Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
Elon Musk in business; Rumi and Buddha in life.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
When starting out with just an idea you believe in, instead of spending your limited time and energy looking for investors, try to bootstrap your idea by saving money and minimizing your living costs. This was one of the main reasons I was able to start my company and bootstrap it to success. Sure, I lived in a less exciting city with much lower living costs. But this allowed me to focus solely on the work in the beginning, which is when it really counts. Having this mindset from the get-go allowed me to roll out my product quickly and to always be conscious about my financials, giving me a good handle on the direction of the company. Also, not having many options creates focus for the mind. If I were in Silicon Valley in the beginning, I might’ve been tempted to chase after investors all day.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
At one of my earlier companies, I was co-founders with an old friend who was a good person but really not a good manager or business person. I was also inexperienced at the time and didn’t know right from wrong in many cases. The excitement of camaraderie drove us on and blinded us to many signs that the business wasn’t doing so well. This eventually led our e-commerce company to lose a lot of money and it eventually went bankrupt. Our friendship was irreparably damaged in the process, despite our best efforts.
The lesson I learned from the experience is this: When you’re becoming co-founders with someone, pick them based on their professional merits and qualifications just as you would with an employee. This is especially true with friends, as it’s doubly easy to get excited with a friend and make a bad decision! Also, if you’re inexperienced and just getting started, team up with others more experienced than yourself whenever possible.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
First, I do a five-minute concentration exercise, which simply involves staring at an object without thinking. This focuses and clears my mind greatly. Then, I do 25 minutes of free-form writing to let all my ideas and thoughts flow without restraint. This often leads to some very useful insights. For the rest of the hour, I look at the tasks before me and start allocating them to the current day.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Save money, bootstrap as much as you can, and don’t waste your energy and time chasing after investors. Bank loans are only an option if you can get a very good long-term deal. Remember, things will likely cost up to 2x more than you initially anticipated, especially when you’re first starting out. The opposite is also true about the number of customers you’ll get: y/2 instead of y within x months. Plan for the worst, hope for the best!
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Write a lot more!
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
For me, having success in business means I own more of my time. What I mean by this is the ability to choose what I spend my time on. Since time is the most valuable commodity we all possess, and one that is always running out and cannot be renewed, I think the most important goal for me is to claim it for myself.
I already feel like I’m slowly succeeding in this, as I can spend more and more of my time on things I care about the most. There’s always room for improvement and I will know I’ve fully succeeded when all my days are filled with pursuits I deeply care about without having to worry about my financial situation in the future.