Recently I had the please to sit down with a group of high school kids, who are participating with a local business mentoring program. Individually we allow these teens to ask us questions regarding higher education, business and other mentoring issues. I enjoyed the mentoring session so much, that I decided to share with you.
How old were you when you started your first business?
I was probably 14 or 15 years old. I was too young to get after school job, so I decided to cut a few yards and rake leaves. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so I rode my bike through the neighborhood and knocked on doors. I scheduled all of my work on Saturday afternoons. That allowed me a couple days of knocking on doors to get a full days worth of work every Saturday.
How did you start your own business?
Several years ago, I owned a medical supply company and one night I made a bet with some friends that I could launch a e-commerce site for my business. Long story short, I won the bet (steak dinner). The e-commerce site was a successful addition to my business. That site launch transitioned into developing sites for other people. I eventually sold my medical supply company and began developing websites full time. Nine years later, I’m still designing and developing websites.
What do you enjoy most when you design websites?
I enjoy the creative process. It’s a lot of fun when you can take a client’s idea and bring it to life. A lot of clients don’t have much of a idea of what they want or need. It’s my goal to understand what they like, what they don’t like and what they love. I try to incorporate all of that into their project. Some of the things they love aren’t always things you can see on the outside. Sometimes the things they love is on the technical side of the site.
What do you hate the most?
Failure. Hate is such a strong word and so is failure. But I dislike when I’m not able to achieve my goals. And just so you know, failure is only a temporary thing. It’s never permanent. Eventually you will learn several ways on how NOT to achieve your goal. Since I’m in the technology business, technology can be such a humbling thing. Technology and industry standards are constantly changing, which means I have to work extremely hard to keep on top of it all. My clients expect me to provide reliable solutions. And there are times when failure gives me the answers we need.
What is your biggest challenge?
Communication. Every client and employee has a different communication style. There are times when I read an email and have no clue what they are saying. I mean, their email doesn’t make any sense. It could be their wording, terminology, or something else that makes it difficult to communicate. I compare it to reading a book from your favorite author. No matter what he/she writes, it makes sense and you’re able to follow the story. However, you can read the same story written by a different author and you can’t get past the 2nd paragraph. It’s not because you don’t like the story, it’s mainly because it’s difficult to understand. It can be frustrating, but we have to work through it.
Do you have advice for someone who wants to start a business?
No matter what business you are involved with, remember this. Be honest, humble, gracious, and be willing to work hard for your clients. Good clients will value your work. Great clients will refer you to others.