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5 Lessons Learned in 2012

As we welcome a new year, we are equal parts grateful, humbled, and excited about what’s in store. In many ways, 2012 was a year of blessings. Our company is proud to have earned several honors, including our second annual “Best Places to Work” award from the Baltimore Business Journal. We saw many of our clients soar to new heights. A new consultant, Frank Belen, joined our team and the entreQuest family welcomed not just one, but four, new babies, including my son, James Joseph.
 
Despite these bright spots, 2012 had its challenges. As we prepare for the official launch of my book, Grow Regardless: Of Your Business’ Size, Your Industry or the Economy… and Despite the Government, on February 5, 2013, we find ourselves in the home stretch on a tough road to publication.
 
Getting here has been far from easy. Growing up, I never imagined I’d write a book. I was the guy with a 450 score on the Verbal SAT. But my roots had a profound effect on my decision to write this book; I can trace my philosophy about the right way to treat customers and employees back to my very first jobs as a teenager. We heard “no” from 27 literary agents and dozens of publishers. A process we expected to last six months ended up taking 16. But, along the way, we were fortunate enough to form strong relationships with publicists, PR folks, social media experts, and book designers. We ended up tripling our marketing budget once we realized we weren’t merely trying to publish a book—we want to create a movement that inspires ordinary companies to become mission-driven growth organizations.
 
Throughout this journey, we’ve experienced our share of hurdles, which means we’ll be even more thankful when we finally hold that first copy of Grow Regardless. Until then, we’re determined to learn what we can from these uphill battles, carry that wisdom forward, and share it with our clients.
 
There are five great lessons we’ve learned in 2012:
 
1. Perspective—Being grateful for what we have helps us focus on what matters. Given our company’s small size and the struggles of the publishing industry, the fact that we’ve made it this far is amazing.
 
2. Performance—Superior performance means asking yourself, “What am I focusing on and what’s the aim?” Our world is in constant flux and motion—the terms, timing, and thinking change almost daily; the fiscal cliff is just one example. The best way to ensure sustainable performance is to expect change and, within the storm, maintain focus on your end goal.
 
3. Persuasion—Constant flux creates indecision. Persuasion can be make-or-break, whether it’s convincing a publisher to take on our book or persuading clients to keep pace with changing times. It’s one thing to have perspective and focus, but we must be willing to make decisions and to make a compelling case for others and for ourselves. That case should clearly answer the question, “Why are we doing this?”
 
4. Priority—What’s most important? We’ve asked ourselves this question repeatedly in terms of my book: Is it selling 30,000 copies or getting the book in the hands of the right 500 people? Is it making money as an author or inspiring a movement of businesses growing regardless? The distillation effect of asking what’s most important is where everything comes to a head to make a decision and take action.
 
5. People—People matter. Ask yourself, “Who else cares about your business and your mission?” As we reached out to potential partners in our book project, we found ourselves in a community of people who gladly connected us with others. We knew we couldn’t get here alone, but it was a great eye-opener to learn just how many people out there truly care about our movement.
 
For me, 2012 was  a year of learning these lessons to put in place for 2013. I encourage you to take these five questions—What really matters? What’s the aim? Why are we doing it? What’s most important? Who else cares? —and put them in action. One thing we’ve learned from our adventure in book publishing is that if you keep on plugging, you’ll eventually end up exactly where you need to be.

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Joe Mechlinski is the co-founder and president of entreQuest, a business development firm that helps increase revenue for small-to-midsized businesses.

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