Adam Griffin builds entrepreneur communities across the country with Galvanize, and helps leaders and entrepreneurs write their story at BTY Publishing. He is the author of The Guy At The Bar, and is currently on a writing quest to publish three books in 2016 on leading a remarkable life. Follow him @adamgriffinbty.
Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
My heroes have always been writers — people who can use the written word to inspire others to action or emotion. From Socrates to Mark Twain to Steven Pressfield, anyone who evokes or stirs something inside of the reader is a hero in that tiny moment.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
None of us know what we’re doing. And that’s a good thing. It means that we’re living on the edge of our abilities, and that’s where truly remarkable things happen. There’s a term in biology called the “adjacent possible,” which is this idea that what appear to be quantum leaps in evolution are actually just tiny advancements in what is possible at that moment, compounded over an extended period of time. This is how entrepreneurship works: we continually operate within our own personal adjacent possible, and what appears like quantum leaps to the outside world is really just normal men and women who don’t exactly know what they’re doing, yet are learning and evolving along the way. When you can approach entrepreneurship with the understanding that no one truly knows what they’re doing, it’s a refreshing and encouraging mindset to have.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
When Bodeefit, a previous company I founded, started to take off, I received a customer service request from someone asking me to delete their information from our database. They didn’t just want to be unsubscribed or remove our app from their phone; they wanted to be completely erased from our systems forever. I hesitantly complied as a matter of respect to this user who was done with us, so like all impatient founders, instead of asking our developer to do this I instead just jumped into our database management platform and did it myself. Except along with deleting this single user’s information, I also deleted all 150,000 of our users. Forever. This also happened right after we started to take off, so the last time we had backed up our database was when we only had a few thousand users, so reverting the database was a futile effort. The lesson was simple: even though startups and entrepreneurs need to be scrappy, don’t play in sandboxes that you don’t belong in.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I’m a habitual planner. I map out every 30 minutes of my day, from the time I get up to the time I hit the sack. The first hour of my day (5:45 – 7:00 a.m.) is always my time for writing, whether that be whatever book I’m currently writing, a post for my blog, or a contributor post for other sites. It’s no secret that creativity is at its peak when the rest of the world is sleeping. That’s the case for myself as well, and I use this as my time to brain-dump while feeling free from the distractions of the day.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Your best funding is a new customer. I have raised money from family and friends, built and scaled venture-backed startups, and bootstrapped companies for under $100. The story is the same regardless: revenue is your best friend. Find a way to produce income from the beginning. You don’t have to nail your exact product offering, but the more you can depend on your revenue instead of funding, the better foundation you’ll build for your business. This may be counterintuitive in today’s funding climate, when companies are raising outrageous amounts of money, but there are numerous ways to achieve growth. I choose the path of a new customer.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Accept that there’s a lot you don’t know, and use that as fuel to continually learn, grow, and improve. Take two 25-year-old entrepreneurs. One has a mindset of growth and is constantly reading and learning from others. One thinks they have it all figured out, and stagnates in their growth. Who would you rather partner with when they’re both 35?
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success is creating the best version of yourself possible. It has nothing to do with income, status, or what we traditionally think of as success. Instead, it has to do with learning, growing and improving each and every day. It’s waking up each morning and choosing gratitude over ungratefulness, learning over stagnating, and giving back to others over focusing on the person in the mirror. It’s the only thing we can control, and in the finite amount of time we’re given on earth, we are best served when we serve the world with our best. Success is simple. Do and be your best.