I’ve been on a bit of a whirlwind West Coast tour. First stop was Vegas for my buddy Andy Jenkins’ bachelor party. It was great to see some of my Internet pals like Jeff Walker, Frank Kern, John Reese and Mike Filsaime for a quick 24 hours. The funny thing is that this wasn’t a wild party like the movie “Hangover”. It was somewhat tame – just hanging in Jenkins’ suite with good friends and telling stories. (Shhh…don’t tell anyone!)
Since I got in pretty early and I knew the other guys would be sleeping – I rented a car and heading off the Agassi Prep Academy out to a pretty rough section of Vegas beyond the strip.
A few weeks before for our Maverick ‘Sky’s the Limit’ adventure we brought in Ben Sayeski, Chief Education Officer and Darian Borowiak, Director of Development for the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. They really go into our “Hook Me Up, Yo” business session, with Ben even wearing the infamous clock when explaining what the school does.
We asked them to compile a list of questions from the kids about entrepreneurship. Then we had Maverick members roundtable the discussion and provide some real-world insights from success business owners. I came bearing the DVD recording and to get an inside glimpse at what the school was doing.
Agassi Prep (www.agassiprep.org) works with children K-12 in an underprivileged area to get them into college. Last year was the very first year they graduated a senior class and I was excited to learn about a 100% success rate for getting into college. I’m a huge advocate of education that’s done in an inspiring way with real results. I popped my head into one classroom taught by Prof Russell Andrews-EL and it was just awesome the way the kids were on the ground spread out learning Trig with whiteboards. He tried to create a similar environment to college, with less structure and without the formal desks.
One of my favorite structures at the school is the bridge that Seniors get to cross after graduation. It symbolizes a transition from high school to college – only graduating seniors have this privilege. At the end of the bridge is a turnabout and that’s where the graduates write notes back to the next class behind them. I love the symbolism this ritual invokes.
After touring the school and seeing what is going on there, I’m hoping the Maverick members will come back to do a guest lecture on entrepreneurship in the near future and work to mentor some of the kids there.
Regardless, I still only got about 2 hours sleep before flying out to Park City, UT. That was the site of our Maverick team’s strategic retreat. More on that in a minute because I want to share our “Painted Picture” for 2012 and give you some insights into what I’ve learned this year about creating an exceptional organization.
But before we get there, I want to share some pics from my final West Coast destination, the Mojave desert. Last Monday was a truly historic event with the unveiling of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise rocket ship, the first commercial space vehicle.
As you might know, I’m #144 on the list to go into space with Virgin Galactic. This is a significant milestone with flight-testing starting on the rocket immediately. The best estimates are mid to late 2011 for the first flight (and I’ve approximated I’m flight #26 if all goes well).
Rolling into Scaled Composite’s HQ in Mojave I was hoping the weather would cooperate since it had rained for a full 2 hours on the ride up from LA. I thought it was a good sign when I saw SpaceShip 1 with a rainbow behind it. (Note: SpaceShip 1 was the first commercial spacecraft to go into space twice in 2 weeks and win the $10M X Prize. This is the technology Virgin Galactic licensed.)
Over 800 future astronauts, VIPs, dignitaries and politicians came in for this historic event, including Governor Schwarzenegger and Governor Richardson from New Mexico.
Check out the name badge I got – probably one of the coolest ones I’ve seen:
They told us it was the coldest day in the Mojave – there were wind gusts of wind 70-80mph. It was a good thing they gave everyone some nice jackets – but that still didn’t really keep up warm enough. But who cares? It was amazing seeing SpaceShip 2 come down the runway. They had a pretty major light show with music going to set the scene.
Here’s the first glimpse I got of the craft:
And here I am in front of SpaceShip 2 looking pretty frickin cold!
Here’s a little video of the unveil including Governors Schwarzenegger and Richardson breaking champagne bottles to christen the ship. (I was a tiny bit worried about them breaking bottles on it.)
The party started immediately after the unveiling in some really cool tents and lounges they had set up for the night – they even had an ice bar with glasses made out of ice.
Everything was perfectly choreographed – except for the weather. I’m sure they weren’t expecting the hurricane-type winds we got. In fact, they shut the party down early at 7:30 and immediately cleared everyone to the busses to get us back to LA. It’s a good thing too, since I heard later the press tent and the other party tents blew down. Crazy!
I actually ended up sitting on the bus next to Dr. Peter Diamandis, the founder of the X-Prize and one of our previous Maverick Business Adventures® guests. I love talking to Peter and hearing what he’s up to. The guy is such a big-thinker and visionary. He’s involved in creating a NASCAR-like Rocket racing league and was showing me the first version of the iPhone video game they’ve got out.
