YEC Member Spotlight: James Simpson, CEO, GoldFire Studios

James SimpsonJames Simpson has been developing games and entertainment-related websites since he was 13 years old. He sold his first game business at the age of 14, and has since created products that have reached over one hundred million people around the world. Today, James runs GoldFire Studios, which is an HTML5 game development studio based out of Oklahoma City. Follow him @GoldFireStudios.

Who is your hero? 

Harry Houdini.

What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?

Always remember that from a customer support standpoint, the customer may always be right, but from a product development standpoint, they rarely are. A customer may think they know what they want, but I’ve found that more times than not, they really have no idea, and the true reason they are paying you for your product or service is so that you can make the tough choices for them. This can be your most important differentiator from your competitors.

It is easy to do what the customer wants, but that isn’t always what should be done. The truly great entrepreneurs find the courage to go against the customers’ wishes and give them what they really need. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t collect feedback — you absolutely should. However, that feedback should be taken with a grain of salt. The truly valuable feedback is gathered from user behavior, not what comes out of their mouths.

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?

My biggest mistake as an entrepreneur has been to lose focus. A good entrepreneur will always be finding new opportunities on a daily basis. New ideas are exciting, and it is easy to want to pursue a new idea instead of or in parallel to a current idea. The most important lesson I’ve learned along the way is how to decide which options to ignore and which to follow (this is an ever-evolving skill that can never be truly mastered). In the past, I have pursued multiple exciting ideas at the same time, only to find that the ideas weren’t as exciting as I had first thought.

When following multiple ideas in parallel, you are unable to commit to any one pursuit, and all will ultimately suffer. I have found that it is critical to not only focus on one objective, but to make sure that venture is the one you are most passionate about. You should always be looking at the big picture and you should never stray from the path that is laid out in front of that picture.

What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?

I work on the most important task I have for the day. I avoid checking email, social networks, Hacker News, etc. until after lunch so that I can start the day as productively as possible.

What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?

Work from a shared office or co-working space as long as you can. Not only is it an affordable place for your team to get work done, but it is a great outlet to expand your team as well.

Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?

Stop worrying so much about the day-to-day and focus on the big picture.

What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?

In my eyes, success is achieved when you’ve been able to positively impact just one person’s life through your work. This doesn’t have to be through social good — even entertainment like games or movies can have a profound impact, and that should stand as success on its own. There are of course varying levels of success, but I don’t think there should be a monetary threshold to define success itself, just as a means of quantifying a level of success.

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.

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