Matt Wilson is the co-founder of Under30Media, the leading community for successful young people in entrepreneurship, personal finance, and careers. Extending the Under30 Media brand, his team just launched Under30Experiences, a company focused on providing young professionals with life experiences through global travel. He has been named a finalist for Alister and Paine’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and is South Iceland Adventure’s Global Ambassador to Climate Unchange. Wilson is also a contributor to The Huffington Post and is a regular keynote speaker. Follow him @MattWilsontv.
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?
Listen to your gut. If you are a young entrepreneur you may not understand what your gut feeling is telling you, but you need to learn to develop it. In business, everyone wants to give you advice and tell you how to run your business. Entrepreneurs need to put blinders on, focus on their goal, and cut out all of the noise -- especially when it is other people trying to tell them what to do.
What's the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Our biggest mistake was not knowing how our business would make money. It sounds ridiculous, but in the early days of Under30CEO we didn't know how we were going to make capital. We fell into the trap of building something and then trying to figure out how to monetize, like so many startups. We soon came to reality during the global financial crisis when living at home, running the company out of my mom's basement was no longer an option. We lost our house and I had to dig ditches to make ends meet. Tough lesson learned.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
Focus. Every morning, whether I'm in New York heading to the office or in Latin America leading an Under30Experience, I close my laptop, have a cup of coffee, and figure out my goals and deliverables for the day. I'm the type of person who wakes up with a million ideas, and a million things I'd like to do. If I don't focus, I don't do anything effectively. I highly suggest re-focusing multiple times per day.
What's your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Have a good relationship with your accountant. The first time we found out that we had to pay our estimated taxes upfront for the upcoming year, we freaked out. It seems unfair that we have to pay taxes on money that we hadn't made yet, but that's how it works. We hadn't budgeted for that -- and if we hadn't had such a good relationship with our accountant, it could have put us under. Pay for good advisors, it's well worth it.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Get out of your comfort zone. I'm a huge believer in interrupting your everyday thought process and pushing yourself to an entirely different level. Whether that means hopping a flight to Central America, hiring a personal trainer to push you over the edge, or looking at your goals and doubling them, you need to take your current pattern of thinking and take it to the next level. When you do something that truly scares you and challenges you, you figure out a way to overcome it, and get to that next level.
What's your definition of success? How will you know when you've finally "succeeded" in your business?
My definition of success is doing what I want, when I want, with the people I want. When I was 18, I read Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad Poor Dad and wanted financial freedom. Now, I understand that freedom is about more than just money, but the ability to live your life the way you chose, and give others that opportunity as well. To wake up every day and be inspired is an amazing feeling. It's even better when you can pass that feeling on to others -- it multiplies the satisfaction, tenfold.
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.