As a serial entrepreneur and the current CEO of Nextiva, Tomas Gorny knows a thing or two about business. He launched his first company, a computer hardware business, while he was still in college, and strives to make a difference with everything he touches.
Like many entrepreneur's experience, it takes a ridiculous amount of work to reach success, but Gorny wasn't afraid to dig in. In fact, he even faced on of the biggest fears an entrepreneur can encounter, the fear of failure, head on after dancing precariously with financial ruin.
But his business savvy even predates his first business venture. In fact, he was actually fired from his position delivering newspapers because he adjusted the process to be more efficient. (via Web.com)
Apparently, that newspaper company didn't have vision.
While his life has been full of trials and tribulations, including a point where he went broke in 2001, Gorny powered through. And, this year, he was recognized as Arizona's Top Tech CEO by the Phoenix Business Journal for his work at Nextiva, an innovative, industry-leading, unicorn of a cloud-based communications provider. (via Nextiva.com)
To reach that level of success, you have to be unquestioningly dedicated to your business pursuits. And I think many of us can learn from Gorny's example when striving for success.
Here are 11 lessons from Nextiva CEO Tomas Gorny that will make you a better entrepreneur.
1. Entrepreneurs Should Never Have an Exit Strategy
During an interview, Gorny stated, "As an entrepreneur, you shouldn't have an exit strategy. If you are planning for an exit, your mind is focused on the wrong things for your business." (via Web.com)
Having an exit strategy means you have doubts or fears that may be holding you back in a very meaningful way, and that isn't going to cut it if you hope to become a unicorn in your industry.
2. Don't Set Your Goals Around Net Worth
Gorny reached financial success young, at age 22, leading him to invest in other companies as he focused on boosting his net worth. But, when the dot-com crash hit and 9/11 shook the economy, he was soon left nearly bankrupt.
"I set my goals around my net worth, and that was a mistake," said Gorny. "Everything suddenly collapsed." (via Business Insider)
After that, his focus has shifted to his core skill set, building companies, allowing him to start again.
3. Invest in Yourself
After his financial fall, Gorny gained a new perspective on his priorities. Instead of investing in other businesses, he focused on himself, a move that is backed up by the lack of external investors in any of his companies. (Business Insider)
4. Find a Gap in the Market and a Market for the Gap
During an interview, Gorny stated, "I always try to identify the gaps in the market and see if there is actually a market in that gap." (via SmallBizTrends.com)
And that approach led SiteLock, one of Gorny's businesses, to become one of the leading website security companies in the world, and helped spur Nextiva's success in the communications space.
5. Great Products Cut Through the Noise
Gorny asserts that offering superior products and services is the way to create longevity, even in noisy marketplaces. Strong offerings will impress customers, generate loyalty, and encourage word-of-mouth referrals, one of the most powerful marketing sources one can hope to access. (Entrepreneur)
6. Embrace Being Underestimated
When starting out, Gorny's tick accent led people to discount him, but he was able to use that to outmaneuver those who underestimated him.
"It brings a lot of advantages to businesses when people underestimate you and, in some ways, that can be a big power that can be leveraged," said Gorny. (Business Insider)
7. Commanding People to Do Your Bidding Isn't Leadership
Gorny asserts that a leadership style that expects people to ask "how high?" when you say "jump" isn't an effective approach. He discovered that the best approach involves letting your staff know the "why" behind every request, as this makes their purpose clear. (via Forbes)
8. Cultivate Desire in Yourself and Your Staff
Gorny believes that desire is the answer to entrepreneurial success. Now, this doesn't mean your desire has to be to create a unicorn company (though that's certainly an option), just that it needs to pull you forward, giving you something to strive for when things get tough. (via Forbes)
9. Work with People You Like
He believes that working with people you don't like leads to unnecessary stress, which can waste your time and hurts productivity.
Gorny asserts, "I just want to deal with the stress of the business. I don't want to stress out over the relationship in the business." (Business Insider)
10. Focus on the Customer
"Personally, we were never focused on selling businesses or going public or merging. We were focused on the customer. And the one time I shifted my paradigm and focused more on wealth creation, that was the time I failed." (SmallBizTrends.com)
Instead of focusing on external outcomes, Gorny believes that, by focusing on the business, the "external outcome may be significantly better than you have ever envisioned."
11. Make It Fun
As more emphasis has been put on company culture in recent years, creating an environment where people don't just work, but also have fun, creates a more productive workforce who will be more loyal to your business and passionate about their roles.
Gorny works hard to create opportunities for enjoyment while still ensuring everyone stays on target. For example, when his team became too large for quick all-staff stand up meetings, they formed NexTV, a video series to make sharing the information "fun, educational and entertaining." (via Frost.com)
Based on Gorny's repeated success and the triumphant unicorn that Nextiva has become, I think it is fair to say he has this entrepreneurship thing down.