Andrew Nguyen is president and founder of Honor Courage Commitment, a nonprofit organization that recruits, educates, mentors, and guides transitioning military veterans into becoming socially responsible entrepreneurs and community leaders. Follow Andrew @SGTentrepreneur.
Who is your hero?
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Confidence and commitment go a long way in entrepreneurship. If you don’t believe in yourself, you probably are in the wrong business.
The challenge is that confidence cannot be taught. It’s earned. Everyone earns confidence differently in life. It could be earned in many things, like competitive sports, debates, or education.
For me, it was serving in the Marines. Once someone experiences combat — getting shot at by rockets, mortars, machine guns, and rolling over IEDs — they tend to be pretty confident in civilian life. Your perspective on life changes and for me, I see every day I live now as being a bonus. This confidence has helped me excel in the Marines as well as in entrepreneurship. People want to work with people who have confidence in themselves and in their work.
Commitment – do what you say you are going to do. Don’t make excuses and if you make mistakes, take accountability for them.
Being both committed and having confidence will elevate your business to the next level. People will see it in you and you will not have to talk about it when you are there. Semper fi.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Clients need face time.
In 2008 I launched a small marketing firm and worked with a portfolio of clients. The business took off and as a Marine, it inspired me to start a nonprofit organization to help other veterans take a similar path into entrepreneurship. I saw that there was a direct correlation between military leadership and discipline along with entrepreneurship. In 2011, we officially launched Honor Courage Commitment, Inc. and this began to take my focus away from my marketing firm.
Over a period of almost two years my business was stagnant. Although I managed to maintain my projects with my existing clients, I was not actively marketing for new business. In 2013 when our nonprofit hired a new CEO, I was able to step back to the role of President of the board. I am now able to focus on HCC’s mission and vision while our CEO executes.
This has allowed me to meet with my clients at least once per week to gather content, updates, and introduce any new developments — ultimately, growing my business. I realized that “not reporting in” on a regular basis makes me very forgettable and loyalty can go out the window.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
Honestly, I really don’t have a routine. It just depends on the day.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Take care of your personal and business credit! Almost every entrepreneur at some point will have to get a loan. If your personal credit is not good, how can you expect someone to take your business seriously?
Get an accountant. I wore this hat for two years before realizing that my time is spent much more effective doing what I do best and not behind the books.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
It all depends on what level they are on, but I am a firm believer in education, which typically leads you into a network of other very successful and like-minded professionals.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success is making a positive impact on as many people’s lives as possible.
Success for me is quite possibly an unattainable goal. It’s not about the money or power, but about the people. As far as I know, people will exist for a long time. Most likely people will exist longer than I will live, and people will always need help with something. If you are good at something, help some else become good at it. If you are great at something, train others on how to help others to be great.
I’ll keep going until the wheels fall off.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab , a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.