So the day is finally here!!!! “Opportunity Knocking” is officially out! I am so excited. I wanted to share my Preface with you so you can get a taste of the seven steps to success I have observed all of the successful leaders I know use to achieve their goals:
(below is copyrighted by Lori Ann LaRocco and is an excerpt of “Opportunity Knocking” Agate Publishing)
Over the course of my two-plus decades as a television journalist and writer, I’ve interviewed business people ranging from the owner of a corner deli to the billionaire CEO. At speaking engagements around the United States for my books Thriving in the New Economy and Dynasties of the Sea, I have had the privilege of meeting
CEOs, small businessmen, and aspiring entrepreneurs, and they all ask me the same questions: “How do leaders think?” and “What kind of strategies do they use?” I have found my answers are always the same, and they have ignited a spark in me that led me to write this book. Though the amount in their bank accounts may vary hugely, the leaders I have interviewed all share common strengths that are responsible for their success.
The ah-ha moment came to me one night while traveling back from Florida after speaking in front of 500 small businesspeople. I was stuck at the Miami airport, and as I sat on the floor surrounded by other stranded travelers, I reviewed the conversations I had earlier in the day. I realized that the strategies that I had described in my keynotes were not associated with a particular industry. They stood alone, relying on a set of fundamentals that were universal. Each of the leaders I had described built one of these strategies upon the next in order to achieve success.
I broke down the process through which these leaders define and then take opportunities, and formed what I call the opportunity pyramid. The opportunity pyramid shows you how to identify and act upon opportunities at any stage in your career. Each chapter of this book will show you how to create success within a particular layer, or stage, of the pyramid. Each chapter focuses on one leader who analyzed the competitive landscape and seized a particular opportunity (important things to
do regardless of one’s level). On this journey, you’ll learn strategies from Harold Hamm, America’s richest oilman, who has a high school education; Ralph Schlosstein, a private equity titan; Steve Case, the legendary Internet entrepreneur; and Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page, and Jory Des Jardins, the three founders of the Internet powerhouse BlogHer. You’ll also learn from auto executive Alan Mulally; finance chief Ron Kruszewski; and another private equity giant, David Rubenstein, who blazed the trail in China long before anyone else ventured into the Middle Kingdom.
While this book focuses on leaders in diverse industries, it is ultimately about what all good leaders share. Although their reasons to embark on their careers were all different—from leaving a stable job to pursue happiness to being dissatisfied with a current career to rebuilding a dynasty that had crumbled after years of straying from its core principles—when you strip away the particular industry and motivations, these people all used the same strategies to build success. Each went through the same critical decision-making process in building each layer of his or her pyramid.
This book is also about the qualities of leadership, which are not measured in monetary success. Leadership has no price tag. It comes from within. You own it. You develop it. How you define who you are and execute your plans define you as a leader. Empower yourself with the confidence that you can achieve what you set out to do. It all starts with creating and developing your own opportunity pyramid. The motivation behind creating your pyramid may be different from the motivations
in this book, but the formula you will use is the same.
Let’s Get Building
In the great pyramids of Egypt, each layer is carefully placed on top of the layer beneath it in order to create a structure that is perfectly oriented to the four points of a compass. In the same way, the opportunity pyramid will help you build a structure upward from a solid basis. It will firmly root you and then point you in the direction of your goals.
There are seven layers in the opportunity pyramid:
• Fortify your foundation—know yourself
• Build your knowledge
• Define your opportunity strategy—and stick with it
• Fuel your passion
• Stay the course
• Execute—pay attention to the details
• Think ahead—world domination
Fortify Your Foundation—Know Yourself
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for success. To start the process of building your pyramid, you need to know yourself, so you can identify your strengths and weaknesses and can decide if you have the competitive edge when assessing a certain opportunity. How can you distinguish between a good opportunity and a bad one if you don’t know what you want to achieve or how you are going to go about it? Fortify your foundation—know yourself
Build your knowledge
Building your knowledge is the next level of the pyramid. You need to be more than competent. You have to strive to be the best. This applies to people at every level of business. Your boss wants the best out of you because an organization thrives when its employees execute at a high level. If you are a small-business owner, you not only want yourself to be a top performer, you want your employees to work hard and excel. In order to be successful you have to be at the peak of performance.
That’s a necessary ingredient in service. This level is also essential to the aspiring entrepreneur, who needs to sharpen his or her skills in order to take the plunge.
Define Your Opportunity Strategy—and Stick with It
The knowledge-building process leads directly into the next layer, defining your opportunity strategy. What does opportunity mean to you? You may be at a crossroads in going to the next level of your business, career, or aspiring career, so defining a strategy may mean taking radical steps to reset your course. You internalize whatever life lessons and experiences come your way, so garner from them the courage and the conviction to define your opportunity strategy and stick with it.
Fuel Your Passion
Passion is the fuel that keeps you going and inspires you on your way, but being passionate is not the same as being impulsive. The thrill of knowing you are on your way can become intoxicating. You must be sure that your execution is dead on. You can’t let the emotional highs and lows cloud your judgment.
