Who’s your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
My parents are my heroes. My mother, originally from New York, and my father, originally from Alabama, instilled and emphasized three main threads throughout my childhood: modesty, hard work and a willingness to participate in the community. Their sense of optimism and desire to try to make the world a better place laid the foundations for our work today.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
When traditionalists threatened to discredit our Montessori school because of our involvement with digital education, we received an inspiring note from Steve Jobs. He said, “Don’t be discouraged by the traditionalists. The parents and kids will prove you right. Just keep going.” Literally every decision we now make is framed around that landscape. It’s OK to work hard, pay attention to the things that matter most, and try to make a difference.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
There’s a phrase we use fairly often around here, which serves as a great, constant reminder: “It’s easy to make money. It’s hard to build something that matters.” There was a time, however brief, when we lost sight of this adage and undervalued the importance of relationships. We didn’t do anything crazy or abusive, but when you shift your focus, everything somehow starts to realign, if only for a second. People matter. Ideas matter. It’s the strength of the two, working together, that will literally move mountains.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I sneak into work at least an hour before the team arrives. The office is quiet. The sun is just about to announce itself, but there’s still that moment of complete tranquility. There’s something magical about that solace, that sense of hope that accompanies each break of dawn. It’s also a great time to write and a perfect time to catch up and try to get ahead. My biggest fear is that I’ll actually fall back asleep.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
My best advice is probably the worst advice anyone could ever give. It’s pretty simple. If you believe in what you’re doing, and willing to work hard to realize your vision, don’t let financial concerns get in the way. Sure, they can help inform the path, but don’t let them be the guiding light. You’ll find a way to pay the bills, until you can’t. In the meantime, think of the opportunity to make a difference in the world. We don’t all get that chance. Go after it!
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Concentrate on the things that matter most. Focus on the core of what will make you successful and don’t get lost in the periphery.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
When every child on the planet has access to high quality, personalized learning experiences, and when we shift our cultural mindset of the importance of early childhood education, I may sleep in — at least for a day.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.