Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
I have had some really amazing people in my life who have pushed me to be better. My mother, for one, is very selfless, kind and caring. She taught me to treat others with dignity, kindness and respect. My servant leadership mentality has a lot to do with the way she raised me. If I had to pick just one person in my life who was the most influential, it would be my grandfather. He was kind and thoughtful, smart and savvy with business, an entrepreneur, pilot, veteran, father and respected man in the community. He was strong in his convictions and kind in his tone. He had few enemies and he treated everyone as a friend. He volunteered his time and helped in his community. He enjoyed square dancing with my grandmother as much as he did building a house. He was an inspiration to me when he was alive and even more so now that he is gone.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
I am a master delegator. I do not micromanage. I hire amazing people and then, for the most part, I stay out of their way. I find that the more I delegate, the more productive I am. I stopped doing my own scheduling, unsubscribing from emails, planning staff meetings and events, replying to certain emails and other lower level tasks years ago. I would never put those tasks back on my plate. Focusing high level and finding the best uses for my time has allowed me to grow and scale the business.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
The biggest mistake I made in my business was giving up equity. I only own 45 percent of my business, so that means I can be outvoted by my two partners. My goal is to one day get at least 6 percent back so that I don’t have to worry about being outvoted. As my current partners near their retirement in the next 10 years, we need to be strategic about the plan of the company and how I can get new people in place to help me run the business, without having to give up too much equity.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
For the first hour, I usually wake up around 7:30 a.m. and lay in bed for 30-45 minutes checking email. I then either go to yoga, boxing, the gym or to the office. It really depends on the day and what my calendar looks like. On the days I have Vistage (executive coaching and group meeting with other CEOs), I have to physically be there by 8:30 a.m., so those days are an earlier start for me. I need plenty of buffer in my schedule to make sure that I can take on ad hoc needs from current clients, prospective clients and my staff. With over 80 staff and over 300 clients, you never know what will come up!
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Cash is the livelihood of your business. You cannot run out. You must forecast out your cash for at least 90 days and make sure you stay conservative. You should also have a line of credit or another way to ensure you will not miss a payroll. Spend very carefully and stack as much cash as possible. You never know when you will need it. Nothing is completely predictable, so make sure you have an emergency fund.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Find things to take off your plate and hire an assistant, even someone part-time. Take any accounting, bookkeeping or CFO level work and delegate it to an outsourced accounting firm. Hiring a firm that focuses on accounting will give you a team of 2-3 people who will make sure your financials are timely and accurate. This is essential for you to get transparency into what drives your numbers so you can make good business decisions.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
My definition of success is discovering what you love to do and doing it. Waking up with a smile on your face and being able to impact as many people as possible equals success to me. Helping others makes me happy. So now that I am running a business that is truly helping others, that gives me that sense of accomplishment.