What was the first business you started?
My first business was a mechanical contracting business which I started with my partner in 1976. I was still very young and had a lot to learn.
What is your background, and did it help you get where you are today?
During the early years of my first business, most of our customers were franchise brands like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and many more. This was my opportunity to learn about franchising.
How did the idea for your current business come about?
The current businesses I am currently involved in have all stemmed from my early days as an entrepreneur. I am always wondering what else we can do to serve our customers better and what other products we may provide to them that would fit our current model, and we would be able to execute with “Best in Class” service.
What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
Since my first job at the early age of 14, I wondered what we could do better, whether it was the restaurant that I worked in as a busboy or any of the jobs after that. When I could start a service business since I was already in the business working for someone else, I knew I wanted to do it, and I knew I had the passion for doing it better than anyone I have worked for in the past. Since then, I have always enjoyed entrepreneurship, and I truly enjoy going from one mistake to the next… Very enthusiastically!
I enjoy taking risks, and I try to take a calculated risk, and I enjoy the opportunity to see some of my vision come to reality in whatever I do.
Did you raise funding for your business or bootstrap it?
As a young man, I always was interested in engineering, and I wanted to go to trade school. My dad thought I was just wasting time, and we made a deal. I would pay for the engineering school while I was attending by working nights and weekends. If I did graduate, he would have the money waiting for me and re-inverse to my tuition. I graduated at the top of my class, and my graduation present was my full tuition returned to me by my dad. I used that tuition money to start my first business, buy my first service truck, and purchase the parts I needed to get started in my business.
How did you build a successful customer base?
I always pride myself on building personal relationships, especially with the initial customer base for any of the businesses I have been involved in.
Customers are just simply people who need a product or service. Any of us in business has a unique opportunity to serve and provide that product or service better than anyone else. Customer service and customer relations are what I love best about business in general. Regardless Of the product or service, you will always know what Is best for your customers and your employees if you have passion.
Which marketing tactics have been the most successful for you?
Marketing tactics continue to change and evolve and are certainly different in the many businesses that I have been involved in. Technology has allowed us to step up our game and be much more effective and efficient in our marketing efforts. I always try to focus on the messaging as I believe it is very important in any marketing type. My philosophy is “keep it simple” No need to overstate or over-engineer your message to a consumer who may not be aware of your product or service.
My rule of thumb in marketing is “always state the obvious.” How many times have we all seen a commercial or an advertisement and have no idea what the company does or what the product is?
This is a simple rule that everyone should follow in whatever you are marketing or advertising can certainly be done in the simplest format.
What kind of culture exists in your organization, and how did you establish it?
Culture is a very tricky word. All entrepreneurs aspire to develop an amazing culture within their organizations. That is certainly a tall order. Culture typically comes from the top but not always. How many times have we seen mission statements that are so long that no one can remember them? I’ve been a trans financial, and our mission statement is simple.
“We make every client a champion.”
All of the staff members at Benetrends Financial can certainly remember that line and can certainly practice our simple policy and mission to make every client a champion. Culture also requires the senior leadership team to live the culture and mission statement in the most obvious ways. That allows The entire organization to be aware of their actions at all times. It is not prudent to allow the culture to get in the way of building a solid profitable organization that is dedicated to the customers and the employees and is an organization that everyone is proud to be part of.
Can you describe your typical day?
My day starts at 5:30 AM. I usually do not set the alarm, but my body clock wakes me at 5:30, whether I like it or not. I typically take 20 to 30 minutes in the morning to get my thoughts together, walk on the treadmill a little bit, make my coffee and get my day started.
Time management is something that many entrepreneurs struggle with. I’ve taken several time management courses over my years, and humbly enough, I have learned how to better manage my time and have become better at managing my time and schedule with my direct reports.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Family life and work is always a balancing act for every entrepreneur. Today, it is even harder to separate ourselves as we carry our mobile phones and devices with us everywhere we go, whether it’s the office, the car, or our homes. We have access to everyone in our personal and professional lives, making it even more difficult to balance. There are times when my personal life and my family Are certainly my priority, and there are times when my professional life is my priority. That doesn’t mean that you have can’t do both. When I am on vacation, which is not often, I will always take time every day to view my emails, make a few calls and take care of business. Conversely, if I am in the office for long periods of time, I will always check in on my personal life and take care of anything I may need to do. I think the secret Have a good balance has been for me to prioritize and manage my time as best I can.
