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Utah Business

This month we talked to entrepreneurs at our entrepreneur roundtable who are killing their business goals and setting awesome examples. Here's what was discussed.

A conversation with Utah entrepreneurs

This month, Utah Business partnered with Holland & Hart to host a roundtable event featuring Utah-based entrepreneurs to discuss operating a business in Utah. Moderated by Cyndi Tetro. Founder of the Women Tech Council, here are some highlights from the event.

What qualities do you think make a successful entrepreneur?

Karmel Larson | Founder & CEO | Momni

The two that come to mind most quickly are being a problem solver and a visionary.  All the problems go right to the top and I’ve found that the others on the team, other than the founder, are often quick to say, this will cause this negative outcome or this will cause something to crash or fall. And it’s the entrepreneur, the founder who is saying, no, that won’t happen. I won’t let that happen. Here’s the solution.

Kylie Chenn | Founder & CEO | Acanela Expedition

Being self-motivated. You wake up every day, you don’t have someone saying, this is the list of projects we need to get done. If you’ve designed that for that day, there’s no one, there’s no boss telling you, “Hey, you have got to do this.” So you’ve got to be able to have, and find, that drive to figure out that this is what we’re going to do today. 

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Sean Wilson | Founder & CEO | Chip

Most successful entrepreneurs have kind of two contradictory qualities. One is that they’re a visionary, they want to go change the world. The other is that they have the ability to focus on a single problem for a long time until it’s solved. 

Sara Jones | CEO | InclusionPro

I think it’s kind of a practical skill of being able to manage resources very effectively. Some of us come from big business and happy funders and we’ve got teams to do all the work. All of a sudden you’re the one that has to do all the work. That is a big shift for a lot of people and I think that actually causes a lot of failures, because you’ve got to be willing to do work with very, very little resources.

Moudi Sbeity | Founder & Owner | Laziz Kitchen

In the food industry,  there’s a lot more that happens in the day-to-day, at least on the floor or in the kitchen. I’ve learned, over the past three years, to find this inner calmness or peace among the swarm that’s happening around me. That kind of attitude sets the tone for everybody else you’re working with. 

Ryan Caldwell | Founder & CEO | MX

Clear vision but at the same time, you need to be flexible. 

Kylie Chenn | Founder & CEO | Acanela Expedition

I think it’s also a mix of passionate care. Either for the industry you’re in or for the people that you’re growing with. There are a lot of moments, at least for me, that you want to quit. You want to sell it, you want to do something else. But that passion and that care for the people around you and what you’re building, that keeps you going.

This month we talked to entrepreneurs at our entrepreneur roundtable who are killing their business goals and setting awesome examples. Here's what was discussed.
Copyright 2020 Photo by Melissa Majchrzak

How you have handled adversity and continue to adapt?

Glen Mella | CEO | Axcend

It helps to have a thinking partner, either in a cofounder or even a co-leader, or sometimes just a network of people that are your go-to folks. There are definitely times where you just have those days or weeks where you go, “this is crazy, this is not what we signed up for. This is way different than we anticipated.” And sometimes when you have those moments, you’re thinking partners can say “this is how we can get through this and here’s why.”  Sometimes it can be very lonely and you wish you had somebody to bounce ideas off of. 

Liz Findlay | Founder | Albion Fit

A lot of the people I’ve met are highly driven and highly motivated. A lot of it is luck and hard work but it’s also timing. So you’ve got to be kind to yourself and know you’ve given everything you can personally. I might make mistakes and that’s okay. I’m going to learn from them and get better. 

Jordan Monroe | Cofounder & Chief Innovation Officer | Owlet Baby Care

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It took us three years to get our product to market when we thought it would take two months. So we were consistently wondering, is this even possible to build this thing? We just kept having failure after failure as we built the whole product. One helpful advice an adviser gave us was just to raise the madness. Ask “why do we keep failing?” Then you realize, “Oh yeah, failure is kind of part of this, we’re creating something that’s never ever been done before.”

Kylie Chenn | Founder & CEO | Acanela Expedition

I remember when I first started, I tried to avoid conflict. It was really hard for me to receive criticism. And for me, it’s a mindset shift. It’s a mindset shift as to how you handle failures and how you process criticism or things that go wrong. And now, a big shift for me was stepping back and not trying to avoid that and thinking it’s a bad thing that happened, but actually embracing it when it did and learning from it. We’ve been using that kind of like a pattern within our company on how to train and how to develop leaders. And it’s been a lot less stressful for me.

How do you continually find mentors to help you as your path progresses? 

Megan Burtenshaw | Founder & CTO | Streemly

For us, it is those first few people who were willing to bet on us, beta test our products, give us feedback, and cheer us on. They needed that product as much as we wanted to build it right. Having those kind of customer champions that are willing to do testimonials for you and talk to other customers for you to help grow and scale your business is super crucial.

Kylie Chenn | Founder & CEO | Acanela Expedition

For me, it’s then being able to talk to a lot of different people because sometimes it’s hard to identify this mentor. For me it’s consistently building solid relationships so that I feel confident asking [for advice.]  Chances are, if there’s CEO at a certain stage or a founder of a certain type of company, they probably have. I can draw upon a lot of different insights across industries because everybody handles challenges and growths differently. I’ve found it so valuable to learn how people do it differently. 

Sara Jones | CEO | InclusionPro

There’s a level of vulnerability talking about the challenges you’re having, and I think that we want to protect and make everything seem like it’s going awesome all the time. I think just even in your circles or social circles, I think it’s okay to find the times to just talk a little bit about what your organization is struggling with. You never know if somebody knows somebody that they can connect you with and support. I do feel that our networks want us to succeed.  I’ve just found there are so many amazing people that are willing to help connect you with the right people.

