Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
Richard Feynman. There’s nobody else who I’ve seen tackling life with such passion and curiosity.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
The one tool that I always come back to that pays dividends again and again is stopping and asking why.
It sounds simple (and it is, in theory), but asking why has saved me countless hours and millions of dollars by forcing me to examine my thinking and catch my assumptions and biases.
Asking why forces you to think from first principles. Rather than doing what feels right or what seems smart given the current situation, it gives you a place to reset, question all assumptions and get back to how your decision ties in with the goals and outcomes that really matter.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
When I was first starting out in business, I thought I could handle everything on my own. I was reluctant to delegate and when I did I would pass off specific tasks but not real responsibility. In short, I didn’t trust other people. This led to a number of problems, most of which revolved around me taking on so much responsibility that I worked non-stop and couldn’t get enough done. I went from being organized and on the ball to letting people down.
Eventually, I learned to operate as part of a team and to trust the people around me.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I always see advice for entrepreneurs to focus on their most important task first, but I do the opposite. I spend the first hour of my day checking email, clearing out my inbox and doing all the pesky little tasks that are nibbling at my mind.
If I had more emotional control, I could probably save those for later in the day, but by putting a bow on all of the things that are clamoring for my attention, I’m able to recenter and focus the majority of my day on the things that are most important.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Don’t raise money! It’s unavoidable with certain business models and goals, but I see so many entrepreneurs raising money for businesses that could be self-funded because that’s what they think they’re supposed to do. There’s nothing wrong with raising money, but it isn’t free. There are costs that are associated with making that trade off, and they should be weighed carefully.
In my experience, I’ve worked with initial customers to create the cash flow to fuel initial growth.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
For most current entrepreneurs (and all aspiring ones), there is at least one vague idea rattling around that you know would be an important step for your business, but that you haven’t completely formalized or turned into a plan.
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. When you have a vague notion of something that might be useful, it eats at you and takes up mind space but doesn’t get done because the real work isn’t laid out (and thus, you don’t make time for it). By sitting down and formalizing this vague idea into a clear, step-by-step plan with deadlines and actions, it becomes “real work.” From that point, Parkinson’s Law takes over and it tends to get done.
My advice is to not let things linger in the “I should do that” phase. Either put them aside for a future date or turn them into clear project plans to start acting on.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
My definition of success requires two things: clarity and action. The first step is the hardest, and that’s gaining clarity on who I am, what I want and what truly fulfills me. The most successful people I know have a deep knowledge of themselves and have built their lives around their own ideals. The second step is achieving those results, both on a long-term scale (having done things that make me proud) and on a short-term scale (spending my days in a way that makes me happy).
Clarity without action is empty introspection. Action without clarity is empty striving.