The challenges of entrepreneurship and tips for starting out

The mind-money connection

Are you dreaming of business ownership? Already a business owner? Or even just looking to advance your career? Bright and Brian talk entrepreneurship and share learnings that can help with any of the above.

 
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Bright Dickson (00:02):

Welcome to “Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian,” where we mix financial advice with positive psychology to help you find joy in staying on top of your finances. In each episode, we share practical advice for managing both your money and your outlook. I'm Bright Dickson, and my background is in positive psychology. Today, as always, I'm joined by my friend Brian Ford, who's an expert in helping people achieve financial wellness and an experienced entrepreneur himself.

Bright Dickson (00:32):

In this episode of “Money and Mindset,” we're talking about entrepreneurship. If you didn't know, Brian managed his own business before joining the team at Truist. We'll talk about his experience and the lessons he learned through his journey as a business owner. You'll hear some things today that can help you on your own journey, whether you're in the throes of your first year of running a business, or simply contemplating an idea for a business. Brian, I'm so excited to talk to you about this. Are you ready to jump in?

Brian Ford (00:59):

Well, as an entrepreneur, you've got to be ready to jump in. So I say, let's go.

Bright Dickson (01:11):

Brian, we haven't talked about it much on the podcast, but you started your own business and had a successful exit. Could you tell us more about that?

Brian Ford (01:19):

Yeah, you bet. Before joining Truist, I started a training and development company called 8 Pillars. It was essentially a workplace financial wellness company where we helped some of the best organizations in the country get their employees in a better place financially. Even though it was tough in the beginning, we started to get things rolling, we landed a few key accounts, and then the business doubled every year for four years. And it was during that time that Truist was looking for a partner to help get their employees in a better place financially, so they became a customer of mine. After we did the program for their own employees, and that was a success, Truist offered to purchase the company and wanted me to come along with it. And so that's how I ended up as the head of financial wellness at Truist.

Bright Dickson (02:03):

That's so cool, Brian. I'm really curious, what led you to start your own business?

Brian Ford (02:09):

Well, I've always loved personal finance since I can remember, since I was little, and I love reading about personal finance, but the idea to create a company really started in college. I remember coming up with this idea and running the idea by one of my business professors. I was like, "OK, here it is." I think this was for one of my projects, but it certainly was more than just a project. I really felt this inside me and was excited about it. And I said, "I want to start a financial education company, but I want the financial education to be fun and engaging, not dry." And he's like, "Yep, check. You can do that." And I said, "I also want the content to be research-based, and I don't want it to be tied to any type of a product." I wanted kind of this no-strings-attached approach to just financial literacy. And he was like, "Yeah, no doubt about that."

Brian Ford (02:55):

And then I got to my third idea around the business and I said, "I know a lot of people who need this can't afford to pay for it or maybe they're not willing to pay for it or something." And so I said, "I want the majority of the people that go through the financial education to not have to pay for it." And he paused and he’s like, "Ah." He's like, "You want to start a nonprofit?" And I was like, "No, no, I want this to be a for-profit company. I actually would like to sell the company at some point, the intellectual property, and I want it to be a profit-based organization." And he looked at me and he was puzzled. He basically told me that it was a naive idea, but I could tell by the way he was telling me this—he used the word naive, but basically the way he was saying it, he was like, "Brian, that's dumb. That's crazy. How in the world do you give someone something that they're not going to pay for and you have a for-profit company?"

Brian Ford (03:49):

So look, I just kind of filed that feedback away. I didn't take it too seriously, but I said, "You know what, he's got a point. I don't have all this figured out quite yet.”

Brian Ford (03:57):

But I do remember my dad always teaching me, you need to set the goal first, and then you see. You can't just see first. You can't figure everything out before you set this big goal. Well, I ended up graduating and going into a totally different industry. And what I did was I helped HR professionals better attract and retain, recognize employees. So I got to know the mind of human resource executives really well. And as I got more seasoned in that industry for about five or six years, I had kind of a lightbulb moment. Because I never stopped loving personal finance. I never stopped learning about it. In fact, while I had that job, I went back and got a master's in personal finance, and I was always preparing to do my own thing, but I just still couldn't see how I'd make it work. Well, it was at that time where I was like, "Man, would companies ... Would they value this financial education enough to actually pay for it for their employees as like a B2B offering?" Which had never occurred to me when I was in college.

