To be an entrepreneur is one thing. To take that to the next level is a whole different feat. How do you become one? What is the formula to have next-level success? In this episode, Alex Brueckmann, the Author of Secrets of Next-Level Entrepreneurs, unravels the secrets of becoming a next-level entrepreneur. As entrepreneurs, success is not about being more successful by other people’s standards but by defining your life balance. The frameworks shared by Alex to entrepreneurs are not only applicable to everyone to achieve their full transformation. Be the next level of you. Tune in to this episode now.
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Next-Level Entrepreneur: Secrets To Thrive In Business And Lead A Balanced Life With Alex Brueckmann
In this show, we are always looking to find tips and tricks, and lessons from top leaders, authors, successful business entrepreneurs and business leaders. I’m excited that that’s the topic is the lessons that we are going to talk about. Alex Brueckmann is with me. We had our interview some time ago, so this is take two. He’s got a new book coming out and we’ll learn a little bit about that. Alex Brueckmann is a board director, strategy facilitator, speaker, and author. He works at the intersection of strategy, leadership, performance, and empowerment. There are lots more to him, but I don’t want to bore you. You can read that. Let’s have it from him directly. Alex, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me again. I’m excited to be here.
I’m excited to talk about your new book, especially since this show is all about looking for those secrets. You have Secrets of Next Level Entrepreneurs: 11 Powerful Lessons. First, tell me what prompted you to write this book in this form.
When I invited about 40 guest speakers to a three-day business summit that I ran at the beginning of 2022, I didn’t know who would show up. You invite people, build something, and followed a certain theme. Once the event was over, I revisited all these sessions that we had and I asked myself whether there is something in it that would be worth putting together into one book. What is the essence of that event?
This is the summary of the hot tips that came out of that event.
The jump-off point was that. We developed it further and honed into these topics way deeper and way more than we could in within a half-hour conversation during an event like that.
I know that when I’m attending these events, we are all at different levels. No matter where you are, there’s always a next level. We have got people going to Mars and the moon, and there’s always a next level. Before we get into some of the things in the book, what struck you? What was that a-ha for you that gave you that push to move to the next level, your big lesson?
This has been a constant theme over the past several years for me. How do I get to that next level? What’s possible now because of what happened yesterday that wouldn’t have been possible two days ago? Especially when you do the work that I do, helping executive teams corporate leaders, and entrepreneurs to identify what the next level for them looks like, what the next level for their business looks like.
It’s always that question of reiterating and understanding where you are and what’s possible at any given moment. These regular reviews especially in the strategy process are always about what is possible now that wasn’t possible yesterday, and because of what we have achieved so far, where can we be faster and more successful? For me, this has been a theme in my job forever and sometimes I also manage to ask myself what’s the next level.
That’s what I’m asking. What is it for you? What was the a-ha that came out of that for you personally?
Of that event you mean or of writing that book?
Whichever. The event and then you could say writing the book, but there’s a lot in there but I want to know what touched you deeply that you said, “This is what’s going to take me to the next level.”
At that point in time when the event happened when I started to understand, there is more to it than just the event. I had written my first book already and I was in negotiations with publishing houses to sell the book. My agent managed to sell the manuscript to a successful publishing house, and at that moment, I did not see the next level, to be very honest.
When I wrote Secrets of Next Level Entrepreneurs, I invited some of the other speakers and we compiled this anthology book. We didn’t even think about using the sale of my first book as a jump-off point to also position that second book. That came as a surprise to us. Since that happened, I have asked myself even more regularly, “What is the next level for you?”
In a nutshell, that event and that book for me was the wake-up call to say, “You need to better leverage what you have achieved in the past to inform what you want to become in the future.” To give you a very specific example, the moment you are a published author, in this case, two times published author, you have a completely different standing when it comes to the authority in your industry.
All of a sudden, people read your books and understand that you are not just another one that is talking about a certain topic, but that you have thought leadership and authority to talk about a certain topic and contribute to shaping your industry. All of a sudden, the conversations change that you have with your customers.
