Abby Ross is the co-founder and COO at ThinkCERCA, an education technology company that provides teachers with tools and lessons they need to personalize critical thinking instruction. Follow her at @abigailross49.
Who’s your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
In business, my hero is my co-founder, Eileen. Because she’s an experienced educator, her insights have helped me understand the industry and grow ThinkCERCA into an incredible ed-tech solution. She always has an uncanny ability to know what our industry needs for innovation now and can see five years into the future. In life, my parents. Both are former educators and were models of hard work and empathy for me when I was growing up. Their influence has shaped me into the businesswoman I am today.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
There’s a “figure it out” factor that you need to have to succeed as an entrepreneur. When you’re building a business, there are never any easy answers, so you have to have the tenacity and drive to figure things out for yourself. Know your strengths, figure out things you don’t know or have never done and know when (and who) to ask for help.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s essential to be flexible, humble and reflective. Just because you put it in a spreadsheet doesn’t mean you have to do it. Sometimes, the decisions you assume are essential don’t actually turn out to be so important. I know that sometimes, the assumptions I make as a business owner will be wrong, and I now have the humility and agility to react quickly.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I get in and get to work. I don’t have any tricks or tips for getting the business day started. The best thing to do is hit the ground running!
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Stay frugal. Always act as if you have half of the cash you actually do. That being said, don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish.” Don’t try to cut corners to save money when something will truly help impact growth in the short, medium and long term.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Build an advisory board of your customers and prospective customers. You can learn something new from them regarding any strategic element of your business: whether it’s product design, marketing, sales or support, your customers can provide meaningful insights.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Our underlying business KPI is student outcomes. If we can make sure that students are growing as readers, writers and learners with ThinkCERCA, all of the other traditional “success” metrics will fall into place.
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