Tynesia Boyea Robinson is the CEO of Reliance Methods, which puts Americans to work by providing human capital strategy and placement solutions for clients like Walmart, Trammell Crow, and the federal government. Tynesia serves on numerous boards and has published several articles, which have been featured in the Washington Post and in Leap of Reason. Education: Harvard MBA, Duke University EE & Comp Sci. Follow her @tyboyea.
Who is your hero?
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
When I launched my first organization, a nonprofit that trained young people in technology and placed them in jobs, I remember being intimidated about managing people with more experience than I had. One of my mentors told me that many people with 20 years of experience have repeated the same year, 20 times. He shared that he often preferred working with less experienced folks because they are hungry and intellectually curious. Although I can’t travel back in time to be the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed entrepreneur I was then, every day I work to hold onto the spirit that gave me the courage to start my first endeavor.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
As an engineer by training, I don’t look at mistakes in the traditional way. I seek to prove a hypothesis based on the data I have available. Sometimes my hypothesis is proven true, other times it’s proven false. What matters is what I do with my findings to make us stronger and more likely to achieve our ultimate vision. That said, growth is one of the most difficult things I wrestle with. With my first organization, we grew way too fast based on the advice from investors. I learned then that I should analyze what I should do, not what I could do. It took about two to three years to address the challenges associated with low quality and high turnover from fast growth. It has made me approach future ventures more like the tortoise than the hare.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
Nothing sexy, really. I check my calendar, otherwise I completely forget where I’m supposed to be and why. Usually that leads to researching whoever I’m meeting with and the ways I can be helpful to him/her. One of the most important things I do every morning is talk to my best friend, Marlissa Hudson. Being an entrepreneur is lonely at times, and she’s my cheering section, confidante and advisor. She pushes me to make sure that my decisions are true to who I am and who I want to be.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
When I launched my business, I had several people offer to invest in Reliance Methods. While I thanked them, I knew that all funding comes with a price. I decided to bootstrap Reliance Methods by cashing in my 401K (gulp) because controlling our destiny is important to me. My goal is to launch and invest in a series of businesses that outperform the market by intentionally doing well and demanding good. I started down this path way before Conscious Capitalism or Purpose Economy were popular buzz words. I knew that I would need time to prove the concept without distraction. While I’m not opposed to outside investors, I’m a firm believer that entrepreneurs need to understand and be comfortable with the tradeoffs before accepting capital.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Stop working on your business. I’m serious! It sounds crazy, but every entrepreneur should have time each day to do something that has nothing to do with their business. I usually have the biggest breakthroughs when I’m exposing myself to different thoughts or ideas. It will be hard in the beginning because most of us confuse constant activity with productivity, but gradually you will come to welcome the periods of reflection and intentionally build them into your day.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
People feel like they have to choose between purpose and profit; meaning and money. But success to me is having both and showing other people how to achieve the same. I’ve worked in government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations, and frankly, the distinctions are less important these days. The next frontier of the global economy is finding elegant solutions to the world’s most intractable problems. Everything else is a commodity.
It’s not about what your product or service is, it’s about what your product or service solves. And the smaller the problem you’re trying to solve, the more likely you will be supplanted by competitors. It’s the difference between leveraging big data to sell the most fashionable clothes and leveraging it to ensure everyone has clothing. And the more entrepreneurs we have with that mindset, the more we can achieve together in our lifetime.