Mac Morgan is President of Tonic Design Co., a design and development firm in Philadelphia. He has 12+ years experience specializing in developing and architecting comprehensive software solutions for globally recognized brands. Follow him @MacMorgan.
Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
I’ve never been a big “hero” type; there are so many people out there doing interesting and admirable things in tech and other industries. I admire people like Elon Musk, but I’m not bold enough to take some of the risks he has. He isn’t afraid to try something new and take huge risks to succeed. He’s looking for ways to make commercial space travel a possibility while our government program has been stagnant for 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?
Something that still resonates with me is that every opportunity is a threat, and every threat is an opportunity. There’s nothing worse than looking back on something and wondering what could have been if you had just taken a chance.
Imagine coming up with a great idea that you know could really shake up your industry, but you decided not to invest in it because you’re worried about how it will pan out. Some time passes, then you see that someone else took that risk and they’re wildly successful because of it.
Risks are an inevitable part of every entrepreneur’s life, and if you want to be successful, you have to be willing to take a gamble sometimes. Whether the gamble is a new business model, employee, or idea, if you don’t take a shot, you have nothing to gain.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
I’ve hired people who didn’t end up fitting well with our organization, but I held on to them for too long. When you invest in people that you hire, care about them and strive to see them develop and grow despite them not working out, you can fall into a sunk-cost fallacy.
We’ve gotten much better at identifying potential red flags during our hiring process and identifying issues for active employees. We place equal weight on skills and personality when we consider a new hire. As we’ve matured, we have been less shy about dealing with these issues more effectively.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I write down everything I want to accomplish on a Post-it note. Not because I don’t have a lot to do, but because I try to avoid over filling my schedule.
A lot of people have fallen in love with the concept of being “too busy.” They love talking about how they have so much on their plate because it makes them feel like they’re being productive, but there’s a big difference between having a full schedule and getting things that matter done. With the Post-it note method, I can easily identify and prioritize tasks for the day. I accomplish what I need to get done and have enough wiggle room for other things that inevitably come up.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Don’t take anyone’s money unless you have to. Money comes with strings attached, especially in this day in age. You’ll have a hard time creating and innovating on your own terms if you have investors or creditors to answer to and appease. Unless you have some huge idea where you absolutely can’t survive without a ton of money, don’t do it. I’m a firm believer in bootstrapping and not having a bloated budget.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
My advice for an aspiring entrepreneur in the tech industry is going to be very different from advice I would give to someone starting out in the finance or medical industry. Also, the definition of “next level” is going to be different for every professional. I could say something generic like “believe in yourself” or “visualize success” but none of those often quoted business platitudes really mean much.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success for me isn’t an end point. It’s an ongoing effort. There are some people who have an “end point” in their business plans, but I don’t. To me, growth is true success. I never want to be stagnant, I need to always be looking for something new to challenge me. I could come up with a new concept or idea, but there will always be ways to build upon it and make it even better. That’s the beauty of innovation and possibility — you don’t have to have a stopping point. As long as I’m solving new problems and my company is growing, I’ll feel successful.