Energizing Businesses


The other day I had the privilege of interviewing Lisa Nirell, owner and founder of EnergizeGrowth (www.energizegrowth.com), a company that helps successful entrepreneurial leaders who have not yet reached the level of achievement that they know is possible. I wanted to learn more.

COCC: I’ve heard that much of the data you use in your company came from a two-year proprietary study you conducted to isolate the major problems in service-related businesses. What types of business did your study focus on?

Nirell: The study focused on small- to midsized businesses in the service sector. For our study, we studied businesses with under $500 million in revenues.

COCC: What did this study reveal to you? Were there any surprises in what you found?

Nirell: Plenty of surprises. We found, for example, that a small number of companies in our sampling all shared some important traits. COCC: Such as?

Nirell: First of all, the highly successful companies seemed to maintain strong self-leadership. They were clear on what their core strengths and weaknesses were. Also, they weren’t hesitant about developing their employees’ core strengths. Investing in their people–some invested upwards of 3 percent of revenues–is part of their way of life.

COCC: Well, that’s the positive side. I’ve also heard you talk about the “energy drainers” that tend to tear down businesses, keeping them from reaching their full potential. What’s that all about?

Nirell: Actually, I learned that all entrepreneurial leaders-even the highly successful ones-often allow some energy-drainers to creep into their lives. I’ve worked with CEOs of textile companies, manufacturers, security firms, consulting firms, and high tech businesses . I have found that the same things get in the way, regardless of industry. Here’s why. The people who run these companies are born entrepreneurs. They are generally forward-looking, risk-taking, high-energy people. That type of person finds herself saying “yes” too often to too many things. Worse yet, she can confuse looking busy with being productive!

COCC: I believe I’ve seen that happen, now that you mention it. What else fits into the category of “energy drainer”?

Nirell: Offering too many products and services. When I speak to business groups and clients across the country, I frequently ask CEOs this simple question, “What does your company do?” Most of them typically take several minutes to answer-and I often leave confused! Worse yet, some get defensive and said things like, “We don’t need an elevator statement to make our company run.” If you can’t answer that question with a few short sentences, your market offering and elevator statements are too complex. I recommend a Web site called <15secondpitch.com> to help people overcome this energy drain.

COCC: I’ll definitely check out that Web site. Okay, you’ve got me going now. What’s the third energy drainer?

Nirell: I call it “having more tasks than time to do them.” This is a bit allied to the Michael Gerber distinction between working “in your business” and “on your business.” Too often the extra busyness comes from a refusal to be a full-time businessperson. Many managers and entrepreneurs are afraid that someone else won’t do the job as well. They are probably right: the effectiveness of delegation-especially in the beginning-is often only 80 to 90 percent. Just learn to live with that. It certainly is a healthier alternative to the addictive “busyness” behaviors. These send out the wrong message to your teams and customers.

COCC: I think I know from reading your publications and website that the next “drainer” is “trading hours for dollars.” By that, do you mean that too many entrepreneurs have the mindset that more money can be generated only by putting in more hours?

Nirell: Yes. “Hours for dollars” is an old paradigm borne from the industrial age. In most Western societies, that model is passé. Progressive learning organizations know that they need to capture the hearts and minds of the workers, not the arms and legs. Best Buy recently graced the cover of BusinessWeek and demonstrated how team productivity has increased 35% since they eliminated standard office hours, endless meetings, time clocks and other antiquated forms of measuring performance. Companies need to learn to produce passive income as much as possible, thus extending and increasing the value per hour of every person in the company. Package your knowledge, thus creating passive income from it. I have learned over 50 ways to package knowledge from my mentors. Affiliates can sell products and services while you sleep.

COCC: I can tell you’re just getting started, but I’m afraid we’ve used up the space in this column. How about another interview to address ways we can eliminate these energy drainers?

Nirell: Sounds great. Let’s make it happen. Lowell H. Lamberton is professor of business at Central Oregon Community College. For more information, feel free to contact Professor Lamberton at 383-7714.


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