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5 Entrepreneurs Who Started With Nothing – and 3 Lessons to Learn

5 Entrepreneurs Who Started With Nothing – and 3 Lessons to Learn

It’s not uncommon to hear about entrepreneurs who used the wealth they made from a previous endeavor to build a thriving new startup, or about seasoned business owners who took over a decades-old franchise and transformed it into something new. These stories are inspiring in their own way; but to me, it’s even more inspiring to hear about people who started with nothing.
These are entrepreneurs who started their journey with no capital, no funding and sometimes no education or experience, yet despite the odds were still able to build massive successes.

How did these people accomplish such unlikely feats, and what can we, as entrepreneurs, learn from them?

1. John Paul DeJoria

John Paul DeJoria isn’t as much of a household name as Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, but he has accomplished feats of entrepreneurship and business management that rival theirs. Starting out as a newspaper courier, and working as a janitor and tow truck driver to make ends meet, DeJoria eventually started working at a hair care company, where he met Paul Mitchell.

With a loan of just $700, the two of them started a business that turned into the conglomerate now known as John Paul Mitchell Systems. Later, DeJoria co-founded Patron Spirits, and was a founding partner of the House of Blues chain. Today, he’s worth more than $3.1 billion.

2. Kevin Plank

Kevin Plank, the CEO of the fitness apparel company Under Armour, was pretty much broke when he started selling signature clothing under the Under Armour brand. He took all the cash he had saved, about $20,000, and racked up an additional $40,000 of credit card debt to fund the company.

Soon after, he made a landmark sale of $17,000 to Georgia Tech University, and in a wave of momentum, made sales to two dozen NFL teams. From there, he went on, in just a few years, to cultivate millions in sales and hire hundreds of employees. Today, Under Armour does nearly $2 billion in retail sales, and has 5,900 employees.

3. Jan Koum

Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp, was born in a small village near Kiev in Ukraine. Coming from poverty, Koum’s family emigrated to California, and Koum started learning about computers in his spare time. By the time he was 18, he had developed impressive skills, and in 1997, he was hired by Yahoo! as an infrastructure engineer.

He spent a decade in that industry before realizing the huge potential of the app industry in 2009 and starting WhatsApp Inc. By 2014, WhatsApp had become enormously popular. Facebook bought the app for a staggering $19 billion.

4. Sam Walton

It’s almost ironic that Walmart is frequently criticized for underpaying its employees and using cutthroat tactics to maximize profits. Sam Walton, Walmart’s founder, had almost nothing to his name himself when he started his first general store back in 1945.

He relied on a $25,000 loan from his father-in-law to fund that initial purchase, and was an instant success in the retail industry. The first official Walmart was opened in 1962, in Rogers, Ark.; and by 1976, Walmart was worth more than $176 million. At one point, Walton was considered the wealthiest man in the United States.

5. George Soros

Though you could describe him as an investor more than an entrepreneur, there are few better rags-to-riches stories than that of George Soros. When Soros was a teenager in Hungary in 1947, he fled Nazi persecution to live in England. Despite having little money to fund his efforts, he attended the London School of Economics, working his way through university to obtain his degree. He then moved to the United States in the 1950s, and became an investment manager for a number of major firms, eventually starting his own hedge fund and building his own company.

His most famous move was shorting the British pound in the early 1990s — which made him $1 billion in a single day.

Key lessons to learn

So what can we learn from these entrepreneurial stories?

Debt is a viable option. Debt is scary to take on, especially when your idea isn’t a sure bet, but almost everyone on this list got a loan at some point to establish early momentum. As long as you have a plan to pay it back, debt can be a valuable tool.

Invest in yourself. You need to invest in yourself before you invest in anything else, by focusing on improving your skills, education and experience. Without self-investment, you won’t be able to build a business, let alone sustain one.

Look to the future. These savvy entrepreneurs didn’t enter a market that already existed; they created new ones, or made bets on how current markets would evolve. Future-focused strategies always win out over present-focused ones.

Entrepreneurs can come from humble beginnings, so long as they’re willing to work hard, commit to their ideas and take the risks necessary to see those ideas become reality. Take inspiration from the massive successes who have come before you, and don’t let a lack of money or experience dissuade you from following your dreams.

