Yan Revzin is the Co-Founder of www.fortunecookieadvertising.com. Fortune Cookie Advertising is a non-traditional and experiential marketing company selling advertising space within fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants throughout the United States. Follow him @fortunecookiead.
Who is your hero?
It’s hard to pick just one person, but right now I’d have to go with Timothy Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek” and other books. What I admire about Ferriss is that he gives you advice that covers every aspect of your life. The idea of a 4-hour workweek is a little extreme, and I doubt if most people ever achieve that. But the basic concept — that you can make everything you do much more efficient — is truly valuable. I think Ferriss embodies the whole notion of “work smarter, not harder” better than anyone else today. In addition to his books, I highly recommend following his blog, which has all kinds of helpful tips on living a more balanced and successful life.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
For me, the most valuable advice I can remember hearing is the importance of taking action rather than overthinking everything. This is something I’ve heard many times, but I think it really hit home when I heard Anthony Robbins talks about the value of taking “massive action.” If you spend too much time studying, preparing and learning, you’ll never get started.
That’s why our information age is a mixed blessing. With so much information available today on the Internet, you can endlessly research and gather data. After a certain point, this becomes an excuse for procrastinating.
At some point, you have to take the plunge and take action. Even if you make mistakes, you can always make changes later on. In fact, mistakes are part of the learning process. It’s only by taking concerted action that you can tell whether or not you’re on the right track. If you never get started, you have zero chance of succeeding. This applies to everything in life, but it’s especially important for entrepreneurs to understand.
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 think my biggest mistake was thinking that I had nothing to learn from anybody else. When I first started a business, I didn’t want to listen to anyone. I was so attached to my vision of what the business should be that I didn’t consider advice or criticism. If I had been less stubborn, it would have saved me from making a few costly mistakes.
For example, I invested in an expensive advertising campaign that turned out to be unprofitable. A more experienced friend had warned me not to overspend on marketing without testing the waters, but I thought I knew better. I also ignored what turned out to be valuable criticisms regarding my business website. It’s always helpful to consider other points of view. You don’t always have to follow advice, but you should at least be open minded enough to admit that others sometimes have more experience in a certain area than you do.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
The first hour of the work day is really the most important, because it sets the tone for the rest of the day. That’s why I tackle the biggest or most difficult task for the day first thing in the morning. I actually create my to-do list at the end of the day. That way, I don’t start off the day trying to figure out what to do first. I look at the list I made the previous day and get started with the most essential activity.
Of course, this has to be flexible. Sometimes, a new or unexpected task will hit my desk early in the morning and I’ll have to adjust my schedule. As a rule, though, I try to accomplish the most challenging items on my list as early in the day as possible. Since I know these things have to get done, it makes sense to tackle them first. Otherwise, they’ll just be hanging over my head all day.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
You will always need more cash than you think. This may be related to Murphy’s Law, but expenses will usually be higher than you estimate. At the same time, money tends to come in more slowly than you anticipate. To make matters worse, there are always unexpected reasons why you need more cash than you thought. This could be because of defective equipment or software, unexpected delays in shipments or a host of other reasons. That’s why you always have to leave yourself some breathing room when it comes to cash flow. If you play it too close, you will tend to have problems when something unexpected happens.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Create a vision board. This is something you can do on your computer, smartphone or on an actual piece of paper or poster. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or artistic. This gives you a visual reminder of the things you want to achieve, both in your business and the rest of your life. You can add anything that inspires you: photos, quotes, symbols or whatever has meaning to you. It can be things from your past or related to your future goals. You should keep your vision board in a place where you can see it every day.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
I actually feel like I’ve already succeeded, since I’m doing something I love and I’m steadily working on goals that are important to me. If I think of success as some future event, I may never reach it, since I know I’ll always have something else I want to accomplish.
There are many ways to define success. For some people, it’s when they have X number of dollars or they’ve sold X number of units. For me, it’s not quite that tangible. It’s more a matter of balancing the different areas of my life and knowing that I’m well on my way to achieving my long term goals. There is no final success for me, as once I’ve achieved one goal, another one will appear on the horizon.