My Key Takeaways from the MIT EMP

Posted On: January 17

The MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program is considered one of the most prestigious entrepreneurship courses in the world. It is held in partnership with the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO) and was formerly called The Birthing of Giants. Entrepreneurs worldwide apply for the program, and only 65 are chosen each year for the three-year Entrepreneurs course. I was honored to accept an invitation to serve as an instructor. While there, I took the opportunity to sit through all the other classes during the week. I took nearly 45 pages of notes, and here is an outline of what I felt were the most important things we covered. I hope you find this of value.

 

At the beginning of the Entrepreneurial Program, we asked all the attendees what they were most interested in learning. Here’s what they told us.

  1. How to grow the business to get to the next level and make it scalable.
  2. How to manage fast growth.
  3. Creating a culture of disciplined execution with high levels of accountability.
  4. Building a high engagement culture that attracts top talent.
  5. Dealing with aggressive/new competition.
  6. Adapting/changing business models.
  7. How to focus and not be distracted by other opportunities.

 

Here are vital quotes/ideas I heard from the instructors (all very successful entrepreneurs) and the attendees:

  • To get the right answers, you must learn to ask relevant questions.
  • Hire for attitude and cultural fit. Train for skills.
  • You cannot grow your business. Only your people can grow your business.
  • First, deeply understand your key target customer and then communicate one focused benefit they will enjoy by investing in your products/services.
  • Answer this question: What problem do you solve, or what desire do you deliver, to your key target customer?
  • Your brand promise must be functional/economic/emotional.
  • Jack Welsh: “If you do not have a competitive advantage, don’t compete!”
  • Understand the predictive KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that directly correlate to how your business will be doing in the future. Not how it has done in the past!
  • Are your people 100% clear about what they are accountable for, and the specific metrics tied to it?
  • Ambiguity breeds mediocrity.

 

Visibility drives accountability → accountability drives engagement → employee engagement drives customer engagement → customer engagement drives customer loyalty → customer loyalty drives increased revenues and profits.

  • Culture is not perks.
  • A culture of greatness = a company of greatness.
  • Core values + core purpose + envisioned future builds the culture.
  • You need to create raving fan employees.
  • Culture is built by design, not by default!
  • Your core values are your soul—they are your “Hard Core Values”—and are non-negotiable.
  • When values are clear, decisions are easy!
  • Entrepreneurs must be fanatic about your core values—no guts, no glory.
  • Get the right people on the bus.
  • Hire slow—fire fast.
  • Reward and recognize for cultural fit.
  • Tell stories to support the culture.
  • Create systems to support the culture in multiple ways.
  • Creating a great culture takes lots of patience and persistence.
  • Organizational culture is hard to build but can be easily destroyed.

 

To build an inspired culture, you build it around your core purpose.

The purpose is the secret weapon in your business. More than making money, people want to make a difference. Above all, people want to do something that has meaning.

  • It is all about quality relationships first—with your employees and your customers.
  • Pick the customer type first—then build a business around them. Surround that customer type with a “network of value.” Then, give them a product of superior value that they will enjoy immensely and tell their friends all about the product.
  • Help your key target customer understand that they can only get what they want from you—and they might not be able to get it because it’s limited.
  • Then, create interest and urgency.
  • Start with a big idea: create the package and communicate the value to your target customer type. Then create a community of key target customers and sell a “web of value” to them, including other products and services that your customer type wants very much and would trust you to sell to them.
  • Approach your business and your life with an attitude of gratitude.

 

  1. Find your industry or company bottleneck.
  2. Ask “why” five times or more to get to the root cause of the bottleneck.
  3. Formulate your Essential Question (your X-factor question): How can you get 7– 10 times better at eliminating/changing the bottleneck?
  4. Focus intently on finding the answer to your essential question.
  5. Get others to help—ask the most intelligent people you can find for their input, suggestions, and ideas.
  6. Once you understand the answer to your essential question—take massive action!
  7. Start all over again.

 

Great leaders are:

  • Evangelical about their vision and purpose.
  • Always on, focused, excited, and acting like a leader.
  • Superb at communications—mostly asking questions and listening.
  • Make it real—they do not try to pretend to be anyone but who they are.
  • They are humble and accountable.
  • You have to care about the people in your business, really care, care enough to listen.
  • They understand the business deeply.
  • Accountability = empowerment.
  • They are excellent at hiring people that are smarter than they are.
  • The formula for business success: (T + C + ECF) x DE = Success … Talent + Culture + Extreme Customer Focus x Disciplined Execution = Success.
  • To become a world-class entrepreneur, you need the 4Ps: passion, persistence, practice, and pattern recognition.
  • The five factors for being a great strategic thinker are business knowledge, experience in your market and business, taking time to sit back and look for the patterns, seeing and getting a flash of insight and then taking massive action combined with disciplined action execution on your strategic insight.
  • The key to building a world-class company and career is KNL. Knowledge—Entrepreneurs must be highly knowledgeable and competent with something highly valuable in the marketplace. Then, network—a lot of the right people need to know that about you, people who can tell hundreds or thousands of other people about how great you are. Last, love—you must be a person of honesty, integrity, and love. Therefore, if you are a loving, kind, high-integrity person and a lot of the right people know that about you and know that you’re very good with something highly valuable in the marketplace, you have everything you need to build a solid and successful career/business.

