A serial entrepreneur with a portfolio ardently invested in the confidence and refinement of gentlemen everywhere, Ben Davis is the founder of The Gents Place as well as its online subsidiaries, The Gents Blog and The Gents Store. Since attending The University of Texas at Austin’s Red McCombs School of Business and New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Davis has earned national recognition in Forbes, GQ, Men’s Health, and the Dallas Business Journal’s “40 Under 40 Awards” for his success in turning the oft-ignored niche of men’s grooming into an expanding commodity. Follow him @thegentsplace.
Who’s your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
Benjamin Franklin. He has an amazing first name and is America’s original entrepreneur.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
I worked for a man in college who was a retired UPS driver of over 25 years and always dreamed of starting his own company. He finally did, and I was his first employee. After working with him for a short time, he told me something I will never forget: “There are three types of people in this world. Those who follow the rules, those who break the rules, and those who make the rules. You are a young man who makes the rules.”
I’ve made it my personal creed to always create my own destiny, only pursue work I’m passionate about, and to never be afraid to make my own rules in my business pursuits or personal life.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Two years into starting my business, I made a handshake deal on financial representations to merge my business with another company. The owner of that company moved to Texas, and we began to operate as one company for a couple of months. I went so far as to agree to change the name of my business, The Gents Place, to his existing business name and even put a new sign up on my door.
We were within days of signing the deal formally when I began to have reservations. I went with my gut and dug in deep to his business financials and found what I hoped I wouldn’t. He misrepresented all of his business results and was on the verge of bankruptcy. I ended the relationship and narrowly escaped what would have likely been a fatal disaster.
What did I learn? Due diligence is the best way to keep honest people honest. You have to put friendships and everything else aside and go into every business transaction expecting and being willing to provide transparency to mitigate worst case scenarios.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I’ll be really honest here. The very first thing I do is look at my calendar on my phone to answer:
1. How should I dress today?
2. Should I shave today?
As a founder of an ultra-premium men’s grooming brand, I’m a firm believer that when I look and feel my best, I do my best. However, on those rare occasions when I work from home the entire day, I take full advantage of looking however I want!
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Do not do your own bookkeeping! You have too many other ways to add value to your business, doing what only you can do. You can now get freelance bookkeeping services for startups for around $100 a month and leverage technology like Expensify to transfer receipt data. Never doing your own books is a no-brainer.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Get a mentor or join a peer group. Surround yourself with people who are either doing what you’re doing or have been where you’ve been.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success is a feeling, not a place you arrive at one day. Therefore, I define success as knowing what your outcomes are, having a purpose for pursuing those outcomes, and believing that you are making progress towards them.
If you have all three of these in whatever you are pursuing in life, you will feel successful by your own standards. And that’s all that truly matters.