When we got back to LA, me and about 10 other Virgin Galactic party-goers made the most of it and hung out at the SkyBar at the Mondrian talking about the future of Space flight.
Back to The Future
It’s a pretty amazing time to be alive when you can actually go into space as a tourist and not be limited to a government space program. As I mentioned, I think 2012 is what I’m anticipating for my flight – and that’s a year I’ve been giving a lot of thought around.
No, not because I think the world is coming to an end or anything like that. But because I’ve been working on our company’s “Painted Picture” for 2012 with my business coach Cameron Herold’s help. Cameron is the former COO of 1-800-Got Junk and helped build that company from about $2M – $100M using this concept of the painted picture.
The way this concept started was taking the same methods Olympic athletes use to visualize their performance and applying them to a business being built. Brian Scudamore, the founder of 1-800-Got Junk, sat down on his parents dock when they were a $1.5M company and wrote out what the future would look like.
Cameron was the guy to execute it. I’d been working with Cameron for several months and he kept bugging me to get this done and I kept putting him off – until he finally backed me into a corner to commit. (Side note: Cameron is an amazing coach and speaker. If you have a fast-growing company you owe it to your business to pick-up his DVDs before he realizes what he’s doing and starts marking them up.)
I felt like I’d found my “Cameron” when we made our first major hire in Andrew Way. He’s officially our VP of Operations and has the task of taking our Painted Picture and figuring out the “How”. We’ve got some big plans for the next 3 years to grow the Maverick brand and merge what we’ve been doing with other companies.
Quite frankly, the last 2 years have been a serious transition from simply being essentially a “one-man” band to working on growing an exceptional organization. Many times I’ve felt like I’ve taken 2 steps backwards for every step forward (and maybe more than 2 steps backwards) but we’ve kept pushing – because we’re building something beyond just an info product or two.
In fact, a lot of my thinking has evolved based on the kind of impact we really want to have. I would never have believed 10 years ago that company values or a mission statement mattered. I thought stuff like that was all bullshit.
I mean, look at a company like Enron and their mission statement – including typical phony corporate-speak words like “Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence”. Obviously a crock. But when I started hanging out and learning from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, I saw there was a difference in what he talked about and that he actually meant it. He keynoted our last 2 Underground seminars. He really harped on values and how they incorporate their 10 core values into everything they do, including hiring, firing and promoting based on those values. (Btw – if you want to check out a free video of Tony keynoting Underground 4 – you can view it here.)
That helped form our “DNA” and core philosophies –
Or reading books like “Peak” written by Chip Conley, CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality group in San Francisco – that got me thinking about what we’re doing for our team members and customers/members beyond satisfying normal needs. We’re now moving to the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
We’ve also starting using Kolbe profiling to figure what our team’s natural connotative ability is. It helps to figure out how people instinctively approach a project or a problem. I’m a 4-2-10-2, which is “Explain, Adapt, Improvise, Imagine”. My score reveals why I’m quick to jump on a project because I’m a 10 in the “Quick Start” category – that’s off the charts. And it also reveals why I do so many mindmaps and diagrams when trying to get my point across. (That last number – “2” – means I’m high in imagination and don’t need a concrete model of something.) There are no right or wrongs for Kolbe profiles – it’s simply what you are. (It’s worth trying it yourself, and possibly doing it for your whole team.)
That’s also gone hand-in-hand with the work I’ve been doing at Strategic Coach, created by Dan Sullivan. (Btw – his Unique Ability book is one of my favorite books out there.)
As the saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” And that was the case for me, with additional insights formed by the book “Tribal Leadership” by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright, about building incredible company cultures and evolving to a “Stage V” company. One of the biggest shifts from a typical company to an extraordinary one was having a huge mission that everyone on the team knows and can get behind. This leads to a real powerful change of direction, intention and motivation.
One famous example is Microsoft’s original goal of “A computer on every desk and in every home.” When you create a big vision or goal like that – you’ll find people getting on your team to help achieve it. My friend, Tellman Knudson, has set the goal of raising $100M by running across the country barefoot. I think that fits the bill – and he’s partway through right now.
Our company’s 2020 goal is 3-fold:
There’s been lots of thinking, prioritizing and culling from what and where I believe our companies are heading for 2012 and beyond. I created a graphic to represent the big picture of the impact we want to have in each area of an entrepreneur’s lifecycle, from Start-Up to Growth to Legacy.
I’m really excited to share the Painted Picture with you because, quite frankly, I need all the help I can get to reach our ultimate 2020 goals. You can download the PDF here.
I’ve already shared this with our team and I’ll be sharing it with all of our key suppliers, partners and people I meet. Lots of big things in store for 2010 and beyond. If you’d like to be part of this or have a thought on what we’re doing please leave a comment below!