In today’s first episode I wanted to tell my story so you know where I’m coming from. I’ve started a number of innovative companies that changed the course of their markets and continue to lead them today.
Like I said: I’m not the most experienced, nor the most successful entrepreneur in the world - or even in this city. But while I have a lot to learn and more experiences to gain, I do have a lot to share that can be helpful. Here’s the top 10 entrepreneurial secrets I've learned in the last 15 years:
#10 – If you want to lead a market, change it.
Every successful company I’ve started and Business Transformation I’ve led has changed the market in a significant way. Today, those companies continue to lead their markets in both revenue and market share. When I put 2 and 2 together, I realized that a) markets aren’t shaped by consumers, they’re shaped by businesses and b) market leaders are always the market changers.
#9 – Just because someone has more money than you, doesn’t make them right.
I’ve raised quite a bit of money in my career from private investors, most of whom were (and are) very wealthy individuals. I’ve made big mistakes giving up control to people that had more money than me, thinking they knew better, just to watch them lead the company down a wrong path and lose sight of the organizational purpose. Those mistakes were not only costly to me, but to the investors themselves. So trust yourselves by holding on to the controlling interest for as long as you possibly can - for the good of everyone involved and for those you serve.
#8 – Go for no! No’s are productive. If you’re not getting a lot of no’s, then you’re not asking enough.
The best entrepreneurs do, in fact, take no for an answer. Then they move on to someone else. The more innovative you are, the more people aren’t going to see what you see. Keep at it and don’t stop asking for help. You will get the yes’s you’re looking for. Especially if you learn from every no.
#7 – It doesn’t take money to make money. It takes perception of value.
I started my first really successful business after just being fired from the 19th restaurant I worked at in Portland. All I had was a negative account balance and a big idea. By forming a corporation and its stock, I created the company’s first tangible asset. By documenting the idea, the business model and the opportunity, I created a perception of value. Then I traded that stock for the life energy and know-how of specific experts to establish the company’s first prototype. After testing that prototype and building my team, I was able to determine a valuation by which to raise significant capital to go to market.
That company, for which I still have ownership, is pretty awesome. Check it out: www.waitrainer.com
#6 – There will never be a shortage of problems to solve. If you fail, get back up and try again.
Before I started Waitrainer I had another big idea. I worked hard for 9 months building a team, raising money and forming strategic partners. But then it all came crashing down. I was really in the dumps after that, for some time. I had to go back and wait tables after being an independent business owner for years. It was really hard to do. But that led me to discovering a huge market problem in the restaurant industry and led me to create the revolutionary software program to solve it.
#5 – Don’t fear failure. Failure brings wisdom and knowledge, making you better at what you do.
I learned so much from that failure I was able to take what I learned and apply it to the founding of Waitrainer. In fact, the lessons I learned are still with me and have, largely in part, made me the leader I am today. I have confidence that, regardless if something works out or not or, even if I go belly up bankrupt, I can start over and still make it big again.
#4 – When someone pays you to solve a problem, you have a business. Get to work!
My very first business started when I saw a problem in the market, that I could solve, and someone asked me to help. From there, I grew a good little business that set me on the path to entrepreneurship and personal freedom.
#3 – Do something each day to push your vision forward. That’s how you grow.
That first business started with a single customer. Then another customer, then another. Each day I did something to push that little business forward. Talking to friends, reaching out cold to build new relationships and building a website. Every action I took either worked, or didn’t – but I took action each day and, ultimately, grew my first successful business to make a significant impact in the community.
#2 – You don’t need a college degree to have a successful and fulfilling life.
I never liked or got along well in school. And as a kid growing up, raised by public school teachers, I was terrified that I would not have a successful life without establishing a formal education. But the truth is not everyone needs it, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. Not once has an investor or a bank asked me if I had a college degree. So, there.
#1 – It takes balls! You have to be fearless.
Yes, that’s right. It take balls. You have to be fearless to be a disrupter and lead markets because you have to take the risks others won’t. Drop the fear and trust your gut. You don’t know what the outcome will be until you take the action.
I hope you enjoyed these Top Ten Entrepreneurial Secrets! Start putting them to use. And don't forget to send me a message. I want to hear from you. Until then, I'll see you next Sunday at 1PM on Freedom 970.