This book reflects my personal experience of being an entrepreneur. Yours is likely to look different, as it should. Yet I hope the topics and examples I share will help you navigate the ups and downs of business ownership. Whether you are a solopreneur or a leader of a multinational corporation, it is my desire that you will gain a new perspective on what it means to be a purpose-driven leader in the 21st century.
If each of us committed to the Be Better mantra and approached each day with gratitude, imagine the world we'd be able to create for future generations! I challenge you to figure out your own way to Be Better so that your imprint on this planet will endure.
I don't know what challenges, personal or professional, will be in front of you as you read this book. But if, as CEOs and business leaders, we continue to be humble, to lead with integrity, and to Be Better, there's nothing we can't accomplish. I wish you the best in life and leadership!
Starting with Who You Know
When I graduated college with my degree in sports management, I thought a career in the industry would easily follow. I presumed I'd start in an entry-level position and work my way up into management. Before long, I'd be living the dream with a career in baseball.
Then 9/11 happened and completely upended this plan. I had to quickly pivot to find a job. My first step was to reach out to the brothers in my fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. Surely someone would be hiring.
We've all heard the saying, "It's not what you know; it's who you know." Unless you're a young kid, it's likely you know hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Be connected. Each of them has or will have something to offer at some point in your journey.
Because of my connections, I landed an interview with the Carolina Panthers. While I didn't get the job, the interview experience itself was an exciting opportunity. My first real job was a stint as a substitute teacher. Knowing teaching was not my calling, I tapped into my fraternity brotherhood once again and secured a job as a store manager in training at a large clothing retailer. Later, I used my network to seek out my next role. An entry-level position for a facility manager was available at a large apparel company, where my friend's father was the executive vice president of real estate. Not knowing what a facility manager was, but realizing I had to pay my bills, I took the job.
These humble beginnings are what expanded my professional network and strengthened my sales and relationship-building skills. They were truly "fake it until you make it" gigs, and I would not have had these opportunities without my fraternity membership. I still reach out to this group regularly. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we checked in with each other often. It's one of the strongest networks I have.
To launch and grow a business, you're going to need help—a lot of help. If you think you can do it on your own, you will quickly learn that is a recipe for feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. You will burn out, and the motivation to strike out on your own will disappear faster than your bank account balance.
Even if you plan to be a solopreneur, you need to have an internal "board of directors" that includes, at minimum, a lawyer, a banker, an accountant, and a trusted friend or colleague. These advisors can help you get through the myriad of tasks that will get your business off the ground and help it grow through its various stages. Let's face it: we don't know everything, and relying on experts from time to time may prevent a lot of sleepless nights.