My original inspiration was living and working in Japan as an engineer and traveling around East and Southeast Asia. I went to Japan alone and often traveled alone so I had to step way out of my comfort zone. That opened up the world to me and enabled me to better see what was going on around me and to know that I wanted a part of that. Part of that “seeing” was exposure to entrepreneurs of all ages, colors and backgrounds at various stages of success. I started with a real estate investment company using no-money down private financing for my first deal, then a combination of my savings, a credit line, mortgage lenders and private investors for deals thereafter. Therefore, I began with a combination of my money and others’ money.
For me, an advisory board and continual learning is crucial. It is my advisors who have always encouraged me to think bigger and who have helped me to identify potential minefields when I’m either too close to it, too fearful of failure, or too tied to a path / course of action I’ve chosen. Larger companies with outside investors always have a board of directors but most small companies do not. I’ve been highly resourceful and have identified and overcome many roadblocks on my own but having multiple advisors provides a level of additional professional perspective that is and has been, as American Express says, priceless.
One thing I’ve learned is that, if you experience repeated problems that are similar, you are the problem. For example, I had to hire and fire sales people at the commercial construction publication firm I had bought. I knew I was the problem because I obviously couldn’t select the right people but I didn’t know what the core problem was. So I attended sales training, met with sales consultants, and conducted exit interviews with everyone and finally figured it out. I went on to hire the right people who could work with limited supervision and provided them with all the marketing and sales support, both written and actual training, they needed. I hear many owners say they can’t find good people and my response is, “You are the problem.” You need to identify the skill set, capabilities, and personality type you need for the position and identify what support and training the position needs then provide it. If you don’t do this, you will keep saying, “I can’t find good people!”