Adam Grant currently serves as CEO of Campus Commandos, a top marketing vendor specializing in helping businesses reach Millennials. Since founding the company in 2010, CC has worked with some of the world’s leading brands—including HP and eBay—to help them connect with millions of college students to build brand loyalty. Through CC partnerships / advertising channels they remain a powerful leader in the industry, and have a strong student following under the Intern Queen and Go Commando App brands. Follow him at @gocommandoapp.
Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
Sir Richard Branson is my business hero. He is best known as the founder of Virgin Group, but what most people don’t know is his first business venture was a magazine called Student. I got my entrepreneurial start starting ing magazine on the campus of Michigan State University, and each business I have started afterward has a wider audience. I enjoy seeing Richard Branson keep doing bigger and bigger things and at the same time have fun.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Always invest in research and development to ensure you are the only person who can put yourself out of business. This piece of advice has allowed me to always force myself to talk with the customer no matter what position I am in. From asking questions and listening, we constantly learn what products/services to launch to stay ahead (and avoid launching products/services that only we think are great). Example: Student debt is a big issue we keep hearing from students. One of our capabilities is offering free printing to students in the campus libraries in exchange for ads at the bottom of each page. Students have been receptive to acting on these ads since we are forward in saying we are helping eliminate student debt in the small costs that add up after tuition.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
When I was a student, I ran a student magazine and featured an article on drinking games. We had distribution in the dorm room mailboxes of the largest dorm room system in the United States. Putting an article in a magazine that is read by students under 21 was not the smartest move. The article raised the magazine in popularity, but not with parents. We lost distribution in the dorm room mailboxes and the mistake could have been avoided by talking to others about it before it was published. Luckily that did not kill the magazine but that mistake will forever be in my mind.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I drink a bottle of water and walk 1 mile. It gets the creative mind flowing.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Know your numbers! What input do you need in the day to equal one output? How many emails do you need to send to get one meeting? How many meetings do you need to set to get one proposal? How many proposals do you need to send to get one sale? Once you understand what your input needs to be, you will love tackling it every day.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Every star has a coach and they are not all free. Write down a list of what you are good at and what you are bad at. Find mentors for the items you are bad at and understand they will be at a cost. You need to view this cost as continued education. That continued education in things like a sales coach will deliver an ROI faster than you realize.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Getting paid to be yourself. When the business can run without me I have succeeded.
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.