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‘You Don’t Have to Advertise a Good Party:’ Ten Lessons Learned From a Serial Entrepreneur’s Ongoing Journey
By Kurt Theriault
If you have ever met Bill Svoboda, you don’t forget him. His genuine passion, positivity, genuineness and gratitude are unforgettable.
Svoboda is involved in two different companies. Co-Ed Monkey, the focus of his day-to-day energy, is a growing, custom T-shirt company that carries nothing but the softest shirts on the market. Co-Ed’s niche is to help the best company and personal brands display their awesomeness on the best T-shirts in the land. The other business, CloseSimple, (in which he has a partner) is a software as a service startup that simplifies the title process for title companies and their clients.
Like many entrepreneurs, Svoboda has had ups and downs. He has stared down debt, wondered where the next customer was going to come from, has had to let employees go, and everything in between. Is Svoboda’s story one of the entrepreneur who has blown up, scaled, cashed out, and now angel invests in other’s dreams? No. But, it is one of hustle, grit, persistence, now stability, and a lot of learnings. It’s a story to relate with, and one still being written.
Svoboda is regularly booked for keynotes and motivational talks, has done a TED talk. He is never there to talk T-shirts or title software. People gather to hear him passionately tell the tales of his lessons learned, views on capturing the attention of your market, and his approach to customer care, and why, really, you don’t have to advertise a good party. I recently sat with Svoboda to discuss a number of the lessons he’s learned and the pitfalls one faces along the entrepreneurial journey. Here are 10 of his best lessons.
CARE MORE THAN YOUR COMPETITION
Care is proactive. Care says we will anticipate your need and suggest the next thing to meet you where you are at. Service is reactive, after the fact, and what everyone else does. It says, give us a call when you need us. It’s a mentality, and an operating approach for us. Six-star care is what we deliver, not five-star service.
NEVER WEAR A ROLEX TO A GUNFIGHT
I was talking to a vendor. The whole time the salesperson I was talking to was looking at my watch. I’m convinced to this day the bid came back significantly higher because that person thought they could get more money out of me for the work. Now, every time I go into a meeting with a vendor, I take off my watch. Never wear a Rolex to a gunfight, because they’ll try to take it from you the second they step over your body. Flying somewhere to see a vendor or customer? Rent the sensible car. Always understand what side of the table you are on.
OWN YOUR BLOCK
Every popular hip-hop artist first owns their city, area, state, and then they blow up. Before 2Pac was 2Pac, he was Tupac Shakur from California (via Harlem). Notorious B.I.G.? He was Biggie Smalls, and before that Chris Wallace from Brooklyn. Own your block. Don’t talk scale before you can consistently wow and satisfy the customers closest to you.
ADMIT YOU’RE NOT THE SMARTEST PERSON IN THE ROOM
Be open to people helping you, challenging you, and making you grow. With employees, if you have the right type of people on your team, they will care about their area and own it more than you ever could. Allow that to happen and focus on what you are great at – the stuff that no one else can do but you. Seek and have mentors and peers to talk with. Amazing how much you can shorten your path to where you are going when you enlist the help and learn from the experiences of others.
RUN YOUR LANE
In a race, you don’t get anywhere if you veer off into the next runner’s lane. You get penalized. Stay in your lane. It is fool’s gold and really hard to be good at all things. Remember the story about the tortoise and the hare.
A MEETING WITH HARVEY MACKAY
A life-changing event. He chewed me out for two things. One, for not reading each of his books before coming into that meeting. In other words, being unprepared. Second, for not writing thank you notes. Harvey said it was a felony and how in the world did I expect to get anywhere without writing thank you notes and showing gratitude! The lessons? Prepare to win and the smallest details make the biggest impact.
DON’T RACE TO THE BOTTOM
Avoid price. Value what you are doing. Figure out a way to do it better than anyone. Price is a race to the bottom.
PLEASE TAKE THE GUN OFF THE TABLE
In every deal, there is a buyer and a seller. There is always a proverbial gun in the middle of the table, just waiting for who is going to grab it first. The buyer grabs it, and declares what they are willing to spend. If the seller grabs it, they set the price. The second the gun is grabbed, game over, someone is going home happy and someone not. Taking the gun off the table is a reminder to not kill ourselves over price, let’s talk value.
SOMEONE IS ALWAYS HUNGRIER THAN YOU TO MAKE A BUCK
Two meanings. One, there is always someone who will be cheaper and will drop their price to win the deal. Don’t get in that game. The other meaning? Don’t fall in love with how you do things or rest on your past success. Someone is out there right now figuring out how to do it better. Fear them.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO ADVERTISE A GOOD PARTY
Always engage with customers to understand what ideas are worth pursuing and which to pass on. Pull your customers into your processes and story. Scale on their backs. Get the party started. The neighbors will always notice a good party going on. The party advertises itself.
Kurt Theriault is president of Allied Executives and works with CEOs, business owners and executive leaders on leadership development and business performance improvement through peer groups, coaching and educational workshops. Visit www.alliedexecutives.com or email Kurt at firstname.lastname@example.org.