16 October 2019

On today’s show, Robert Leonard talks with entrepreneurship expert Gino Wickman. Gino is a serial entrepreneur, founder of EOS Worldwide, and a best-selling author. He looks to share what he’s learned throughout his two decades of studying entrepreneurship and as an entrepreneur himself. 



  • What it takes and what it actually means to be an entrepreneur.
  • The biggest myths currently surrounding entrepreneurship.
  • If college is a pre-requisite for success when starting a business.
  • And much, much more!


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Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors may occur.

Robert Leonard 0:00
On today’s show, I talk with entrepreneurship expert Gino Wickman. Gino is a serial entrepreneur, founder of EOS Worldwide, and a best-selling author. We talk about what it takes and what it actually means to be an entrepreneur, some of the biggest myths currently surrounding entrepreneurship, if college is a pre-requisite for success when starting a business, and much, much more. Gino looks to share what he’s learned throughout his two decades of studying entrepreneurship and as an entrepreneur himself. I hope you guys enjoy this fantastic conversation with Gino Wickman.

Intro 0:35
You’re listening to Millennial Investing by The Investor’s Podcast Network, where your host Robert Leonard interviews successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, and investors to help educate and inspire the millennial generation.

Robert Leonard 0:58
Hey everyone, welcome to the show. I’m your host, Robert Leonard, and with me today I have Gino Wickman. Welcome to the show, Gino.

Gino Wickman 1:04
Pleasure to be here.

Robert Leonard 1:06
For those listening that don’t know who you are, can you please walk us through your background and how you became an expert on small businesses and entrepreneurship?

Gino Wickman 1:13
Yeah, you bet. I always say I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 21 years old. So I did not go to college. I could not wait to get out of academics and so out of high school, I kind of went out and found myself. And through various things, you know, realized that I don’t want to work for someone. I’m unemployable and you know, I want to work for myself. So through my early 20s, I did various things and ultimately I ended up taking over the family business. So I took over the family business when I was 25 years old.

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When I took it over, it was in dire need of a turnaround. It was deeply in debt and I really felt I could save it and so over a seven year period, I turned it around, got it growing nicely healthy, and then we decided to sell. There were three partners: my dad, myself, and then a third gentleman. We successfully sold the business and then set off to pursue my next endeavor. During the experience with the family business though, I got involved in an organization called the Entrepreneurs Organization and I was surrounded by other entrepreneurs. And that’s when I really got my calling and realized the opportunity that existed in the world to help entrepreneurs.

And so, upon selling the family business at around 32 years old, I took an entrepreneurial leap to help entrepreneurs and ultimately built a system called EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System and wrote several books around it. The main book is Traction and I built an organization that has now helped about 70,000 companies build, grow, and run better businesses. We have a team of EOS *inaudible all over the world, over 300 people that help companies implement EOS. I did that with a partner of mine, *Don Tinny. We successfully sold that last year. And when I was 40, I said when I turned 50 that I’m going to devote my energy to helping entrepreneurs in the making. And so I’ve now gone to the front end of that entrepreneurial journey to teach what I needed the most and that’s helping entrepreneurs in the making get a huge jumpstart on taking their entrepreneur leaps. And that led me to writing Entrepreneurial Leap. And that’s the fastest version I can give you of my story.

Robert Leonard 3:09
Before we dive into a tactical conversation about entrepreneurship, I want to start at a high level, it seems the popularity of entrepreneurship is growing rapidly lately. And because of that, I think there are various definitions of what it actually means. To you, what does it mean to be an entrepreneur? And what does it not mean?

Gino Wickman 3:27
Yeah, that’s a really good question right now, because everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. I’ll start by giving my definition of what an entrepreneur is, and then I’ll share a little bit of context that I think will really help answer your question. So the definition, and its simplest form to me as an entrepreneu, is someone who has an idea, sees a need, sees an opportunity, has a product-service and takes a risk to start a business to take that need to the world, to bring that solution to the world, to bring that product or service to the world, and then builds a company, builds an organization around that product-service need with people, ultimately building and growing an organization. And so that’s the definition.

What will help answer your question is there’s something I created and I teach called the entrepreneurial range, which should really crystallize this. And the range, if your audience can picture in their mind, the far left end of the range, if you just picture self-employed people, and then on the far right end of the range, you picture what I call true entrepreneurs. The answer to your question, to me is a true entrepreneur is on the right side of that range. These are people that possess six very specific traits, which we’ll talk about in just a little bit here.

And these are the greatest picture, the greatest visionary entrepreneurs of all time, be that Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Oprah, Sara Blakely or Elon Musk. And so it’s the people on the right half of the spectrum are the true entrepreneurs in my mind. The left end of the spectrum are people that are self-employed, and there’s no disrespect. In other words, these are also people, they’ve taken risks. They’re putting themselves out there. But these are people that are again, self-employed,. They’re one person shows, they’re solo entrepreneurs, they might be freelancers, they might be a consultant, it might be somebody that bought one franchise location. And so someone on that left side of the spectrum, I really don’t consider to be an entrepreneur, but again, I highly respect them. And they’ve, you know, obviously taken their own leap, but I consider those to be self-employed people. And so hopefully that indirectly kind of answers the question as to what is and what isn’t an entrepreneur.

Robert Leonard 5:38
So what is the biggest myth surrounding entrepreneurship that you would like to debunk? And what is the actual truth?

