Clayton Dean is the co-founder of Circa Interactive. He’s also a former Division I swimmer and serves on the board and leads various committees of two San Diego nonprofits in his free time, including the YMCA of San Diego County and the San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation. Follow him @circaclayton.
Who’s your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
Jason Fried. I’ve always admired his philosophy on business and what he has built.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Early in my career, a mentor was determined that I fully understand to never turn down an opportunity to grow just because you won’t benefit financially. Over the last 10 years, I’ve come to realize how right he was. When you’re only focused on how much money you’ll make and turn down experiences or business opportunities because of this, you risk missing out on valuable opportunities to learn, grow and work with people who can generate future opportunities for you and your business.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
My biggest mistake was not focusing enough on our own marketing. From our inception, we have relied heavily on referrals to drive our business, and marketing always took a backseat. As a result, we missed an opportunity in the first few years of operation to establish ourselves as thought leaders in our industry and increase our digital visibility. We’re finally getting our act together, but we’re having to play catch-up with our competition who’ve had the time to build a lot of links and generate a sizable social following. If I had the opportunity to do it over again, I would invest the time and money into a content strategy from day one.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I spend the first 30 minutes reviewing my previous workday and prioritizing tasks. I always schedule my most daunting or creative tasks for the morning/early afternoon. By two or three, I’m usually spent and reserve the more menial business owner tasks for the afternoon. Once I have an action plan for the day, I take a few minutes to catch up on a few digital marketing/growth hacking publications to ensure I’m always up-to-date.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Don’t be so quick to hire. Maximize the resources you have and look to outsource as much work as possible before taking on the added expense of a full-time employee. Not only will you save money in the freelance economy, your startup will remain agile and have the access to a multitude of diverse, highly trained individuals at a moment’s notice.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Start communicating. Call or email your clients regularly. Set up Slack for your team. Communication, or lack thereof, can make or break a business and can differentiate you from your competition. Email clients to say hello or see if you can answer any questions. Shoot an employee a message to tell them thanks. Keep it personal and genuine. You’ll create a positive work environment and happy clients; it’s a win-win.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success for me is never-ending. Once I feel like I’ve succeeded, I’ll lose my drive. So I stray from defining what that would be. What’s important to me, however, is ensuring the success of our employees. If we’re able to leverage our business to help them reach their personal and professional goals, I’ll know we’re on the right track.