Ascending From Entrepreneur To Leader

Aaron Hoos

For years I wanted to be an entrepreneur. To me, that meant owning my own business and doing my own thing; not having to commute to a company and work for “the man”. (Truth be told, I’m just not wired to thrive in that kind of environment).

But building a business was hard. I struggled, failed, then tried again and figured it out…

… to a point.

Problem was, years down the road, I found myself in a different place: I was successful by some measures but also struggling by other measures: I began to discover that I was the bottleneck in my own business. I was hitting a ceiling because I was trying to do it all.

So I specialized, starting more focused companies like Real Estate Investing Copywriter.

Later, I built systems to help me create better content and serve more clients faster.

Later, I started building replicatable, duplicatable products and commoditized services that allowed me to shorten the timeline between client acquisition and deliverable.

Later, I started building a team—first an assistant and then writers, even going so far as to create what might be considered an agency.

Although my goal has always been to be a business owner and entrepreneur, I realize that I’m ultimately becoming a leader:

  • A leader in the industries I serve: by being a thought leader and influencing brand
  • A leader for my clients: by helping clients elevate their knowledge, make decisions, and see results
  • A leader of people: by building a team and providing them with an income while having an impact
  • A leader of innovation: by leveraging what I know and do to create new opportunities for my clients and team
  • A leader of the future: I lead my industry, my clients, and team, toward a bolder, brighter future

It’s a journey for me. If you’d asked me years ago if I thought I would be a leader, the answer would be a resounding no… simply because the only thing I wanted was to be a self-employed writer.

But I realize now: that “self-employed writer” was just step 1. And since that realization, I’ve been on a path of ascension and am constantly learning to embrace my new role as leader.

Want to make the same ascension yourself? Make this simple change to your thinking to get you moving in this direction: Find more people to rely on you. Whether it’s the industry at large, your clients, or your team; build a business that compels other people need to rely on you for your expertise, skills, compensation, etc. It’s weird; there’s not a “thing” you need first before becoming a leader, just build a business that gets people to rely on you.


When I was “just” a self-employed writer, my job was to wake up each day, sit down at my computer, and writer. Today, as a leader of my industry, clients, people, innovation, and the future, my job is much different: I must constantly build; growing my knowledge, authority, and business to fulfill my role as a leader.

It’s a higher level and a bigger challenge but if I want to take part in a bigger and more opportunitistic future, being a leader is the only way.

Communication expert Connie Dieken interviewed at #BusinessLunchClub

We had a great lunchtime interview at #BusinessLunchClub on Twitter today.

This week’s theme is leadership and there has been an emphasis on the importance of communication in leadership. Today we talked with Connie Dieken, a leading speaker, author, and coach, on the topic of communication.

You can read the original discussion at but I’ve reposted it below (with some minor edits).

@AaronHoos #BLC We are joined by @ConnieDieken, who is a leading expert on influential communication in the 21st century

@ConnieDieken: @AaronHoos #blc Thanks for inviting me to Biz Lunch Club. I’m on a mission to transform leaders into more influential communicators.

@AaronHoos @ConnieDieken #blc It’s a pleasure to have you with us!

@AaronHoos #BLC … @ConnieDieken was voted one of America’s Top 5 Speakers for 2010 by

@AaronHoos #blc @ConnieDieken ‘s bestselling book “Talk Less, Say More” helps readers be more influential and make things happen…

@AaronHoos #blc … “Talk Less Say More” was selected a Top Business Book of 2009 by #smallbiztrends…

@AaronHoos #blc …Learn more about @ConnieDieken and her book at or

@AaronHoos #blc … It’s nice to have you join us, @ConnieDieken ! Welcome!

@AaronHoos @ConnieDieken #blc Has communication changed over the years? If so, how?

@ConnieDieken: #blc Communicating successfully is radically different in today’s distracted, impatient world. Face-to-face comm skills are plummeting…

@ConnieDieken: #blc We’re buried beneath an AVALANCHE of information that social scientists say is 10,000 times greater than an earlier generation

@AaronHoos @ConnieDieken #blc Wow, 10,000 time greater!?!?

