I interviewed Jeffrey M. Crowley who discussed The Keys to Being a Successful Entrepreneur.
It’s good to speak with you today, Jeff. I’m looking forward to hearing your views today and experience on the keys to being a successful entrepreneur. Before we start, can you provide a brief background of yourself?
Sure, not a problem, Dustin. I appreciate the opportunity. I have been in executive search now for a little over a decade. I’ve had my own firm for about six and a half years. I specialize in working at the retain * (00:34—unclear) with manufacturing companies primarily in the U.S.-North America, though a number of my clients tend to be global organizations. I’m a father, husband, and enjoy college football, American football, here in the U.S.
Thank you. What are the keys to being a successful entrepreneur?
I think the first one is kind of simple and yet complex in knowing who you are as an individual. Being an entrepreneur, I’ve learned there are a lot of things I needed to improve in my own skillset in terms of follow-up, in terms of sales calls, in terms of motivation. I think one of the hardest things I found when I left my firm I was with prior to open my own firm is that there’s really no one above you pushing you to get stuff done. You’ve got to be really self-motivated, really focused on making calls or making contacts or whatever it might be within your business—sales calls, getting out the word, whether it’s social media, cold calls, networking calls. You’ve got to be very self-driven there.
Early on it was, I’ll admit it was a struggle for me because I’d always had that peer or mentor to kind of push me and tell me when I need to do these things a little bit better. I think knowing yourself, knowing your strengths and weaknesses are important. I would say a second one is even though you’re opening your own business, having some type of mentor has been key to me. I’ve got two or three gentlemen I can rely on both in search and outside of search who are just successful businessmen that I turn to for ideas, brainstorming, looking at them for guidance when it comes to how to set up my business, how to handle my sales calls, how to handle my recruiting calls, how to work with professionals at the midlevel, as well as the executive level, just to have an individual or two to bounce ideas off.
At times early on, I found it was very lonely, if you will, in running your own business. You’re expected to have all the answers, you’re expected to know everything. Quite honestly, I don’t know that I do know everything, to be frank with you, Dustin, and I assure you I’m not an expert at everything, so having a peer group or mentors that you can go to is critical there. Some people set up a board of directors even though they might not have a financial investment in the business but perhaps have a friendship or professional-friendship interest in the individual; I think that’s very appropriate. Whatever you want to look at it that way I think is important.
I would say the third one is to really understand your finances; whether you’re going to self-finance the business, whether you’re going to take out some type of business loan, but to really know what your month-to-month bills look like. I know that’s small beans perhaps, but when you’re starting up a small- to midsize business, so much of it is cash flow and “Can I pay my bills this month?” and things along those lines. Really sitting down with a good, strong accountant, taking sure your budget is in place, make sure you’ve got, in my opinion, a good three to six months of cash on-site or on hand so you can get started and not have to have revenue the first two or three months, to be able to get things up and going.
And, finally, I would say, at least in my business, I needed to have some key contacts that I was pretty confident that would become clients fairly quickly. Obviously, these are folks I had worked with over the years in my industry, in search, having either done search work for them through my prior forum or simply having connected with them as potentially a candidate or resource for candidates. There were two to three key individuals when I was debating going out on my own that I reached out to and said, “If I did this, what is the likelihood you and your business would use me for search and things along those lines?” almost that I had not a guarantee because nothing’s guaranteed, but that I had fairly confident assurances that within the first six months, two to three of my key contacts would have some search activity for me, which would obviously provide income, provide opportunities to prove myself and kind of get the ball rolling along those lines.
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
Most entrepreneurs will say they do it to make more money, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I became an entrepreneur so that I could, to an extent, control my schedule better. My goal in my life, to be completely honest, is to be a father first and a husband first, so I did it to be able to go to PTA meetings for my kids’ schools, to volunteer in their classes, to go on their field trips with them. I can’t go to everything and I can’t do every volunteer activity, but, ultimately, my goal was to be able to have a successful business while I raise my children.
Do you have any recommendations for people who want to become entrepreneurs? Any final recommendations on how to do it?
I would say you need to be prepared, ultimately, for the ups and downs. We talk about the stock market, we talk about business revenue, we talk about growing revenue, and I think a lot of people, including myself, when I first started, thought once I got the ball rolling, it would always go up, the revenue stream would go up and those types of things.
The reality is, especially being a small entrepreneur business—I don’t have a lot of employees; I’ve only got one full-time employee; the rest of my team are contract employees I use when I need to, so a fairly small business—there are going to be ups and downs. There is going to be the positive year, and there is going to be the next year, where it’s going to be like, “Where did everybody go?” I think understanding that that’s a) not based just on you as a person is really hard—at least it was for me and understanding that they’re not rejecting me, they just don’t have search for me right now; staying active and, as I talked about earlier, staying focused on making those calls day in and day out even though you’re not getting the results you want right away but staying in the networking and staying in the business of talking to decision-makers and those types of things.
Understanding that there’ll be months you’ll be really high and there’ll be months you’ll be kind of low. That’s just part of the flow, I think, being a small business and entrepreneur. It’s not always just going to go up; it will go down from time to time. Being able to balance that, being able to save appropriately when the times are good, and being able to be frugal where needed when times are a little thin. I’m a big believer in keeping my overhead down; I work out of my house primarily; I lease a lot of my equipment; I lease office space when I need it for professional interviews, so, certainly, spending money where appropriate, but I don’t have a lot of overhead other than my technology background, my database, my CRM, whatever you want to call it, computer, phone, those type things are all top-quality, but I don’t rent office space that I might need four or five times a year; I would rather rent that. Things along those lines. Just understand that it doesn’t always go up; there will be ups and downs in being an entrepreneur in terms of revenue, in terms of your feeling about it, and those types of things.
Thanks for sharing today, Jeff.
You’re very welcome, Dustin, thanks for the opportunity. I hope it’s insightful and enjoyable for your audience.
About Jeffrey M. Crowley
Jeffrey M. Crowley
Founder & CEO of JMC Search, LLC - Executive Search with Integrity