What motivates you?
I am a servant leader, and I am very philanthropic. What motivates me is when I can help others become more successful and help those that may be less fortunate than others.
How do you generate new ideas?
New ideas are easy for me. I have an amazing vision and see beyond what may be visible. That allows me to expand on whatever I am thinking of or working on. It is hard to describe, but it is so clear in my mind. My theory is that every good business today was just a crazy idea yesterday. If you believe in that and are willing to take some risk, great things can happen.
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
Truthfully, my greatest fear is my health and the health of my family. That is something none of us can control. We take good care of our bodies and hope that we are healthy for as long as we can be. None of us have any idea how much time we have left, and none of us can make enough money to buy one more minute when our time is up. We must always consider that as we live our lives To the fullest. When my time is up, I know that there is nothing I can do, and I do not fear death. If I fear death, I will for your life, and I do not want to do that. I want to live my life to the fullest.
How do you define success?
Jimmy, success is the ability to achieve your goals. They will always continue to change and evolve. I also believe that no one can have success unless they also have a failure. There are two words that some up success for me… Health and happiness for me, my family, and the many people in my life.
Do you believe there is a pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
As I share with many of my friends and colleagues, I believe that I became successful the day I lost my ego. I guess everyone has an ego at some point in their life; I certainly did. It seemed to get in my way a lot and prevent me from really being successful in terms of what was really important to me instead of when I perceived what is important to me through my ego’s lens. Having an ego was fun, but I hope I never get one again 🙂
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur is very rewarding on a personal level and professional level. My favorite aspects of entrepreneurism are that I can be creative, be independent, help others be successful, and build an organization that all of us could be proud of. Being a successful entrepreneur, he’s not easy for anyone. Every morning when I get up, I know there will be obstacles in my way; however, I just don’t know at what time they will surface or what types of obstacles they will be. I do know, with certainty, but I will overcome those obstacles and get where I need to go at that moment.
That being said, the way you address obstacles defined you as a person and an entrepreneur. At all times, I try to consider what is best, not just for me but also for the organization and the people involved in the decision. All decisions are multi-dimensional, and without multi-dimensional thought, you may make decisions that may be shortsighted in the long run.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
What is most satisfying to me is to see a dream become a reality. That has happened several times in my career and knowing you are capable of building something that is in your mind and making it really is most rewarding.
What are some of the mistakes you wished you could’ve avoided?
The very costly ones!
Truthfully, I have probably made mistakes with people, and I have probably hurt feelings along the way, not knowing that I have done so. Those of the mistakes I wish I would’ve avoided the most. People are the most important thing to me now in my life, and I am very conscious Of treating everyone with dignity and respect regardless of their status.
How did you handle adversity and doubt?
To be honest, I never struggled with doubt. Probably to a fault, I was always able to make decisions and live with the decisions I’ve made. I’ve never procrastinated and doubted myself at times where decisions needed to be made.
Adversity has never been an issue for me. I have a 25-year-old son who was born blind, and his twin brother died at birth. I’ve never considered that a difficulty or a hardship, and instead, I have embraced it. My son is very independent and lives alone in Nashville with his guide dog, and is a very successful music producer. Together, we started a foundation to help blind and visually impaired children adapt and Live a very normal life. I never felt victimized and always looked at an opportunity to see if we can make it better or who we can help with our knowledge.
Are there any books you suggest other entrepreneurs add to their “must-read” list?
My latest read that I enjoyed is a book titled “Thank You For Being Late” by Thomas L Friedman, who is also the author of “The World is Flat” It is an optimist guide to thriving in the age of accelerations.
What is a favorite quote from an entrepreneur that has inspired you?
“ try to be interested… Not interesting“
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Welcome to the wonderful world of entrepreneurism. Try to get rid of your ego as quickly as possible and treat everyone around you with dignity and respect.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
I am currently working on a few new projects that are very exciting, and I am very excited about technology and where it is taking us. Stay tuned…