Alex Chamberlain is the co-owner of EasyLiving, Inc. which is a fully licensed, private duty home health care company serving the elderly and disabled. They provide clients with the support they need to remain independent, safe and healthy in their own homes. Alex is also the founder of EZFingerPrints, which provides Level 2 FBI background checks and fingerprinting services for hospital systems, schools, not-for profits, business licenses, etc. Follow him @Akchamberlain
Who is your hero?
In life, my heroes are my parents. I have so many leaders I look up to in the business world also. Heroes within the global business community include Jeff Bezos, Tony Hsieh, and Howard Schultz. In my local area I look up to Leeward Bean, founder of Big Frog T-shirts; John Thomas of Pinch a Penny Pool Systems; and Phil Doganiero. They have been able to do so many great things in our local community and have been wonderful mentors to me.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Probably the best advice I have ever received was when I was interviewing an entrepreneur as a freshman in college. He told me if you are comfortable blaming everything going wrong in your business with yourself, then you can be an entrepreneur. I have lived by that ever since. Every time something goes wrong in my business the only person I can blame is the one I see in the mirror every day. What I try to focus on is turning that into motivation to make changes and improve. I believe that has helped shape me to be the entrepreneur I am today.
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 always make mistakes. To be honest I make so many it is hard to pinpoint the biggest one. Currently I am most upset about spending money to purchase new equipment that I never use. That was close to $10k wasted, thus one of my more expensive mistakes. Another mistake that still gets me frustrated is when I turned down a huge account because I did not want to invoice at the time. This was a short-sighted decision and I am still trying to win their book of business back two years later.
This list can go on for days…all I hope is that each mistake provides an important lesson that helps me grow as a business person.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I plan my day and make sure I am focused on what I call “moving the ball forward.” I do not look to score touchdowns or make huge advancements in a single day, but I do plan on moving the business forward in some way. As long as I have planned or scheduled to accomplish something that moves the business forward, I know I am doing something right. This is very important to me because when things go wrong (which they often do), I know at least I moved the business in the right direction.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
This is something I have been learning the hard way. Starting my second business was very difficult. I came from running a business that was very well-off from a cash flow standpoint, and I became comfortable being able to afford what I needed. One piece of advice I would give is every time you spend something, update your new breakeven point or when you will be cash flow positive again. It really puts the purchase in perspective and has helped me say “no” or “yes” to a lot of purchases. It can also help you see the rate of growth you can have with the additional services/customers you are able to serve because of that expense. Overall, make your financial tools work for you.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Develop a well-articulated mission statement that gets at the heart of why you are in business. If done well, this statement should serve as the guide for all decisions. This has really helped guide me at EasyLiving and EZFingerPrints. Every decision I make is funneled through the mission statement first. If it helps me accomplish our mission, I keep moving forward with the idea. If it does not -- easy -- scrap the idea.
I have to mention two things because I always recommend finding a mentor. I have been very fortunate that people have been willing to help me. I have sought and asked for help. I would be absolutely nowhere if it were not for the people who have helped me along the way! One of my favorite stories is how I met my mentor Leeward Bean. I read an article on him in the Tampa Business Journal, connected with him on LinkedIn and asked if I could to take him to lunch. Ever since then, he has been a great sounding board for me about how to improve my business.
What's your definition of success? How will you know when you've finally "succeeded" in your business?
Success to me is accomplishing my goals for each individual business. For EasyLiving my definition of success is being able to change the way people see health care and having our customers become more proactive. Currently our business is very crisis-driven. Customers usually call saying, “Mom set the stove on fire, when can you get out here?” Until we start seeing our customers proactively call us for services I know we haven’t been truly successful.
At EZFingerPrints our definition is a little broader. I want to make the hiring process as easy and stress free as possible. By having multiple locations around the U.S. we will be able to streamline hiring by making government regulations easy to accomplish. My definition of success is making my services as easy and hassle free as possible.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.