The Startup Story – Episode 6: Steve Glaveski, founder of Collective Campus and author of Employee to Entrepreneur
You can listen to Steve's Episode in it's entirety here: https://www.thestartupstory.co/steveglaveski
*Steve Glaveski: * This is Steve Glaveski, founder of Collective Campus and author of Employee to Entrepreneur, and this is MY startup story.
James McKinney: Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.
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James McKinney: Have you ever felt as though where you are right now in life is disappointing? You look around at your friends and business network and start to wonder how they got so much farther ahead than you, or at least what appears to be so much farther ahead than you. Look, we’ve all done that in our life, and for those of us that have the unique strand of DNA that is entrepreneurship, it’s absolutely crazy that we look to toners for comparison. Think about it. We’re trying to create a product, platform, or service that does not exist yet in order to reach an audience that we don’t have yet, versus simply being hired on by a company to fill a role and complete a task. There really is no comparison to be made. Now, I’m not suggesting one is better than the other. I’m simply suggesting there is no basis for our disappointment that we bring upon ourselves when we compare our current state to others.
Today’s episode features a founder that had zero aspirations to be an entrepreneur and spent his twenties navigating the corporate hallways of some of the largest firms in Australia and even the world. Yet that decade was not wasted at all. Our guest is Steve Glaveski, founder of Collective Campus and author of Employee to Entrepreneur. Collective Campus is focused on helping large organizations tap into the latent potential that is present within their organization. You see, while he spent his twenties as an employee, he met some incredibly intelligent people that had so much more capacity beyond their utilization. Take that untapped potential and magnify it by an employee base of thousands, and he realized very quickly that large organizations had zero idea the goldmine of potential that they employed. As collective campus grew and as Steve’s research broadened, he realized that there were so many people employed in the corporate world that had desires for so much more, but no real roadmap on how to move from where they were. That was the catalyst for his book, Employee to Entrepreneur. There are so many business books out there, but none that lay out the roadmap as clearly as Employee to Entrepreneur. In fact, Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, calls Employee to Entrepreneur, “The manual you need for moving forward in entrepreneurship.”
In this episode, you will hear how critical it is to utilize your twenties as a season of learning and exploring. You will learn about some missteps many people take when they take the leap from Employee to Entrepreneur. You’ll realize how trained our thinking is about entrepreneurship, due to the perspective laid out on massive sites like Mashable and Tech Crunch. Many of you right now might be listening to this podcast during your commute to your job, or maybe you’re listening to this podcast while you’re at your job. If that’s the case, then this episode should be incredibly encouraging to you. You see, Steve’s story is one that did not begin with an entrepreneurial background, but did begin with an incredibly hardworking immigrant upbringing that set the foundation for what was to come.
Steve Glaveski: Definitely wasn’t raised by entrepreneurs, but was raised by opportunists I would say. So my folks moved out to Australia in 1971 from the communist Yugoslavia, modern day republic of Macedonia. They didn’t speak a word of English. They didn’t have much money to their name, and little if any education really to speak of. But the one thing that really stands out for me about that transition of theirs was that my dad was one of seven siblings, and he was the only one who took that gamble to go to the other side of the world, no safety net, and just try and build a better life for himself. So I feel like perhaps there was something that I picked up of him, maybe genetically some pre disposition towards taking risk. But their whole way of bringing me up was very much about hard work, work ethic, go to school, get an education, go to the corporate world, get a comfortable job, and live a good life. So they distilled values that really helped me on my entrepreneurial journey.
Having said that, I grew up in a socioeconomic disadvantaged part of Melbourne in Australia. We call it the western suburb. Quote unquote, I am a “westie”, so for any Australians that may be listening to this, they’ll know what that’s all about. But went to schools, just public schools. Notorious public schools. We actually have a television program back home called Underbelly, which is about the underground of crime in Melbourne. Several of the characters that are glorified on the show actually went to my school. So there was many an illegal playground transaction taking place throughout the school.
On the back of that, I went to university. I didn’t go to any Ivy League universities. It was very much a university that doesn’t even feature in the world’s top 500. But despite that, there was just this ongoing theme of hustle. The cards are stacked against you, but you’re going to find a way to make this work.
James McKinney: Living in that notorious community that you mentioned, what early hustle did you have? Did you think you were going to be an entrepreneur in high school or was it more just survival and work ethic to get out? What was your mindset in the high school years?
Steve Glaveski: I think in the high school years, I was very much just about conforming to society’s convention of what success looks like, and that was very much wearing the three piece suit, the tie, working for a big established Fortune 500 company. Because that’s the kind of stuff that was always drilled into me from a young age. Also not just from my parents, but also from society in general. I think so many people are fed that story or that narrative, and they don’t really question it.
Having said that, I was always creative or looking to take something new to the world. So my teen years, you mentioned high school, I had hair down to my waist throughout all of high school because I was absolutely fanatical heavy metal fan, and I played in bands. There’s photos of me on Instagram if anyone wants to check that out. Zebra print pants, makeup, glam metal band called Rat Poison, taking both Rat and Poison, putting it together. So there was always something there that I wanted to create and take something new to the world. Perhaps not packaged under the realm of entrepreneurship, just creative in some way.
James McKinney: Yeah. You knew that there was a desire for something outside the suits and the norm, but you just didn’t know what that category was. You had no idea what was going to be in your future. You knew there was something different.
Steve Glaveski: Yeah. There was always something anti authoritarian or always going against the grain in some way. When all the other kids in high school were listening to, going back to the nineties, was it Hanson and the Spice Girls and all that stuff. I was listening to Morbid Angel and death metal bands, and stuff like that. Where did this come from? Always a little bit of an outcast.
James McKinney: I love that you reference Hanson. That is so good.
Steve Glaveski: Yeah. How do you reference Hanson and Morbid Angel in the same sentence, I don’t know.
James McKinney: So now you’re into college. What was your path there? What did you think, okay this is my major, my minor, my direction? Where were you going with that?
Steve Glaveski: College I studied a bachelor of business with a major in information systems. I guess I was just going to the corporate world in any capacity that I could find. The capacity that I did find was a role with Dun and Bradstreet as an information administrator. The reason I tell this story is because I was in this role for a couple of years. It was a new part of this organization that didn’t really have much process or procedure about the way they do things. Being 22 at the time, first real job, early days of the commercial internet getting good, I slacked off and I spent a lot of time surfing the interwebs.
Without the guidance of my director or manager at the time, after repeat warnings and two years in this role, I found myself in my director’s office, basically being told that I was being let go. Which at the time was quite confronting, because my whole life, even though I went to a socio economically disadvantaged school and things like that, I always performed well. I was always top of the class to some degree. Everything I tried, I did reasonably well at, above average. Then to be told that, “We’re letting you go. You’re not good enough,” I remember holding back the tears when I was in that room. Just looking back on it like even though I’m sure it was a well lit room, the memory of it just seems like it was such a dark room. The windows were shut.
