Codie Sanchez Baker is an international investment head, speaker, writer, entrepreneur and investor. She is the head of Latin American Investments for First Trust and the CEO and founder of CSB LLC. Follow her @codie_sanchez.
Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
I’m a bit of a renegade at heart so I have always been a Christopher Hitchens fan (author of “Letters to A Young Contrarian”). This is less because of his actual viewpoints, many of which I disagree with, but because it is such an uncomfortable position to go against the grain and he does it for a living. Every time I find myself moving with the crowd, I make myself pause and rethink my situation. I credit this practice to reading that book at a very young age. It has led me to ask the question, “How would I do it if it were easy?” Importantly, it has also taught me to hold my internal standard in everything I do, regardless of whether it is convenient or not. The old adage, “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything” rings true for me.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Always ask for what you want; the worst that anyone can do is say no. Asking questions, knowing what you want and pushing through the fear to ask for it has been at the center of my growth. As I continue to refine my questions, I get more of what I want. And the cycle repeats.
Surprisingly, I often learn more from the no’s than the yes’s. I think most things in life are a number’s game, so I try to collect no’s like people collect medals. Every no gets you closer to someone who will say yes. The only caveat I’ll make here is that I try to give something in every encounter I have. If all you do is ask for things from other people, you are not aligning your karma very well. So you should always ask for what you want while keeping in mind what you can do for the other person. How can you create a virtuous circle with your asks where everyone wins?
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 thinking I had to do what everyone else was doing, that I had to fit into a box. For some reason, we’ve all agreed to the social construct of a 9-to-5 job. Why? I have no idea. Many of us do “our time” in an office building replete with padded cubicle walls and hot air balloon posters of a multi-cultural team. How bizarre when you think about it.
This idea of a 9-to-5 workday was first proposed in 1810 by the labor party. So we haven’t found a better way in 200 years? Even Henry Ford lessened his producers’ work from 12-14 hours to eight because it increased productivity. So whatever your path, you’ve unknowingly agreed to this construct. But are you paid specifically to be present at your desk from 9 to 5? Is your job title “On Location for 8 Hours Associate”? I doubt it. Your job is related to what you do, not how long it takes you to do it.
If my team can do in four hours what other teams do in eight, all the better. The rest of the time should be theirs to grow, engage and become better humans. To go far, understand that just because everyone does it, it doesn’t mean it’s right. And you will go far much sooner than I did.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
My home is more often than not an airport or a hotel, so a set structure is challenging for me. Here’s my daily drill for when I’m not traveling:
Up at 6 a.m. every morning. I start with a cup of Pinon coffee and coconut oil that I take outside to meditate for 10 minutes and spend two minutes wrapped up in gratitude for all I have. Fully refreshed, I use the first two hours of the day for “deep work.” This means the strategic work that I have to think through, not responding to emails or calls. Then I do one or two things I REALLY do not want to do, i.e. a cold call, a difficult task, etc. so that it doesn’t hang over me all day. With my day kicked off the right way, I hop into the rest of the day.
As Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.” I use an app called Way of Life to track how frequently I keep my morning routine. Over the past nine months, it turns out I follow this routine about 57% of the time. Next year I’d really like to up that percentage.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Think cheap, then think cheaper. The number one reason most businesses fail is they spend too much and can’t produce enough to cover their costs. This leads to making poor decisions with short-term focus. So your moral imperative is to launch your business for as cheap as humanly possible. Think cheap, then think Scrooge-like, then be even tighter than that.
I talk my people through how to save up front and get as much as possible for free or trade. With this lack of pressure due to debt, we can take a two-step validation process through sales. First, tackle how to mine your current clients, or the people you already know, and use them as a testing ground. Secondly, and only after you have mined your personal network for real sales with dollars committed, you can go after strangers. A cold call is always harder than a warm lead. Once you have an understanding of the demand for your product, you can start spending, but it is always easier to spend more and then go back and try to save or cut costs you shouldn’t have made in the first place.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Take out your iPhone right now and set a reminder for every morning that says, “Is this necessary?” or “Am I being productive or just busy?” Focusing on the wrong tasks can murder your business and career. It’s not about being the most efficient person; it’s being the most effective. Instead of focusing only on the things in front of you, strategically cut out everything that isn’t necessary and you’ll be amazed by what happens. Get really comfortable with those two questions and using the word “no.” When you are asked to do something, make sure it aligns with your goals and is the BEST way you can be spending your time, not just a GOOD way.
Most entrepreneurs are type-A personalities who absolutely love a good to-do list and feeling like they accomplished a lot at the end of the day. The problem with that is you can accomplish a ton of stuff that absolutely doesn’t matter. It can be very painful to go through this process of simplification and even more painful to stick to it, but if you can, momentum will build and the big wins will drown out all of the small incremental wins you would have had with the wrong focus.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
My definition of success is getting paid what I want, to do what I want, where I want, how I want and with the people I want. Pretty tall order, huh? But in truth that is my definition of success. It is not having $100 million in cash or a NYT bestseller or 50 million followers or monuments or power or a Fortune 500 company or $1 billion in company revenue. It is simply having the freedom to surround myself with the people, activities, setting and type of work that feeds my soul and allows me to give back through my unique skill set. My business is simply a mechanism to achieve those things and leave a footprint for those I can help through the skills I believe were uniquely bestowed on me.