Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
My hero is 100 percent my father, Kolman Brown. He is the hardest working person I know and he taught me to focus, listen and outwork everyone around me. He instilled in me at a very early age the value of putting in the effort to get ahead. I pass that knowledge along to my employees and those I have mentored over the years constantly. He is 71 years old and still working as an eye doctor because he loves it. I respect his hustle above all others.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
The best advice I can give to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur is that they need to be all in, right from the start. If you approach it hesitantly and little by little, you will either fail or simply never scale in a meaningful way. Anybody who does is definitely not the norm. It is daunting to see how many different elements you need to juggle on a minute-by-minute basis: recruiting, sales, biz dev, product development, marketing, HR, billing, customer service, and the list goes on and on. If you aren’t on top of all of these thing at a high level as you build, your brand can crumble. So much goes into it beyond the product and/or service you offer.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
I think my biggest mistake in business (and I regretfully have made it more than once) is holding onto a bad employee too long. When I recruit I always look for good people — first and foremost — who work hard and are passionate. I feel that if they have this foundation, I can teach them the skills they need to succeed. I invest a lot of time in my employees, so it is hard for me to cut ties sometimes. I really try to groom them to go above and beyond the call of duty. The problem is that some people just never will.
Figure out what makes your team tick (obviously this varies from person to person) and then create a scenario that will work for them to be successful. Most employees embrace it and magical things happen. Others don’t, and their lack of effort and apathy can hurt the business and the company culture. This is a major problem and needs to be remedied right away. My advice is to hire good people quickly and fire bad people faster.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I have so many things on my plate I need to tackle, so I need to set the stage for each day with a default focus. At 6:30 a.m. each weekday morning, a calendar alert pops up on my phone:
- Monday: new product development
- Tuesday: sales and prospecting
- Wednesday: strategy and creative thinking
- Thursday: company culture, HR and processes
- Friday: client accounts review
Things will always fly at me from all angles and I will need to be reactionary and address them as they come, of course. That being said, in order to remain on the offensive and score points each day, I need to have a routine so that each area gets proper focus. If you play defense all day and just troubleshoot, you won’t get anywhere.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
You MUST have the cash flow to take chances and make bets — plain and simple. It’s just like being in a casino; if you have nothing to put down on the table, you aren’t likely to turn your money into more money. You have to be able to press the envelope and invest in people, marketing and some research and development here and there. Make sure you have at least some war chest to fund your game.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
I think there are a lot of inexperienced people with little to no business acumen who have flooded a lot of growing verticals right now. They are leveraging their age or entrepreneurial approach as a selling point to brands and they are not backing their offerings up with value and/or results. My recommendation is to really know your stuff and be awesome at what you do. Seems obvious right? But the bottom line is a lot of people are just mediocre. You want to shine? Do the unexpected. Offer Four Seasons service, from the first handshake to the final paycheck. That is how you win and how your business will grow.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
I think it is more about daily growth and smart decisions that keep me motivated and allow me to continue on the path to success. I am pivoting and developing constantly. I look for daily high-five moments. There is just always more to do and better ways to do it. It’s about the journey; not just the moment you have “made it.”
I work in a service business, so my 85 percent renewal rate, 25+ LinkedIn recommendations and countless referrals all equal success to me. It is not about reaching the top of the mountain. It is about finding new and better ways to get up that mountain that keep me focused and motivated to keep at it each day.