They see you in a different light. I know what you mean and I’m going to interpret a little bit also what you said. I remember one of my goals was to be a bestseller and to have a bestseller. I wrote my book. I was able to accomplish that and I’m so grateful. You think maybe you hit a plateau like, “Where do I go from here? What else is there?” I could go for New York Times Best Seller. Maybe this is part of your next level too. I remember thinking or maybe I heard from somebody, “What would happen if you 10X that and you made that even bigger, not just in New York Times?”
What’s even bigger than that? I want to be a part of a movie. I want to write a movie script that’s going to move people. As you said, “You never know what’s going to happen.” I swear to God, a couple of weeks later, I had an opportunity to be a part of a movie that was based on Frank Shankwitz’s story of Make-a-Wish. His development of the Make-A-Wish Foundation hopefully would move a lot of people through that.
I was like, “This is it.” There’s something to that if you don’t ask yourself that question, I never would have done that. Had I not been sparked with what’s the next level and how do you make this bigger? What’s even bigger for you? You’ve got this second book. I’m curious. What’s beyond your thought right now that would be next after this book?
I would not necessarily talk about more books. For me, the biggest next level is to carve out as much time as possible to spend with my toddler. I believe that for me as a father, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that never comes back. The next level that comes after business success is the success that you have in your personal life and understanding that this is as a priority as making a living.
I love that. I forget the proverb that I read somewhere and it was these business executives, who were on vacation on this remote island. Have you heard this before?
They have this fish lunch and it’s so delicious, and they are like, “This is amazing.” They are like, “You should do something which you should make a bigger business out of this.” They said, “What would happen if we did that?” They are like, “You’d be able to be across multiple countries, bring your fish into other places. You have factories, manufacturing, and distribution.” They are like, “What would happen if we had that?” When they went through all these different things about growing their business and where would that bring us? They said, “So that you can spend your days enjoying hanging around an island and relaxing having a nice fish life.”
They are like, “Why should we do that? Why should we do all that to do exactly what we have in front of us right now when we don’t need all of that?” I love that for everybody framing that next level as you said can be totally being in the moment and appreciating something that you have. It’s okay also to want to achieve. You have to see what’s right for you at your stage of life and what is also in your capacity and that type of thing.
This is for many the next level they need to get to. It is not about being more successful by other people’s standards. It’s about understanding what life balance means for you. What does success mean for you? It is not necessarily reaching the seven figures when you are a six-figure entrepreneur or building a billion-dollar empire.
That’s other people’s standards. It’s important to understand what matters to you and to your business or to your career. You don’t even have to be an entrepreneur to use these frameworks that we discuss in the book. Most of them are very applicable to everyday life when it comes to achieving full person transformation, for example.
When we come to these eleven lessons in the book now, is that what they center around? Is it how to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life? Is that the gist of it if you had to like sum it up in a couple of sentences?
The gist of the book is to understand that there is no one way to success and that there are many different aspects that we can take into consideration when it comes to building a thriving business and leading a balanced life.
It is possible to leave a balanced life and a thriving business because half the people on here are like, “I thought it was one or the other.”
That is often what I thought when I was younger, to be honest. When we take a look into the media world, what’s glorified out there is the few super successful entrepreneurs and what they propose and is a hustle culture. That’s what people misunderstand very often.
Like Gary Vee. Isn’t he all about, “You got to hustle?”
Maybe. I don’t know too much about Gary Vee to be honest. The conversations that happened around the work culture that Elon Musk established or wants to establish at Twitter, it’s either my way or the highway and full commitment and all these things. That’s a part of that. Where that leads to a toxic work culture, we know that everyone knows that.