@AaronHoos @ConnieDieken #blc So if today’s audiences are so overloaded with information, how do we talk so others will listen?

@ConnieDieken: #blc Do you check e-mail and voice mail simultaneously? Do you grow impatient with long-winded voice mails and zap them mid-sentence?

@ConnieDieken: #blc Rambling has become a nearly unforgivable sin. We’ve become instant addicts and tune-out is rampant.

@ConnieDieken: #blc 3 simple but profound habits will solve the issue.: Connect, Convey, Convince. (TM) “Talk Less, Say More” offers many tips to apply

@AaronHoos @ConnieDieken #blc In your work as a leadership communication coach, what do you tell leaders? How important is communication to their work?

@ConnieDieken: #blc Communication is the single greatest challenge in business today. It takes just 3 habits to conquer it: Connect, Convey, Convince. (TM)

@ConnieDieken: #blc Apply these habits and you’ll become the influential communicator that our impatient, distracted world demands.

@ConnieDieken: #blc My blog is full of real-world examples of influential people hits and misses. Here’s a link:

@AaronHoos @ConnieDieken #blc We’ll be sure to check out your blog! Can you elaborate: How can leaders become more influential communicators?

@ConnieDieken: #blc First, CONNECT by giving people what they want and value. Not what you want and value. It’s critical to “Stay in Their Moment”

@ConnieDieken: #blc 2nd Habit: CONVEY using portion control to get your points across with clarity, not confusion. If you confuse, you lose…

@ConnieDieken: #blc…I share many tips on how to convey successfully in my book: The Eyes Trump the Ears, Talk in Triplets, Telling Stories, for example

@ConnieDieken: #blc Habit #3: CONVINCE. This means creating commitment to influence a specific action or decision. You can’t be generic and it’s not a ….

@ConnieDieken: #blc ..genetic gift like singing. My book shares many strategies & tips: Sound Decisive, Transfer Ownership, Adjust Your Energy .

@AaronHoos @ConnieDieken #blc Sounds compelling! I love your “portion control” idea. And giving people value is huge! Thanks!

@ConnieDieken: #blc Lots of “Talk Less ” freebies at You can download a free chapter, watch a video or get a free iPhone app.

@AaronHoos @ConnieDieken #blc Some of our audience lead organizations of many, while others are sole proprietors. How is it different for them?

@ConnieDieken: #blc Influence is critical to us all. Whether it’s influencing a team, your clients, your spouse or your kids…

@ConnieDieken: #blc It’s time to STOP informing and START influencing. People can get the info they need on the web. They need you to…

@ConnieDieken: #blc Be a color commentator instead of a play-by-play announcer. People need you to tell them what you make of things..

@AaronHoos @ConnieDieken #blc That is a great analogy: color commentator vs. play-by-play announcer. I like it!

@AaronHoos @ConnieDieken #blc We’re quickly running out of time! Last question: What communication best practices can you recommend?

@ConnieDieken: #blc Be aware of the real, live people around you – don’t shut them out in favor of electronic contact. Use both.

@ConnieDieken: #blc Influential communication is all about getting a response. Connect, Convey, Convince. (TM) Don’t bury the lead. Meet people needs.

@ConnieDieken: #blc Get a free iPhone app with hundreds of communication tips at your fingertips:

@ConnieDieken: #blc Thanks for having me at Business Lunch Club today, Aaron. Go out and influence your world, everyone!

@AaronHoos @ConnieDieken #blc On behalf of #BusinessLunchClub: Thank you so much for your valuable insights! It was a pleasure hearing from you!

InFocus: The Leadership Diamond

The Business Diamond Framework™ is made up of 4 “Function Diamonds” — the Leadership Diamond, the Support Diamond, the Value-Add Diamond, and the To-Market Diamond. In these “InFocus” blogs, I’ll choose an aspect of the Framework and talk about it in greater detail.

Today’s blog — the Leadership Diamond. Leadership is a broad category. In many businesses it represents some of the following factors:Executives and upper management, the values, vision, mission, and goals of the company, the driving force of stakeholders (and, more frequently, security holders).