Stay the Course
When you set a course, there may be naysayers who doubt you. Hear them out if you respect their opinions, but if you don’t agree with them, don’t be swayed. Remember, this is your life and you are accountable for the decisions you make. If you want to home in on your passion and build a business, you need to be comfortable with the path you take. Who cares what the others think? You will see examples in this book of people who went against those who disagreed with their plans, staying the course to come out on top. Remember that in the end, it’s your blood, sweat, and tears that are woven into the fabric of your business
Execute—Pay Attention to the Details
If you want something bad enough, you have to make sure you execute effectively. If for some reason it becomes clear during the execution process that a plan will not work, you have to make sure your backup plan is clear immediately. As Dagfinn Lunde, transport banking financier extraordinaire and member of the board of managing directors for transportation lender DVB Bank, once said to me: “The backup plan has to be clear immediately because, when you sit on that tipping point,
you can’t wait. Sometimes you have to give up the first plan and go to your alternative plans. You do not want to fail. You just have to find the right way to execute and work on those alternatives to prepare for such an occasion.”
Think Ahead—World Domination
All this preparation is fortifying you for what BlogHer founders Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page, and Jory Des Jardins call “world domination”— whether that comes in the form of expanding your business, getting a job promotion, or leaving your job and embarking on a new career or business. Your apex is what you want it to be. “World domination” could be considered a hefty description, but your definition of world domination will definitely be different from mine. It’s just about
being the absolute best you can be.
Building Blocks for Success
All of these levels fit together perfectly and erect a strong structure to guide you in your pilgrimage to success. Throughout the layers of the opportunity pyramid, the cement that binds each pivotal step is honesty. All of the leaders in this book are brutally honest with themselves. If you do not know yourself, including your strengths and weaknesses, how can you define opportunity? How can you distinguish between a good opportunity and a bad one? All too often we let the fear of failing get a grip on us. We don’t want to try because we are afraid we will fall short. Don’t let that fear immobilize you. Another key ingredient is the ability to look forward, not backward. I, for one, do not live with regrets. No “coulda, woulda, shoulda” here. You cannot better yourself if you are stuck in a self-loathing rut. You have to live in the present in order to create your future. While taking a risk and leaving your comfort zone can be a little unnerving, the rewards can outweigh the costs. You will never know unless you take that leap. When we are afraid to make such a commitment, we make up excuses: “I have no time,” “I would but there’s the kids,” or the confidence
killer, “I don’t know how.” These excuses are just weighing you down. If you truly want to do something, you will find the time and way. You will learn the necessary pieces of information to start a business, get that promotion, or expand your business.
Although there are opportunities to be taken at every stage of a career, true leaders need to create their own opportunities. Being presented with an opportunity does not automatically result in success. It is how you use that opportunity that makes the difference. This book will take a look at the process of choosing opportunities and differentiating good opportunities from bad ones. There is an anonymous quote that I believe sums up the lessons one learns while climbing the opportunity pyramid: “All of life is a journey— which paths we take, what we look back on, and what we look forward to is up to us. We determine our destination, what kind of road
we will take to get there, and how happy we are when we get there.” The opportunity pyramid can be your map on that journey.
While on this voyage, I want you to be inspired. As a newshound, I’m constantly pursuing inspiration. To get into the minds of leaders, to learn the how and why, is priceless. My conversations with these individuals left me bubbling over with excitement, each leader becoming my new favorite. I am inspired when I recognize their qualities in myself, and I hope that as you read, you too will be awakened to these traits in yourself. Since I’m a list maker, I have broken down some of these leaders’
steps for success in bullet points throughout the book to make them easier to digest. There was so much information from my discussions The Opportunity Pyramid 19
that I decided to break down the information even further with a special section I call “A Page from My Notebook,” which hits on their rules to live by, mantras, and life lessons. The synergies amongst these businessmen and businesswomen are uncanny. You may be shaking your head right now, thinking, “Sure, these CEOs are super successful, but how can I relate to them?” Well, at the end of each chapter, I describe how the particular pyramid layer can apply to you. This book is partially a blueprint for how leaders can analyze the competitive landscape and seize a particular opportunity, but you don’t have to own your own company to put its lessons to work. It doesn’t matter if you are a small business owner, executive, manager, employee, or aspiring entrepreneur—you can apply these lessons. This is a flexible strategy for success, created with the knowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all way to reach your goals. The opportunity pyramid model will guide you at each stage to look within yourself.
Throughout this book, you will learn that honesty, confidence, determination, and passion all help build the opportunity pyramid. Just as each of us defines opportunities differently, we define success personally as well. The opportunity pyramid works because it is based on your talents and how you make the best use of them.
This model also recognizes that achieving your goals does not happen overnight. It takes time, patience, and nurturing. You have to analyze your business and goals brick by brick, layer by layer. The pieces need to fit together precisely, or the pyramid collapses. All the layers within a structure need to be defined and strong; constructing and fortifying your career is no different.
So let’s get on our traveling clothes and become opportunity vagabonds. It’s an adventure on which you’ll discover who you are and what you want to do. In this book, we’ll be taking off the blinders and rosecolored glasses. We’ll be getting out the picks and shovels. It’s time for a reality check. It’s time to start building.
Please order a hard copy or Kindle version of my book Opportunity Knocking Lessons from Business Leaders.