Brian Ford (04:56):

So I started to dabble and talk to HR folks and they said, "Yeah, I think we would." And so I started to create the content and before you knew it, I had started my business. And after the business had been going for a couple years, I looked back at that original idea—financial education company, fun and engaging, no strings attached. And that third part that my professor told me that was naive, it was actually better than I thought, because not only did all of the people who went through the education not have to pay for it, about half of them got paid to go through it because a lot of the companies that we set this up for allowed their employees to go through the program on company time. And so that's how I got started. That was the genesis. It was just a passion for personal finance and to do something different that led me to workplace financial wellness in the end.

Bright Dickson (05:46):

That's so interesting, Brian. I love hearing that story. There's a lot in there that I would love to build on and ask more questions about, but one thing that stands out is the importance of consciously defining what success means to your business from the outside, and really having those predefined goals in your mind that you're working towards directly. So another question for you, Brian: as you look back at your experience as an entrepreneur, what are some of the things you learned or maybe something that stands out as a really important takeaway?

Brian Ford (06:21):

Yeah, as I look back over those years, I'd say one of my biggest takeaways is the importance of building relationships. It's the idea of attracting like-minded people to your business. I can say with certainty, I would've never succeeded without the help of so many other people who shared my vision. So how do you put that into practice? I mean, if you're listening to this, my recommendation is to first get really good at explaining, with passion and simplicity, what the business does. Maybe this is a short 30-second to one-minute version of this. Now, you can have your three-to-five-minute version for sure, but when you only get a little bit of time with someone, you've got to really be ready. And then once you've got that down, then do all you can to share that message with as many people as possible.

Brian Ford (07:08):

I mean, that might look like joining your local chamber of commerce. There's lots of different networking groups, which I joined. Reach out to people in your current network, through social media platforms. And then also, it's kind of simple—I mean, you don't realize this, but a lot of people will ask you, "What do you do?" Or, "Tell me about your business." I mean, anytime someone learns that you're starting a business or you're new or a CEO, and if someone asks you, "What do you do for a living?" be ready. Be ready with that 30-second to one minute, because you just never know when you're speaking to someone who can help push your business along.

Brian Ford (07:42):

And beyond the obvious importance of building a loyal customer base, you just never know when you might be speaking to your next investor, your next top employee, a partnership opportunity. Maybe it's even a vendor. I wouldn't discount the power of vendors. Every time we partnered with a vendor and needed something, I made sure they understand, with passion and simplicity, what we do and how they're going to help [push this] thing along. And if they weren't excited about it, then they probably weren't the best vendor. But I'll also say that it's not just those different folks that can help your business along. You might actually be speaking to someone who can introduce you to these important pieces of the business puzzle. So for me, looking back, I'd say a big one is just the importance of building relationships and attracting like-minded people to your business.

Bright Dickson (08:26):

Yeah, 100%. Relationships are one of the key parts of well-being in general. So it's not just that you're pushing your business along, it's that making those relationships is fulfilling in its own right. And I think as I look back, some of the most important people in my life are people who I've met through work, right?

Brian Ford (08:46):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bright Dickson (08:47):

They enrich our lives, and relationships are important because they push your business, but also because we need them. We need good, strong relationships to be well. And that in and of itself is going to help a business.

Brian Ford (09:01):

Yes. I agree. It's fun to look back because you just never know where it will go. I mean, in my case, all of this has led me to this moment right now, hosting a cool podcast with an awesome co-host.

Bright Dickson (09:12):

Oh, right back at you, man. I mean, you never know where things will lead.

Bright Dickson (09:18):

I'm sure you have a few more tips for our listeners who want to start a business. And I have some strategies for staying sane while doing that. We'll cover that in just a minute.

Bright Dickson (09:37):

OK, let's get a little more detailed, Brian. If our listeners were starting a business, what are some of the tips that you would suggest? What do they need to know?

Brian Ford (09:46):

A couple of ideas come to mind. First, the importance of having a strategy and then executing on that strategy. We know we need a business plan and a good strategy. That's kind of Business 101. However, I found that the best entrepreneurs that I know personally are really good at executing on that strategy by holding themselves and their teams accountable to big goals. So it's that execution portion. It's not just this great idea that I have for a business or an invention and so forth, and then you get the plan, and you print maybe your business cards or set up your social media platforms. That's a given, but really it's about executing on that plan.

Brian Ford (10:22):

I remember early on in my career, another CEO teaching me the difference between doables and deliverables. Doables, like sending emails, attending meetings, they can make us feel like we're busy and we're working hard. And they can be important, don't get me wrong. But we need to constantly be asking, is this action actually delivering results? Is what I'm doing delivering on my strategy and helping the business grow? I love that idea that I ... That's something that really helped me as I kicked things off. I focused on deliverables rather than just doables.

Brian Ford (10:59):

And then the second thing that comes to mind is the importance of having a financial confidence account. We've talked about this in past podcasts, Bright, and you know that I'm a big proponent of individuals having an emergency account. I would say that concept, while important for everyone, is doubly important for an entrepreneur. So if you're thinking of starting your business or if you've just kicked it off, get that three months of living expenses in an account. And it's funny that we call it a confidence account. I mean, that's very much on purpose. We don't call it an emergency account, because when you have one of these personally, it can give you the confidence to take that next step, take that risk when it comes to starting a business. And it can make all the difference in the way you feel about starting your business, as opposed to just, "Oh well, in case something bad happens, I've got this emergency account."

Brian Ford (11:50):

But Bright, really the angle that I want to take with this is I think entrepreneurs need a financial confidence account specifically for the business. This isn't talked about as much, I would say, but I have found that companies that have not only good cash flow, but a good cash reserve are in a much better position to weather a storm or a curveball that they didn't see coming. So again, I think it's important for entrepreneurs to have one of these as an individual or a family, but then also set one up for your business. Call it, “(Whatever your business’s name is) Confidence Account,” and put a little money away every month as that revenue comes in to set aside some cash for unforeseen business events.

Brian Ford (12:34):

Those are a couple that come to my mind. But I will say, Bright, I want to get into the mental side of starting your own business because I know this is very real for entrepreneurs. I consider myself a pretty even-keeled person. In fact, those who know me best, like if you were to speak to my wife, known me for 20 years, she would describe me as that. She would say, "Yep, Brian's pretty even-keeled. The highs aren't that high and the lows aren't that low. You kind of get what you get. He's steady, he's reliable. He doesn't get nervous very often." I can be in front of a crowd of 300 people and speak on a stage and not get that nervous.

Brian Ford (13:16):

Having said all that, Bright, I remember in the early days of starting my business, I would be in the shower, just getting ready for the day, and I was so anxious that I would throw up in the shower. I even get anxious telling this story because it brings back such memories of fear. And I would, I'd just be in the shower and boom, I would throw up, and I'd be like, "What am I doing? Is this crazy? You've got a wife and children, and is this the right thing? Am I qualified for this?" It was tough. So, Bright, what I'm getting at is, help me and our listeners—how do entrepreneurs stay sane while building their business?

Bright Dickson (14:01):

Oh man, it's such a challenge. I mean, first of all, Brian, thank you for sharing that very honest story about throwing up in the shower. It brings me to my first point here, which is that it's really important to know your stress patterns and what you do when you're under stress and what puts you under stress, and to plan for them.

Bright Dickson (14:27):

Before we get into talking about that stress pattern, let's remember, and we've talked about this in previous podcasts, that stress isn't always bad. Stress, like most things, is on a bell curve, and most of us have a pretty high tolerance for stress. We call that good stress, but there's this tipping point. For all of us, we have this tipping point where we get too stressed, it's too much, and our performance starts to decline and we start exhibiting some behaviors that help us process this stress, but they don't always do good things for us.

Bright Dickson (15:03):

Brian, I've got to say, I'm happy to know that you’re also a stress vomiter, because I have done this in the past, too. I remember a moment in college where I threw up and it was not a good situation, but it was related to just some stress I was under at the moment. So that's good for us to know that we do that, because it's a red flag of like, whoa, you need to do something. You need to take more care of yourself. You need to calm down a little bit.