James McKinney: Like an interrogation room almost.
Steve Glaveski: Yeah, exactly. That forced me to do a lot of soul searching and reflect on what I actually wanted to do. Rather than, because I feel like up until that point perhaps I was running on auto pilot. Then that forced me to reflect on okay, well what am I actually good at? Where are my strengths? What do I really want to do?
James McKinney: How old were you during that time?
Steve Glaveski: 22.
James McKinney: You were 22, you were fired, laid off, whatever the term you want to use is for the first time in your career. Self recognizing that I tend to excel at what I do, or I tend to do really well.
Steve Glaveski: Yeah, reasonably well.
James McKinney: Reasonably well at things I put my mind to. Because I too, within my career, have been let go before. What was… the self doubt you talked about, how long did you spin on that before you were able to kind of step out of it and pick a different path?
Steve Glaveski: It was several months. Several months. Initially, my kneejerk reaction was well, I was really good at English in school. Maybe I should just become an English teacher. Contemplated doing that. Essentially, what I did was I picked up just a part time call center role, just to kind of figure out what I was going to do with my life. I remember very vividly this call center was based in Melbourne, central business district. I was just walking to work one day and surrounded by accountants, and lawyers, and high profile executives carrying their briefcases, and what appeared to be important paperwork and that persuasion. I thought something about that just triggered me. I thought, “They’re not better than me. I’m better than this. I shouldn’t just roll over and concede defeat.”
That ultimately prompted me to go back to university, while I was working 25 hours a week. I completed a master’s degree in accounting. Full time degree. Took about a year. That essentially opened the door to a new career path, which kicked off with gigs with the likes of Ernst & Young, and KPMG, which I had to hustle my way into by people starting off with gigs in government. I got rejected by all of their grad programs and I spent two years in government, and then that was kind of like getting into the big four by the back door, if you will, which I think is an important lesson.
Because oftentimes, as an entrepreneur, especially if you’re selling to other organizations, you may get rejected from one buyer, but then you speak to the second person, then the third person and the fourth person. It’s funny how that shows up in so many different demands. Even last night, I was having a chat with you before the show about going to the comedy store last night to check out Joe Rogan and Theo Von. I was in the standby line, sold-out show. Waited over an hour. Then we’re told that actually guys, it’s looking like it’s packed to the rafters in there and we’re not going to be able to fit you in. within a minute of that, another security guard comes out and says, “Yeah, we’ll definitely get all of you guys. There’s plenty of room in there.” It’s about who you talk to. Yeah, that shows up in so many different demands.
James McKinney: Those years of rejection prior to you getting the gig that you wanted, piggy backing with that rejection, piggybacking with your termination at Dun and Bradstreet, did that trigger anything back to those initial thoughts and feelings of defeat from that termination? Were you in a completely different mental state at this point, and those rejections you went through were just a non issue.
Steve Glaveski: I think I started to develop a healthier relationship with rejection at that point.
James McKinney: I love that phrase. Healthy relationship with rejection. I love it.
Steve Glaveski: Yeah. It’s well it’s so key to entrepreneurship. It’s funny you ask that question, because looking back I didn’t really have reason to take those rejections well. It’s not like I had really focused on building this mental fortitude at the time like I have now, but for whatever reason I got rejected and I just kept getting back on the horse if you will. Maybe that comes from somewhere deep inside. Maybe that’s just a predisposition I have towards that.
But it definitely didn’t trigger me in any way and bring me back to that termination room or that interrogation room as you put it, or just stuck me dead in my tracks to the point where I stopped applying. I just kept applying for roles and I remember there was probably 50 or so roles that I had applied for, attended so many different meetings and interviews, and things of that persuasion. All it took was one. Sometimes that’s all it takes. We’ll get to the entrepreneurship later, but sometimes all it takes is your first customer, and then you get that social proof which is enough to get you a second, a third, and it just snowballs from there.
James McKinney: Those small wins mean a lot for sure.
Steve Glaveski: Big time.
James McKinney: So you get the job at EY. Again, a little bit of foreshadowing. We know you’re an entrepreneur. We know you’ve got an incredible book out that we’re going to talk about. What preparation did EY… I’m assuming that you now look at that season with EY as a season of preparation?
Steve Glaveski: Mm-hmm.
James McKinney: What preparation did EY bring to you before you take your next leap?
Steve Glaveski: Yeah. That’s a great question, because a lot of younger entrepreneurs will ask me whether or not they should spend time staying at large, established organization, in the corporate world. More often than not, I say yes. Spend your twenties essentially should be an apprenticeship. You should try lots of different things. Not just the corporate world, but try working across so many different domains, because that’s going to teach you a lot about what you like, what you don’t like, what your strengths are, what your natural inclinations are, and where you should really spend your time.
EY for me was a great place to get a better understanding of the inner dynamics of big business. How they go about buying things, what drives them, what their KPI’s are. But also on a personal level, those attributes around interpersonal skills, communication skills, research, analysis, planning. Understanding human dynamics as well I think was a really big one, particularly in that type of big, bureaucratic, political organization. Understanding how to align yourself with certain people and things of that nature. That was all great. Also, just understanding or developing an appreciation for all these different industries, because I was working across financial services, technology, and government. You got a good lay of the land, which again is part of that apprenticeship. Get a feel for everything and then figure out where you actually want to double down.
Having said that, being in your twenties, big organization like that, average age of about 30, lots of corporate junkets. Hey, it was fun for a while. It was fun for a while, but at some point, and I’ll bring it back to Plato in his book The Republic where he says, “No philosophy before 30, because you haven’t been through enough yet.”
James McKinney: I love that.
Steve Glaveski: Yeah. And I think it’s with me, I got to my late twenties and I started to feel frustrated because I just felt that even though I’d learned all these things, the learning curve for me seemed to taper off quite quickly. At that point, you start asking questions around okay, well I’m frustrated because I’m making all this money but I’m not actually… I didn’t align with the purpose behind the work. I don’t feel like I’m actually contributing something to the world. I don’t feel like I’m learning anything more.
Dan Pink talks about that in his book Drive, intrinsic motivation, mastery, autonomy, purpose. Now, I don’t feel like I had any of that. That’s going to weigh you down if you are introspective and a reflective person. Some people may run on autopilot and never even question that. They’re just like as long as I keep getting paid, keep showing up. That’s what a j-o-b is right? But I just got to a point where I needed something more. That’s when I started to look around.
James McKinney: What was the first glance? You said you started looking around. What was that first glance, that first idea, and what was that first jump?
Steve Glaveski: Yeah. So the really preliminary stuff was something that a lot of corporate executives come entrepreneur do, which is a big pitfall they fall into where they overanalyze things. I had a couple of ideas. One was based on my experience at music festivals, where there’d be a line about 50 meters long, and you get to the front and there’s like four people madly pouring beers, one at a time. I thought, “Wow, we should come up with something called a Maxi Tap, where it pours eight beers at a time, and just press a button.”
James McKinney: Solving the greatest problem out there, so thank you for thinking about that.
Steve Glaveski: Of course, of course. As you do, I put together an elaborate business plan, and spent months researching it and everything else. Then going out and speaking to engineering firms and things of that nature. Firstly, it would have been very costly to develop a prototype in that space, but as I know today you should be focused on market appetite, is anyone going to pay for this for example. Vendors at festivals and things of that nature. You can find out that there is legitimate appetite and they want to spend X amount of dollars, then you can justify spending the money. Or maybe they can pre buy it. I just got paralysis analysis by spending too much time thinking about all the if, then, else equations, and didn’t pursue that.
What I did end up pursuing, before I really took that leap into say the realm of tech startups was a heavy metal nightclub. Yeah.
James McKinney: Going back to your Rat and Poison era.
Steve Glaveski: Exactly, exactly.
James McKinney: Did you long for those zebra pants, is that what you’re saying?
Steve Glaveski: They’re still in my closet somewhere. I’ve got to dust them off. Maybe I should have turned up today wearing zebra print.
James McKinney: That would have been an amazing Instagram.
Steve Glaveski: But I ran that every Friday night while I was working at EY, so for about a year. One thing I found that was, it kind of made work a lot more bearable. I think a lot of people who are frustrated with their jobs, perhaps just don’t have hobby or something on the side. Because then it shows you that okay, work isn’t the be all, end all. You do derive a sense of creative fulfillment from this side hustle or whatever it is.
I also learned some valuable business lessons. The place was called Mad House and the place fit about 150 people. Some nights you’d get 100. Other nights, you’d get four. Because the deal we struck with the venue said we needed to stay open until 4 in the morning, you’d be there until 4 in the morning with nobody in the venue. Absolutely demoralizing. But one thing we learned was if we partnered with concert promoters, if there was a big band in town on a Friday night and we said, “Hey, your punters can come along to our club after the show. If they show their ticket, they get 50% off entry.” Without fail, every time, it was packed out. Sometimes the bands would turn up and they’d drink with us until like 4 or 5 in the morning.
James McKinney: That’s awesome.
Steve Glaveski: You know, it was good times. But I learned about the value of partnerships, which came in handy later on in life.
James McKinney: Yeah. That’s outstanding. Again, that was while you were with EY?
Steve Glaveski: That was while I was with EY, yeah.
James McKinney: So what was the catalyst to actually leave EY?
Steve Glaveski: Well, it’s funny you should say that. I was still in two minds at this point. It’s not like there was an epiphany and the next day I woke up and was like, “Okay, I want to be an entrepreneur.” It was a slow, gradual build up of things. I definitely was frustrated when I left EY, but I thought well maybe I should just join another organization, and that will solve my problems. They’ll pay me a bit more, I’ll learn some new skills, and things would be good.
That organization was Macquarie Bank, which is Australia’s largest investment bank. Moved for Sidney for that role. I vividly recall day one, walking into the office, and it was just… it seemed like a very sterile workplace. Just rows, and rows, and rows of people with this small like three feet by two feet desk. When I kind of dug beneath the surface and had conversations with people, I didn’t feel like anybody… To me, the people that I was working with seemed very much like they were running on autopilot. Great people, but still stuck in that whole j-o-b space, just trying to conform to society’s conventions of what success looks like.
So while I was there, I continued working on something, a seed of an idea that I had while I was at EY. Because while I was at EY, I observed a lot of vacant office space at a lot of my client’s sites. Like every third person in the startup ecosystem these days, I decided I’d build a marketplace. The marketplace was called Hot Desk, essentially an Airbnb for office space, where you could book space by the hour, day, week, and month. I had been reading Four Hour Work Week and The Lean Startup and books of that persuasion. I thought how can I build something low fidelity, fast ship to test this idea?
James McKinney: While you’re working at Macquarie?
Steve Glaveski: While I was working at Macquarie bank. I essentially found an Airbnb script. I got a web developer at Freelancer.com, and for a little more than $2,000 I had a prototype. You could search for space, browse, pay online, upload photos, all that good stuff. At that point I reflected and said, “Well, I need to actually get this in the hands of my target market.” So I naively Googled “How to write a press release,” and tried my hand at writing one. This was before the growth hacking tools you find today to find email address. I went on Twitter and just searched “journalist” and found all these journalist profiles. Within their profiles, it had email addresses. Then one by one, I sent each on the press release. I sent about 100 out. You want to take a guess as to how many got back to me?
James McKinney: One, maybe.
Steve Glaveski: One. One. Just so happened to be a journalist at the Australian, which is more or less our equivalent of The New York Times I guess.
James McKinney: But a big publication.
Steve Glaveski: Big national publication, yeah. Within a couple of weeks, they published a one page spread in this paper. It was funny, because actually I took a photo shoot during my lunch hour at Macquarie Bank, just around the corner, in the middle of Sidney city, in front of this fountain. I had all these colleagues walking by during their lunch hour and they could see this camera crew. I’m sitting there getting snapped, and they’re like, “What the hell?” But the funny thing was that article mentioned that I was an employee of the banks. So it picks up in Macquarie news, which is a daily email of news clippings that gets sent to 14,000 employees, including my boss.
James McKinney: Wow. Part of me is thinking that is an awesome growth hack, but then I know where this is going, so…
Steve Glaveski: Yeah. Imagine the tap on the shoulder I received, both from Human Resources and my manager. I had to do some quick thinking and quick talking to say that it was just a little side project, which in actuality it was. I didn’t actually foresee that within three months of that article dropping I had managed to raise some seed funding. Not a huge amount. It was about $150,000. But when you’re first going down that path, that’s a lot of money and you think to yourself, “Well, I can now jump out of the corporate world for a year and give this entrepreneurship thing a crack.” Which is what I did. So a side project very quickly became full time hustle.
James McKinney: How old were you at this time?
Steve Glaveski: I was 29.
James McKinney: So 29, about to enter your thirties. Plato is allowing you to have a philosophy at that point.
Steve Glaveski: Yes, yes.
James McKinney: You raised $150,000. You leave the stability of the bank. So now, this is your first gig without the stability that really you were raised and groomed with, correct? Aside from the excitement of now doing your own thing, do you remember anything else going on through your head? Any fear, any doubt like can I actually pull this off? Or was the mindset I’ve got a degree I can fall back on if this doesn’t play out?
Steve Glaveski: It’s a good question. I think there was a little bit of apprehension around whether or not I’d let people down, particularly my family because they worked in factories their whole lives, sometimes working double jobs, 14 hour days. For me to just throw that all away wasn’t something I was prepared to do. But that’s why I said I’ll give it a year, and then if I have to I can always go back to the corporate world. I’ve worked for a number of big brands now. I’ve got enough experience to the point where I think I can spend 12 months out and still be employable. I wouldn’t say there was any major apprehensions there.
One thing I found, though, is because you’re groomed to, in the corporate world you’re dealing with an existing, repeatable business model. You’ve got shareholders you’re accountable to. You’ve got thousands of employees who are getting paid. So essentially, you’re playing defense. There’s a lot of uncertainty around who customers are, what the business model is, and so on. Whereas in entrepreneurship, you haven’t got a business model yet when you’re starting out, not one that makes money at least. There’s so much uncertainty that underpins who my customers are, the revenue model, what features do they want, and so on. And you’re essentially playing office.
Because there’s so much uncertainty, you need to move quickly whereas in the corporate world, because you’re playing defense, every time you need to make a decision you call a meeting with 10 people, and you call another meeting, and six months before you make a decision. They’re diametrically opposed. I was bringing a lot of those typical corporate behaviors to the table when I first transitioned, which meant I spent a lot of time doing the same thing day in, day out, expecting a different result which obviously I think it’s Albert Einstein, that’s the definition of insanity essentially. It probably took me until about a year in until I started to do a lot more experimentation.
James McKinney: That’s real talk, though. The idea that there was a pre conditioning on the way systems and processes worked. How did that impact your startup, operating with the corporate mindset in a startup environment? How did that impact Hot Desk?
Steve Glaveski: If you think about the corporate mindset, it’s a lot of research, analysis, planning, making sure things are perfect before you get out of the building. So there was a lot of that, and not enough defining what my key assumptions are, rapidly testing those assumptions, tweaking the customer segment, tweaking the distribution channel, tweaking the price point. Finding different ways to create value or finding a different value proposition that would actually be sustainable, and one that I could build a legitimate business around.
Again, spending a lot of time in meetings as well with unqualified prospects. So for example, one thing we wanted to do was essentially do partnerships or strike partnerships with large companies so that they could send their employees out into co working spaces, and work amongst startups. Start to try and get some of that startup DNA back into their organizations. So I just took a lot of meetings with people who just want to take meetings because it gets them out of work. That’s a trap that a lot of entrepreneurs fall into. They just meet everyone and anyone that shows the slightest bit of interest in their business.
Time is a commodity, and it’s the most precious commodity you have as an entrepreneur. If you just say yes to every single person who’s going to meet with you, and not only that but you schedule one hour meetings by default, you’ll quickly find yourself with very little time and you’ll quickly find that your business just isn’t progressing forward because you’re not focusing on the right things. I think that’s essentially how I spent a lot of the first year at Hot Desk, just not focusing on the right things.
James McKinney: One, thank you for the candidness in that first year. I think a lot of what you said there about the precious commodity of time and again, even the small things. The default of an hour meeting and not fully vetting the opportunity with the people you’re meeting with, and some people just taking meetings for the sake of meetings.
As a startup, you have to have that mindset that I am not big corporate, almost said corporate America but you’re in Australia, so corporate Australia. I am not a big corporation that has the luxury of hour long meetings for the sake of hour long meetings. I have to be intentional about everything I’m doing. I think that probably takes a little bit of humility too.
I know in my own journey and venturing out on my own startup, you immediately want to start thinking big because you have that idea of, “Well, if I think big, I’ll get big.” You lose touch with reality. That is, right now I don’t have time for four one hour meetings when I don’t even know what this relationship can truly develop. I appreciate that candidness in that.
Steve Glaveski: Yeah. I think just building on that point, as an entrepreneur you need to get really good at saying no, and also hearing no.
James McKinney: Oh yes. Absolutely that second one.
Steve Glaveski: Yeah, yeah. Saying no to all those meetings and people who are just going to try and demand your time essentially, because you need to protect your time, but also hearing no. Like we said earlier, developing a healthy relationship with adversity is key as well.
James McKinney: Yeah, I love that. So your first year of Hot Desk, you have all these learning’s. What is the Hot Desk journey? What became of that? What did the second year bring, and what was the exit or the end game for that?
Steve Glaveski: Yeah. Like I said, I learned some valuable lessons around partnerships running the heavy metal nightclub, which I later took into Hot Desk whereby I’d partner with established organizations who had a lot of vacant space, such as your Regis’ of the world which really wasn’t the right market, but that at least helped me get hundreds of spaces on the platform quite quickly, which I then used to get other spaces on the platform. Again, the social proof piece. Well, we’ve already got spaces in China and Hong Kong and Singapore. Regis is on board, Cerf Corp’s on board, so all these Korean spaces started coming on board. Build the supply side out to I think 1,300 spaces by the time we wrapped it up.
But as most marketplace entrepreneurs will know, you need to build both sides of the market. So the demand side was a lot trickier to build. One of the key reasons for that, I think anyway, was because I could book a space somewhere for a day or the week, but if I like it, I’m then going to negotiate directly with the operator rather than come back to Hot Desk, so cutting out the middle man essentially is something that’s hard to manage unless you have people on the phones calling up and trying to reconcile what’s actually happened. So that was essentially tricky. It’s not like Airbnb where if I book an Airbnb, like for example right now, I’m staying in Laguna Beach. The place is nice, loving it. Near the beach. But I’m not going to buy the place. I’m not going to call the landlord and say, “Oh, I love this. I’m going to stay here longer, maybe for a year or two,” which doesn’t really apply with office space.
But one other lesson that journey was also that I didn’t really bring on anyone else until the second year. That was really helpful. Even though the business ultimately didn’t amount to much, from a bouncing ideas off each other perspective, from a bringing my mindset out of the gutter essentially when I was feeling down, sharing that emotional baggage I think is really important as well. Then there’s also a feeling like you’re part of a team that’s working towards something better. It’s quite galvanizing as well. It also helps you free yourself up to focus on what your strengths are, rather than trying to do everything because we all have natural inclinations.
If you’re not focused on what your strengths are, instead you’re focused on all these other things that you’re not so good at, that’s essentially taking you away from where you are at your best. It’s like if I have two marketing channels and one is going to give me $3 on every $1 I spend, and the other one is going to return $2 on every $1 I spend. Every $1 I spend on that $2 return is actually costing me money. It should be going into the higher performing marketing channel. It’s the same with your strengths and your natural dispositions.
James McKinney: I love that comparison. I hadn’t thought about it that way. That’s a great learning for all of us right there. One of the other things you said too that I thought was interesting, doing business with someone else, a partner. The galvanizing effect that it has. There are so many different thing in our lives that we become better when we do it with other people.
Let’s just take fitness for example. There’s a reason that the most successful fitness people are in groups or there’s something collective that they’re doing, not just by themselves. It’s that external pressure. We become better, we’re raising our bar because of who we’re pushing together with. If you were to look back at your Hot Desk journey, is that one of the things you would probably change faster, is getting someone on board to be your partner or just do that business with earlier?
