Tina Wells, founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group earned her B.A. in communication arts graduating with honors from Hood College in 2002. She is the author of the tween series “Mackenzie Blue,” published by HarperCollins Children’s Books. Follow her @tinacwells.
Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations. I met him when I was a college student participating in the National Model United Nations Conference. The fact that he took the time to speak to students when he was obviously so very busy left a lasting impression on me.
You can imagine the pinch me moment I had when I was asked to join the UN Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council several years later. I never thought I could run my agency AND work so closely on UN initiatives.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
There are no small people. I HATE the idea that there are people who are less valuable than others. It’s simply not true. Today’s intern is tomorrow’s CEO.
I try to make every interaction count. I started my company when I was 16 and I was so lucky people took me seriously! I know what young people can do, and I’d be a hypocrite if I weren’t giving people the same opportunities afforded to me when I was just starting out.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Putting almost all of my eggs in one (very large) client’s basket. It was ultimately destructive to my business. I was so focused on pleasing this client that I wasn’t driving growth strategy. When the work ended, I basically had to rebuild from scratch — which is not the goal when you’ve been in business 17 years! Lesson learned.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I read everything I can get my hands on, from Fortune’s “The CEO Daily” to Vanity Fair’s “The Hive.” I have always loved pop culture; having my finger on the pulse is a big part of what I do for clients every day, interpreting pop culture cues. I sip a decaf coffee and chat with my team via Slack, getting any major updates needed for the day.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Ideas are great, but you need cash. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve saved from launching under-funded businesses. I started my company with a phone and a Brother word processor in my parents’ house. I had basically no startup costs, and by the time I left college I was making six figures. So my best advice is to do things for as little money as possible and to make sure you’ve given yourself at least six months worth of capital — whatever that means for your business.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Develop a point of view. If you ask me about millennials, influencers, or market research, I always have a point of view. You have to know everything possible about your area of expertise. People will recognize that knowledge, and knowledge is power.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
For me, being successful means approaching my business with the same passion I had 20 years ago when I started. It means waking up every day excited about the work I am doing.