The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for KC Roundtable to hear from , Owner and CEO of MailPrint . In celebration of MailPrint’s 25th anniversary this year, Gina prepared 25 unique lessons about entrepreneurship. And, considering the lessons’ author — whose hard work has resulted in tens of millions in revenue per year, and who is on track to hire the 70th employee this year — people took notes.
The 25 Biggest Things I Have Learned as a CEO for 25 Years
- “Perseverance doesn’t run on air but on desire. You can handle any hell only if you have a burning, bigger-than-life heaven in your chest, which must express itself, no matter what — even if it costs you your smaller, so-called life.” –Charles Bukowski
- It’s your job to create that point in the distance and lead your team there. The biggest challenge for entrepreneurs is to realize it is not about them — it is about the achievement of that vision.
- Hire to fit YOUR culture. As a leader, you must create it, nurture it, know it, and protect it. Be able to state it with conviction in a single sentence.
- Don’t create a lifestyle that outpaces your checkbook. Hold on to your cash. Doing so will allow you to make big moves later, when everyone else is doggy-paddling.
- Don’t ever bet the company. With every big step MailPrint took, starting with a $300,000+ investment for one piece of innovative equipment, Gina and her team ensured it wouldn’t kill the company if it didn’t prove a return in 12 months. Don’t be afraid to make aggressive moves, but not at the cost of the whole business.
- The greatest cost that very few people consider is the opportunity cost. If you’re spending a lot of time on stuff that doesn’t make money, you’re killing revenue opportunities. Hire an assistant.
- Say hello to everyone. Honor the time they are giving you. Care about them.
- Know the financial metrics for your business, for your industry, and for your customers. Know them, even if you hate them.
- Prepare for the six-figure mistake.
- Make aggressive moves in a down economy.
- The CEO must be the best sales person in the company. Become a student of selling. No one can sell your vision better than you.
- Become a subject matter expert.
- Sell to the pain. People will move away faster from pain before they move to gain.
- Failing to grow is like failing to breathe. You must grow the company so your employees can move up. You are either going forward or you are going backwards. Gina follows this lesson by saying, “I don’t care about Main Street. I care about Growth Street.”
- Successful delegation is the key to big things. Pinpoint it. Get feedback. Measure it. Recognize it. And celebrate it, when it’s done right.
- Self-Actualize. Look in the mirror. See your warts. Own all of your mistakes and failings. Never blame anyone else.
- Know your weaknesses and hire those skills out. Merely trying harder won’t fix it. Just be honest with yourself.
- Your job is to make everyone successful; otherwise, you have failed.
- Give your employees wings and the freedom to fly.
- Don’t make your employees read your mind.
- All failings point back to process.
- Unless you have a HUGE idea with massive potential, stay private and cash flow your growth. It is better to have bank debt than to have a partner.
- You keep fighting the same fights you did when you were 12-years-old. Don’t let a teenage need for approval hold you back from achieving greatness. Everyone has his or her own battles; just keep focused on the point in the distance.
- Find a niche and get rich.
- No matter what, the animals must be fed. MailPrint was built from agricultural roots; Gina admits MailPrint’s culture is made up of “a bunch of hard-working country kids.” Country kids know that every day, farmers wake up early to feed the animals. In business, you have to feed the business every day, through constant plotting, planning, and working. Don’t stop nurturing the business.
Bonus: Give freely of your heart, your talents, and your money. The hardest check Gina ever wrote was at 26-years-old. She had a broken air conditioner and rent to pay, but she still gave 10% of her income to charity. And, oddly enough, her financial picture turned around. She learned an important lesson: When you give first, you have a better sense of yourself. To this day, Gina supports the following nonprofit organizations: American Heart Association ; Operation Breakthrough ; Bishop Sullivan Center ; Harvesters Community Food Network ; Christmas in October ; and Big Brothers, Big Sisters .