Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
In life, my parents are my heroes; their stories and where they come from are my inspiration to always go for more. The opportunities that I have had in my life are in stark contrast to the opportunities they had at my age. My parents are both veterans and raised me to have an amazing work ethic and respect for my colleagues of all ages.
In business, I look up to my dear friend and mentor, Shaun Williams. A serial entrepreneur, Shaun saw potential, groomed me and taught me how to start a company. His candid and honest perspective has lit a fire in my mind that aims for nothing other than the best of my capabilities.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
You’re only as good as your word. If you don’t keep your word, prepare to fail. It’s really not that hard to be great, if people can trust you and rely on you.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Letting my business consume me to the point of counter-productivity. Your business should be a component of your life, but it shouldn’t be your entire life. There is nothing wrong with hard work when it is smart and productive. Take a break, learn a new skill and relax!
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I read countless news articles per day from all different viewpoints and publications. I find that being equipped with a deep understanding of current events, economics and policy adds value to the conversations I have with my clients. It also makes me a substantive and effective public communicator, which broadens my network, business acumen and value. That network trusts my perspective, considers me a resource and helps my personal brand grow. Short answer: I read like crazy!
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Do not stack your numbers, cash flows or pro-forma revenue projections to impress investors. You will get eaten alive over pennies of inflation. Be honest. Most investors invest in the person/idea, rather than whatever the numbers that don’t actually exist might be.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Recognize your own talents. I always ask founders: Are you the idea person or are you the person who’s going to lead the company, raise the capital and sign the checks? Are you all of those people? What do you want to do? Could someone come into a CEO role for your company and take it to the next level?
No one wants to think about that, but successful entrepreneurs or serial entrepreneurs know where they fit in and what role they can play in new companies. I am consistently the pitchman or in a position of leadership in the companies I have helped start or served in an advisory role for. Being self-aware and honest about where your own talents place you within your company might be the difference between taking things to the next level versus flatlining.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success means not becoming lackadaisical and complacent. Instead, it’s about staying inventive and accepting new trends. Products and services must advance, and consumers drive competition for services. I think a perfect example of this is what has happened in the cable industry. Companies that offer streaming services have led the charge against the industry. They may be successful for current consumer moods, but they’re now also being challenged by new players and old, trying to drive the next big “success” story in their industry. Success is temporary and businesses that continue to progress are able to hold onto it.