Building a successful business takes a lot.

The greatest entrepreneurs start by identifying a problem, then creating an effective solution. If you want to push forward, you'll also need a hardworking spirit and the ability to remain resilient through adversity.

But what comes next?

Dustin Maherg recently had the opportunity to learn from one of the best. Dustin, an award-winning project manager and aspiring writer, spent a weekend with a successful entrepreneur who grew his business from one employee to more than 10,000, eventually selling the company for about $250 million. (For simplicity's sake, we'll refer to the entrepreneur as Mr. Brooks, who asked to keep his name private.)

I reached out to Dustin after reading a blog post he penned enumerating lessons learned (you can read the original post here), and it resulted in a great conversation. Although there's no magic formula for success, I thought the insights Dustin discovered would prove useful to readers.

Here are some highlights:

Perfection kills progress.

When Mr. Brooks founded his company, there was no strategic planning. No business plan. No beautiful logo.

In essence, there was no real vision.

But that didn't stop him from moving forward. He started with a problem, offered a solution, and never looked back.

Takeaway: Planning is beneficial, but avoid analysis paralysis. If your idea solves a problem in the market, get going!

As famous entrepreneur (and Steve Jobs Padawan) Guy Kawasaki put it: Real entrepreneurs ship.

Take one step at a time. But keep moving.

Brooks started his company in one industry, but finished in another.

As Dustin explains:

"He never imagined he would employ 10,000 people; one job simply led to the next, and the business grew organically. Once he established a local footprint, he started searching for work on the perimeter. He would make a small circle and grow that circle little by little.

"The result was clients in more than fifteen states."

Takeaway: Don't get overwhelmed by big dreams. Take one step at a time and adapt as quickly as possible.

Don't splurge.

"Once his circle began to grow and the footprint of his business grew from local to a 15-state region, Brooks realized the need to purchase an airplane," Dustin recounts.

"In lieu of making a large purchase and consuming debt, he started with a two-passenger plane. Then it was a four- passenger and now a nine-passenger. Even though he had enough money to buy bigger, he never splurged."

Takeaway: Unless you want company growth to be short-lived, it's important that you spend conservatively.

It's easy to get caught up in the money. But wealth can vanish as quickly as it appeared. (Don't believe me? Just ask this guy.)

Learn from the competition.

At one point, Brooks worked for a year as a subcontractor for a top competitor. Why not leverage the same strategy for his own business? He did so, to the tune of a 20 percent increase in revenue.

Additionally, Brooks kept strict watch as to which markets his competitors were entering. If they found a way to streamline execution, he would do the same.

Takeaway: Don't simply copy the competition; learn from them.

Take what they do and find a way to do it better.

Build multiple sources of income.

Brooks made millions off his original business idea. He then leveraged that money to create additional revenue streams through the stock market, angel investments, and real estate. These additional sources of revenue ended up yielding much more than the original company.

Takeaway: It takes money to make money.

Putting all your eggs in one basket becomes a problem when the basket breaks. If your business is successful, investing wisely can yield larger profits.

The Best Part

Dustin's weekend was a great learning experience, but what he found most noteworthy about Mr. Brooks was his new mentor's likable and humble personality. Despite his financial success, Brooks didn't think too highly of himself and was eager to share what he'd learned.

And those are the qualities that will make you truly rich.

Published on: Jan 28, 2016
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