How do you motivate your team to stay on the journey with you?

Brock Blake | Founder & CEO | Lendio

Give them ownership and get out of the way. You hired really good people that are passionate about what they do. 

Keri Anderson | Founder & CEO | RIVN

Regardless of your position in a team, you have a role. I think clearly defining roles and how they contribute goes a long way, and then giving consistent feedback. Also, I think rewarding clear communication of roles and expectations builds a team that can win. You’ve got to find the people that contribute, let them do it, give them that freedom to do it and then help them understand how to reward everybody else.

Scott Johnson | Founder & CEO | Motivosity

As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to fall into a routine where you’re not doing things for the right reason. If you’re chasing a revenue target that you set, rather than chasing the problem that you’re trying to solve, things aren’t going to go exactly to plan. You’re going to introduce a bunch of stress and noise into the company and actually inhibit people’s ability to learn and to innovate in their role because you’re doing things for the wrong reasons. So I just say step back and always make sure you’re focused on why you’re doing what you’re doing and your people rally around that a lot better.

Megan Burtenshaw | Founder & CTO | Streemly

When we fill our teams, we want to inspire loyalty.  At the end of the day, we’re all people. We have emotions. We have our own lives and our own families or whatever. We actually call our team the Streemly family. Everyone that comes in is really a family member. We want everyone to feel welcome and feel like they belong. We inspire that in team members. They work hard. They feel like they belong and they’re excited about their job and they feel like they can grow in their career because they know we care about them.

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We make sure we include their family members too. Like we’ll do team activities where we always invite spouses or significant others and we send swag because we want them to feel like we care about their entire family too.

Clancy Stone | Business Advisor | WBCUtah

There is the crawl, walk, run phase. I’ve always made sure that with any type of role or position I have for a team to understand that role before I put someone in it. The time it takes to get up to speed and to be patient with that person. When I have a new role, its because I’ve found a gap looking at the data. There’s something saying I need something here, but I’m not really sure what it’s going to do. 

If I bring someone in to fill that gap, I make sure I have patience with them. I’ve seen a lot of brands and businesses get in a reactive state and so then they bring this person in. They then demand this sense of urgency and results. Sometimes they miss it or don’t see a blind spot and opportunity. So patience is huge on that.

Sara Jones | CEO | InclusionPro

If we’re talking about finding good team members or board members, I think that you’ve got to really be steadfast in how you’re building your team and be very intentional. I find that a lot of people will approach you and want to work with you and you’ve got to be very clear to who you’re going to say yes to and who you’re going to say no to. You’ve also got to be very clear on what type of team environment you are trying to build. 

I think that’s where the willingness to branch out, build new networks, get to know the people, is important. I have a team that I work with that is super, super diverse. I took the time to get to know them very well, to really understand their life range of experience rather than just the surface of their experience.

How do you handle a member of your team who is in the wrong seat or creating tension?

Liz Findlay | Founder | Albion Fit

There’s a book called Radical Candor that’s awesome. Everyone should read it. Basically, it’s the idea of giving feedback in the moment. You have to care about people, but you also have to be direct because if you beat around the bush, you’re not going to be able to give someone more feedback and they’re not going to know what’s wrong. If you give them feedback without caring about them, then you just come off as a jerk. 

If there’s something wrong, you have to address it as soon possible because as a startup, you honestly don’t have time to waste with people who can’t perform or are making mistakes constantly. So you’ve got to just course-correct as fast as you can.

Scott Johnson | Founder & CEO | Motivosity

For me, if I’m going to go in and tell somebody, “Hey look, I’m going to give you feedback. You’re not performing your role or not, whatever.” It’s not fair to that person to say, “Well that’s just my opinion, you’re not performing but I don’t like how you did this.” When you put the person in the role, if you’ve said, these are the things you’re responsible for, here’s how we want other teams to work well with you, we want them to feel like they’re working well for you.

Ryan Caldwell | Founder & CEO | MX

We want you to achieve these other parts of our hard metrics. If you’ve laid all that out, you made it clear this is the role. Do you want it? Are you up for it? And then they’ve taken it. You’ve created the foundation from day one of what the criteria are for moving into the role. So you’re basically not having a conversation about your opinion versus their opinion. You’re not just having a sit-down and saying, “Hey, how’s it going? Okay, well here’s the role. Do we have the wrong metrics in place? 

It’s a much more constructive conversation. Like, “Well look, this isn’t working out. Let’s try to shift things. Let’s try it.” And it makes it a natural transition that’s more data-based with less personal nature to it. I mean you can have the conversation with a lot more empathy because you already have an agreement of what we’re after. You already have the dragons defined of what you’re going to slay and how culturally value-wise you’re going to slay them. So there’s no ambiguity in the areas that would cause that offense.

Megan Burtenshaw | Founder & CTO | Streemly

I think as an entrepreneur it’s important to define values on day one. That’s something that my cofounder and I did before we came up with our company name. We wrote down what we wanted this company to be and the kind of people we want to hire. We knew it was going to change as we hired  more people. That’s something that we actually regularly evaluate and say, “Okay, what kind of culture do we want? Like how has it shifted? Is this along the direction we want?”

This month we talked to entrepreneurs at our entrepreneur roundtable who are killing their business goals and setting awesome examples. Here's what was discussed.
Copyright 2020 Photo by Melissa Majchrzak