Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
My mother tops the list. She’s what drives me and the reason I started a business. Between her and my father, I couldn’t have asked for a better upbringing.
The people you surround yourself with is such a driving force in your life. It can be extremely toxic or remarkably uplifting. Usually, it’s on one end of the spectrum or the other. It’s rarely in-between. I was fortunate enough to have such an incredible environment to develop in, and I’m thankful each and every day.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
“Never be the reason someone can’t do their job.”
I’m not sure where I heard this, but it instantly stuck with me. You always want to have the ball in someone else’s court. It’s hard to follow up on a task if you haven’t done your end of the work. It’s easy for your non-completed work to be used as an excuse for a task to not be finished, even if your tasks are non-essential to another person’s assignment. And it’s not anyone else’s fault. It’s just an innate feeling of resistance that takes over when we do work and this feeling guides so many decisions. There only appears to be one reason to do a task, especially if the task has delayed gratification, but it’s easy to form thousands of reasons to not do a task. You don’t want to be a reason something isn’t completed. You want to lead by example.
This means: knocking out the prep work, answering the questions, and following up until the job gets done.
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’ve made, on more than one occasion, was not providing consistent and constant feedback to each and every employee. As a business owner, you’re doing a bit of everything. You want to have areas of your company that are handled without the need for your supervision, especially if the department is performing exceedingly well. But in reality, things can go awry if there isn’t oversight and consistent communication. There needs to be a level of accountability and in a small business that has to come from you.
The daily one-on-one conversations with each employee are what drive a small business and its performance. While they seem like distractions from “actual work,” the company’s growth is dependent on them. You can be an all-star at your job, but true company growth comes from the compound effect of having everyone motivated and focused on continuous improvement.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
My first task each day is to quickly answer any important emails, texts, social media messages or phone calls. With most of our in-house projects at Vontera, this rarely amounts to much. This usually can be done in just a few minutes and sets the stage for hours of uninterrupted work. For me, this more or less guarantees that a day will be productive. A few uninterrupted hours go a long way.
I’ll then list out all the upcoming tasks on a piece of paper and choose which are the most important. Having a physical reminder of what to work on at any given moment helps tremendously. I always leave room for additional tasks that come up throughout the day. For anyone that is easily distracted, this is a life saver. If something isn’t in front of me, I’m not going to remember it.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Stay in startup mode as long as you can, even if you can afford to get out of it. Be scrappy. Now is the time when you learn the most — when everyone works the hardest, when processes are fine-tuned, and when all the prep work for scaling your operation happens. It’s a beautiful environment. Keep it as long as you can.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
It’s a takeaway I learned from Steven Pressfield’s book “The War of Art.” Take some time and think about the last thing you want to do right now at this moment. What are you resisting the most? That task is what you should be working on. Just schedule some time, knock out that task, and you’ll feel better about everything.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success for me isn’t a destination. It’s the pursuit of making a positive impact on the world. It’s something anyone can do. Providing value and being useful is an innate gift we have. It doesn’t take money. As Derek Sivers puts it, “Being useful doesn’t need funding.”
Just spending the time to research a gift or finding a way to make someone feel special makes a world of a difference. The one thing I pride myself on, in any given moment, is knowing what someone will appreciate.
I want to create a culture of giving and appreciation. Not just in business, but in life. That’s my utopia. That’s my pursuit.