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur by Jayson DeMers

 

Skip the Avengers: Why Entrepreneurs Should Watch ‘Black Panther’

Skip the Avengers: Why Entrepreneurs Should Watch ‘Black Panther’

Marvel’s Black Panther and Disney’s Avenger Infinity War are among the most popular superhero films of all time. Before Black Pantherwas released, it was projected to make $160 million and has proceeded to make $1.3 billion in worldwide sales. There is similar excitement with Avenger Infinity War, which garnered opening weekend estimates of $200 million in ticket sales, and analysts believe it will surpass Black Panther in the coming weeks.

While both films have destroyed box office predictions, Black Pantherremains the film with significant takeaways for entrepreneurs.

The plot of director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther revolves around the efforts of Wakanda, a wealthy African nation, to maintain peace, independence, sovereignty and sacred traditions against a potent threat from the outside world. The people of Wakanda are led by King T’Challa, Black Panther, who governs the land during the day and fights crime with a team of powerful women at night. Unlike Infinity WarBlack Panther offers multiple examples of positive leadership practices consistent with entrepreneurship.

In Disney’s Avenger Infinity War, a team of superheroes works together to fight the unstoppable force of Thanos. For two hours and 40 minutes, Spiderman, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Black Panther and others fight epic battles with villains to prevent Thanos from securing a powerful set of stones. While the benefits of camaraderie are on full display in Infinity War, it doesn’t compare to the teachings Black Panther offers business leaders.

Black Panther teaches business leaders to follow processes.

In business, it is critical for executives to identify how and when changes among the leadership team will occur. In the Black Pantherfilm, there exist several occasions when a transfer of power is essential. The transition happens without much discussion among the leadership team and follows a pre-determined process.

When changes in authority take place in Avenger Infinity War, chaos ensues. Everyone who stands in opposition is eliminated. A sustainable entrepreneurial venture values process and input from others when termination or promotion actions are inevitable.

Black Panther teaches business leaders humility.

As an entrepreneur, it is important to receive and follow the advice of business coaches and senior executives who have valuable insights to success. Throughout the film, King T’Challa humbly consults with the elders of the community before making decisions. They often disagree on the appropriate responses to threats, but T’Challa followed his counsel’s advice.

Thanos, who assumed leadership by genocide, does not discuss his plans with anyone. He does what he desires and is willing to sacrifice anything, including family, to obtain the ultimate power. Long-term success in business begins with a leader who values collective wisdom and actions aligned with the company’s mission.

Black Panther teaches business leaders to find value in inclusivity.

The growing awareness around the #metoo movement underscores that it is imperative entrepreneurs create and support safe work environments for all employees. In nearly every scene of Black Panther, male and female characters embody strength, intelligence and mutual respect. While Black Widow and Scarlet Witch of The Avengers play essential roles in the film, the male characters dominate the decision-making on behalf of the superhero team. Studies confirm how diverse and inclusive employees influence companies’ long-term profits through the unique perspectives, experiences and skills they can offer a company.

The Black Panther film confirms lessons of my own business experiences. Success begins with humble people in power who respect policies, team members and the people they desire to serve. My first business was teaching martial arts to young people in Chicago. When I started I didn’t see the potential for more impact, service and profit until I worked with others who added their skills and experiences to strengthen the company. With our collective effort, we expanded our services to include academic supplemental instruction and mentorship.

Although Disney’s Avenger’s Infinity War is growing in popularity, entrepreneurs who wish to acquire some of the best practices in leadership should head back to the movies for another viewing of Black Panther.

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Vernon Lindsay

Feeling Lazy Today? This Is How You Break the Laziness Loop

Feeling Lazy Today? This Is How You Break the Laziness Loop

Last night, before I went to bed, I mapped out what I was going to do today. After my morning routine, I planned to crank out this article before 11 a.m., answer emails, grab lunch and prepare for my afternoon meetings. I was going to wrap up my day by writing another article.

That’s a productive day.

As 10 a.m. approached, I realized I wasn’t going to get this piece completed. Rather than type away ferociously, I dragged my feet. I tinkered with my fantasy baseball team, stared out the window, watched a TED Talk video, went for a walk and looked over my to-do list — was there something else I should be working on?

Am I actually not the productive person I thought I was? Sure, some days are lazy. Other times, you just need a break to recharge and refocus. Neither is bad — but you don’t want to get trapped in the dreaded laziness loop, where this become a habit.

Procrastination isn’t terrible.