Those are probably the ones you considered when you first encountered this Function Diamond. But there are others: There’s the attitude and the underlying flavor of the company. And this can be a powerful force, but also an invisible one. I think back to some of the places I worked when I was just entering the workforce. We had leadership from upper management, we had stated visions and values and missions, and the stakeholders (most frequently my direct reports and customers) provided some of the guidance that we might label leadership here. But when no one was looking, that’s when the real leadership appeared: The joker who magnetized the employees with his or her charisma; the attitudes of employees against upper management and customers; the real feelings and opinions about pay, benefits, and about the products or services we were selling.This is a leadership issue, believe it or not. Like an iceberg, this is unseen force can sink the ship.

So, how can the stated leadership overcome the unstated leadership?

Modeling values is huge and not done enough in many cases. (We’re seeing that right now in the economy where executives of struggling companies are laying people or crying doom but getting bonuses).

Unfortunately, modeling is not enough because there is a world apart between the upper management and the rest of the business.

Communicate. Employees want to feel like they are part of something bigger and upper management would do well to communicate with employees. Obviously, if things are rough, executives need to watch what they say and how they say it. But there are other opportunities to communicate and employees want to hear from their bosses… they just don’t want to hear the company rhetoric. Today’s leadership should be telling their organizations: “Here’s how we plan on keeping the company successful through the recession, and, more importantly, here’s how we plan to help you…”

Get back into the trenches. Without a doubt, everyone is a busy in their jobs, company leadership included. But a boss that comes down from his or her ivory tower from time to time and makes sales calls or deals with an upset client will truly model a company’s values in a way that a memo or a poster of company values could not. Yes, it might be an entire afternoon, but it would be an investment. And they would get the added benefit of seeing the day-to-day pressures that their employees face, which may have changed since they walked the floor in those lower positions.

Revisit the training. This is a problem area I see in businesses all the time. The training, which is supposed to be a step-by-step instruction of the best practices according to leadership, is often based on the best case scenarios. Unfortunately, it’s only when the worst case situations “hit the fan” that the true attitudes of the business (that invisible leadership quotient) comes out. I have yet to see employee training that talks about when ALL the lines are ringing and there’s a line-up of customers that stretches out the door. Sit down with upper management and tear apart the training. You will keep some of it, but you’ll have to revise it to include the worst-case scenario stuff.

Make sure managers have the pulse of their subordinates. They shouldn’t just create quarterly targets and know their department’s numbers, they need to know their people. They need to build professional and respectful relationships with their staff. They need to model and communicate. I’m not talking about creating a “one-big-happy-family” mentality; I’m talking about understanding who in the department is a strength and who is a liability.

Good leadership, in my opinion, is about selling to your employees the idea that they can receive job security and a paycheck by putting in 7.5 quality hours each day. (Well, that’s a start, but it needs to grow from there).

Managers: read Gitomer‘s The Sales Bible and think of your employees as your prospects. And, here’s a good link on management from Harvard Business Publishing you should read.

Business Diamond Framework: Mapping the organization

In a previous blog I wrote about the four Function Diamonds of the Business Diamond Framework™: Leadership, Support, Value-Add, and To-Market.
The layout of the Framework is intentional. This layout allows Framework practitioners to not only understand the business from the perspective of each of the four functions, but also from the perspective of the organizational structure and the value chain. This this blog, we’ll look at the organizational chart.

The vertical axis is the organizational axis. By mapping the organizational structure, decision-making, and communication flow from the Leadership down through the other sections of the organization, Framework practitioners can better understand the structure of the business and how the parts work together.

Here’s an example of that in action. First, the practitioners create the organizational structure of the business under review.
… then they place that chart over top of the Framework and connect the roles from the chart with the Functions in the Framework. Like so:

Here’s why this is important: The Framework is used to help people understand their business, create innovative strategies, and execute those strategies. Mapping the organization the way the organization is helps the practitioner to understand the organization. Then, moving the organizational roles from one Function Diamond to another is an easy way to innovate. (More on that in an upcoming post). And, understanding how the organization works helps the Framework practitioner to execute strategies more effectively by showing how strategies can be embedded in each business function to contribute to change in the whole business.