1. Who is your hero?
My parents. My mother is fearless. As I type this, she’s halfway around the world on travel. She has had many entrepreneurial adventures in her life, from being in real estate to the restaurant business to serving under one of the U.S. President’s administrations and even running a newspaper. She’s had her ups and downs, no doubt. But in watching her many lives in business, I have learned to be undaunted by failure — or worse, by fear of failure. My father imparted onto me the importance of patience, self-reliance and focus. He demonstrated to me what it means to constantly learn; to place the onus on myself to find ways to learn from experience, observations, and from those around me.
2. What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Don’t burn bridges. That advice came from my mother. To this day, I’m in touch at least one person from every previous company. This has served me well in my current startup, where I’ve had to tap into my network for new critical hires or important initiatives that I want to test out with a contractor. Also, it’s been good to connect with past colleagues to soundboard new concepts or even introductions to relevant people. Of course, it’s a two-way street. I try to ensure I’m available whenever my network taps me for help.
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?
One lesson I’ve learned from a past mistake is this: don’t rush to hire someone. It’s too easy to back yourself into a corner when you’re rushing. Try constantly networking with people so you have an arsenal of potential future hires. The biggest disservice you can do to your company or to someone else’s career is to rush to hire. When you rush, you turn a blind eye to things you might normally see as a red flag. When you rush, you may find yourself projecting what you want onto the person rather than accepting who they are. Hopefully you give yourself three to six months lead time when hiring. Ideally, by the time you have a job requisite, you have a deep enough network that you can use it for help.
4. What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I do a series of check-ins with people, places and things. First, I check our company’s dashboard (metrics we follow), review my Twitter feed and browse my newsfeed. This gives me a sense of the pulse of the company, as well as some background as to what’s going on in my industry, in the markets and around the world. Then, depending on the day, I walk about one half to two miles through my neighborhood without thinking about work. This walk allows me to check in with my immediate environment. Upon arriving at the office, I always greet folks with a “good morning,” to listen to the cadence of the responses. By doing this, I’m able to gauge the mood and stay attuned to company culture.
5. What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Don’t lock yourself into office space you don’t need. I’ve seen many companies overspend on square footage, which really is a shame and painful to see take a toll on the bottom line. Be OK with hiring and trusting top talent (including yourself) to telecommute as you get things moving. Then, try to secure office space (shared or otherwise) that lend themselves to the size of your team.
6. Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Surround yourself with compassionate, intelligent and diverse people. Set aside two to three weeks of travel to a different country annually if you can. This provides such a unique perspective and can be an effective palate cleanser.
7. What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
My definition of success is being in a place where I have a constant flow of opportunities so that I can identify a need or problem, access the the means necessary to solve that problem, and mobilize resources to fulfill that need or resolve the problem on a grand scale for others.