First off, procrastination isn’t always a bad thing. There are actually some benefits to it; it gives you time to evaluate a situation so you can create better circumstances rather than rush and make an impulsive decision. Likewise, slowing down gives you the chance to listen to your intuition.

It also prevents you from caving to peer pressure, and it assists you in managing pointless deadlines. When you’re not actively working, you’re giving your brain the time to develop new ideas. Perhaps best of all, it helps you set priorities. After procrastinating on a task, you may realize it’s not really a priority and shouldn’t be on your to-do list.

This doesn’t mean you should camp out on the couch watching TV. Instead, when you feel like doing “nothing,” take the time to reflect. Go for a walk outside. Write in your journal. Meditate. These are ways you can be productive while procrastinating.

Are you really lazy?

What happens if you’re still not “in the zone” after taking the time to reflect? You have to determine why you’re dragging your feet.

Procrastination “really has nothing to do with time management,” Joseph Ferrari, professor at DePaul University, told Psychological Science. “To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”

Instead, Ferrari believes there are two main reasons why even the most productive people procrastinate: (1) We’re delaying taking action because we’re not in the right mood or frame of mind to make a decision, and (2) we assume we’ll be in the right mood later.

Here’s the problem with that: It puts us in the “procrastination doom loop.” Instead of working, you check your emails, tweet, wash dishes or take a nap in the belief that you’ll be in the zone when you’re done. Most of the time, these are excuses to just waste time. As a result, you feel guilty, becoming even less likely to tackle the task.

Again, take a step back and reflect; your procrastination could be telling you something. It could be something as simple as being hungry or needing a break. It could also be something more complex — you aren’t satisfied with your work, have too large a workload or have something else on your mind.

By doing a little self-reflection, you can get to the bottom of why you’re procrastinating and take steps to rectify the problem. If you’re hungry, go eat. If you’re unsatisfied at work because it’s no longer “fun,” you may want to look at delegating responsibilities to other teammates so you have more time to spend on the big picture.

Psychologist Leon F. Seltzer suggested in an article in Psychology Today that we ditch the word “lazy” from our vocabulary. Considering yourself “lazy” won’t resolve the problem when you’re lacking motivation or self-discipline.

“My experience, both as an individual and therapist, has led me to conclude that laziness as an explanation of human behavior is practically useless,” writes Seltzer. “Referring to — or rather, disparaging, or even dismissing — a person as lazy seems to me a glib and overly simplistic way of accounting for a person’s apparent disinterest or inertia. And resorting to this term to categorize a person’s inactivity suggests to me a laziness more on the part of the describer than the person described.”

Breaking the cycle of laziness.

Even after you’ve identified what’s causing you to procrastinate, you still may have some trouble getting back on track. When that happens, here’s how you can break out of the loop.

Follow the “two-minute rule.” Similar to a strategy used by David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, if something takes less than two minutes to complete, just do it. You can also manipulate yourself using time in a different way: Set a 10-minute alarm. Psychologist and procrastination expert Timothy A. Pychl suggests you make a deal with yourself to commit to something for just 10 minutes. Once you’ve started, it’s more difficult to quit.

Make your chore or assignment as pleasant as possible. Experts like Fuschia Sirois of Bishop’s University recommend you find anything that makes the chore or task more enjoyable or meaningful. Try gamifying your task or tying the task to your values or long-term goals.

Make overwhelming takes more manageable. Oscar-winning Pixar director Pete Docter creates a list of the problems he’s putting off so he can batch them into smaller chunks. “Usually, soon into making the list, I find I can group most of the issues into two or three larger all-encompassing problems. So it’s really not all that bad. Having a finite list of problems is much better than having an illogical feeling that everything is wrong,” he told Pixar president Ed Catmull in “Creativity, Inc.

Changing your environment can also shake the cobwebs off. Get out of your office and go somewhere else to work, whether it’s a co-working space or coffee shop. Research has found we’re motivated by being surrounded by productive people. You can also take a gym break — achieving something in the gym can give you the motivation to achieve something away from it, too.

Don’t break the chain. This technique, popularized by Jerry Seinfeld, includes adding an ‘X’ on a wall calendar every time you’ve done something, from writing blog posts to issuing invoices. Eventually, there will be a chain you won’t want to break.

Finally, delegate. If there’s something better suited for someone else, delegate that responsibility to him or her. As Renzo Costarella writes, “Taking on a job that’s best fit for another colleague is not efficient.”

