What advice would you give to a student who wanted to follow in your footsteps
I meet many young people who want to be entrepreneurs. I admire that. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. The problem was that I had no skills and did not know what type of business I wanted to build. I found that the right path was not to jump into entrepreneurship right away. I worked at Morgan Stanley as an investment banking analyst. I still believe that to be the most valuable professional experience I have ever had. I not only learned the fundamentals of accounting and finance but also learned how to create a stellar work product. Now, I don`t suggest that everyone go into investment banking, certainly not now; however, I do feel that it is important for young people to work in a company with the smartest people they can find before they go out on their own. that might be a small company or a large company. The most important thing is to get exposure to people, ideas and responsibility. As an entrepreneur I can guarantee you that your best idea will not be your first idea. There is no need to rush. Develop the relationships and skills you need to be successful first. In addition, it doesn`t hurt to have some cash in the bank when you start you business. The road is much longer than you think.
What PROFESSIONAL experience(s) had the greatest developmental impact you?
As I mentioned above, my first business experience as an analyst in the Transportation Group in corporate finance at Morgan Stanley was incredibly important. I learned how to do things the right way. I learned that the "bar" you needed to strive for in everything you do is VERY high. EVERYTHING must be done right. Not 95% or 99% of things. The bar should be 100% of things. Of course you will make mistakes, but if you accept 95%, then you will ultimately on get to 90% at best. I also learned that hard work is the differentiator. People always look at others and wonder how they became successful. Malcolm Gladwell speaks to this in his book Outliers. He calls it the 10,000 hours Rule. The experts are the ones that have spent at least 10,000 hours on something. When I was working 100 hour weeks at an investment bank, I was on my way to becoming an expert. I do that today in my business. I am always thinking and working on my business. There are 6 billion people on this planet. You cannot expect to be one of the best at what you do if you do not outwork at least 5.9999 billion of them.
What is the best piece of advice you have every received?
The best piece of advice I have heard came from a visiting lecturer when I was at Harvard Business School. He was an entrepreneur. He said quite simply: "If you want to do business, do business". What he was talking about is that you can't sit in a classroom or behind a computer modeling out concepts and thinking up ideas. If you have the skills and want to create something, then get out there and do it. That is the only way that you learn and can ultimately succeed. This does not mean that you don't take the time to develop your skills. You will need them, but when you are ready: just do it.
What advice would you give to an experienced professional (5-10 years work experience)
looking to transition into a career in you
First let me define my profession as an entrepreneur. I think it is harder to transition into entrepreneurship later in life. If you are 5-10 years out of school, that is a perfect time. You have developed a skill set, created relationships and have some sense of what you want to do. The advice in this case is simple. Follow the advice I mentioned above: do business --- just do it. However, you should understand what you are getting into. I typically tell people that the road to entrepreneurial success is usually 2.5x longer than your most conservative case. That means if your best case is that you will breakeven in 1 year and your worst case it 2 years, then it will most likely take 5 years. That has significant implications. That means that you will need 5x the money you expected in your base case. It means that your spouse and children will go without the luxuries they are used to for at least 5 years (during which time you are not building any savings). It means that competitors have 4 more years to come up with a better idea. This is the real challenge. So, my advice is to think long term. Understand how you plan to build this business over a 5+ year timeframe. How will you adjust your business model as the environment changes around you.
List favorite personal or professional development resources (e.g. books, periodical,
- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell