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Guests: Bill Keen, Anthony Venus
Episode in a Tweet: Seasoned entrepreneurs share their biggest lessons learned from decades of “in the trenches” experience starting and selling businesses.
Quick Background: Bill Keen and Anthony Venus have started five separate multi-million dollar businesses and seen three of them through highly profitable exits. Along the way, they made brilliant decisions and huge mistakes. In today’s show, they each share their entrepreneurial journey and the key things they wish they knew back when they were just starting out. You’ll discover a goldmine of insightful comments that can make you millions…or save you from losing your shirt.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.
Insights on the Entrepreneurial Journey
1. It’s about being focused. There are so many things in this world that are vying for our time. The mobile phones we have in our back pockets are dinging at us all day long looking for our attention. For me, sitting down and being deliberate about what’s important to us from a business standpoint and from a family standpoint is critical. Getting clarity on where we’re all going is amazingly empowering. It’s priceless. Bill Keen
2. It’s about being clear on who you want to work with. I don’t want my phone to ring and then look at the name and see it’s someone who we don’t like, is toxic, or is disrespectful. We only work with people who fit our specific profile, who we know we can help better than anybody else. Bill Keen.
3. It’s about having a coach who can turn progress from decades into days. Here’s what I’ve discovered with having a coach. One, I don’t have all the answers. Two, when I go to a coach, or a mentor, he’s typically been there, done it. He has networks of people that have experienced the problems or opportunities we’re facing. Three, by having to report to somebody that you respect, and that will tell you the truth, honestly and openly, and not being offended by what they’re telling you, it literally can reduce progress from decades into days. Working with a coach and having a focus and bringing it back every 2 weeks allows us to cover ground way faster and way more efficient than we ever could’ve without it. Bill Keen
4. It’s about putting yourself around people who raise your standards. I liken it to playing a tennis match with someone who’s better than you, or playing a tennis match with somebody who’s not as good as you. Your game immediately rises or falls to your opponent’s level. It’s like the old saying, if you’re the smartest person in the room, find another room. Bill Keen.
5. It’s about understanding where your business is within the business cycle and understanding the importance of timing, and yes, luck. In early 2000, we received a buyout offer from one of our major shareholders. There I was, age 27, about to receive a nice $9 million check, until one little thing got in the way. The stock market bubble burst on March 11, 2000 and the party was over. The offer went away and I went from being potentially, on paper, up $9 million to being several million dollars down and having to bail that business out. I had to suck it up and to keep on going. Anthony Venus.
6. It’s about giving yourself the gift of time. After selling my last business, I took the advice of a fellow entrepreneur, also in YPO, and I gave myself the gift of a year. The gift of a year for me was all about restoring balance, sharpening the saw, and finding that next wave for inspiration. Even if you don’t have a year off, you can find ways while still running your business to meet interesting people, attend conferences, and get away from the grind for short periods to reenergize. Anthony Venus.
7. It’s about having the confidence to go with your gut instinct and not be overly influenced by the latest business building tools. We’ve certainly been using a lot of these lean start-up techniques, and I would highly recommend a lot of testing, rapid iteration, A/B testing, etc. Yet, for all the lean start-up and scientific approach ideas, really I think there’s still a large degree of gut influence in being an entrepreneur and having wisdom from experience that you apply. You just got to have the self-confidence to launch and believe in what you’re doing. You’re never going to have all the data. We like to think that we do. You’re only ever going to have half the data, and the rest I think is just the gumption to see it through. I’m back at that stage again. It’s kind of nice. Anthony Venus.
1. Be very clear on who you will work with–and who you won’t work with. No amount of money is worth having to deal with clients who you don’t like.
2. Hang around other people who raise your standards. If you’re the smartest person in the room, find another room and learn from the people there.
3. Don’t forget your gut instinct. While there are many business tools available to entrepreneurs to keep them “on track” in their business, don’t ignore your gut instinct. It comes from years of experience and connecting the dots.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.