This article was previously published in Forbes.
Co-authored with Agata Antonow
I was intrigued by the talk Phil Libin gave in Amsterdam a few years ago. The CEO of Evernote said to his audience, “There are lots of really bad reasons to be an entrepreneur, and if you’re thinking of doing it for one of those reasons, I strongly advise you not to. Lots of bad reasons, but there’s only one good reason. The only right reason is to change the world.”
That got me thinking.
As a big supporter of conscious business, I’ve met many executives who want to launch a company to initiate great change. But they sometimes struggle to find ways to connect conscious business practices to their operations. I often get asked, “How can I make money and run a conscious company?” or “How can I please stakeholders and run a company that works?”
I developed my “Clearing Process” to support people as they step into their fullest potential, and when we think about it, new companies are all about potential opportunity. The four Cs of my Clearing Process can give entrepreneurs a structure which challenges them to get clear, rid themselves of limiting beliefs and move forward, essentially reworking inner dialogues about starting a business.
I will often work with someone for months to help them explore each nuance of their business, but at its heart, the Clearing Process is about four basic concepts:
As a society, we talk a lot about getting clear on our goals, but for many of us they remain murky. When launching a business, it’s important to define exactly what problem we are trying to solve. When Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun decided to launch d.light in 2006, for example, they had a well-defined aim: to provide light to off-grid homes and businesses, especially in developing nations. Since then, their business has grown to bring solar light to more than 12 million small businesses and homes.
A clear vision is one with a specific outcome and measurable parameters. It is a goal or desire which uses both logic and emotion, so entrepreneurs can picture themselves achieving the outcome. Simply saying, “We want to be the biggest PR firm in Chicago” is not very clear — unless you know of the current biggest PR firm in the city and can picture or state in one sentence what you need to do to be bigger.
Most business leaders have an interesting relationship to failure. We tend to talk a good game about it, telling ourselves (and other executives at conferences) that we have barrels of resilience. We laugh failure in the face. We’re ready for it, baby.
Here’s what we don’t talk about: how awful the mere prospect of real failure makes us feel. We may whistle in the dark (or the boardroom), but many executives have a deep-seated fear of failure that can prevent them from stepping into full possibilities.
To give your new business a chance, you need to let go of expectations and get curious about outcomes. You also need to shine a bright light on the blocks you have so they don’t jump out at you from the shadows. That may require ongoing work, since blocks can be a little like the Hydra of Greek myth: As soon as you cut one block away, another one may pop up.
When you know your purpose, have worked on your blocks, and have consciously chosen to create your business with a legacy, you can recognize the right opportunities when they show up.
Completion is about reaching the end of the loop. You work to set down past obstacles, one at a time, so you can finally move forward without them. Getting complete means finally closing the door on specific beliefs about failure so you can continue onwards with your journey.
Once you are clear on your purpose and you’ve dealt with the blocks, you need to create the business. Your business attorney can easily come up with a checklist of to-dos to keep you busy, but I submit there are two areas of creation you need to pay attention to: your team and your finances.
Finding the best people possible for your company will help you hit the ground running. The right team will support you, lend their talents and energy, and draw the best clients to you.
You are only as good as your weakest link. If someone at the front of your store is greeting customers without enthusiasm, for instance, you will feel the impact. Look for like-minded workers who are as excited as you are about your vision.
The second part of the equation is raising the money for your business. Whether you bootstrap or seek out investors, you’re going to have to consider where the money for your launch will come from— and it’s a question that could affect the structure of your company.
Once you start creating your business and vision, you’ll start thinking about scale and legacy. What do you want to leave behind? What is the scale of the business? If you’re the idea person at your organization, for example, who will take care of finances?
A useful way to think about this is to consider your company as part of the greater business community. What role do you want to play in this group? How do you want to interact with them and your stakeholders? What will your company stand for?
As you can see, launching a business is a lot like any authentic transformation: You start with questions and dig deep. Doing this work up front will prevent confusion and missteps along the way. When you know your purpose, have worked on your blocks, and have consciously chosen to create your business with a legacy, you can recognize the right opportunities when they show up. You can also recognize those decisions that don’t feel quite right with your vision so you can avoid them.
The time for starting a company is now, but as other executives have learned, timing is crucial. Get ready to throw open your doors when you have shown up for yourself and your organization with the upfront work you need to achieve success.