Jeremy Bird is a founding partner at 270 Strategies. He helped launch 270 Strategies after serving as the National Field Director for the 2012 re-election campaign of President Barack Obama, where he had primary responsibility for building a nationwide army of staff and volunteer organizers. He was dubbed the campaign’s “Field General” by Rolling Stone magazine. Follow him @jeremybird.
Who is your hero?
That would have to be my parents. They were married when they were teenagers, and they worked hard to make sure that we had a better life. My dad sacrificed so much to give my brother and I the opportunities that we had. He started out working at a gas station, and today he owns his own small business. My mom took a job as a school secretary so that my brother and I could attend the school where she worked. They both wanted to make sure that we had every possible opportunity to succeed. I would never be where I am today without my parents. One of my goals in life is to be the kind of selfless, loving parents mine are. Nothing would make me more proud.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Especially in the business that we work in, relationships matter — our model is based on the relationships that we have with our clients and with our colleagues. The people that you work with are your most valuable resource. You should base every decision on them. I learned on the Obama campaigns that if you want to make a difference in the world, you can’t do it alone. You have to hire, train, develop and invest in the people who will be your success or your failure. Whether it’s a billion-dollar startup like the Obama campaign or the companies we work with today, it’s all about the people.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Looking back at our first year, we could’ve been more open to risk and have grown faster. We had the demand, but we were cautious. You always have to strike a balance between risk and reward, and we definitely could have leaned harder on risk.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
My day starts right when I wake up. I always scan the news to see what’s happening in the world and how that affects our clients. I bike to work — it helps clear my head and I can prioritize my day during my ride.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Do everything you possibly can to get a two-month payroll cushion. Always try to have that in the bank. It will allow you to make smarter decisions about the direction of your company. People make a lot of dumb decisions early on. As a mission-driven company, we needed to be able to stick to our mission and say no to certain clients. We were able to have that flexibility because we maintained that two-month buffer. It eliminates that constant anxiety over the bottom line and lets you focus on what you really want: working on the things that matter most to you.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Hire a training director to help train your team. You have to see training as an investment: the more training you do, the better staff you have, the more efficient you’ll be, and the more revenue you’ll generate. It helps build community and a company culture.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
As a mission-driven company, success is two-fold. First, we want to have the financial stability to stay on our mission and ensure that the people who work with us are financially successful. Second, and most importantly, we want to have a big impact on changing the world. We want to have clients who believe in that mission, whether it’s a campaign, a company or a cause. Success is helping our clients win.