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FIRST GENERATION ENTREPRENEURS & WHAT MATTERS MOST

FEBRUARY 21, 2017

As an entrepreneur, a crucial piece of success lies in identifying and understanding what matter most. Because every aspect of an entrepreneur’s life is interlinked – affecting not only their lives, but their family and team members in the same sweep – how does a business owner prioritize what matters most?

Is it profit? Having a support system? Quality of life? The Q&A below dives into what matters most for a few local entrepreneurs.
 
Sally A Hughes
CEO/Founder, Caster Connection, Inc.

Q: WHAT MATTERS MOST TO YOU AS A BUSINESS OWNER?
A:Ultimately what matters most to me as a business owner is my team. I realize that I have a huge responsibility to my team members – not only in engagement, but in quality of life. It's important for me to know that my team members are engaged and committed to our company goal of bringing the best value to our clients when it comes to ergonomics and safety. The quality of life for my team is also a piece of that. We have a “promote from within” policy and try to do our best to move our folks upward in the company (which means a better wage and additional opportunities).

Q: WHAT "FAILURES" HAVE YOU OVERCOME THROUGH YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY? 
A: It took me far too long to figure out that I had to delegate and let our folks make mistakes. You can never grow as a business if you try to do it all yourself. But honestly I don't really consider anything I've done to be a "failure". Maybe that's one of the differences, I just learn from the hiccups and call them experiences, put them behind me and move on. I could name hundreds of “failed” experiences, but the truth is each of these experiences have made me the entrepreneur I am today.

Q: WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU LEARNED THROUGH YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY?
A: Hire slow, fire quick. I have learned that this business is not for everyone, and that is okay. Usually the conversation between myself and a person leaving our company ends in agreement that they should pursue something they really enjoy, rather than trying to fit into a space they don't love.

Q: WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO WAKE UP AND GO TO WORK EVERY MORNING? 
A: I love the daily challenges and opportunities that come with being a business owner. I love the energy of my team and the products and systems they work on everyday so that we can keep a leg up on the competition.

Q: WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS? 
A: Growing a business is really tough. You need to have thick skin, be resolute in making your vision work, take good care of yourself, and get enough sleep. We all have fear, but you cannot let your mind make you fearful because that’s all it is – in your mind! Start with one foot in front of the other, hire good employees with energy, be respectful always, and accept that it is ok to be vulnerable. And last but certainly not least, find a great mentor – I've had my mentor for 30 years.
 
 
James P. Ellis, DDS, MS
Owner, Ellis Oral Surgery

Q: WHAT MATTERS MOST TO YOU AS A BUSINESS OWNER?
A: Autonomy. Although we can never be fully autonomous, having the ability to create an ideal practice environment and associate with great people who will help create success defines being a business owner for me.

Q: WHAT "FAILURES" HAVE YOU OVERCOME THROUGH YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY?  A: Our biggest struggle early on was having the wrong people around our organization. This was not only inherited but magnified by not having a clear set of values to help guide us in bringing on new people. Having a team with shared values and goals has reshaped our entire practice model.

Q: WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO WAKE UP AND GO TO WORK EVERY MORNING? 
A: I strive to make sure that when people visit our practice they have an unforgettable experience. The persona is such that no one wants to come see us, much less pay to see us! We want to make sure that when someone leaves our office they can look back and feel as if we provided them with a special experience. We want our patients to insist that their friends and family come see us.

Q: WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS? 
A: It’s all about the team. Surround yourself with great people (both employees and advisors). We may think we know everything about running a successful business but trust me other people know much more than we do! That knowledge can only help create success.
 
 
Eric Gnezda
Creator & Host, Songs at the Center

Q: WHAT MATTERS MOST TO YOU AS A BUSINESS OWNER?
A: Balance. I believe that when we’re following our own path, our destination chooses us. Rarely can we, even in our wildest dreams, predict what that destination is. But, if we’re true to ourselves, our destination reveals itself to us step by step. Entrepreneurship provides us with the privilege of discovering our own path, in accordance with our values. It’s a process of living out our values, putting them into practice. And by remaining faithful to those values, we create the balance that’s important to us. For me, it’s family and friends, followed by the ability to serve others through my art and business venture.

Q: WHAT "FAILURES" HAVE YOU OVERCOME THROUGH YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY? 
A: I’ve never considered anything a failure. It may have been a risk that didn’t work out, or an idea that wasn’t executed well, or whose time hasn’t yet arrived. But invariably, we learn from the risks that fall flat and, next time around, go at it in a way that is more likely to succeed. The important thing is to be process-oriented rather than results-oriented. By focusing on the process, every day is an adventure in learning and growing. I’ve observed – and my own experiences have demonstrated to me – that if you do the “right” things for the “right” reasons consistently, the results usually take care of themselves. Looking back, the times that I’ve shortchanged myself, or come up shy of my goals, have invariably been situations when I didn’t fully commit myself (my heart) to the process. It’s in those times I re-evaluate my motivations and either move forward with renewed enthusiasm, or disengage and pursue another path. I believe that frequent (and brutally honest) reviews of one’s own motivations is critical to being successful in business and in life.

Q: WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO WAKE UP AND GO TO WORK EVERY MORNING? 
A: The opportunity to connect with someone through my art and through my business. Sometimes it’s through my “product,” sometimes through relationships, sometimes in ways I can’t predict. Nothing brings more meaning to me professionally than learning that something I created (a song, a particular TV episode, or a piece of writing) has made a difference in someone’s life. – Maybe it inspired them, or made them laugh, or just helped them get through a particularly difficult moment. Knowing I touched someone is the ultimate reward. Ultimately, that’s what I believe we all want to come from the human experience – confirmation that our efforts have counted for something to someone else.

Q: WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS? 
A: Two things: (1) Continually work to refine your communication skills. As entrepreneurs, we have to constantly “sell” our vision to others, including investors, customers, and associates. Our ability to communicate verbally and in writing is critical. (2) Be servant minded. It’s important to remind ourselves that the people who make enduring contributions to humankind are focused not on what they can acquire or achieve, but rather what they can give. A friend of mine is an insurance rep. He told me that he’s in this world to serve his fellow human beings – and he honestly believes he does that through selling his clients the insurance policies that’s best for them. I later learned that he was the top sales rep in the country! When we focus on what truly matters, the results often take care of themselves.
 
 
Denise Blankemeyer
Founder & Chief People Officer, Crow Works

Q: WHAT MATTERS MOST TO YOU AS A BUSINESS OWNER?
A: For me, knowing that we’ve been in business for 21 years, what matters most is that I stay true to what I love to do. As a business owner you end up wearing multiple hats throughout the course of your career – that just comes with the job – but the most important thing to running a healthy business is staying in tuned to my state of mind. I have felt (often times) like I was out of balance, those moments forced me to come back, check in with myself, and make sure that I am really doing what I was meant to do, and know that I am working within my strengths and skill set. All in all, I want to make sure I am in the right seat in the company as we continue to grow. Knowing that I can do that with myself, it’s something I aspire to do with all of our team members. When people are in their “sweet spot” that’s when you can see the business driving on all cylinders, and your happier as a business owner when your team is happy. And that ultimately means we are more profitable at the end of the day.

Q: WHAT "FAILURES" HAVE YOU OVERCOME THROUGH YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY? 
A: Looking back my biggest failure is around the hiring process, and wishing I had refined the process sooner. Over the years I have realized that I didn’t listen to my gut instinct when I probably should have. Sometimes you know deep down that a team member isn’t the right fit for the role, and as the business owner you try to make adjustments to make it work, like switching them to a new role, but at the end of the day it’s the wrong person, period. The lesson really is to not wait so long, and address the issue sooner rather than later. I think that is the hardest thing I have to do within my job, let someone go. But after letting someone go that didn’t “fit” in our organization I always say to myself “why did I wait so long?” In the end it is going to be better for not only our organization, but for the person leaving because they aren’t working at their highest potential in that seat.

Q: WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO WAKE UP AND GO TO WORK EVERY MORNING? 
A: Knowing that I have been given this great privilege to wake up each morning and do what I love to do is what truly motivates me. Part of that is working alongside Dennis, my husband, which is pretty inspiring in itself. Every day I feel lucky and inspired to go to work and know that I am making a difference. - Changing lives not only for myself and my family, but for the people that work for us as well. When I have those one-on-one conversations that can empower, motivate, and encourage our team members, it brings me joy. I love watching team members become the best version of themselves, not only professionally but personally as well. That is really what motives me.

Q: WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS? 
A: The first piece of advice is, make sure you love it. Entrepreneurship is always exciting, but before you jump in, make sure you are doing exactly what you love to do. You have to understand that you will be doing this for the long haul, it’s not something you can do today and shelf tomorrow. The second piece is to make sure that you get buy-in from the people your surrounded with. Knowing that you spend so much time working in and on your business, make sure that your family, spouse, what-have-you, are 100% on board in supporting you with this because it definitely takes a toll on the family. Lastly I would say to seek advice from fellow entrepreneurs. Seasoned entrepreneurs have been through it all, so they give critical and sound advice on what to do and what not to do. Ensure you seek a path to get support and network with the right people before you jump in.

I remember at times when business was getting tough throughout the years and we would think “Is this is right thing for us to be doing?” “Is this our purpose and goal in life to create this type of business?” My father in law used to tell us all the time – “Whatever you do, just stay open. It’s worth it.” That has stuck with me for so long. It’s one of those things that I go back to when I’m having a rough day or feel like giving up and I would think of him and those words – if you love what you do, no matter what happens, just stay open.
 
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The things that matter most to an entrepreneur aren’t competing with each other, but are actually supporting and strengthening each other. That’s why identifying what you want and need to accomplish is step one in your founder’s journey. Start by exploring our ALL-INCLUSIVE GUIDEBOOK to help with the questions you should be asking yourself – but likely aren’t.
 
 
This information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Raymond James is not affiliated with nor does it endorse the opinions of Denise Blankemeyer, Eric Gnezda, James P. Ellis, or Sally A Hughes.. Raymond James is not affiliated with any of the organizations named herein. This information is not intended to be a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell the stock of Crow Work, Songs at the Center, Ellis Oral Surgery, or Caster Connection, Inc.
 

 



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