February 2012 – I am a 2%’er. Apparently, and I wouldn’t know this until later (much later!) that less than 2% of all entrepreneurial startups achieve successful exit. The experience of raising $8Million, launching a technology software startup that received consumer traction, and having a private equity firm acquire us was incredible! But now what? As I sat on a rock overlooking the ocean in San Diego, CA, I thought back to how it was just 7 years earlier that I had done the same to envision what was to come. “Now what?” was the question I was asking myself again, looking to the horizon where the sky meets the Pacific.
I knew that I enjoyed the private equity experience, and after a few moments determined that was what I wanted to do next. I wasn’t a total stranger to the financial space, having my formal education in Accounting and spending my formative years working in Strategic Planning and Finance. In the 9-years since that day, I’ve built something that I’m very proud of and I’d ike to share with you 9-lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Lesson #1 – Define Your “What?”
What are you made of and what do you offer? This is the “metal” that has been tested at Tip of the Spear everyday. We’ve “pivoted” over the years with different ventures, but the one mainstay was that we are “what” others should desire to be (Namely a group that puts forth A+ effort and content deliverables).
Lesson #2 – More People, More Problems
If you’ve hired as a part of your leadership journey, you know the pitfalls that can come with doing so. We’ve been at different times over the 9-years a small and big organization. I’m happy to say that we’ve settled on a model for the future that includes clustered growth.
Lesson #3 – Think Strategically, Act Tactfully
In the heat of business, I want to win. I assume you do as well. However, and this was key for me, those “win” moments or victories that I sought to win were often at the expense of the war. I was reminded to think strategically and to act tactfully by an executive coach. The difference in thought/action appears in everything we do now.
Lesson #4 – It’s Lonely at the Top
I originally had a partner at Tip of the Spear Ventures. They were a silent partner that was low on injecting capital, but high on injecting their opinion. At about the three year mark we determined that parting company was best for the company (and us as individuals). I would rather be lonely than miserable.
Lesson #5 – It’s Lonely (but Don’t Go It Alone!)
This piggybacks off of Lesson #4… Even though you’re alone at the leadership helm of your firm/organization, you don’t need to go it alone! While opinions are like you know whats, if you tactfully align with peers/mentors you’ll achieve desired strategic outcomes faster.
Lesson #6 – Change Lives!
Opportunities to make money are everywhere, especially if you look for them! What might be even less obvious is the ability to change lives. I’ve been fortunate to receive recognition that what I was doing was actually making a difference for the people that I worked with. It is simultaneously humbling and rewarding.
Lesson #7 – Time…
You, me, everyone only has 24-hours in a day. What are you doing with it that maximizes your efforts?
Lesson #8 – Agility
While processes and procedures form the structure of a successful business, the ability to be agile is a key differentiator. Want to stand out from the crowded crowd? Become agile!
Lesson #9 – It takes Blood, Sweat, & Spears!
I sometimes have to pinch myself… I’m a city kid from Detroit that was as my Mother says “Born in the shadow of a Ford manufacturing plant’s smokestack.” How far I’ve come has only been limited by my ability to imagine, visualize, and then take action. At one of our Boot Camps a few years back in Las Vegas, one of the participants accurately summarized that “Success takes blood, sweat, and tears!” The conversation morphed to one of “Blood, Sweat, and Spears!” which has stuck with us ever since (We’re running another Boot Camp starting 2.21.2021 for those seeking Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition).
These past 9-years have taught me so much, and I know that the next year will be even more insightful. I’m determined to further establish in our ninth year the foundation that will drive the firm forward for the next two decades. I recognize that what worked in the past might not necessarily work in the future, so we will have to continue to evolve. It is my goal to build an institution that outlasts me and continues serving entrepreneurs for generations to come.