The Entrepreneurial Evolution (E-Volution) is the cycle most entrepreneurs go through—and it gets faster and faster because of the momentum built up from previous cycles.
We live our lives—and run our businesses—while continually learning. And the E-Volution cycle is a self-refreshing one that relies on the lessons learned during a business journey. After most of the entrepreneurs I know reach the mountaintop, they quickly spot a new hill to take and set off on their next challenge.
Mountain vs. hill is a pretty good simile, in this case. Because the next time, the climb isn’t quite as steep. They apply their hard-won knowledge to hit the summit faster and easier.
The Flywheel Effect
Business researcher and author Jim Collins summarized this concept well with his “Flywheel Effect.” He visualized someone tasked with getting a 5,000-pound “flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and long as possible.” At first, entrepreneurs struggle to push this massive device through a single revolution. But eventually, they turn it over dozens and dozens of times. Then the stored kinetic energy kicks in:
[A]t some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn … whoosh! … its own heavy weight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. A thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge heavy disk flies forward, with almost unstoppable momentum.
Collins explains that the energy’s source isn’t one big push, rather the “overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction.” He’s certainly right—it’s hard to pin down a few specific things or even a dozen that lead to sustainable entrepreneurial momentum. But the conceptual sources for that kinetic energy are clear: knowledge and experience.
And within those categories lie the stages of E-Volution, which become a bit different—and a lot easier—once an entrepreneur dives into the cycle again.
Starting again: a new opportunity, yes. But an opportunity with purpose!
Some business owners begin new ventures before really understanding their Why for doing it. But the most successful ones know their purpose—their superpower; what makes them unique.
Getting a handle on why we do what we do—what motivates us to take on the struggle—serves as a filter that enables us to live a life by design. It allows us to pick and choose projects, business ideas, or even an entirely new career path based on unambiguous criteria. If a new business doesn’t fulfill our purpose, that’s a pass. If it does, the energy and motivation that an entrepreneur brings to the table are very powerful stuff.
Business by design
A leader who enters the E-Volution cycle again knows the importance of defining and articulating a clear vision to align their team. And they develop the systems to make sure the organization achieves its vision with transparency, accountability, and a meeting pulse that guarantees consistent results.
They have learned to work out people needs, develop smarter processes, and use actionable data to gauge results. Problems are dealt with faster and better—and many are avoided altogether.
Most entrepreneurs take a couple of cycles to find the right system that fits their philosophy. But once they get it, each new endeavor is easier. The implementation process is started earlier and with fewer adaptation issues, since the team already knows how to implement and run with it.
Seasoned entrepreneurs now recognize the importance of traction and scaling. They more intuitively understand how to create the rhythm and momentum of a flywheel with far less effort.
Leader by design
Some bad leaders find success, of course, but it’s often not replicable. And even evolving “ok leadership” into “pretty good leadership” has exponentially positive results. The best leaders:
- Sped up their education by tapping the invaluable experiences of a supportive peer group.
- Learned the power of authenticity and positive vulnerability—understanding how these qualities rally others around them to pitch in, defeat problems, and hit objectives.
- Avoid falling prey to Imposter Syndrome, the lure of insecurity that compels lesser leaders to “fake it until they make it.”
- Identified their “superpowers” and now apply them to make the biggest impact on their business.
And they have (to some degree) mastered the art of communication, which builds trust, motivates others, and empowers teams.
Team by Design
With apologies to the English poet John Donne, “no entrepreneur is an island.” Building a competent team with shared values is possibly the most significant factor that distinguishes successful enterprises from the also-rans.
The hard-earned lessons that propel business owners through a new cycle of E-Volution include recognizing the value of diverse teams—the collective power of different experiences, perspectives, and solutions.
They now know how to deal with unhealthy conflict and leverage positive conflict into better solutions. The E-Volved leader approaches difficult conversations and coaches underperforming team members confidently—and knows when it’s time to let someone go.
And fundamentally, they can quickly put the right people in the right seats to achieve traction.
Think about all the hiring missteps and lost productivity that are common in the early stages of many businesses. Consciously building a team by design from the start vastly speeds up a new E-Volution cycle!
The incredible potential of experience and purpose
The stages of E-Volution don’t always happen in sequence, and many business leaders jump back and forth between them throughout their careers. An entrepreneurial butterfly doesn’t spring fully formed from a cocoon in a second (or even third or fourth) trip through the cycle. We are all constantly learning, growing, and refining.
But most successful entrepreneurs have come to understand their purpose—and this time, applied it from the get-go. In the perfect representation of the E-Volution concept, there is no fifth stage. The leader has already uncovered their Why and used it as the motivation rocket fuel that powers faster, better results—and far deeper satisfaction.
A new entrepreneurial journey is in the cards for most of the business owners I know. It’s in our blood.
And the wonderful part about E-Volution, after all those early struggles, is that we’re now smarter, better, and faster. We’ve got the perspective and tools to destroy challenges and achieve growth while genuinely living a life by design.
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