of 2014—the partners of The Iron Yard are taking a break to breath and plan. We’re asking big questions. What’s the end game? What does this look like in five years? What do each of us want out of this business? Are we accomplishing our mission? What do we want for our team? What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? Are we still having fun? Who gets the sky miles trophy? (Kidding…kind of.)
Exciting times aheads. Breathing and planning feels good and right, because it is.
Monday I wrote a post about marketing perspective—whether we view ourselves as part of our customers’ stories or the other way around. This morning I remembered a funny example I’ve used before to illustrate a similar point.
Before I left the world of agency marketing I’d started preparing a talk called, “Marketing Lessons from Joe Dirt.” I’m not sure it would have been successful, but there’s a good chance it would have been funny. This scene, known as “the fireworks stand scene,” is one of my favorites. The fireworks stand owner is struggling to sell his products. At the end of the clip we discover the problem: the owner is only selling two types of fireworks because “snakes and sparklers are the only ones [he] likes.”
Recently I was working with one of our teams to distribute pre-work for classes at The Iron Yard. One of our instructors (Matt Keas) included the following in his message to incoming students:
I’m so excited to get started and meet as a group! As a precursor to our class, I have some “pre-work” for our class. Eric, Brian, and myself will email everyone a few more times as our starting date arrives. I am very excited and extremely grateful that each of you has invited us here at The Iron Yard to share your story. I am pumped and ready to rock. (Emphasis mine.)
What a wonderful perspective and reminder: we as the business have the privilege of being invited into our customers’ stories (not the other way around). Whenever I have the opportunity to speak in front of students at The Iron Yard, I always make sure to thank them for trusting us and believing we can help them make a difference—after all, they didn’t have to choose us. We have an opportunity to make their life better. In our context, we have an opportunity to help them completely change their life—that’s not something to take lightly.
I think on some level this is a philosophical perspective: do I view my interactions with customers as more of a privilege or a right? It’s easy for me to look at the value I think we’re providing and wonder why someone wouldn’t do business with us, but that’s a fertile ground for unhealthy ego.
On one of the flights I took today one of the attendants said, “Thanks for flying with us today. We know you have choices and the fact that you chose us means a whole lot.” That could certainly be lip service, but the attitude towards the customer is on target.
Because I travel a good bit, blocks of down-time in airports have become coveted chances to knock work out and clear my inbox. Sometimes, though, I choose to take a break from productivity and simply observe the world around me. That’s a fancy way of saying I enjoy walking around and looking at displays, marketing campaigns and, of course, people-watching.
Yesterday in the airport I observed several people, who were waiting to board flights, simply staring at their smartphones. I happened to be close to several of them in the context of boarding and could see their screens, on which were apps. These individuals were staring at apps on their phone. What a curious behavior. It’s even more strange when repeated—one gentleman stared at his phone for a bit, locked it, put it in his pocket, then pulled it back out again in a few minutes and performed the same staring ritual, this time swiping back and forth a few times between screens.
A significant portion of the reading I do is digital. I would suspect the same of many people today—afterall, there are now bookless libraries.
There’s are plenty of opinions about the differences between reading on screens versus reading print on paper. I’ll save my opinions on the good and bad of both mediums for another post.
Today I want to point out one difference that is consistently noticeable and makes the online reading experience more difficult for me in some ways.
I’ll delve into more detail in the future, but I’m very happy to say that today I completed a goal I’ve had for a long time: writing a program using code.
That may seem funny to say because I run a code school, but running a code school and writing code are two very different things (and you don’t have to be excellent at both unless you’re a one-person school). As far as writing code goes, I know enough HMTL and CSS to be dangerous, but I’ve lingered on the edge of building actual programs for some time.
I’m on a week-long business trip to Houston, which means lots of quiet work time in a hotel room.
Recently I thought about what people might envision when they think about what others actually do when they travel for their job. For me, the tasks on each trip vary—sometimes its non-stop meetings, sometimes it’s looking at real estate, sometimes it’s spending time with our team and many times it’s a combination of all three and more.
No matter what I’m doing for work, though, time on the road tends to be incredibly productive for me. I love working with people, but I also love working in a quiet, solitary environment (especially if I need to make something, like a piece of writing).
Yesterday I wrote a post about post about the difference between being entrepreneurial and enterprising.
After writing it I thought about the team members we’ve hired at The Iron Yard. Some are truly entrepreneurial, but all of them are enterprising and have been described that way to me more than once.
I’ve also heard business owners say that they really desire to hire enterprising employees, or, in their words, “employees with an entrepreneurial spirit.” (Putting the words “employee” and “entrepreneur” in the same sentence can be a bit contradictory, but that’s another post for another day.)
The desire to hire such employees can mean different things and depends on the type of business. Writing the article yesterday got me thinking about what hiring enterprising employees means at The Iron Yard.
The term “entrepreneurial” gets thrown around a good bit these days, especially now that startups are a popular headline in the news. I’ve been called entrepreneurial before, both before and after helping launch The Iron Yard. So what exactly does the term mean?
Mirriam-Webster defines the word “entrepreneur” as:
One who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.
The dictionary application on my laptop, which sources material from the New Oxford American Dictionary, defines entrepreneurial as close to the same: