Eric Schaumburg is a passionate and focused entrepreneur who spent many years in trade show and event industry technology. He is the CEO of eventr.io and is based in Kansas City.
It all started with a cold cut sandwich. I was in my last year of college and working in a family deli, among other places. One night, well after closing time, my brother and I were cleaning the place up when a man strolled in and ordered a sandwich.
I offered to make it, and I'm glad I did--the conversation we had spurred one of the most influential relationships of my career.
His name was Dr. Robin Potter. In the empty deli, he told me about growing up poor and spending 24 years in the Army. By the time he arrived at entrepreneurship, he was no stranger to hard work. He went on to create the first healthcare credit card, as well as a trade show management software company, TRAQ-IT Software. When Dr. Potter realized that I was an entrepreneur too, he began offering advice. Before the night was over, he'd offered me a job. I accepted.
When he trusted me to handle my first lead on my own, I was excited. I thought the client would be big, giving us 15 new users. A week later, I closed the deal. The client turned out to be a lot smaller than I expected, giving us just a one-user account.
When I shamefully slid the invoice onto Dr. Potter's desk, he smiled at me and said, "Hey, one by one by one--that's how you grow a business." Years later, after we'd pulled off a major, multi-user deal, I burst into his office and slid the signed invoice onto his desk. Again, he looked up from his computer, smiled, and said, "One by one by one."
"One by one by one" means building success one brick at a time, focusing not on the ultimate goal or what color Maserati you want to buy with the money, but on the task at hand. To me, Dr. Potter's advice boils down to three simple things--things that can apply to any business:
1. Treat failures and successes as steps.
Too often, businesspeople experience failure and see it as a slight on their business, their career and even their personality. When you adopt a one-by-one mentality, you learn to treat both failures and successes with the same determination. Spend the same amount of time celebrating victories as you do mitigating setbacks. Take a moment, regroup, and move on to the next step.
2. Make a little progress each day.
You don't have to achieve all of your business goals in one day. By accomplishing one difficult task or making one decision, your daily progress will turn into huge accomplishments.
Because of Dr. Potter, I don't go to sleep until I've made at least one bit of progress. It doesn't have to be an earth-shattering advancement, but I always imagine that Dr. Potter is going to stroll into my office and ask for an update the next morning. I have to provide one tangible accomplishment in order to hear those words: "One by one by one."
3. Treat your company like you treat your life.
Dr. Potter's simple message has transformed not only my business mentality, but also my whole life. It made me realize that constantly hurrying and worrying causes errors and prevents me from appreciating the journey. I now apply the one-by-one attitude to my relationships, my hobbies and my perception of the world.
Six months after I started working for TRAQ-IT Software, Dr. Potter was diagnosed with colon cancer. He spent the majority of the next year in and out of treatment centers, but he never slowed down or stopped giving me advice. I was in over my head, running a small company at a young age. And when he passed away less than three years later, his words helped me get though each challenge, pushing me forward every single day.