Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
That’s easy: my parents. My mom, a cancer survivor with M.S., is the epitome of inspiration. She’s like the Energizer Bunny and just keeps going and going. My dad really nurtured my entrepreneurial spirit. He made sure I set my dreams high enough, helping me realize there was nothing I couldn’t aspire to do with my life. And both of my parents sacrificed in different ways to homeschool me, which made it much easier to start a business at 14. To be honest, until I had children of my own, I didn’t give them enough credit when it came to my success. But the older I get, the more I realize how privileged I really was and for that I’m so thankful.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
I would definitely have to say Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, which he wrote back in 2003, had a profound impact on me. He has an incredible ability to simplify things down to their essence and frame them in a way that’s both inspirational and actionable. I loved the idea of transforming your business by being remarkable — so much so that I adopted “Be Remarkable” as my life slogan to this day. In fact, I pretty much bleed purple (I know, I know, we all do).
As a perfectionist by nature, I realized I didn’t need to worry about being perfect. I just needed to focus on standing out and helping my clients stand out. His words helped center me around the idea that I didn’t necessary have to be the smartest, richest or most connected to succeed. I just had to stand up and stand out. And since I don’t like sitting around, I’ve never been the same since.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
That’s a hard one, as I’ve certainly made plenty over the years. I would say my biggest mistake was getting so wrapped up in my business that I lost my sense of self. I mean, I literally tattooed my first company’s logo on my wrist. I was obsessed with “the hustle,” not unlike many entrepreneurs. It’s glamorized these days.
As a teenager, college student and adult I was always either working, thinking about work or worrying about work. I was always on and always tuned in (and if I wasn’t I was anxious about what I was missing out on). I look back on those years and though I had tremendous financial freedom and enjoyed more than enough money to provide for myself and my friends and family, what they really wanted was simple: me. My time. And I was, for lack of a better word, taken.
I went through some hard times in my early twenties as a result. My first marriage fell apart. My business partner disappeared. I went from driving a hundred thousand dollar BMW 650i to a Hyundai Tucson (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I suffered. And for that I am so grateful. I truly believe that suffering is one of the biggest blessings I could have received. And I recovered. I learned from it and got back up. That’s all that matters.
As I’ve become more mature in life and business, I’ve learned a few important lessons:
- You don’t need to work any particular set number hours a week to “succeed”
- Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. There is always an opportunity cost.
- Never take anything for granted — whether it’s your health, family, business, etc.
- Know that you can lose it all overnight. There are no guarantees.
- Build a life where your business doesn’t define you; you define your business. Doing it this way will probably take more time, but it’s worth it.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I think the first hour of your day (and “business day”) impacts the remaining 23 in profound ways — especially your mood and mojo. I spend my first hour after waking typically doing my reading, research and social networking. I seek inspiration and motivation. When I get to my office around 8 a.m., I try and tackle my hardest tasks — whatever requires the most brain power.
That being said, I actually use my first fifteen minutes or so just getting focused. I light a candle on my desk, turn on some ambient music (and a Fireplace app on Apple TV perhaps) and grab a coffee downstairs. I do some stretching and close my eyes for a few minutes. And then I pull up my to-do list and pick a really small, easy task. It gives me a sense of momentum and gets me ready for the hard stuff.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Never get complacent with the books. Even if you have a trusted partner or employee handling your books, never go in with complete and utter blind trust (or ignorance). Money can be dangerous. I’ve seen this first-hand. Delegate the role, but always have the keys and start the engines periodically. And make sure you know how to drive, even if you’re not a “finance” person.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Pray. I’m not one to preach, but I can honestly say that prayer has been a fundamental part of our business plan since we started Bull & Beard. My business partner and I try to pray daily together. We call it our best work. Our time spent in prayer unites us, helps us reflect on what’s important, and ultimately reduces the pressures of being an entrepreneur, because it’s a reminder that it’s not all in our hands. We don’t believe we’re really in control, as much as we’d like to. We put in the work and trust God to bless it. I truly believe it’s impacted our business more than anything else.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
I believe I am already a success. I believe success is not some future time or place when suddenly everything will make sense, click into place and my worries will be erased. The size of my bank account, the headcount at my company or the rate at which my business grows are metrics, not indicators of a particular point when success has been reached. You can be rich but your relationships might suffer. You can have a huge staff and not actually make any money (or have any time). You might grow your business 1,000 percent and proclaim “I have succeeded” only for it to tank due to things outside of your control. If you reach “success” and things change after, perhaps for the worst, are you suddenly a failure?
Don’t get me wrong: I have goals and objectives. I’m not living my life by inertia, going with the flow all the time. On the other hand, I personally believe that achieving success isn’t some destination and it isn’t just up to me either. I can’t say when I’ll have finally “succeeded” in my business, because I simply don’t know what God has in store for my business. And the idea of waiting around for some milestone to occur in order to become successful seems like a great way to miss out on the many small wins we get in this life. And it’s the small wins that add up.
I’ll know when I’m successful because it won’t feel much different than today. Perhaps there’s a few more zeros in my bank account or a world-changing idea somewhere along the way, but who’s to say? As long as I’m growing, I’m succeeding.