Bright Dickson (15:30):

So remember, one, not all stress is bad, that's not true. But when you're in that cycle of bad stress, you’ve really got to address it and nip it in the bud. And part of the way to do that is to know your stress patterns. So, track what happens in your body when you're under stress. Does your heart rate go up? Do you get tense somewhere? Note that stuff down as red flags so that you can be aware of them in the future and then address what's going on.

Bright Dickson (16:00):

You might also see behaviors like withdrawal. You might see behaviors like lashing out. All of that stuff. Just know that that's likely to happen, because when you're an entrepreneur, when you're starting a business, it's going to be stressful. It's not going to be a peaceful walk in the park. You're going to have to make important decisions. You're going to have to change your plan sometimes. Things are going to happen that are going to put you under stress. So go ahead and plan for that. Know those stress patterns, know what they're about. What is it that's getting you so stressed? What's the root of it. Usually, it's something really important to you. So just know that. That in any moment, something bigger is going on, and this stress is significant towards something that's bigger right now.

Brian Ford (16:47):

Yeah. I couldn't agree more. I actually wish I better understood some of these strategies when I was starting out. I'd add to that too, that as you were talking, I was just thinking, and I remembered how important it was for recovery. I mean, we're going hard, we're pushing hard, we know we need to set goals. I mean, I just talked about the importance of deliverables and setting big goals. However, you've got to step back every once in a while. You've got to realize that recovery is just as important as the sprinting, and we can't keep sprinting unless we do take time to recover. And that will be different for everybody, but find those things that allow you to recover so that you can continue to sprint when you need to as an entrepreneur.

Brian Ford (17:27):

Well, Bright, when I talk to other business owners about the early days, kind of the tough days, I'd say nine out of 10 say something along the lines of how I felt. And I felt like some days I could completely just conquer the world. And then other days, I doubted myself and I wondered, "What in the world am I doing?" So Bright, how do entrepreneurs avoid this roller coaster of emotions?

Bright Dickson (17:55):

Here's the thing: The roller coaster is part of the deal. So when you're starting a business, in some ways you're signing up to ride that roller coaster. You've got your ticket, you're in line, your car comes up and you're on the roller coaster. So it's less, I think, about avoiding the roller coaster of emotions, and more about staying on the roller coaster and not flying out of it, but also not puking over the side of your little roller coaster car. So, it's really normal and appropriate to have a lot of emotions when you're under stress. These kinds of highs and lows, they're normal, appropriate, and they're human. So it just means that you're a human starting a business and not a robot starting a business. Right?

Brian Ford (18:50):

Yes.

Bright Dickson (18:51):

Some ways to sort of think about this: One, and we talk about this all the time, it's our go-to line about controlling what you can control and focusing your effort and your thought towards the actions based on what you can control and not trying to control what's already out of your hands. This is something that all entrepreneurs have to deal with. Something that's not in your hands, like the economy. Like, the general American economy is not in your hands. You don't have control over that. You have control over how you respond to it.

Brian Ford (19:24):

Yes.

Bright Dickson (19:25):

So really being able to focus in on the control piece, I think is really helpful. Does that make sense to you, Brian, from someone who's really lived this?

Brian Ford (19:33):

Aw, absolutely. You'll drive yourself crazy if you worry about all the stuff that you could worry about that's just not within your purview or control.

Bright Dickson (19:44):

Another piece here is really cultivating that growth mindset. Growth mindset is work that has come from Carol Dweck over at Stanford University. It's essentially sort of how you approach and what you believe about your own ability to grow and change really matters. So essentially growth mindset means that like, "Yes, I believe that I can grow and change, and the way that I do that is through effort." And if you have a fixed mindset, basically your belief is around like, "No, I don't think that my most basic qualities—things like intelligence, abilities, personality, all of that—I don't think that they're changeable and therefore it doesn't matter if I try or not because they're not changeable."

Bright Dickson (20:31):

What we see with growth mindset is that people who have a growth mindset or actively work to cultivate a growth mindset, they're way better at adjusting to failure. Correct me if I'm wrong, Brian, but you probably made some mistakes, not everything worked all the time. Is that accurate?

Brian Ford (20:49):

Oh, yeah.

Bright Dickson (20:50):

Yeah.

Brian Ford (20:50):

Absolutely.

