Today is about Team Building (which is essential for a successful startup) Whatever problems come your way, if you have a good team, you will all get through it, adapt, and succeed.
Rick Gross’ biography is nothing short of a mouthful and if there’s a theme throughout his professional career, it is “challenge”.
He was one of the tiniest boys in high school. Hell, he graduated at 120 pounds. Knowing this, I don’t think anyone would believe that he was a member of the Special Forces and one of the first members of Project Blue Light, which was a precursor to Delta Force.
What he learned from his Special Forces experience and entrepreneurial journey was distilled to myself along with 30 other young professional and ROTC students in today’s AYC Leadership Luncheon Series hosted by Lt. Colonel Kopser and John King http://www.austinyc.org/event/ayc-ut-rotc-leadership-luncheon-series/
The Carrillon out of the AT&T Executive Center provided a delicious buffet as well.
Back to the point though: Practical wisdom & How to from a guy who has really BEEN THERE and DONE THAT.
His preference can be controversial to some: “My preference is to avoid external investor financing and when necessary — minimize it! I prefer internal or self funding – it is ok to start small, make it work first! We internally or self-funded Texan Media, Taran, Vindicator Technologies and Vo-Mack. I have an MBA
As a combat engineer who passed both HALO and Scuba school sequentially, he literally got bored after he retired from the military in 1980. Nothing could give him the same challenge as being in Special Forces, except starting his own company. Since then he has flipped 2-3 companies. He won’t admit he has money to burn, but he’s living comfortably to say the least. He told us a few of his practices today.
Talent is overrated – When you find a new employee, make sure you set the expectations high and make sure they deliver. Performance REQUIRES deliberate practice. No matter how talented or knowledgeable they are, if they can’t finish, then either they change or change companies. He worked with the “best” PhD’s at MIT and Stanford and they couldn’t get anything done, so they were let go and he was put at the helm. After the hard years, the company was successfully acquired.
Intelligence – Avoid the talker or the “smartest guy” in the room. Once the talking is finished, someone still needs to make it happen. Fortunately, no one is indispensable. That “smart guy” can be let go, and will be missed for…less than a day.
Money and Knowledge – Larry Chiang would agree with this: “they are very similar, and too much will make you do stupid things” (1up for street smarts)
Responsibility & Empowerment – “it is hard to be responsible when you aren’t empowered.” Empower your people. It means you are their to coach them, and build trust. Your job is to give everyone a direction, and resources they need to get to an end goal however possible within certain parameters. You WILL NOT micro-manage, because that builds distrust and disrespect from top to bottom.
Business Plan – The Executive Summary means everything, because clarity is power. The plan is not only for investors, but for employees! The rest is just “good to have”.
Sales – Know why a customer buys – generate leads first (if possible aka sell-design-build), because it is far easier to raise money when you have market pull on your side. Test the market and ADJUST not only the product, but the approach (positioning). Having a tangible product or solution means everything…NO MORE FLUFFY IDEAS.
Extra tip: MORALE BOOSTER
Rick Gross says he never gives straight up cash bonuses on a check as a reward for excellent work or going the extra mile. Instead, he gave out cash that can be turned into a very memorable experience, and he did it in front of everybody. For example, he’d give an employee $150 to bring their spouse or family to a nice dinner. They can remember the experience, the handshake, the pat on the back, and the office applaud. The best gift I heard he used to give to excellent employees was a Rolex watch. He didn’t cheap out on the watch either. He wanted to make sure that everyday that man or woman put that watch on, it was a point of pride and they remembered everyday how special they are. VISUAL REWARDS! —> status matters!