Jared Brown is a freelance developer, Purdue grad and co-founder of Hubstaff, a time tracking tool for remote teams. Hubstaff makes it possible for managers to verify that their team is working efficiently. Managers can see time spent on projects along with frequent desktop screenshots and activity levels of team members. Follow him @jaredbrown.
Who is your hero?
Jorge Muñoz, the guy who serves free meals to day laborers in Queens, New York. I love his story because it’s about a person who came to the U.S., became a citizen, and saw a big problem (people who come to work hard but don’t have the money to feed themselves). With a little money, he’s been able to help thousands of people get a hot meal after a hard day’s work. I really admire how he saw an issue and took the initiative to help one step at a time, and how he shows up every day for the people he serves, no matter the weather. I think those are attributes that could really revolutionize anyone’s business or personal life.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Forget your problem customers — there are certain people whom it just doesn’t make sense to try to please. People who constantly, even almost belligerently, complain; and people who aren’t part of your target market or who don’t understand what you’re trying to offer. If they’re a minority of your customer base, don’t spend energy trying to please them. Play to your strengths instead and focus on the happier segments of your customer base.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
The biggest mistake had nothing to do with my actions and everything to do with my mental attitude. I assumed that starting a company would be much easier work than it actually is. It’s not just the early days of putting in lots of difficult hours for little initial return. It’s also the constant stress of having to maintain an outer cool to friends, family, employees and investors when from the inside, you might be barely getting by. I learned that the most important thing with every action is your mental attitude behind it.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
First thing, I check up on my team using Hubstaff. I can see how productive they’ve been and target problematic areas if deadlines are looming. Then I update our project management systems and make sure everyone is clear on their work and signs off. I make sure to read and respond to any communication from our employees, and all that takes about 30 to 40 minutes. I do this first so that they can be more productive and I can have more time to focus on the big picture questions in my business.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Bill quickly and plan to be paid late. Budgets are great, but you can be perfectly on target and still short on cash if clients or customers don’t pay you on time. Once their billing cycle has been closed, bill as soon as possible. But before that, assume that your revenue projections will be past due by at least twice the grace period. If you plan with this buffer in mind, you’ll be in a much safer position. In general in business, expenses come faster than you think and income comes slower.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Get an executive coach. They can help you find the motivation and passion you need to succeed. When you feel like giving up, they can push you though the tough times and give you a great perspective on your ideas.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success is an illusion — don’t ever assume you’ve gotten there! Every time you reach what seems like a point of success, it’s really just a stepping stone to the next expansion of your business. That’s the difference between celebrating your wins and sitting on your laurels. There’s no dollar amount or investment round that translates to success. Plenty of companies have failed after reaching those points.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.