Who is your hero?
This is tougher than I thought it would be. There are so many: Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, etc.
In the end I’m going to go with Dan Martell, founder of Clarity.fm, for two reasons. He’s created a company totally around helping other entrepreneurs realize their dreams and he has so much fun working. It’s contagious.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Early on when VNN was in a business accelerator, I was torn between spending three-fourths of our $20k investment with a development shop to build our product and trying to find another, cheaper way to build it. I spent a week debating.
One of my mentors, investors and friends told me, “You can’t drive a parked car.” Progress (even in the wrong direction) is better than stagnation. I’ve used that saying so many times since then, with employees, other entrepreneurs and even myself. If I’m ever feeling “parked,” it’s time to go with my gut and get moving!
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 have what seems like a never-ending need to tinker with things, which has caused our team endless frustration. We’ll take a deep dive on an issue, examine it from every angle, and then make a decision on a course of action. I’ll love it for a week or so, and then I’ll find something else that is equally cool, and explore that.
I’ve accepted this as part of my nature. The mistake comes with sharing that second strategy with my team before they’re finished working on the first one. Now instead I have an idea board a mile long. It solves the problem.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
Check off the easiest things on my to-do list first for that day. This helps me establish momentum.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
If you’re just getting started, the most important thing is to make progress in the cheapest way possible. Often this means releasing a product you feel is unfinished, as long as it helps you determine what the market wants. We built and released our first product for $700, and were downright embarrassed with it. But even though people didn’t particularly like it, they took the time to tear it apart for all the things it didn’t do that they wish it did.
That feedback is gold. It served as our roadmap moving forward. If we would have spent more heavily on our first product, we wouldn’t have had the cash to build what people really wanted.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you: mentors, advisors, whoever.
The best tool for this is a board of advisors. It’s not really as formal as it sounds. It’s more of an ad hoc group of people who will help you think through issues. I seriously have over 100 advisors on my “board.”
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
I will know when I have succeeded after two milestones:
1. We are cash-flow positive and fundraising is unnecessary.
2. We are acquired. After all, once you’ve taken investor money, acquisition is the finish line.