Steve Glaveski: That’s definitely one of the things I would change. The other would be just moving a lot faster and spending the first six months just rapidly testing absolutely everything. Those would be two key things. But you’re absolutely right. To bring it back to say the Renaissance when the Medici family brought in sculptures and engineers and architects and painters, and just spearheaded this cultural and artistic revolution, it’s because you had all these different people come together with different skill sets.
That’s essentially what innovation and creativity is, the intersection of different disparate skill sets and demands. It’s the same when you bring someone into your business to work together. You want to have that creative sort of explosion. It’s going to take you from one to two rather than take it from one to zero essentially. Some people may struggle with that, especially solo entrepreneurs who say, “Well I just want to do my own thing.” That’s fine. It depends on the nature of your business right?
James McKinney: Of course, of course.
Steve Glaveski: If we taught this, it’s trying to build a startup that was hopefully one day going to be VC backed and go for a multi hundred million dollar exit, something to that degree. But if you’re just building some solopreneur hustle where you’re quite happy making $100-200K a year doing it on your terms, doing work you enjoy, then you probably don’t need all the other stuff. That’s something that sometimes gets lost, where it’s not a one size fits all. You read Tech Crunch and Mashable, and you read this entrepreneurial advice, some people read that and then they try to reverse engineer it and apply it to their own business. It doesn’t apply to all types of business.
James McKinney: You bring up a great point about the idea that some of the knowledge sources out there, they’re written in a way that is one size fits all, that if you don’t fit in that mold you’re a fraud, you’re an imposter. One of the things that I love about your story is the years that you had a side hustle. You did something else because the job was unfulfilling, but you were doing other things that were fulfilling and feeding that entrepreneurial spirit. If you go to all those knowledge sources, well you’re not an entrepreneur, you’re an imposter. I think that’s so destructive for the entrepreneurial culture to start creating these compartments of what is a valid entrepreneur and not a valid entrepreneur. Because those side hustles ended up bringing you to a space and a place that you were equipped to start doing your own thing.
For all those listening, all the reluctant entrepreneurs out there that have a side hustle, know that you are developing your entrepreneurial gene and do not be discouraged by the knowledge sources out there that are saying, “Well you’re not a true entrepreneur because you’re not all in on what it is you’re doing.” This is a season, and you will grow out of this season. So I thank you for sharing all that.
Steve Glaveski: 100%, and just to build on that real quick, James, I always refer to the Paolo Coelho novel The Alchemist, in which a young shepherd called Santiago goes on a massive journey in search of treasure across the dessert. Essentially, spoiler alert, close your ears if you don’t want to know the end of the story, but essentially he goes on this long journey and he discovers that the journey was at his feet the entire time. Now, he would not have discovered that if he didn’t go on this long journey that was fraught with all sorts of peril.
That’s kind of like entrepreneurship, especially when you’re going through your formative years and you maybe have a side hustle. You maybe have several failed businesses. While you think that was a waste of time, you would have learned a hell of a lot. Sometimes, the best lessons are the lessons you learn from failure and from adversity. I definitely took a lot out of my time building whether it was Hot Desk, whether it was Mad House. Even working on those pointless business plans many, many years ago. That taught me what I shouldn’t do. When you know what you shouldn’t do, then you start focusing on the stuff that you should do essentially.
James McKinney: Oh, I love that. I hope everyone was listening. If you were in passive listening for the past five minutes, flip it back five minutes and catch all this up, because there’s some real fruit here, some real meat as well. Please make sure you get those and write those notes down. So Hot Desk becomes what? What happens to Hot Desk? What was the end of Hot Desk?
Steve Glaveski: Again, going on that journey. So a lot of serendipity took place. So while I was building out Hot Desk, I took space in a co working space called Queen’s Collective in Melbourne. I befriended the owner of this space. His name’s Sean. I got to know him for about a year or so. General Assembly, the big boot camp company, were a tenant there. They had a couple of classrooms. Then they told him that, “We’re going to go out and find our own space.” Suddenly, his biggest tenant was gone. He was facing a bit of a financial crisis. He had two empty classrooms.
This point, I’d been working on Hot Desk for a couple of years. While I was making some revenue, probably wasn’t enough. But I was also reflecting on whether or not I wanted to be what I called a glorified real estate agent. Whether I really resonated with the purpose, or was I just doing this as a way to get out of the corporate world? The more I pondered that question, the more I realized that I don’t really believe in this. If you are going to do something long-term, for the long ed, having that values alignment is huge. It’s like investing in a relationship. If you don’t have values and alignment, there’s a lot of incongruence. It’s going to be much easier to break up with someone than it is to play the long game.
With Hot Desk, I basically just let it kind of evaporate. I didn’t even try and sell it. I didn’t want to invest that energy. Just let it evaporate, but having come to that realization that I wanted to do something where I truly align with the purpose, I looked back on my time in the corporate world where I was essentially a frustrated entrepreneur. I was often proposing new ways of doing things, better ways of doing things, but it would be pushed down because the people who are charged with making these decisions just aren’t incentivized to do anything new. Again, playing defense. But, what we know about the world today is that it’s fast changing and large organizations are starting to think about these things.
So having devoured absolutely every book I could get hands on, every podcast episode, every on entrepreneurship and innovation during my two years with Hot Desk, I basically approached Sean from Queen’s Collective and said, “Hey. You’ve got these classrooms. I’m thinking about taking concepts like the lean startup and applying that into large companies. How about we just run a test where I’ll create an Eventbrite page, I’ll spend $100 on ads, and I’ll call it Lean Startup for Corporate: Free One Hour Workshop. $100 on ads. I’ll get onto LinkedIn, target heads of innovation from different companies. Maybe this is something we can work towards or explore at least.” He agreed and the first session got about 50 RSVP’s. Remember the night vividly. We had 50 chairs, all neatly laid out. Had the plastic cups, the wine, the beer. I think I had some ACDC playing just to wake people up after a Wednesday night in the office. Gets close to 6 p.m., five to 6, and there’s about two people in the room. They’ll be here shortly. 6 p.m., there’s three. Let’s give them another five minutes. Three people.
At that point, you focus on the positives. One, we’ve got 50 emails now on our mailing list. Two, perhaps there’s something about the day of the week. Perhaps it’s the ad copy that could be improved. Maybe we call it rapid experimentation for corporates rather than have the word startup in there, because that may throw a lot of them off. But also, it’s an opportunity to just get better at delivering the work, the content. I remember when I was 16 I read the Aerosmith biography. For some reason, this one passage in this entire book, everything else I’ve forgotten. There was this one passage where Steven Tyler talks about their early days in the early 70s, how they would essentially play in front of 10 people, but he would act like he was a rock star anyway. That’s just so important. So even though there was three people in the room, I just said, “Okay, I’ve got to bring it anyways, because who knows? One of these people could potentially be a customer. All it takes is one to sign that checkbook and that could get you going.”
That’s how it started. Was not the most successful start, but through a period of testing and iterating, we eventually got our first client. But I’m happy to explore, to let you guide that journey.
James McKinney: So did that experiment, is that what became Collective Campus?
