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?
As entrepreneurs, we often obsess about tools, process and strategy. We furnish ourselves with an arsenal of magic tricks intended to make our businesses successful. We often put a lot of stock into such things and mistake them for the key to success.
The most important advice every entrepreneur should take to heart is to put faith in yourself. You, your ingenuity, and your work ethic are the things you can’t gamble away no matter how risky the venture, how financially insecure you may feel, or how great your time and monetary investments in your business are so far. Everything else is just logistics, tactics, and a means to an end. Entrepreneurship is about self-reliance. Business plans can fail, marketing strategies can fail, and startups all too often fail, but as long as you persevere, failure will never find its way into your vocabulary. Every chapter in your story becomes part of your ongoing success story.
What's the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
We spent several very unproductive weeks trying not to work for free. Our interns were doing a stellar job of cold calling businesses to strengthen our client base and building publicity to drive up our customer base, but no one understood what we did, and worse -- we let this prevent us from doing what we do. It wasn’t until the 2010 "Snowmageddon" that we realized how to turn the tide for our business.
Not only did we accept that to prove ourselves we would have to dig deep, but we decided to dig into our pockets to actually demonstrate, not just advertise, our value. We purchased “snow removal” on Google Adwords and contracted a lead generation service so that we could help the people we weren’t reaching organically. Once customers and prospective clients experienced our value firsthand, we were able to generate interest, customer loyalty, and a paying client base. It was definitely worth the investment. I learned: when selling disruptive technology, don’t waste your breath, show your muscle instead.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
First I check my to-do list (managed in Asana) and check in with my team to hear what their priorities for the day will be. It’s critical the we’re all on the same page. Opening the lines of communication invites the team to exchange helpful information or offer help or support whenever needed.
What's your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Define the minimally viable product. Add just enough functions to carve into your competitors' market share, and build that up rather than spending the extra time and extra cash on bells and whistles. Saving money is key to making money, and you’ll need the extra cash to market your product. If no one knows it exists, it won’t matter how awesome it is.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Attend a hack-a-thon and open your business idea up to critique and fresh ideas.
What's your definition of success? How will you know when you've finally "succeeded" in your business?
My definition of success is readiness to face a new challenge.
Right now, I’m obsessed with reaching my goals for Seva Call. I can’t even imagine what success will look like because of all the current obstacles blocking my sight. But, once these obstacles are behind me, I’ll finally be able to see beyond the metrics of growing this business and imagine something else. So, by that definition, failure is not only “not an option”-- it’s not a possibility, either. No matter what happens with this latest venture, there will always be another challenge and a new adventure waiting for me. When I’m ready to face that new challenge, I know my experience with Seva Call has been a success.
In the startup world, not every product is a sure thing and entrepreneurs are told to succeed or fail quickly. Seeing success as merely the beginning of a new chapter has been the key to my sanity as I take on the huge gamble of starting and running a business.
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.