Working in Los Angeles for a decade, Corey Michael Blake was the face and voice behind a dozen Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 brands as a commercial and voiceover actor (his work won Belding, Addy, Cannes, and London International Advertising awards), before working as a film producer and director, as an author and publisher, and now as the founder and President of storytelling company Round Table Companies (RTC). Follow him @CoreyBlake9000.
Who is your hero?
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
I've been terrible at taking advice throughout my career. I've never believed in conventional wisdom or other people's limitations, but I've always trusted my own experience. So while it might sound arrogant, I think I've taken the best advice from myself -- and that's, "It's your journey, shape it the way you'll most enjoy serving the world."
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
The biggest mistake I made was in surrounding myself with "yes" people, which I did for the first three years of RTC. When I eventually started hiring people who treated me as a human being vs. the boss, that challenged me to grow in new ways that allowed the culture and the business to grow. Forcing me to face some of my less effective behaviors was also a great way of leading by example, and it has influenced our culture in dynamic ways.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
Around 6 a.m., I typically scan through my emails from bed, where I spend 15 to 20 minutes responding to what I can immediately and filing what needs to be reviewed later. Then, after I shower, grab a bite and a cup of coffee, I connect with our VP (David Cohen, another YEC member) by phone and we go over the day. My goal with handling email and phone early is to clear my plate by 8 a.m. so I can dive into my own priorities when I sit down at my computer.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Don't lock yourself into the mentality that you have to hire full time. Test talent with small projects and let them prove themselves in ways that generate revenue for your business. Unless they impress you immediately, move on. If they do impress you, add more to their plate and continue to test them.
In this economy, you can find amazing part-time help and shift them into full time as they grow with you. From a cash flow perspective, this helps to not over-burden your organization, while also helping you determine new avenues for revenue based on the talent of the people you're hiring.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Convert your marketing budget to a culture budget. Culture eats marketing for breakfast.
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.