Michael J. Parker is the co-founder & President of DSFederal Inc, an Inc. 100 Company ranked 55th overall in 2013. At DSFederal it is his mission to connect the brightest minds with the best technology, and to continue to deliver outstanding growth to one of the nations top Federal integrators. Michael’s background is diverse and multi-faceted having provided creative media services to Levi’s Jeans, MTV, VICE Media, and EA Games.
Who is your hero?
Arséne Wenger and my mom are my heroes.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
I remember my very first job. I was working for my uncle's very small real estate firm and I was probably about 16 years old at the time. My uncle asked me to fix the printer for him, and I kept going back to him asking how exactly he wanted it fixed and where to put things. In retrospect, it was probably pretty annoying.
Finally my uncle said, "AYAH! Michael, don't bring me more problems, bring me a solution." I immediately realized that I was asking questions to avoid thinking for myself and avoid solving problems. I never made problems for my customers again.
What's the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
It's funny because I don't really keep score of wins or losses -- it's always about the next game. I think my biggest learning experience was probably when we first started the company. I spent so much time and money listening to "experts" in the federal contracting space. I realize now that if they had really had the skills to grow and bootstrap a thriving consultancy, they would have done it by now. I fired them all and we have not looked back since.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I like to huddle with my management staff individually and go over what needs to be done and make sure everyone is on the same page. This avoids death-by-meeting (I purposely made our conference room furniture ridiculously uncomfortable to avoid long meetings) and keeps us moving forward without me micromanaging them.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Don't quit your job until you are having a nervous breakdown trying to run your business while holding a job. Do it until it almost kills you. You need cash flow, and your job is what keeps the lights on. Also, don't get an office until you absolutely must.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Register for the Landmark Forum. It absolutely changed my life, and I wouldn't have built my business without it. It's basically a self-help class, and it reprogrammed my brain for success. I have met countless CEOs who have taken it. I send almost all of my staff there. It's about $600 over one long weekend. If you take it and do everything they ask you to do, you will never be the same.
What's your definition of success? How will you know when you've finally "succeeded" in your business?
I think success is a discovery process. It changes every day. I think about happiness and success a lot, and I've come to decide that both of those things are not substantive, but rather relational. By that I mean, "success" and "happiness" don't exist out there in the world. They exist in the space between the people in your life -- your family, your friends, your staff, your clients etc. You have to be a go-giver, not a go-getter.
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.