This isn’t an extensive list, but it’s a great place to start when you’re procrastinating and on the verge of falling into the laziness loop. While laziness in itself isn’t bad — and may just be your overwhelmed brain taking a break — it can also ride your entrepreneurial efforts off the rails. Keep laziness in check so both you and your business succeed.

 

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by John Rampton

5 Minutes Early Is On Time; On Time Is Late; Late Is Unacceptable

5 Minutes Early Is On Time; On Time Is Late; Late Is Unacceptable

I have a magic pill to sell you. It will help you make more money, be happier, look thinner, and have better relationships. It’s a revolutionary new pharmaceutical product called Late-No-More. Just one dose every day will allow you to show up on time, greatly enhancing your life and the lives of those around you.

All joking aside, being late is unacceptable. While that sounds harsh, it’s the truth and something that should be said more often. I don’t care if you’re attending a dinner party, a conference call, or a coffee meeting – your punctuality says a lot about you.

Being late bothers me so much that just thinking about it makes me queasy. My being late, which does occasionally happen, usually causes me to break out into a nervous sweat. The later I am, the more it looks like I’ve sprung a leak. Catch me more than 15 minutes late and it looks like I went swimming.

On this issue, I find myself a member of a tiny minority. It seems like most people consider a meeting time or deadline to be merely a mild advisory of something that might happen. I’ve been called uptight and unreasonable, or variations prefaced with expletives. In a world that feels perpetually late, raising the issue of punctuality isn’t a way to win popularity contests and I’m ok with that.

There’s a reason we set meeting times and deadlines. It allows for a coordination of efforts, minimizes time/effort waste, and helps set expectations. Think of how much would get done if everyone just “chilled out” and “went with the flow?” It would be the definition of inefficiency. It’s probably not that hard to imagine, considering just last week I had 13 (yes, I counted) different people blow meeting times, or miss deadlines. It feels like a raging epidemic, seemingly smoothed over by a barrage of “my bads,” “sorry, mans,” and “you know how it goes.” The desired response is “it’s all good,” but the reality is that it’s not okay. Here’s what it is.

  • Disrespectful: Being on time is about respect. It signals that you value and appreciate the other person. If you don’t respect the meeting’s participants, why are you meeting with them in the first place?
  • Inconsiderate: Unintentionally being late demonstrates an overall lack of consideration for the lives of others. You just don’t care.
  • Big-Timing: Intentionally being late is about power. It’s showing the other person, or people that you’re a “big deal” and have the upper-hand in the relationship. It’s also called being a dick.
  • Incredible: No, not in the good way. When you miss meeting times or deadlines, your credibility takes the trajectory of a lead balloon. If you can’t be counted on to be on time, how could you possibly have credibility around far tougher tasks?
  • Unprofitable: Let’s consider a scenario where five people are holding a meeting at 2 p.m. Your sauntering in ten minutes late just wasted 40 minutes of other peoples’ time. Let’s say the organization bills $200/hour. Are you paying the $133 bill? Someone certainly is.
  • Disorganized: If you can’t keep your calendar, what other parts of your life are teetering on the edge of complete disaster? Being late signals at best that you’re barely hanging on and probably not someone I want to associate with.
  • Overly-Busy: Everyone likes to equate busyness with importance, but the truly successful know that’s BS. Having a perpetually hectic schedule just signals that you can’t prioritize, or say “no,” neither of which is an endearing trait.
  • Flaky: Apparently some people just “flake out,” which seems to mean that they arbitrarily decided not to do the thing they committed to at the very last minute. Seriously? That’s ridiculous.
  • Megalomaniacal: While most grow out of this by the age of eight, some genuinely believe they are the center of the universe. It’s not attractive. Note, this is also called Donald Trump Syndrome. Do you want to be compared to Donald Trump?

As I said earlier, I’m occasionally late. Sometimes a true emergency happens, or an outlier event transpires. When it happens, I try to give a very detailed account of why I was late, apologize profusely, make sure the other person knows that I take it very seriously, and assure them it won’t happen again.

Paying attention to punctuality is not about being “judgy,” or stressed. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It makes room for the caring, considerate, thoughtful people I want in my life, whether that’s friends or colleagues. Think of how relaxing your life would be if everyone just did what they said they’d do, when they said they’d do it? A good place to start is with yourself and a great motto is something I was taught as a child:

“5 minutes early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.” 

Originally posted on Forbes.com by Brent Beshore

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