Most college students are worried about what party to attend next, but I was busy thinking of innovative ways to make my first million. I built Tatto Media from my dorm room, sold it a few years later for $60 million, and continued forward with big plans for my future. It's a daunting task for a start-up business to try and get off the ground amidst the social media boom. Here are the three best pieces of advice I ever received that helped make me a successful entrepreneur:
- Self-assess honestly and find supplemental teammates. Be honest with yourself when evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, and look for team members who will balance you out. While studying at Babson College, I had a lot of major ideas, but not necessarily all of the architectural knowledge behind it to turn these ideas into a lucrative plan. I took the advice of Professor Leonard Green, CEO of Green Group, in asking for help where I needed it. I was realistic that I had holes to fill in my business plan and needed other people to help me work through these areas. I teamed up with fellow classmate Lin Miao, who balanced out my weaknesses and helped me with the company finances.
- Don't underestimate information flow; value every relationship. Being kind and respecting everyone is a must. I was at a board meeting when Baupost Group's David Drubner told me to look around the table and point to the most important person there. He then pointed to his secretary, who had worked for him for 30 years, and said that she while may not hold the highest status in the room, she knows the right people and everything that is going on. Understanding how the information flow works when building yourself is crucial; you never know which relationships you will need in order to make it, so being respectful to everyone you come into contact with is crucial.
- 100% of nothing is still nothing. Don't let greed stand in the way of your ultimate dream. I've seen countless numbers of people who have great ideas, but too much aggression too early on. You don't need to be a one-man show to be successful. An entrepreneur's career may include 30 or 40 ventures; each one should be a stepping stone and learning experience, so there's no need to get greedy over one deal. Too many people walk away from great things because they expected too much.
While most think of an entrepreneur as a self-made one-man operation, I credit the help of others for being as important as any one person's idea creation. With these tips in mind, you can make your vision a reality.