Micha, Nick and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend San Diego State University's Entrepreneurial Management Center (EMC) Open Forum this evening where Matt Reno, CEO of Reno Contracting and 2003 "Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year" in Real Estate, spoke about "Building Your Business". What a phenomenal presentation delivered the way presentations should be delivered: with sincerity, simplicity, and poignant introspection. Zero powerpoint slides, zero fluff. Matt spoke from his heart.
Matt's presentation sparked an interesting conversation between Micha, Nick, and I on our drive back to the office about entrepreneurship and building successful businesses from the ground-up. Specifically, the topic was, "What are your top three success factors for entrepreneurs starting new businesses?"
Here are the top three success factors that came to my mind:
1. Alignment- the most essential work of a CEO is to align his/her parts. In other words, what your business stands for must be aligned with the people working for you and with the system of which the organization is built on. From the top level this includes aligning your strategy with your fixed and variable costs, and on the base level this includes an unfaltering commitment to your core values (which becomes exceedingly difficult to uphold as the business grows).
2. Character- lots of people have asked our company how we have nurtured such an amazing team as a start-up consultancy. Want in on this secret? Well here it is: we don't hire those with the best skills. When we interview, we don't look for the best marketer, best coder, or best designer. We hire the best people. People of character. This includes integrity, ethics, passion, and learning capacity. Similarly, this also includes refusing to work with certain clients. As Matt said so deftly put it this evening, "we don't work with jerks." For budding companies, character remains paramount. Be people-focused and find the best fit for your team.
3. Conviction- a leader must have the utmost conviction in what s/he is doing. There is no compensating for the deficit created by the lack of conviction from your leaders; you can't make up that ground. This doesn't mean your leaders should be austere. In fact, the opposite is true. Conviction in its purest form is balancing flexibility and adaptability with the courage to be unrelenting in your pursuit. It's bending without breaking. And at the highest level, it's having the guts to push through.
These are my three success factors for start-up CEOs. They are interdependent and co-existent. You can't have just one or two of the three. As far as I'm concerned, it's three-for-three, or all-for-naught.
Let's hear your thoughts. I'm tagging Micha and Nick to post their outstanding insights. And Mike and Ryan, as young successful business people I know you both have great perspective as well.