The point is we need to understand that building a business is a long-term endeavor, and you won’t succeed if you burn out in the meantime. Business success can only come through life balance and that means different things to different people at different stages in their lives. When you are 25 and you build your first business and that’s all you can think about, and you do that for sixteen hours a day, be my guest. That’s totally fine.We need to understand that building a business is a long-term endeavor, and you won't succeed if you burn out in the meantime. Click To Tweet
Once you hit 40, you will have different or additional priorities in your life. Maybe you have kids or maybe you care for your parents in a late stage of their life. All these things play an important role and there is no one-size-fits-all, and there is no this is the right way and this is the wrong way. We need to understand that creating life balance is not a goal in itself. It’s an ongoing process. It changes and develops.
Often, we live lives that are not designed intentionally. There are so many things in our lives that came into existence, not because we invited them, but because someone thought these would be the right things for us. Maybe in our circle of friends or in our family, those things mattered and were valued and we adopted them. By design, they are taking up resources. By design, they are taking up space in our heads and maybe we even feel guilty because somehow, we realize we don’t care about these things, but shouldn’t we? All these things need to be reevaluated to make space in your life or the things that matter.
They get caught up in it. As you said, it might be other people’s wishes and desires and it might have been yours at one time, but then you get caught up in it and you feel stuck how do I get out of this? How do I change this? Many entrepreneurs have built their businesses to become a slave to their businesses.
I have been there where your whole business and everything runs around you. You don’t necessarily have the systems and processes in place or the right people to step out. You feel stuck and you feel like that’s so far away, and then the next step is burnout. They get caught up in it and then they are not sure what to do while they are in it.
That’s why the third theme of the book, so it’s three themes and the third theme is about self-care. It’s identifying what it is that you want in life and balancing the most important elements in your life in a way that they allow space for each other. Thereby you focus on your business when it’s the right time and you focus on friends, family, and whatever it is that’s valuable for you when the time is right. I should have made this the first theme by the way because it’s the starting point, to be honest.
There are a lot of people that like to play devil’s advocate. Sometimes people might be reading and saying, “That sounds well and good. You are already at a place of success and you are able to maybe take care of your family in a way that you don’t need to bring in the bacon because it’s coming in.” What’s the first step for somebody who feels like they are not able to do that?
This is a very difficult question because every situation is unique. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. What I can say though is that when back only years ago, when I was in the first year of building my new business, I know exactly what you mean when you say, “It’s easy to talk about these things. What if you are not there?”
I was there and I would challenge that I’m there at this point in time because the question is, “What is there?” If you feel you always have to be there in order to allow yourself to do X, then you will never be there because there’s always something more that you can achieve. There is always that next level that you can work for.
A job is just a job, and even if it’s your business, it’s just a job. It’s a means to an end. Unless we realize that and give ourselves enough space to grow and to be as human beings, we will not have the strength and the stamina to build a business because that takes a long time and, in the process, it’s easy to lose yourself.
I’m talking about it financially. I hear you and I’m still playing that skeptic that says, “That’s all well and good,” but when I say here, it means I’m not able to cover my bills that I’m barely making it and I can’t step away. I can’t step out of it. I can’t take that risk.
The question is, “Why is that the case?” It’s because you are starting your business. You are just starting to build, and then this is a completely different question. I’m totally with you. It’s all about getting the business off the runway and making that plane fly. I’m totally with you, but if you’ve been in that business for ten years and you can’t pay your bills, then you should ask yourself some deeper questions here. “Is this still the right business for you? Do you still have the passion to bring this back up and running?”
Is it really viable?
Does your business model work? Do you have the right offering? Is your pricing completely off? There are reasons why you can’t make enough to pay your bills. That is a fully different conversation that I would have with you if I work with you.
Thanks for clarifying that. Maybe even for that person who’s starting out, you are going to end up somewhere along the line burning out if you already feel like it’s too much. There are always ways when we step back and reevaluate it. No matter how thick in it you are and you are in a startup and we have these first excuses that come up in our heads and they might be real. I’m not saying by an excuse that it’s not real. It may be your reality, but we are also only looking at one path.
You mentioned the hustle culture earlier that we are addicted to distraction and the hustle. We have to slow down and get some perspective about maybe there’s a different way where you can still take a little step back and still be able to passionately grow this business at a different pace. As you said, maybe you can change your business model and that will mean everything, and you can do that at a startup too.
I thank you for like segmenting that because there are different questions to ask at different stages of your business which will open up the perspective of things that you need to look at and find those bottlenecks. When it’s important to you, then you make it happen. That’s another thing. We don’t see the cost and consequence sometimes.
We’ll use that excuse, but when we get connected to it as you said, you have a toddler. If you were starting up your business now and you got connected to the fact that you are leaving before your toddler gets up and you are getting home and your toddler is in bed and you find that you are rarely getting any time, you are going to change your priorities quickly, but you got to get connected to what it’s costing you.
You mentioned the term overwhelmed. It’s too much. The reason why things for entrepreneurs or for any business are too much, it’s always the same reason. It is unclear priorities. As your priorities are not aligned with what you want to build, maybe because you haven’t even written that down because you are not 100% clear on what you want to build. If you are not clear on what you want to build, you can’t prioritize your resources to get to that point. Instead of prioritizing your resources, you are throwing things at the wall and hoping that something sticks. The way you miss out on things happens because you are not clear on what you want to build.
Every time you feel like it’s too much, it is too much. You are doing too much. You are doing the wrong things because you are not clear on what it is that will get you to that next level. That’s why understanding how the business strategy works is so important. It’s not a magic black box where some consultants spill something and then hand it over to you. You can write down a thorough business strategy.
I’m not talking about a marketing strategy. That is the 2nd or the 3rd step. I’m talking about an overarching business strategy here. It is in the end. It’s very simple three steps. Ask yourself very specifically how your business should look in 2 to 3 years. Understand how you would see that you are making progress toward that goal, and then prioritize everything around moving the needle and leave everything else out of the way. Often, we are doing way more than we should, stretching ourselves too thin, and ending up burned out.Very often, we are doing way more than we should, stretching ourselves too thin and ending up burned out. Click To Tweet
I’m exactly of that mindset. Most startups and people who are finding themselves struggling are “just” focused on the wrong things. What didn’t I ask you that we need to know before we close out?
We didn’t talk about the 1st and the 2nd theme of the book, but we don’t need to do that in detail.
There are three themes. We talked about self-care. Well then, we need to know that. You said self-care was number three.
Number two is anything around leading your business and your teams through challenging times, through times of disruption, and how you create people-centric work cultures. There are various aspects and entry gates into that topic that we describe in the book. The first theme is all about hard skills that you need as an entrepreneur, business owner, or corporate leader that are not in your subject matter expertise. We often grow our careers because we are good at something. We grow within the subject matter expertise.
It’s because of the expert.
At some point in time, where you’re just, “I need to know more stuff that I have no idea about.” We described some of these topics in the first theme of that book.
What’s the first one?
Hard skills that you don’t have.
Leading the team and hard skills. They are two separate things. Hard skills and soft skills, if you want to call it leading the team and self-care. What else didn’t I ask you that we need to know before we close out?
We are good.
Thank you so much for being here. Tell people where they can reach you when the book is coming out and all of that.
The book comes out on March 28th, 2023. You can get your hands on the first chapter for free already. You can already order it wherever you can buy your books, and you can join us for our global launch party virtual launch party. Go to NextLevelBook.co. There you can download the free chapter and have fun.
Thanks again for being here, Alex.
Thank you so much for having me.
Thank you all for being here. You are taking that time and you are investing it so that you can take back time. I know that this book that Alex is bringing out is going to help you take back time to be able to understand what hard skills, leadership skills, and important lessons you can take away. Isn’t it easier to learn from someone else’s hard lessons than to make them your own? Lastly is self-care, focusing, and finding that balance for yourself. This is a book that you want to check out. We will see you in the next episode. See you there.
About Alex Brueckmann
Alex is a strategy facilitator, board director, and speaker, I help businesses drive the profits and impact they desire. I work with organizations to define and implement key elements of their identity, particularly a measurable business strategy.
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