Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
My dad once told me that if he’s awake, he’s working. Everything takes work and he chooses what he wants to be good at. There is no such thing as work/life balance. Instead, it’s about the choices we make and how we allocate our time. People like my dad, John Esposito and Tony Gwynn set the ultimate example and are my heroes, as they’ve shown me that you don’t have to sacrifice everything to be great at something.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Freedom within a framework. In other words, hire people that know more about what you’re hiring them to do than you, be very clear with what you expect from them and, then give them the freedom to do what they do best. And as an added benefit, if you’re paying attention, you’ll learn a hell of a lot.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Lack of focus. The multiple-irons-in-the-fire approach does not apply to entrepreneurs. Focusing on multiple things does not increase your likelihood of success with something. I’ve created a personal framework called “Hack Your Way to Relevance,” in which I identify the single thing that, once accomplished, makes everything else easier/possible, and then determine the quickest and most cost-efficient means to accomplish it. When you’re relevant, meaning important to the matter at hand, anything is possible and everything is easier. The key is to figure out how to make yourself relevant.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
Optimize my day. Our success is dependent on just three things: people, product and money. My role is to ensure that we take great care of our people (customers, employees and investors) and find more of them, ship products that solve problems worth paying for, and ultimately make money. I start each day by defining what success looks like at the end of the day, prioritizing the things that drive people, product and/or money, and canceling those that don’t.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Spend other people’s money as if it were your own. Once you raise a bit of money, the spending decisions will start to feel less personal. As a general rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t spend your own money on something, it’s probably not a sound investment for the business.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Realize you’re an order taker… and that’s okay. Too often the perceived correlation between entrepreneurship and innovation gets us in trouble. We find ourselves taking too much time and spending too much money to ship, only to realize we’ve created a product that no one actually wants. Then it’s back to the drawing board, assuming you still have enough resources, support and perseverance. It’s much more efficient to identify a problem that enough people care about solving, come up with a solution they’re willing to pay for, and execute better, faster and/or cheaper than everyone else.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Our definition of success today changes the minute we get closer to achieving it. Our situation dictates our definition, and our situation is ever-changing.
Success is like happiness: difficult to define and impossible to achieve. Really, life is like a game where the rules keep changing and a winner will never be crowned. We’re constantly in pursuit of something more, different, better, until we’re not.
Success and happiness are motivators used by marketers, employers, parents, politicians, educators… anyone trying to get us to take action. It’s no different than religion. We all need something to believe in, something that gives everything meaning.
My advice is to connect with people, learn from them, and build meaningful relationships. Think about life as a series of moments. Live in the moment and strive for more good moments than not. The way I see it, if you get to make the rules, you might as well rig the game to be in your favor. From a business standpoint, every day that I get to do this, be an entrepreneur in control of my destiny, is a success in my book.