Steve Glaveski: That’s essentially, yes, what became Collective Campus.
James McKinney: Collective Campus is much more than just a co working space, though.
Steve Glaveski: Oh yeah. We’re definitely not a co working space. We have a space and we happy to have people who rent desk there, but that’s like 5% of our revenue.
James McKinney: So what is everything that Collective Campus is?
Steve Glaveski: So we’re a corporate innovation and startup accelerator, and at our core we’re about unlocking the learning potential of people to create impact, and to lead more fulfilling lives. So we work with Fortune 500 companies. We’ve worked with close to 60 around the globe now, everywhere from New York, to London, to Sydney. We have incubated close to 100 startups as part of our corporate startup accelerator programs. They’ve collectively raised about $25 million.
Then, we also work with kids as part of a lemonade stand program, which is a two day entrepreneurship program that we just built into an online platform that we’ll be releasing this year. Whether it’s corporate, whether it’s startups, whether it’s kids as young as nine years old, it’s all about unlocking their potential to create impact and to do stuff that’s fun, that they enjoy, that’s rewarding, and that’s going to get them out of bed with a spring in their step every morning.
James McKinney: So you mentioned something when talking about the evaporating of Hot Desk. You said if your pursuit is not aligned with your purpose, it’s not going to be effective for the long game. I truly, I believe that 100%, especially in the startup space. It’s almost an imitation. You’re chasing the dollar versus what the mission and vision is of what you want to do. I can now, knowing more about you, I can see how Hot Desk did not align with what your purpose and mission is. Do you find yourself in full alignment now with the things you have going on?
Steve Glaveski: I would say I’m getting closer to it. I definitely, the mission I’d say I’m in full alignment with, but the “what” in terms of how we deliver on that, perhaps will evolve. I think I’ve already seen that evolve in the past couple of years, from working with large companies. Initially, we found that with a lot of companies out there, they tend to engage such services to satisfy some internal criteria like shareholders. We want shareholders to see that we’re being innovative, but we’re not actually being innovative. So they put something in the annual report that will show that. That can be very unfulfilling as well, because I didn’t leave the corporate world to just do work that’s going to tick some boxes but not actually create impact. That’s not going to change the way these organizations go about things.
Because my big thing is you’ve got thousands upon thousands of people that work in these large companies with ability, with talent, who are oftentimes just brought down by the bureaucracy. They just accept that and they never end up being actualized versions of themselves, so that’s essentially what I want to do. Whether it’s changing the culture and the way these large organizations go about doing things internally, whether that’s working with startups and entrepreneurs.
That’s why we kind of evolved into running these corporate accelerator programs, where then we could partner with the demand expertise, the assets, the networks of big companies with the energy and enthusiasm. Energy and enthusiasm of startups, because we know they’re at least going to really give it a solid go, and backed by the support of the big companies that can go a long way. We’ve seen a lot of these companies come through our corporate accelerator programs with the aid of the large organizations, and actually go on to raise funding, and then build business that’s actually making money. Because they’ve got a big client already, it’s much easier for them to continue building upon that. So our accelerator programs have been quite successful.
But coming back to that strengths and those natural inclinations as well, what my natural inclination is towards is very much content creation. So even though I enjoy facilitating workshops and consulting to big companies and things like that, to a certain degree, I absolutely love writing. I love hosting my podcast, and I find myself doing a lot more of that. But as you go along that entrepreneurial journey, I find that you get to a point where you can start to automate and delegate a lot of the stuff that perhaps isn’t 100% aligned with your strengths, and focus on the stuff that is. So as long as you can do so in a way that actually supports your business. Because there’s no point in me just following a passion project like a podcast if nobody’s going to listen to It, if the audience isn’t aligned with what I’m doing. It’s not going to generate some form of revenue. Really need that alignment. So when people say, “Follow your passion,” it’s all well and good to follow your passion, but we still live in a world where you need to pay for things.
James McKinney: you need to execute. You’re right. We have to monetize. Following your passion, following your heart, those make great bumper stickers but there’s a lot more behind that that is not spoken to.
So lemonade stand. So obviously, we can understand the space of Collective Campus for the adults, we’ll say, the corporates. What does Australia call them, the corps’?
Steve Glaveski: Corporates.
James McKinney: Corporates, got it. For the corporates. Why lemonade stand? Why the desire? How did that thought come to be, like we have to reach the youth?
Steve Glaveski: I wish it was my idea. It was actually one of my team members said… and there was multiple reasons for it too. Because we were coming towards December, January which in Australia, that’s summer. That’s Christmas. Obviously it’s Christmas everywhere, but the whole of corporate Australia more or less shuts down for two months. So we’re not going to make any money during that time. Just so happens that kids are on school holidays. Just so happens that 40-60% of today’s jobs, depending on which report you read, will be automated in 10 to 15 years.
So on the back of that, we thought well, why don’t we take the stuff that we’re teaching startups and corporates about rapid experimentation and entrepreneurship, and thriving under conditions of uncertainty, and start teaching kids that. Because they’re going to need it. It’s not enough for them to just learn English and mathematics anymore. It’s not enough for them to become accountants when NPR is saying that accounting and audit will have 95% chance of being automated in 10 years. Of course, it’s another way for us to monetize that as well during the quieter months.
When the idea was proposed, it would have been very easy for me to just shoot this down, and say, “What the hell do we know about working with kids? That’s a ridiculous idea.” But like I always say, always be testing. If you can find it cheap, quick way to test that, come back to me with some results, let’s do it. In this case, it was literally they put together some simple curriculum. Again, Eventbrite meet up pages. $100 on Facebook ads which targeted moms who subscribed to or like mom blogger pages. So 35 to 45 year old moms, young kids, quite progressive. For $100, we got about 200 clicks on those ads. About $0.50 a click, and about a 20% conversion rate.
James McKinney: Wow. That’s incredible.
Steve Glaveski: Yeah. That was essentially enough for us to run the class and make almost $10,000 on the back of that. So that test, the assumption was valid that there was appetite for these people, willing to pay for it. Sold out quite quickly. But the class was a nightmare. The class was an absolute nightmare. We had kids throwing chairs around the room. We had one kid banging his head against the wall. Kids with allergies, all sorts of craziness. I remember telling Sean, my co founder, towards the latter end of day one, “Man, we can’t do this again. This is nuts.”
But we reflected afterwards. We sat down with the team and said, “What could we have done better? Some sort of a check in process where you determine if kids have allergies, how to best prepare for that. Making sure if there’s kids with EpiPens in the room, you know how to administer them. Being able to talk to kids at a certain level. Maybe making sure every kid is engaged, because if they’re not engaged then they’re going to find other things to do. All that sort of stuff. We decided we’d run it again, and it got better. Now we’ve rolled it out to over 1,000 kids in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, and Singapore.
