1. Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
One of my present-day business heroes is Richard Branson. His ability to maintain his vision and push forward through any obstacles is remarkable. I am also inspired by how savvy he is at creating and enhancing a brand while making the process fun and exciting for the entire team.
Personally, I’d say Gandhi is by far amongst the most remarkable heroes of the past century. Every time I read his story or watch the movie about his life, I am blown away by his ability to maintain his levelheadedness and commitment to non-violent protest and change.
2. What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Entrepreneurs often fall victim to taking on too much. There have been many times early on in my business where I was full of so many ideas and wanted to try all of them at the same time. An advisor told me to “use the umbrella technique.” Put up an umbrella and stand underneath it. You only get to pick two things to put under that umbrella with you. If an idea or opportunity isn’t attached or directly connected to those two things, it falls to the side.
In essence, his point was that focus as a business leader is the most important asset you have. Nothing is more important than persistent, focused energy pointed in a specific direction. Taking on too many outside projects or new ideas can pull us away from the work that will best move our business forward.
3. What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
My biggest mistake was not having my finger on the pulse of our customer satisfaction rates at all times. The year after we put our focus back on measuring and growing our customer satisfaction numbers rather than only focusing on new customer acquisition, our customer satisfaction doubled and our referrals tripled.
Not only do we need to constantly be generating new business, but ensuring we serve our current customers at the highest level possible has to be a constant priority.
4. What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
First, I review the priorities we’ve set forth for the day. Are there any critical meetings that need further preparation? Does anyone on my team need my attention on a project we’re working on? And what do we have on the horizon (in the next three to seven days) that needs to be in progress now?
It’s common for business people to sit down at their desk and read their email right when they arrive in the morning. I’ve found the moment you open your inbox, you are at the mercy of other’s priorities rather than your own. By starting the day with my priorities rather than those of whoever has emailed me, I’m able to keep focused on our top outcomes and goals.
5. What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Focus on one specific target market. Build deep in that target market before expanding too widely to every other market you can fit in.
6. Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Be flexible. Nothing in business works exactly as planned the first time. It takes adjusting, shifting, and being able to roll with the punches to get the product right, the target market right, the customer acquisition process clarified, etc.
7. What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Personally, I believe success is the ability to do what you want when you want, with whom you want. Professionally, we have a finite definition of what success is for us. We want to reach 150 million people a year with our community of authors, and we want to reach that number within three years.