My friend and client Russell Benaroya, CEO at spoke this weekend at the second annual Dent the Future conference in Sun Valley.

Russell’s topic was “Entrepreneurs Need Coaches” and I thought he had some great insights that every entrepreneur can benefit from. If you click the link you can read his full commentary on the right hand side of the slides. I’ve also captured some of my favorite highlights from his talk below.

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“We are all capable of being champions, in making the impact we want to make. Why not us? Practice! Practice! Practice! But how do you “practice” being an entrepreneur. The plane is in the air. For me, I need ground control, someone that can see the big picture when I’m just focused on the next waypoint. For me, it’s been about surrounding myself with the best coaches I can find.

The only lens that we see of the performers is the result of their practice. The problem is that there is not much of an opportunity to see that lens into ourselves and have it reflected back so that we can learn, grow, and make smarter decisions.

The road of entrepreneurship is just lonely. I did not fully appreciate that I was going to lose so many friends, that I would test my marriage and that I would question my sanity. What saved me? The acknowledgement that I am not alone, that what I am dealing with is a well worn path, that the path is the greatest gift, both the ups and downs. How I stayed on the road? By building a team of coaches that are there for me at the aid stations.

One of my greatest gifts has been actually having a 1:1 coach, someone who is committed to helping me navigate the tumultuous waters of entrepreneurship. My coach is guy named Lex Sisney. He has taught me a lot about myself, my skills, my blind spots, and my gifts. I am cheap and I have always dismissed the expense of a coach. It was a big mistake. I know that I have to keep investing in myself and I can’t do it alone, especially when everyone around me expects me to “have it together.” Lex has passed on a number of great learnings, but here are my top 6…

#1: Control the Belief Bubbles Lots of forces try to undermine your confidence as an entrepreneur. It takes great fortitude to withstand the naysayers, the “no’s”. It’s easy as a start-up to be the scapegoat if something doesn’t go well. We can either choose to take on those projected beliefs or resist them and grab hold of perceptions that advance our cause. This is not about rose colored glasses but it is about conviction.

#2: Success = Energy / Entropy Everything for me comes down to a core principal that an organizations is a system, one that has and needs to acquire energy to survive and one that needs to eliminate or mitigate entropy, that which is destroying a structure over time. In a finite system, maximize energy. To grow the system, get more. Entropy comes from many place — your family life, personnel issues, conflicting strategies. For me, it was such a simple model. I know when I have entropy — I feel it in my gut. Own it. Understand it. Take action.

#3: Find Your Genius Zone My genius zone is at the vector of happiness and productivity — how I am, how I want to be, and how others want me to be — If perfectly aligned, I’m in my zone. It is that place where I have a unique ability to perform at a high level and I get energy — I need to spend 80% of my time in my zone. For me, that’s doing deals — I love the art of the deal, the thrill of the hunt, the close and the satisfaction.

#4: Nail It B4 U Scale It A mantra I hear all the time from my coach and a huge challenge for entrepreneurs. Nail it is getting referencable validation that you’ve built a product that a customer is willing to pay for because you have solved a problem. Only then should you scale. Too many companies scale prematurely, haven’t validated the product and then lose control.

#5: Be Aware of the Force: PSIU Be aware of the leadership forces required in your organization at different times. 4 Forces at work are Producer (What), Stabilizer (How), Unifier (Who), and Innovator (Why Not?). Early stage is High innovator. Scaling/growth requires a stabilizer. Weighting your organization too heavily in one area will lead to sub-optimal results.

#6: The Early Customer Be very careful about the early customers you work with. These early customers become your launchpad or your demise. They need to be ready to take a leap with you. If they are not, but you sold them well, they are going to create too much entropy. You need a customer that wants to collaborate with you, not dictate your product for their unique circumstance. Being very aware of where interests align and diverge is critical.”

Great job, Russell. I love working with super-solid, passionate, and smart leaders like you. The best way to learn anything is to teach it. Not only are you helping others by reflecting and sharing your insights, you’re deepening your own awareness and capabilities too. Onward. Upward.