Just last year, we’ve done a deal with a large private school in Melbourne who basically paid us to develop the online version. This is a sales tactic that I’m quite fond of if you’re building software for organizations. We said, “Look. You pay us, we’ll build it. You can help guide what it looks like so it satisfies your needs, and you will also get lifetime subscription. But, we can then sell it to everyone else. Everyone else is going to pay an annual fee, and that way we hedge our bets. Not only do we not spend any of our own money, but we also have first customer, and we also know that there’s market appetite because this is a school, and most schools are very similar in terms of the way they make the decisions and what not. Yeah, we’re looking forward to rolling that out across Australia, from March onwards this year, and then hopefully across other English speaking countries.
The reason that’s also so important, teaching kids not necessarily just how to be entrepreneurs, but those underlying skill sets and attributes like critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, adaptability, resolve and resilience. Schools are trying to teach kids resilience in actually resilience classes. But like Plato said, they’re not ready for it. But if you can teach them that using entrepreneurship as a vehicle, then they will start to via running experiments and finding that actually no one’s visiting my website, I have to change something on. Now people are starting to visit. They’re starting to develop a positive relationship with failure, but small failures rather than big, hairy, audacious ones.
James McKinney: Oh man, that is so rich. I love everything that you just talked about. As we are approaching the end of our time, I want to talk about a book that you just put out that I think is so incredibly valuable to everyone listening, especially the reluctant entrepreneurs out there that are employees but have dreams and visions for their life that is grander than what they’re doing now. This book that you have called Employee to Entrepreneur, how did that come to be with everything else that you have going on? It seems natural to me. I can see the transition, but just your story and your journey, how did that book come to be?
Steve Glaveski: Sure. So for my story, I’ve been creating a lot of content for say the last five years. Published about 400 blog posts perhaps in that time, 300 plus podcast episodes, 15 or so eBooks and self published two books. Writing, creating content was just something I do. This particular book came about because, for one thing, 50% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs. Two, through my work with countless entrepreneurs over the last few years, I’ve seen so many of them come to me and they’ve just made the same mistakes, particularly those that have come out of the corporate world.
Then, with my work with corporates, so many of them are asking me, “Well how did you make that transition? I’ve been in the corporate world for so long. It’s hard, I’m scared to make the same mistakes as everyone else. Not sure it’s the right time. I’ve got a mortgage and kids,” and all this sort of stuff. “I don’t know how to do it.” So I just felt that there was a space in the market for a book, not just about entrepreneurship because there are a hell of a lot of books about entrepreneurship.
James McKinney: Yes there are.
Steve Glaveski: A space for people who have perhaps been gainfully employed, quote unquote, in the corporate world for five, 10, 15 years or just in any large established organization with its own processes and ways of doing things. It’s for them. First need to determine whether entrepreneurship is even right for them, to determine that underlying “why.” Why do they want to do this, but also what are they going to work towards? How does that align with their purpose?
But then the key things are really avoiding common pitfalls, increasing the likelihood of success, and then tapping into that stuff we talked about earlier around time and how do you 10X you productivity and focus only on the stuff that’s really going to move the needle. Because 96% of startups fail, and when you look at the reasons why they fail, it’s usually market failure and running out of money. Running out of money is a byproduct of market failure. Market failure is usually a byproduct of jumping to conclusions.
So many first time entrepreneurs will operate in stealth mode and they won’t tell anyone about their idea, because they’re scared that people are going to steal it, which is almost laughable. Because who’s going to take your idea and then invest the next two to three years of their time, trying to tread these upward trajectory, to try and make your idea successful? It’s about execution. It’s not about your idea. Yeah, they’ll spend $50-100K on an app development agency, launch it, big marketing campaign, then it’s just crickets.
The other side of that is really the paralysis analysis piece, where similar to what I was doing with the business plans that I was writing. Just researching and devouring Gardner reports and Forest research and reports, and meetings, meetings, meetings. But not actually taking action. So what the book essentially tries to do is it tries to distill my seven plus years in this space. Not only my experiences working in this space, but also the hundreds of books that I’ve read. All the podcasts, and everything, just that pattern recognition that I’ve got in my mind, distilling it down into 280 pages so that entrepreneurs can just pick this up and just run with it like a one stop shop playbook. Yes, there’s going to be other books that are going to be helpful, but this will help them allay a lot of the issues that most first timers fall into.
The one thing I do try to do with this book, as well, is not just look at it as a business book. There’s a lot of storytelling in there. A lot of scientific research. But then there’s, I try to intersperse a lot of philosophy throughout. So there’s mentions of people like Marcus Aurelius, the Roman philosopher king, and Seneca, and even Mark Manson who you could say modern day philosopher. Because that mindset piece is absolutely foundational to entrepreneurship. You could be really academically smart. You can have a great idea, great team, maybe even a great product. But you’re still inevitably going to come up against brick walls and you’re going to get knocked down time and time again.
As my favorite philosopher of all time, Rocky Balboa, said, “Life is all about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” I think unless you’re well calibrated in that respect, you won’t succeed. Even Calvin Coolidge, former US president said something along the lines of, “Nothing in this world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not, education will not, genius will not. The world is full of talented and educated people that didn’t amount to anything.” So that’s something that I really drill home in this book as well.
James McKinney: I think what hit me about the book is just really it starts off on the front when Adam Grant pretty much says, “If you want to be an entrepreneur, this is your playbook. This is what you need to go by.” And in going through it, I can tell, for all those listeners out there that are working 9 to 5 and have aspirations to be an entrepreneur, it would be foolish of you to not get this book. We will definitely have a link in our show notes for this book.
It is, like I said, 280 pages of just absolute knowledge, tactical knowledge that you can move forward with. If you have aspirations, this book is in alignment with what we want to accomplish with The Startup Story. I thank you for writing that book, because I think it is something that is missing on the shelves of every bookstore and on the digital shelf of Amazon, because there are so many things out there that speak to entrepreneurship, but do not give that tactical movement from Employee to Entrepreneur. I think there is a gap. Hearing your experience with Hot Desk and that year of deprogramming yourself from corporate America, corporate Australia and corporate processes-
Steve Glaveski: It’s all the same.
James McKinney: It’s all the same. But what’s critical, and it was lost ground in that year you were doing it, so thank you for bringing this book. One of the things I ask all of my guests, because I’m a firm believer that if we do not stay in constant state of gratitude, it will inevitably lead to our failure, because we’ll begin to isolate ourselves because we think we can do it all on our own. We think that we are able to stand by ourselves. When you look at your journey, who are the people that you point to and say, “You know what, it’s because of what these people said or did in my life that I am where I am today.”
Steve Glaveski: There’s so many. Going back to childhood obviously, you have to pay homage to your parents who provided that foundation. Then there’s teachers throughout elementary school and high school who may have said things that planted that seed in your head, that you are capable of going above and beyond. There’s countless mentors by way of physical mentors, but then also authors and entrepreneurs, and bloggers, and podcasters who just help with that pattern recognition piece, and help you make better decisions.
