At the core of Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)'s mission is an unwavering commitment to helping entrepreneurs at every stage learn and grow. During Global Entrepreneurship Week, November 18-22, EO is hosting EO24/7, a five-day, free virtual learning event aimed at empowering entrepreneurs with skills and strategies to reach new levels of leadership.
Ajay Pattani, an EO member from Chicago, is founder (and reigning ping pong champion) of Perfect Search Media, a search and social agency named one of Inc.'s Best Workplaces 2018. As an entrepreneur who started his company in response to a need he identified in the marketing landscape, we asked Ajay about the intentional ways he has accepted greater and greater challenges, and the lessons he's learned that drove success. Here's what he shared:
In the summer of 2007, I was hired by FansEdge.com, a sports merchandise retailer, to manage their Google Adwords account. I couldn't have imagined that within three years I would be promoted to head of all advertising while simultaneously launching my own company. Yet, there I was doing it.
It was a period of significant transition during which I was regularly presented with new and greater challenges which taught me the value of taking risks. Although these moments were some of the most daunting I faced in my career, the changes I made because of them were essential to arriving where I am now.
Here are three considerations I kept top-of-mind as I was going through that transition. They still help me today as I set off to take bigger risks and accept greater challenges.
1. Test and change quickly
As an entrepreneur, it's important to move quickly--especially when risk-taking is involved. Moreover, opportunity outweighs cost. That is, the cost of not doing something is often greater than the cost of taking a risk and testing something new.
Today, as an organization, we consider our laser-focus on testing as a differentiator. We hold to the tenet that whatever you are doing can be done better or more efficiently; it's just a matter of finding out how. We're currently testing messaging strategy, outsourcing versus insourcing, paid versus class credit internships, audit strategies, pricing strategy and contract terms. These are all lessons we're learning and growing from---and doing so promptly.
2. Be ultra-proactive
Early last year, we decided as a company to develop our core values. Of those, our first was "Take Initiative." To us, this means being proactive, challenging one another, taking risks and adapting.
In my first role at FansEdge, I pushed to completely revamp the company's entire digital strategy by putting a strong emphasis on long-tail traffic. My vision was to rebuild their massive account and do so with their technology team. When I pitched the idea, they refused. My marketing team was quick to find simpler ways to achieve our goal because we wouldn't let anything slow us down.
Our marketing restructure ended up launching that same year and doubled our run rate from $25 million to $50 million in a two-week period. This was the impetus for what we today call "Perfect Search." Needless to say, this drive and determination were life-changing.
3. Ensure data is accurate and makes sense
I consider myself a data geek at heart. When numbers don't make sense, I'm curious and quick to question them. At the first company I worked for, this was the case. I was given figures from an affiliate program that didn't add up, so I investigated. Sure enough, after a deep dive into customer files, I found clear evidence that we were significantly overpaying partners. Questioning this data saved the company thousands of dollars.
Change has offered me opportunities to take greater risks and learn more. Every day, I'm grateful to continue learning and growing from the work we do. Right now, I'm working with my colleagues to continue innovating how our company will expand its role with clients and the services we provide to them. We're hoping to take risks in our operations, performance and other high-value areas.
What risks do you plan on taking today? And how will you see them through? These are valuable questions to pose often as you set forward on the path to doing and achieving what matters to you.