Start-up junkie, investor, and serial entrepreneur Esteban Reyes has founded seven--yep, seven--successful companies in 14 years. He explains some key insights he's learned along the way.
I first became a start-up junkie when I co-founded Verification Bureau at age 19. It was a mortgage fraud prevention technology business that I sold to Lender Processing Services in the summer of 2009. I currently serve as Managing Partner and CEO for VSI Nearshore outsourcing, a software-development company with offices across Latin America and the United States; we help U.S. companies optimize their operations and reduce their IT costs.
Since I was very young, I've been blessed with a wealth useful and practical advice that has contributed to my personal success. Stereotypically, the definition of success has had to do with the size of one's wallet--but I have come to define success as the ability to plan and achieve one's objectives, and enjoying every moment of that accomplishment.
Aside from the basics--take care of customers, watch your spend, and build high-performance teams--there are three things that I've recognized as the enablers to my mentors' success, and which I have since adopted as my as my own mantras:
1. Think long-term, but take action now.
I'm a big believer in long-term planning and focused execution. Throughout my professional career, and even in my personal life, I've witnessed the outcome that planning and goal visualization can have.
The true value in planning ahead is being able to define who you want to be, where you want to go, and how you'll get there. By projecting your thoughts into the future, and visualizing the achievement of your objectives, you can better understand what you'll need to do in order to achieve your goals. This process then makes it easier to break down what seem like hard-to-accomplish initiatives into manageable milestones.
But equally important is that the next-worst thing (to not planning) is not taking action. Planning cannot become an excuse to procrastinate. It doesn't necessarily mean long group meetings and reviewing lengthy documentation. Conversely, it needs to be practical and useful--not necessarily precise.
This is key, especially when starting a company in which there are lots of decisions that need to be made and no time to waste. Start-ups don't have unlimited resources, so they must be agile and effective without losing focus on the big picture.
2. Build your company culture by empowering others.
Accepting the fact that other people are more intelligent than you at certain things requires a high level of maturity. During the early days of my entrepreneurship career, it was easy to fall into the trap of thinking that I had to do things myself if I wanted them done right. It's a cliché, but we all do it.
Over the years, I've learned that good delegation is imperative when managing a fast-growing business. What should matter to a manager is the outcome, not necessarily how something is done, provided the selected approach is in alignment with the manager's and company's strategy. It is important to provide oversight along with delegation--not to direct, but to support.
The enabler of delegation is trust and competency. It is fundamental to have a good team to delegate and collaborate with. There needs to be 100 percent trust that the outcome will be as expected when a task or project is assigned. It pays off to invest time in configuring "your" management team in way that high performance is rewarded, and lack of accountability is not tolerated.
In my experience, a culture of empowerment and trust is always more fun--and always yields better outcomes.
3. Listen more than you talk. The best ideas come from unexpected places.
Action-oriented people--like most entrepreneurs--tend to talk more than they listen; I confess I used to be one of them. However, I've found out that speaking burns more energy than listening, and the ROI is generally lower.
I've sat in meetings and said very few words and closed multimillion-dollar deals. I've learned more about my clients' needs by listening to them than trying to tell them what they need. And I've reached consensus in favor of my agenda by listening to others and understanding what's important to them.
In short, if you listen more than you talk, you're taking the vantage point in a conversation. While others are spending brainpower in getting a message across, you are absorbing that energy to analyze the best route to get what you want.
Esteban Reyes knows how to grow a good idea into a multi-million dollar enterprise quickly. He's found his professional passion in building high-performance teams that share a common vision.