Sometimes, you see entrepreneurs who make it look easy. They don't have to fight through years of absolute failure.
They start something...and it just works.
For outsiders, it seems hard to believe. Must be magic.
As cofounder and CEO of TayganPoint Consulting Group, a firm with $20 million in annual revenue, Joy Taylor is an excellent example. Case in point? She hit upon her first success at 29.
But how did she do it?
I jumped on a 50-minute Skype call with her to find out, so I could now share her wisdom with you.
Here's the thing: as a domain expert from Day 1, she didn't start from scratch.
Start with expertise
Before Taylor went independent, she worked as a consultant for IBM, GE and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Made contacts. Learned the ropes. Fell in love with it.
Think TayganPoint is the first time she brought solid expertise to the table? No. First time was a very different kind of business.
At 26, she started a ferry service. How did that happen?
"I was working for a marketing firm, and these two gentlemen came in and said they'd like our firm to help them write a business plan. And it just happened to be a ferry service, which happens to be what my father and my grandfather did."
"I had done this work since I was an infant, going to work with my dad and my grandmother at 4 a.m. in the morning. And when these two men had come in to ask about something I had spent my entire childhood doing -- yeah, I was equipped to answer those questions. And then you put together my education, which meant I was also equipped to write a business plan for them."
She went straight into the very thing she grew up with. With a mountain of relevant childhood experiences, she had an enormous advantage.
"I'm sitting there at 26, with a team of other people, and they're asking these people some questions. And I start asking really knowledgeable questions about the boats, the staff, the crew, and the supplies that you're going to need...The two owners saw that I really had a gift in this space. And after the business plan was over they offered me 15% of the company for free, if I would come and run the business."
Three years later, the company thrived and got sold. Check my math: Taylor was 29. Sometimes, a young domain expert runs rings around older ones.
So I ask you: what's your expertise? Did you spend your childhood doing something you can now turn into a business? Might just give you the break you need.
Watch out though: the greatest expert in the world can't do anything without the necessary people-work.
Cultivate a strong network
Taylor understands the incredible power of a network -- she even gives you two principles to put right at the heart of your business.
"I have two principles that I live by, from a business perspective. One of them is, building your network, nurturing your network. You have to work it. Just because you have it in your Outlook, just because you have your Facebook friends or your LinkedIn friends or something, that's not truly a network."
So what is a network? Hint: not a passive list of contacts.
"A network is, if I send out an email, and I need something, how many people respond? That is a network."
Ouch. How many entrepreneurs think they have a strong network just because they shook hands with 50 VIPs? Too many.
And I'll raise you one: how many have a decent network but can't use it, due to fear? Plenty. They might want to wise up and learn Taylor's second networking principle:
"Ask for assistance. You need to exercise your ask muscle a lot. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help, for assistance. People might say no, but you'd be surprised, more often they want to say yes."
When the podcast Entrepreneur On Fire interviewed Ryan Westwood -- a serial entrepreneur and Forbes contributor, with an Inc 500 company under his belt -- they asked a striking question. What would he do if he had to start a new business from scratch, with nothing but some cash and a laptop in hand?
Can you guess what advice he gave? To find an idea and go build it? No. He said he'd leave the laptop, go out and build relationships.
Listen -- it's not about the technology. Follow all the 'wires' (physical or digital) for long enough and what do you see? They all lead back to humans. People. Not other machines. The tech exists just to help you connect.
And what helps you build genuine connections more than anything?
Values, integrity and ethics. Things bad entrepreneurs dismiss as soft and trivial.
Place ethics above all
Taylor tells a story of how she treated one of her clients not just as a customer, but as a human being.
"My client worked in a very large company, as a very senior executive, not married, no children, no family. We were not particularly close, but she was my client and I had served with her for the last couple months. She came in that morning, and there was something physically wrong with her and she was scared. And she knew I had a lot to do that day."
"I walked into her office and I said to her: 'There's nothing on my calendar today that cannot be changed. I will take you to the hospital, and I will sit with you until you are ready to come home.' And that's all...and I did. I cancelled everything on the calendar that day. Because there was nothing more important than making sure she was okay."
Can you picture it? Clear your whole calendar, on a phenomenal business, just because a client feels ill? Tough call.
Unsuccessful entrepreneurs value short-term results and profits above human relationships. Taylor did not -- she saw her client as a fellow human being.
And how did this work out for her? Did she take a hit on her business? Far from it.
"To this day, she is still my client."
Three pillars of wisdom stand out in Taylor's story: use your expertise, build a strong network and maintain high ethical standards.
Too simple? Maybe. But then, are you going to argue with $20 million?
Hi, I'm Harry -- a fellow entrepreneur. Keen to help you discover and understand your ideal customer. Let's connect.
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