The Young Entrepreneur Council, Proud Media Partner of CEO GOLF:
Nav Athwal is the Founder and CEO of RealtyShares, an online curated marketplace for real estate investing.
Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
My father. He has been an important mentor and advisor, not only in business but also in life. He came to the United States over 30 years ago with nothing, and he put four kids through college and built a very successful business while still prioritizing family.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Quitting is easy and keepingatit is hard; do the hard things. This has always resonated with me as an entrepreneur. There will be plenty of rough times, but persevering during those times is what makes the difference between a successful entrepreneur and an unsuccessful one. Building a business is hard and not for the faint of heart. Being a founder is often a lonely job. This can lead to entrepreneurs losing faith in their company’s mission/vision or letting their company’s culture suffer. Don’t let that happen.
Ben Horowitz wrote a book about this very concept that highlights the difficulties of running a company when times are hard. It is during these times that a CEO can really shape their company’s vision,culture and their own leadership.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Hiring people only for IQ and not for EQ. Hiring is one of the most important aspects of building a company. Of course, hiring talented people is key to a company’s success. However, that alone isn’t sufficient. Hiring smart, talented, high IQ people is important, but so is the cultural fit of those hires. Accordingly, hiring for EQ is just as important (if not more important) as hiring for IQ.
I’ve learned this the hard way. Early on at RealtyShares, I hired very intelligent high IQ folks that put their ego before the company’s success. This had a negative impact across the organization. When hiring people now, cultural fit and EQ are central to the conversation and interview process. If a person is smart, intelligent and talented but doesn’t have what it takes to fit within the company’s core principles, they will never be hired at RealtyShares.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I like to isolate myself for the first hour of every business day and go over the things that I really need to get done that day. As your company grows, your calendar and email will only get crazier. Be sure to prioritize the right things and take on the day knowing what those priorities are. My hour of isolation allows me to accomplish this.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Manage your burn and don’t buy growth. When money is fast and loose, too many entrepreneurs believe they can grow their business in a way that isn’t scalable (i.e. thin margins, high customer acquisition costs, etc.) because that next round is just around the corner.
That is a mistake. A successful business is defined by the team, product, customer experience and eventual profitability of the business, not the amount of venture capital it can raise. Too many entrepreneurs forget this.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Surround yourself with strong mentors and advisors. As a first time entrepreneur, I know what I don’t know. I’ve surrounded myself with mentors and advisors that have been there and done that and can help me think through challenges and be an important sounding board for difficult decisions.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Building a product/business that customers can’t get enough of. Building a business is ultimately about the customer and the value that the business can provide that customer. Once your business has created a product or value proposition that customers cannot get elsewhere, you are on your way to success.
You will know when you’ve finally succeeded in your business when your customers are willing to pay for that value proposition and that value proposition appeals to not only early adopters, but also to a much broader potential customer segment.