“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” Steve Jobs preached to an eager crowd in his commencement address at Stanford University in 2005.
That was long before his death, in 2011, which occurred on this date seven years ago today. And all these years later, as I look back on Jobs’s famous quote, I wonder how he’d feel to find out that I actually spent a day in his life …
Jokes aside, Jobs was referring to the idea that you should always trust your inner voice, and have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. After his passing, my inner voice led me on an entrepreneurial pilgrimage to seek inspiration, and feel what it was like to live like the great visionary in the famed Silicon Valley.
Over the course of a week, I toured the HP Garage, strolled down El Camino Real and visited each of the places mentioned in his biography, trying to understand how his story unfolded – and how mine might unfold, as well.
That’s why today, on the anniversary of Jobs’s death, I reflect back on that experience, recognising the role my Silicon Valley sojourn took in shaping me as an entrepreneur. Here are the top five inspirational lessons I gleaned, to hopefully help guide and motivate you on your own entrepreneurial journey.
1. Find someone who inspires you
It’s not easy to be an entrepreneur. From the outset, leaving a stable job and paving your own way can be frightening; it sets you on a path filled with uncertainty. Then, the journey only gets harder from there.
So, when you inevitably reach that point when you ask yourself if it would be better to give up, drawing inspiration from someone whose values resonate with you can keep you chasing your dreams.
For me, and for countless others, Steve Jobs was – and still is – that inspiration. I admire his way of thinking about product design, his commitment to quality and service and his marketing prowess. I even borrowed for my business (at a simple level) his brilliant idea for the Apple stickers, as a way to build brand recognition and cultivate brand evangelists. I’m not alone in this: For entrepreneur Ruschelle Khanna, a photo of Richard Branson on her cell phone served a similar purpose.
In either case, the idea remains the same: As an entrepreneur, you need to dig in each day and work toward achieving your vision. By identifying someone as your inspiration who has already “been there, done that,” you can find the motivation to carry on, and learn from that person’s successes and failures.
Related: Lessons from Steve Jobs
2. Don’t be afraid of a challenge
When I landed at the San Francisco airport from Hungary, to kick off my adventure in Silicon Valley, I was met by a highly skeptical immigration officer. When asked the reason for my visit to the United States, I informed him that I had plans to live a day in the life of the late Apple CEO. The immigration guy didn’t buy it.
After several hours of interrogation, I was finally released, and reminded that such challenges are a normal – and invigorating – rite of passage for entrepreneurs. People will always be skeptical of the work you’re doing and the dreams you have; but that shouldn’t stop you from chasing them.
This same idea is one emphasised by Stephen Key, co-founder of inventRight: “Successful entrepreneurs challenge themselves,” Key said. He also said: “The best way to stay competitive is to actively attempt to challenge your preconceived notions.” With that in mind, you should never be afraid of a challenge – and never let others get in the way of achieving your goals.
3. Never settle for anything less than your vision
In that light, my trip to Silicon Valley opened my eyes to the sheer amount of imaginative potential that we take for granted. As an entrepreneur, you may get bogged down in day-to-day tasks and lose sight of your larger goals. Nevertheless, it’s critical to stay tuned in to your vision, and never forget that anything is possible.
Recounting a funny anecdote about Jobs, a former Apple engineer explained that when the prototype for the first iPod was complete, Jobs examined it and quickly rejected it for being “too big.” The engineers responded by explaining that the device was a modern work of art and couldn’t be made smaller, Jobs answered back by dropping the iPod in a fish tank, pointing to the bubbles and saying, “Those are air bubbles. That means there’s space in there. Make it smaller.”
In the same way that Jobs relentlessly pushed his vision, you should never settle for anything less than yours. Silicon Valley may possess some of the brightest minds and engineers, but you can find brilliant people anywhere. In my hometown of Budapest, for example, you’d be surprised at the number and quality of engineers available. That fact illustrates that you can accomplish anything you and your team set your minds to.
4. Join or create an entrepreneurial community
As I walked the streets in Silicon Valley, the entrepreneurial spirit was palpable. It became clear that by building strong start-up ecosystems, like those in Silicon Valley, and surrounding yourself with like-minded people who support one other, you’ll find it a lot easier to get ahead.
Moreover, start-up ecosystems foster a type of self-perpetuating innovation, as startup employees gain the knowledge and skills they need to later become entrepreneurs themselves.
For example, consider the fact that former Apple employees have gone on to create a number of successful companies, including Nest, Android, Salesforce and many others. Salesforce founder Marc Benioff – who only spent one summer working at Apple in the 1980s – even noted the profound impact the experience had on him, writing, “That summer, I discovered it was possible for an entrepreneur to encourage revolutionary ideas.”
For this reason, actively participating in your local startup community is of utmost importance. By gathering together community members, trading war stories and sharing tips for success, these people are integral for the inspiration of young entrepreneurs. Such communities can exist anywhere, too. For example, while our start-up ecosystem in Hungary is very young, that doesn’t change the fact that it crucially serves to keep entrepreneurs, such as myself, motivated and inspired.