Bright Dickson (20:51):

That's part of the deal. That's the roller coaster. So knowing that you're going to make mistakes, there are going to be failures along the way. That's really important to go in knowing that, so that when it happens—because it's not if it happens—when it happens, you're going be able to need to bounce back. And the way to do that is through a growth mindset, so that “I can change and I can do that with effort. That's the way that I do that.” So cultivating that growth mindset, I think, is really key here. It also helps you take feedback in a way that's useful instead of a way that's not useful. If you want to learn more about that, I really highly recommend that you look into some growth mindset stuff.

Bright Dickson (21:34):

Last piece here on the roller coaster is to remember that you are not on that roller coaster alone. This is not a solo ride on the roller coaster. There are other people who are doing similar things who are on the entrepreneur roller coaster. So go find them. It's really important whenever we are doing something, that we have people who can relate to us and to our experience. It helps us feel validated, it helps it feel more real, and it also can help it feel more OK. So go find other entrepreneurs, talk about your experiences, talk about your failures, your successes, and really how you're feeling about it. Open that door to those kinds of conversations and you're going to have more fun. You're probably going to find relationships that can help your business, and also you might make some friends. We've talked about the importance of friendships and relationships to your well-being. So go find other people who are going through this similar thing.

Brian Ford (22:37):

I love that, Bright. You said a few things in there that I really resonated with. You're right about relationships. I started this podcast out about talking about relationships, but I was looking at it from the standpoint of who can help your business move forward? Is it going to be an investor, a potential partner and so forth, but you've brought it back around and you've also highlighted the importance of relationships from a psychological standpoint and a mental well-being standpoint for our entrepreneurial listeners, which is so true.

Brian Ford (23:08):

When I would chat with other entrepreneurs and they would say something like, "Man, some days I'm feeling awesome, and other days I'm like what the heck's going on?" I was like, "Yes!" And then we would bond over that. That's really cool, but you said something even more that I loved, which was, "Brian, when you're chatting with that entrepreneur, you shouldn't be surprised that that's the way it is because you're human and it's OK and completely normal to have those highs and those lows. In fact, it's expected." You even use the word, "If you didn't experience that, you're probably a robot, you're not a human." And that, you know, even though I'm not even going through that right now, it made me feel better. So I appreciate that information, and I think it's cool that we just brought it back around to relationships. I like that a lot.

Brian Ford (24:00):

I also just want to mention to all of our listeners, I think it's important to keep in mind that the ideas and mindset that we've been discussing about entrepreneurialism, it's equally as important if you work for an organization like Bright and I currently do. Building relationships, executing on your individual kind of team strategy, setting goals, focusing on deliverables, not just doables. That's a big one, by the way, I think in organizations. Focus on deliverables, not just doables. And focusing on, Bright, what you talked about, which is what you can control. We need to remember that all of these things will help push our organization forward and open doors to some wonderful opportunities and maybe some career advancements.

Bright Dickson (24:46):

Absolutely. I mean, there's so much to learn from all of this, but really those relationships. Relationships make the world go round and they're going to be key wherever you are.

Bright Dickson (25:03):

Well, that's all we have time for today. Thanks for listen to this episode of “Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian.”

Brian Ford (25:09):

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe on the podcast platform of your choice or send it to someone you care about.

Bright Dickson (25:16):

Don't miss our upcoming episode, which will be all about buying a home in a crazy real estate market. How can first-time homebuyers stand out? How can you stay optimistic when you lose out on a home you want? Brian and I will talk to a special guest who can offer tips from her own experience in the industry. If you're in the market for a home, it's going to be a good one.

 

Introduction

For some, entrepreneurship can bring great satisfaction and financial rewards. But whether it’s an internet-based solo venture to sell your professional services or a local brick-and-mortar store to sell your handmade goods, running your own business is a challenging endeavor.

However, there are general skills, strategies, and mindsets that can help you be successful. And for those who aren’t business owners, there are lessons learned from entrepreneurship that can be used to make any career more successful.

In this episode, Bright and Brian get candid about the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, discussing:

●      Brian’s own personal experience as a former business owner

●      The importance of relationships (whether you work for yourself or an organization)

●      Strategies for protecting your mental well-being throughout the journey of starting and running a business

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This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, or mental health advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, mental health professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.