Then you can take technology. If it wasn’t for the fact that today you can start a business for $100 online, then I probably wouldn’t be doing this as well, which again going back to the lemonade stand thing, the reason why that’s so timely is because 20 years ago, you couldn’t do this if you were a 10 year old and be out riding your bicycle. But nowadays, the barriers to entry are so low, kids have iPads. They have internet connections. They can do all sorts of things.
I think, it was not Thomas Edison, it was Isaac Newton who said, “If I have seen further, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants,” and I don’t think for one second that I am awesome and I did this all by myself. I’m just building with the tools and the circumstances that I’ve been fortunate enough to be given. One thing I talk about in the book even, on my travels I’ve been to places like Vietnam and rural places in Thailand and eastern Europe, where you see just how difficult people have it. They’re working the rice fields in 100 degree weather for maybe $10 a week, just so they can make ends meet. But sometimes, you see their faces and they’re actually smiling, and they’re happy.
I think in so many western developed economies, because we have things so easy, we’re always looking for the smallest possible things to kind of rattle us. We just look at what’s wrong. We’re wired. We’ve got this biological predisposition in our brain thanks to our amygdala and thousands of years of biological evolution and escaping predators in the Savannah, to look for what’s wrong. But really reflecting on what you’re grateful for and that’s right, it’s something I try to do every single day because that, again, grounds me and gives me this positive outlook. I think it’s very hard to succeed as an entrepreneur if you’re constantly in this state of negativity. So that’s one thing I really try to do and something I talk about in the book as well.
James McKinney: Awesome. What words of encouragement can you give to our listeners? We talked about the frustrated entrepreneur, the reluctant entrepreneur, or even the defeated entrepreneur that has tried over and over again. In your journey and your experience, with your expertise, and again with your book Employee to Entrepreneur, what would you like to leave our listeners with?
Steve Glaveski: I would say that everybody’s journey is different, and so it’s easy to get enamored by the bright lights of startups by reading Tech Crunch, Mashable, watching movies like The Social Network, and start to compare yourself. Especially if you’re coming out of say the corporate world, and you’re going to compare yourself one, to people you used to work with. Initially, they’re going to be making a lot more than you, and they may continue to climb that corporate ladder and make five, six, seven times more than you. If you just compare yourself based on income, you’re probably going to have a tough time focusing on your business. So if you do jump out, if you are that reluctant entrepreneur or maybe you’ve just jumped out, don’t compare yourself to them. You should focus on learning over earning for the first year or two. Exploration and then exploitation as I like to say.
Similarly, number two, you don’t want to compare yourself to other entrepreneurs. Everybody’s journey is different, and that’s the one thing I stress in this book. I’m not saying, “This is the way you need to do it.” I even have a whole section in the book that talks about alternatives to entrepreneurship, because you may hate your job. You may hate your boss. You may not have that alignment, but that doesn’t mean that entrepreneurship is the answer as well. You could just find another job, maybe go work for a startup. Maybe you just need a hobby on the side.
So I would say if you’re going to compare yourself, just compare yourself, it’s a little bit cheesy but it’s so true. Sometimes the cheesiest things are cheesy because they’re true, and that’s why they’re overused, but compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Just try and get better every day, and be really objective about what you need to get better at. Don’t just get busy being busy, because our brains will trick us into doing that. We have, every time we accomplish something, even if it’s non consequential like responding to a non event email, or going to a meeting for an hour with someone who has absolutely no desire to purchase from you, that’s still accomplishment, and we get a dopamine hit, and that makes us feel good. It’s so easy to get busy being busy, and then a year down the track, you haven’t made any progress at all.
So be really objective about focusing on what are the things that are really going to move the needle here. The only way you can determine what that is, is by testing and determining for example the tasks you do. Then each time you do that task, can you trace that back to some sort of measurable outcome. See if it’s moving. I always say, when you’re starting out, find out the assumptions that underpin what success looks like for your business, and those assumptions that are high impact but high uncertainty test them. Learn. Move quickly and move forward in that way.
James McKinney: Do you have a healthy relationship with rejection? If not, why? Is it because you’ve not put yourself out there enough to be rejected so you don’t have a palate for it yet? Is it because you spend days, weeks, months in analysis before you actually move on an opportunity out of fear of failure and rejection? You see, rejection is inevitable. If you put yourself out there enough, you’re going to experience rejection. There’s absolutely no way you’re going to be able to meet the needs of every single person or company. The flip side of rejection is that you maximize the opportunities for a yes.
See, in episode 2 with Larry Namer, the cofounder of E! Entertainment Television, he spent close to three years pitching investors for capital to start his cable network. Two years of hearing no. why did he keep going? Because he knew everybody was wrong. Had Larry not had a healthy relationship with rejection, E! would have never had happened, and he would have never sold E! for billions of dollars. You think Larry looks back on those years of rejection fondly? Of course he does. If you still don’t think so, make sure you go back and listen to that episode.
If you’re an employee with ambitions to build something of your own, then you need to buy Steve’s book Employee to Entrepreneur. We’ll include a link in the show notes for easy access to it. Steve’s book can help give you a framework on making that move. But know that his book does not remove the risk of rejection. The entrepreneurial journey is fraught with rejection and you need to develop a love of rejection. I say a love of rejection be there are learnings to be had in the rejection. Listen to the rejection. Was it a price point rejection? Was it a product fit rejection? Or was it a rejection based on timing? Every single rejection has a learning to it, and that learning will make you better, and your product or service better. Learn to love rejection.
The Startup Story always wraps up with a call to action, where you get to support our founders that share so much of themselves with us. The value they bring us each week is massive, and each week there’s a real tangible way that we can say thank you to them. So as a community of entrepreneurs, let’s help Steve’s book move up on the Amazon charts. We’ll include a link in the show notes. If you can’t buy the book, please follow the link and share it with your friend or on your LinkedIn profile. Exposure is so valuable to our founders and social sharing costs you nothing. I will continue to say it every single episode. Entrepreneurs help other entrepreneurs.
The Startup Story community has been so incredible with sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We are a startup, and the most powerful way you can support The Startup Story podcast is to leave a review on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory.co. Share The Startup Story on your social media, either with a link or a screenshot. Make sure you tag or mention us @TheStartupStory.co so we can see your help and say thank you for it.
Lastly, share the podcast on your LinkedIn profile. The Startup Story is for entrepreneurs so please do not underestimate the power of sharing The Startup Story on your LinkedIn profile so other entrepreneurs can discover us. In fact, most people struggle to share good content on LinkedIn anyways, so if you want to support The Startup Story, then search for The Startup Story company page, follow us, and share our posts to help encourage other founders and spread the word about the podcast.
Every single founder has a story, and the startup stories we bring you every week can encourage and inspire another founder. It might just be what they needed to hear to keep moving forward on their dreams. I look forward to sharing these stories every Tuesday with hopes to inspire you to start YOUR story.