Patrick has taken his background in engineering design, robotics and process flow systems from billion dollar international development projects to online businesses and founded Automation Heroes -- a marketing strategy firm that develops the resources and processes for clients looking to to conquer their business system chaos by leveraging the power of marketing automation. Visit them at http://www.automationheroes.com. Follow him @patrick_conley.
Who is your hero?
In life, my Grandpa "Big Pop" is my hero. He taught me that you can achieve anything you want with the right mindset. In business, Tim Ferriss was a big inspiration with his 4-Hour Work Week book.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
It sounds obvious but so many people don't take it to heart: focus on solving problems that people care about and are willing to pay you to help them solve. I dabbled in quite a few products that never gained much traction because I didn't do that. If you can start your business from an idea that people are already looking for help to solve, your life will be much easier! We help entrepreneurs solve marketing problems that they are already struggling with. We don't need to reinvent the wheel and create a new demand. Doing it the other way is much more difficult and less beneficial!
What's the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Not setting super clear expectations and contracts with an early client was a big mistake. We got excited about a new project and jumped right into helping them without spending much time setting up expectations about what would be delivered. This particular project ended up with several change requests, which lead to some billing confusions and ultimately a lot of headaches for us. This all could have been avoided. The key lesson for us was to be uber clear when setting your client's expectations to avoid these issues after the fact.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
This ranges day to day depending on what projects we have at the time. I've tried more recently to delay checking any email, social networks, etc. until later in the day but it's tough -- email is an addiction! When I'm at my best, I spend the first hour or two of the day focusing on creative efforts that will move the needle for the company; writing, creating products, and mind mapping solutions. The reactive tasks like checking email zap your energy and make the other tasks harder to pursue later in the day when you are tired.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Find the fastest path to cash. It's so easy for us as entrepreneurs to invest months of time building the "perfect" product without actually validating the idea. Try to get at least a few people to actually pay for the idea before it's ready. Use their feedback to craft the product WITH them. You'll end up with a much better product for the end-user, and raise some funds to help your bank account in the process.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Find a mentor or business coach, ideally as part of a group. My entrepreneurial journey really caught fire when I joined a business coaching program with a combined mastermind program. It was scary and expensive at the time, but I took the leap and haven't regretted it for a second. Having the right advice and support can shave off years of your development. It's silly to reinvent the wheel when you can learn from so many amazing people who would love to help you grow!
What's your definition of success? How will you know when you've finally "succeeded" in your business?
For me it all comes down to customer happiness. I believe that we are already "successful" since our customers love us, and we will become even more successful in the future as we make more and more customers fall in love with us. I don't think that a particular metric like X dollars per year can truly quantify success. The real satisfaction comes from creating a product that improves someone's life, and it's even sweeter when you can improve the lives of many. Our goal is to continue improving and iterating every day to make our customers even happier.
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.