5. Pick up a book, and don’t stop reading
Each time I travel by plane, I try to stop by the airport bookstore to pick up some reading for the flight, and my trip to Silicon Valley was no different. However, when I left the airport, I was truly surprised by the sheer number of bookstores that lined the streets. Frequently, I would wander in, order coffee and leaf through something in the business section – a practice I found to be both incredibly mentally stimulating and rewarding.
And, of course, I’m not the only one. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg and a whole host of other world-class entrepreneurs are known for their shared habit of reading. Gates even publicly recommends five books for summer reading each year. And it makes sense that such successful entrepreneurs share this habit; one study found that a whopping 88 percent of financially successful people read at least 30 minutes per day.
Ultimately, reading not only makes you smarter, but can serve as a tool for inspiration. In my case, the books Delivering Happiness, by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, and The Accidental Billionaires, which tells the story of Facebook, were both incredibly inspiring, and reminded me that anything can be accomplished. So while “reading” may seem to be a simple recommendation, it’s also an indispensable practice for every entrepreneur.
Wrapping it all up
We often take for granted the opportunities, resources and inspirations we have available to us. And usually, it isn’t until we lose them that we are able to recognise their importance.
While I had always admired Steve Jobs, it wasn’t until his passing – and my subsequent pilgrimage to Silicon Valley – that I recognised just how fortunate I was to be an entrepreneur, and how important it is to be inspired. So keep these tips in mind throughout your own journey as an entrepreneur, and never lose your inspiration.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
7 Cannabis Industry Millionaires Making It Big In The Marijuana Business
These entrepreneurs have capitalised on a new market set to continue to grow rapidly as more countries legalise marijuana across the world.
1. Brendan Kennedy
- Company: Tilray
- Website: https://www.tilray.com/
Brendan Kennedy worked on job sites as a carpenter to pay his way through university, with his eyes set firmly on becoming an architect, until the allure of Silicon Valley changed the course of his direction. While working at technology start-ups Kennedy began thinking about the possibilities that medical marijuana provided.
“I was really sceptical of medical cannabis,” he says. “It took a year of having conversations with patients and physicians and hearing the same story, repackaged but essentially the same, over and over and over again, where my scepticism eroded and I became a believer.”
In 2013, Kennedy and his partners applied for a licence from Health Canada and launched Lafitte Ventures, which was later renamed Tilray. Today, the company is a global leader in medical cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution.
Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right
So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.
You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.
On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:
The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.
The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.
Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.
Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.
It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.
It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.
Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.
Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.
Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.
The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.
Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!
That Time Jeff Bezos Was The Stupidest Person In The Room
Everyone can benefit from simple advice, no matter who they are.
When you think of Jeff Bezos, a lot of things probably come to your mind.
You likely think of Amazon.com, a company he founded more than twenty years ago, that’s completely disrupted retail and online commerce as we know it. You probably also think of his entrepreneurial genius. Or the immense wealth that he’s built for himself and others. You may also think of drones, Alexa and same-day delivery. Bezos is a visionary, an entrepreneur, a cutthroat competitor and a game changer. He’s unquestionably a very, very smart man. But sometimes, he can be…well…stupid, too.
Like that time back in 1995.
That was when Amazon was just a startup operating from a 2,000 square foot basement in Seattle. During that period, Bezos and most of the handful of employees working for him had other day jobs. They gathered in the office after hours to print and pack up the orders that their fast-growing bookselling site was receiving each day from around the world. It was tough, grueling work.
The company at the time, according to a speech Bezos gave, had no real organisation or distribution. Worse yet, the process of filling orders was physically demanding.
“We were packing on our hands and knees on a hard concrete floor,” Bezos recalled. “I said to the person next to me ‘this packing is killing me! My back hurts, it’s killing my knees’ and the person said ‘yeah, I know what you mean.'”
Bezos, our hero, the entrepreneurial genius, the CEO of a now 600,000-employee company that’s worth around a trillion dollars and one of the richest men in the world today then came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea. “You know what we need,” he said to the employee as they packed boxes together. “What we need is…kneepads!”
The employee (Nicholas Lovejoy, who worked at Amazon for three years before founding his own philanthropic organisation financed by the millions he made from the company’s stock) looked at Bezos like he was — in Bezos’ words — the “stupidest guy in the room.”
“What we need, Jeff,” Lovejoy said, “are a few packing tables.” Duh.
So the next day Bezos – after acknowledging Lovejoy’s brilliance – bought a few inexpensive packing tables. The result? An almost immediate doubling in productivity. In his speech, Bezos said that the story is just one of many examples how Amazon built its customer-centered service culture from the company’s very early days. Perhaps that’s true. Then again, it could mean something else.
It could mean that sometimes, just sometimes, those successful, smart, wealthy and powerful people may not be as brilliant as you may think. Nor do they always have the right answers. Sometimes, just sometimes, they may actually be the stupidest guy in the room. So keep that in mind the next time you’re doing business with an intimidating customer, supplier or partner who appears to know it all. You might be the one with the brilliant idea.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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