Jake Thompson is Founder and Chief Encouragement Officer of Compete Every Day. He is a Dallas-based entrepreneur, traveler and active CrossFitter. Loves to talk business, marketing, retail and networking. Follow him at @Jake_T4.
Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
In business, it’s anyone who refuses to give up and is committed to finding a way to win. Too often people look for the quick way out and a way to quit. I love seeing the entrepreneurs who struggle until they eventually win. Those are the men and women I look up to and try to emulate. In life, my heroes would be my parents. My dad set the standard on how to build a successful business and how to treat his team/employees. My mom taught me how to believe in myself and somehow, some way, find a way to win.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Stay true to your mission. Early on I found myself easily distracted. I’d attempt to run down multiple paths while building the brand — believing each was helping us grow — when it was actually just creating confusing messages for our target audience. Because of this, no one knew exactly what we did. Focusing on our core mission and why we do what we do, and then making sure each action taken was in line with that, is what ultimately helped us grow at such a rapid pace.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
I spent too much too early. I tried to come out of the gate on fire when we launched, and ended up carrying too much inventory and apparel for our current business size. We ended up sitting on some of it for over a year, and eating the wasted cost of each. You can always accomplish more with less if you’re committed to staying within a conservative budget (especially early on) and getting creative in your approach. You don’t need every “shiny new toy” to succeed. You just need a creative approach and a relentless work ethic. Avoid the debt or financial loss and the stress it can put on you down the road.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
My first hour each day is spent reviewing reports from the previous day, answering immediate emails and then shutting off my computer to focus on the big goals at hand. I review our “One Thing” and our “Why,” check them against our goals for the week, month and year, and then begin to outline in my head the steps needed for each. After a solid 10-20 minutes of focus time, I attack the day. I found that the time spent preparing for the day and focusing my mind on the right things has vastly increased my productivity and efficiency.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
You need to know your numbers. You should know exactly how much you need to sell to cover costs and break even each month. Individuals who know their target numbers can focus on how to reach that number, and can break it down into daily, manageable bites. If you try to work without the numbers, you fail to set a target that you absolutely need to reach and don’t know how good or bad the business is doing.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Put yourself out there. Find Facebook groups to collaborate with like-minded individuals on problems that are stumping you. Attend networking groups of people who want to talk and engage with each other, and share your story after taking an active interest in others. Don’t be afraid to share what you’re doing — people can’t help or support you unless they know what you’re doing.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Some might think that success for me would be if a large sports apparel company tries to buy us out or if I retired. However, I don’t think success is a set point. Success is a target we aim for and work daily to move closer toward. My goal is to inspire the world to compete and make a positive difference, so the moment I succeed is the moment our company is no longer needed. That would be a great place to reach.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.