Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
I love the pursuit of realizing my potential and being creative. The people I look up to are interesting and impressive, with a sense of adventure. Some of the people that demonstrate that curiosity to me are Tim Ferriss, Leonardo da Vinci, and Donald Glover.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
The single best piece of business advice that shaped me was to be vulnerable in leadership. A lot of business executives are polished and skip the anxious details. While that works, if you can be a vulnerable leader, you can be realistic in any situation you face and gain a lot of advantages. As a leader, I have to expect that people trust to come to me with issues.
Lead example and with transparency. I do not have to have all the answers. But if I have to have the right mindset and ask the right questions, we can figure anything out as a team. This is more effective than inspiring people by appearing to know it all because you can discuss issues and inspire your team in the face of any setbacks.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
The biggest mistake I have made in my business was over-prioritizing building product when attempting to validate a solution in the market. It’s easy to be lulled into the idea that building a prototype or improving your prototype is the most direct way to build your business and validate it. In truth, you can often learn a lot from customers even without writing a line of code. Most people know that, but what I learned ultimately was to value the vocation of user research.
Understanding the science of interviews, surveys and tests allows your team to validate assumptions without a product. This is critical, as your product isn’t necessarily an iteration or 10 away from being useful. It’s important to be able to build products quickly. But if you can validate quickly, you have a much higher chance of success.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
During the first hour of my business day, I make tea and take time to read and think. There are a million things a day tugging at my attention: email, meetings, calls, development, hiring, etc. By deliberately starting slowly in the morning, I have time to center myself and focus on what’s important. This allows me to be less anxious and have the time I need to gather the insights to give us competitive advantages.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Think critically about whether your business is capable of being bootstrapped or if you’ll need investment capital. It’s much better to be focused on one completely rather than straddling the line, as you won’t allocate your limited resources properly.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
One thing I recommend all aspiring or current entrepreneurs do is tally their (and their team’s) strengths. If your strengths don’t apply directly into the business you’re building, then there’s waste in your teams potential and you might be the wrong team for the job. Since all value comes from you and your team, it’s critical your team is focused on the best problem they can solve.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Everyone is trying to succeed in business. Regardless of how large of a business I want to build or what market I want to build it in, my definition of success is defined by a willingness to fail. If I’m happy to have tried building a business even if I ultimately fail, then no matter what, I am successful.
Obviously, the goal is to succeed, but if you’re being audacious and you’re aligned with the mission you’re after, then each day can be filled with joy. It’s hard work, so I don’t believe the idea of success should be predicated on recognition or money. If you feel successful and fulfilled by working on your mission with teammates you enjoy, then you’re successful and more likely to succeed by conventional means as well.