 

The three critical elements of excellence are Focus, Discipline, & Action.

You must be extremely focused on your “philosophy of excellence” for your life and business. Entrepreneurs must have the discipline to go out and execute on that every day, not just talk about it. Don’t put it on a poster on the wall, but live it in every part of your business and life.

The amount of action you apply directly determines the amount of results you will get.

  • The quality of the people entrepreneurs get and keep on their team will determine the long-term success of their business. In other words, it is all about people, people, people.
  • Culture = Cash!!!
  • The number one factor that impacts the level of highly engaged, loyal, and satisfied customers in your business is the number of highly engaged, loyal, and satisfied employees in your business.
  • People do not leave a job for pay. As long as the pay is fair (10% above or below what they would make to do the same job at any other company), they are most interested in working in a fun, fair, friendly, and family-oriented place. In other words, it is a place where they have the freedom to do their job well and take pride in the organization. They get some sort of genuine, honest, and sincere praise every 7 to 10 days. A place where they feel that their work is meaningful, and they also feel like they get to finish what they are working on. They actually deliver real results.
  • Key factors that drive a great culture are “atmosphere issues”—they do not cost any additional money.
  • The three things that every person looks for in any important relationship in their life are safety, belongingness, and appreciation.
  • Whoever owns the voice of the customer owns the marketplace. That is to say, be fanatic about listening to your customer. Then ask them in 100 different ways if they are happy or unhappy. What would make them happier, what makes them unhappy about your products and services, what would it take to get them to give you more of their business. In conclusion, ask lots of questions and listen, listen, listen to the customer.
  • There are oftentimes hundreds of touchpoints when you interact with a customer, but there are only a few key Moments of Truth (MOT) that are “make or break” interactions between your company and your customers. Therefore, it is essential that you create systems and processes to flawlessly deliver your Moments of Truth every time you meet with the customer.
  • The only person who can tell you what your Moments of Truth are—and what you need to do to deliver them superbly—is your customer.
  • 43% to 74% of purchasing decisions are made by word of mouth. In addition, 78% of companies say that most of their new business comes from referrals. However, only 23% have a system or process to reliably generate strong personal referrals of target customers to their business. Furthermore, there is a huge opportunity for the business to create a referral engine where their current great customers bring them lots and lots more great customers.
  • Only 10% to 15% of businesses effectively execute their plans. Therefore, lack of disciplined execution is the single most significant factor that holds back the success of most companies. Put another way, companies that are superb at disciplined execution create massive advantages in the marketplace.

 

Accountability and disciplined execution were significantly important topics during the EMP. Below, I have pasted in some key highlights from my reading on this topic:

  • Most companies do not develop a strong culture of execution and accountability.
  • When a strategy fails, it’s almost always because of execution failure.
  • Execution needs cadence—a sense of urgency to get the most important things done right away.
  • Plans should be as clear, simple, and easy to understand as possible. Can you get your strategy to ONE page? Does everyone in your business know and understand the strategy?
  • A great strategic plan is useless without a solid EXECUTION plan.
  • Effective entrepreneurs spend as much time planning for execution as you do in developing the strategy.
  • Make effectiveness, accountability, execution, and performance core values of your culture.
  • Execution involves linking people, strategy, and operations to achieving specific, measurable, and shared goals.
  • Make all KPIs visible: Create a dashboard and use it to drive accountability and execution.
  • Revisit the plan and KPIs often—like every day! Or at least once a week.
  • Once you have set the plan, communicate it like CRAZY—send a clear and consistent message about your vision, values, plans, goals, and how you are currently performing against them!
  • Have the courage to speak honestly and frankly about performance—or lack thereof.
  • Reward the people that achieve goals, but link rewards to clear and specific performance goals.
  • Reward the RIGHT goals—reward outcomes, not effort or activity.

 

I hope you found that recap of value. There were many, many additional ideas of extreme value for entrepreneurs, but out of my 40+ pages of notes, these were the ones that resonated with me. I welcome your feedback, additions, ideas, and suggestions.

 

Thanks so much

—John


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