Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
Barbara Corcoran is my business SHERO. When I started my business, I got told A LOT by people (men) that I didn’t have much to offer the already overly-saturated improv as professional development scene. My then collaborator and partner told me that if he couldn’t fill an improv class, there was no way I could.
I read Barbara’s book recently. And her story — especially the part(s) when she does things because people told her she couldn’t — are extremely admirable. Even when her boyfriend who cheated on her with the admin who worked for her company told her she was nothing without him, she created what she has today. She also understands playing to an audience and playing to her strengths, which is something we teach and embody as a company.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
A friend of mine, Nick Gray, runs Museum Hack. And at the time, we were both starting our businesses. As a newer business, you tend to get a lot of noise in both directions — support from some, criticism from others. When the criticism got LOUD, Nick would say, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you, I’m too busy dancing!”
From then on, when things got too loud in the other direction I would focus on my dancing instead of the noise. You have to be aware of the criticism. You can’t let it drive you. I quite literally will turn on some Journey, sing my guts out and run around my house with an air guitar. Keep dancing your dance.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Do. not. hire. friends. In the beginning, quite a few of my friends asked me for a job. Many of them were looking for a side hustle. And I was new to the business world, so while I didn’t hire all of them, I worked with way too many. One specifically made me realize that you don’t work with friends. I hired her to train as a teacher for me and asked her to shadow three of my classes. The first was fine — then something must of happened. I think she got in her head that it was easy and anyone could do it. She showed up to the second one late, eating a slice of pizza and wearing a graphic t-shirt and dirty sneakers. We teach professionals coming from work! The third class? She called out because she was watching Jurassic Park. I let her go after that and she spent the next year or so being angry at me.
It’s great to be friendly with people you work with. Be careful of working with friends.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
Look at my weekly list! Every Sunday I make a list of things I want to accomplish for the week. I write everything down in my trusty Moleskin. It might be a big task like, “look at your website” or a mini-task like “respond to this email.”
Then, through the week before I even open my computer, I review the list and my progress. If it looks like I’m going to be behind, I try to stay out of my email so I don’t end up in email-hydra land — you know, when you send one and get three more? As things get accomplished, I cross them out. And if things aren’t happening, they move to next week.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Keep a stable source of income coming in from somewhere — even if it’s not your business. When I started, I said yes to everything and put everything back in the business. “Sure, I’ll be a promo model.” “Yes, I’ll work this tradeshow.” “Of course I can babysit/dog-walk/waitress/bartend for you!”
Now, I still have a steady gig, it’s just related to my business. I’ve been a resident teaching artist at a local school for a few years. I get to teach improv, empower students and get paid a consistent amount every month. I don’t need it anymore but it’s a nice comfort to have.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Remember why you love it, every single day. Write down those awesome moments and save them in a file (or a Moleskin!) and look at them when you need motivation. That has to come from within to move to another level. And it will always be the catalyst to keep moving.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
In order to have success, you need to know what failure is. For me, failure is doing nothing; stagnancy. By that definition, success would be doing something. And continuing to do something, even when times get hard and business is quiet or low. It’s all about the pivot and what you do next. Sure, I set goals and have things I want to achieve. Do I think that I’m not successful if I don’t make it happen? No. Do I think I’m successful because I keep fighting and growing and evolving? Absolutely.