Kevin Barnicle is the founder and CEO of Controle, an information governance software and consulting company. They help clients deal with government regulation and lawsuits as it relates to managing electronically stored information (emails, spreadsheets, word docs).
Who is your hero?
There might be some eye rolling on this one but it is Michael Jordan. The guy is a beast and during his playing years he had all the characteristics of what I believe make up a true hero: self-made, hard working, committed, confident and tenacious just to name a few. Sure, he also has freakish athletic ability, but so many professional athletes do. What separated Jordan from the rest was his will to win and his heart. I strive to be like MJ. Plus, I was a teenager living in the suburbs of Chicago during his peak performance years.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
The single best piece of business advice that I ever received and truly believe in myself is, “Look at what everyone else is doing and do the opposite.” I believe in it so much that it is inscribed on my wall right next to the door in my office. It is the first thing people see when they come to visit with me. In business, leaders win and followers lose. There have been many crossroads that I have come to in my career when I have followed this advice. It has yet to steer me in the wrong direction.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
In the second year of my business I brought on a business partner. When he came in we both decided that we should focus on “fixing” some of the businesses problems. In my company’s first year of business we grew so fast, all unexpectedly, that there were a lot of broken internal processes and things we could do better. So we focused on fixing them all. It was the most miserable I had been since starting the company and we had by far the worst quarter to date financially. On top of it all, we barely got any of the internal problems fixed because of our different opinions on how to do so.
At one point I said enough was enough and we went back to focusing on seizing opportunities, not fixing problems. We immediately got back on track and everyone was much happier as a result. Don’t focus on solving internal problems. Focus on seizing opportunities and the problems will solve themselves.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I do the same thing every day. To start my day, I practice 20 minutes of Transcendental Meditation. I started practicing TM in the third year of my business because I was very stressed and felt like I was burning out. I needed help. I can’t overemphasize enough how much meditation has helped me. I am a MUCH better CEO and much happier personally since I started doing it. After meditation I write down a list of five (and no more than five) activities that I would like to accomplish that day. I then start picking a few of them off as I know if I put them off I will get distracted/interrupted. I reward myself with 10 minutes of reading about Chicago sports to get my brain going after I finish an item. I then typically get another a few of the items done (if I can). I don’t check email until about 10:30 a.m. or so every day.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Be as frugal as humanly possible. I self-funded my company so I had to really watch my spending. I asked for favors, I found as many free tools available on the web that I could use, etc. If I ever needed to spend money I just asked myself, “How will this bring in more money?” If it didn’t, I didn’t do it. I waited too long to hire people. It was painful and completely necessary. There is no guarantee people will buy whatever you are selling so control what you can control: how much money you spend. It is a fantastic time to be an entrepreneur. There are tons of resources available online to help you and many of them are free. Just dig around.
What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Read. There is so much unbelievably valuable information in books that can take you to the next level. The most effective techniques I have used in my business have come from books.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
My definition of success is not being beholden to anyone or anything. Or in other words, quite simply: freedom. It is what has always driven me. I even named my company after this very goal. I feel like I have been successful in my business since day one because my goal was not tied to any egotistical or financial goals; it was always simply to take control of my destiny. Once I left the corporate world and went on my own, I felt I met this goal.