Gino Wickman 5:45
So it’s that anyone can be an entrepreneur. And so with this book, and this content and this message, it’s a little controversial because you know, I don’t believe anyone can be an entrepreneur and I don’t believe it can be taught. And so the myth is that you can learn to be an entrepreneur. Or that becoming an entrepreneur, you know, there’s a process, there’s a system, there’s a set of steps, when I just do not believe there is. And so I always say an entrepreneur is something that you are, it’s not something that you do.

It gets back to that point, which is, if the myth is true that I’m describing that everyone can’t be an entrepreneur, the actual truth is then that entrepreneur is someone who has six essential traits. And I call them essential traits, because you have to have them to be an entrepreneur. And those six traits, I’ll just articulate them at a high level is visionary, passionate, problem solver, driven, risk taker, and responsible. And so I say that because those are the traits when I look at all of the work I’ve done with many, many, many entrepreneurs. Those are the traits and the common threads that run through these very successful entrepreneurs. And again, I believe that you are born with those traits, you cannot learn them. And so with that, it’s again, I believe it’s a myth. But some believe that you can actually learn those things. And you can learn to be an entrepreneur. And I just don’t believe that to be true.

Robert Leonard 7:12
I think that’s really interesting because the rise of entrepreneurship classes in college is rapid. I remember back when I was in college, my first year, there wasn’t many people in the entrepreneurship program. And by my senior year, or when I was doing my MBA, almost everybody in the business school was going into entrepreneurship. And I’ve seen that not even just at my university, but across other universities. I think that’s really interesting. And then you also have the non-traditional education. So like, accelerator programs, where they’re trying to take in startups and teach them how to be entrepreneurs. So it’s really interesting that you say that it can’t be taught.

Gino Wickman 7:44
It’s my humble two cents. I could be wrong. I don’t believe that I am. But that’s my belief.

Robert Leonard 7:50
The subtitle of your new book, “Entrepreneurial Leap” is “Do you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur?” So what exactly does it take to become an entrepreneur?

Gino Wickman 7:59
It takes you possessing those six essential traits. And so now to go a little deeper into those traits, taking them one at a time. Number one, visionary. It takes you having that genetic encoding, that you have lots of ideas. You are able to connect the dots, you have this sixth sense, you’re able to see around corners and somebody with that visionary mind, you just have this way of connecting the dots, seeing a bunch of data points and bringing them all together. It is so clear to you. But you know, most people just don’t see things the way you see things.

And the second is passionate. And so it’s… you’ve got to be passionate and it’s in the passion… is passion for your product, your service, your thing, the company you want to build. It’s this relentless passion that and it’s this strong belief that you are going to take your thing to the world, no matter what it takes. People can’t talk you out of it. So it’s this deep passion. Number three is that you’re a problem solver, is that you inherently lean into problems, you don’t run from them. You are a creative problem solver. And so whenever there’s a setback, you lean into it, you are an optimist. By nature, every cloud has a silver lining. And so while other people are seeing problems, you’re seeing solutions.

Number four, it’s being driven and driven is different than passion, where passion is for your product and your service and your thing. Driven is about this desire you’ve always had to be successful, an internal fire, a sense of urgency. You’re competitive, you want to succeed, you’re self-motivated, you hustle.

Number five is that you’re a risk taker. You’re comfortable taking a risk more than just the entrepreneurial leap, but making really tough decisions along the journey in building your company because you’ve got hundreds of tough decisions you’re going to have to make to sustain your company, evolve your company. And when you come up against those tough decisions, you don’t freeze, you lean into it, you make that tough decision. You’re rebellious… your nature is to be rebellious and you’re willing to fail, you don’t plan to fail, but you’re willing to fail.

And then the sixth one is that you’re responsible. You take total responsibility for the outcome, total responsibility for what you’re about to create. If something goes wrong, you look at yourself first, as opposed to blaming others. And there’s two types of people in the world when there’s a problem. Half the world takes responsibility, the other half looks for who to blame. And so you’re the kind of person that just takes responsibility. And so that would be my answer to that question.

Robert Leonard 10:34
It’s become somewhat of a hot topic these days, whether somebody should go to college or not if they want to pursue entrepreneurship, and I know you mentioned that you didn’t go to college. But for someone else, do you think it’s necessary for them to go to college if they want to be an entrepreneur?

Gino Wickman 10:48
Well, I’m biased obviously. And so this is a really interesting topic that I’m very passionate about. And I, for the last 25 years of working with entrepreneurs, have asked that exact question. And so there’s an entire chapter in this new book, Etrepreneurial Leap, on college or not. Because you know, what I’ve learned is in no way, is this an anti-college book and am I an anti-college guy. And so the question I would ask is, I would ask these successful entrepreneurs, is there anything you’re learning from your degree that you’re using as an entrepreneur? And in every case, they say no. So I got very biased for the first 15 years and was very biased.

But then I started asking the second question. And the second question was, what did you learn in college that helped you become a successful entrepreneur? And it was a whole different answer, because I would then also say, knowing everything you knew now, would you go back and most of them would go back to college. And what they said that they learned, though, was not about the academics. It had more to do with the social benefits and the testing ground. And so it was all about relationships because they look back at their relationships from college. And they’re capitalizing on those relationships in their business and their opportunity to play a little bit and experiment with entrepreneurialism and sell stuff to their fellow students. So it was a completely different place that I would have guessed that they were learning. But you know, most of them said, they would go back and it was all more about the social benefits.

And I just go very deep into that topic, because then there’s the actual statistics. And it’s really interesting, because the statistics are that 44% of entrepreneurs have a degree, which means 56% of all entrepreneurs, successful entrepreneurs don’t have a degree, but it’s darn close to 50-50, but certainly more. And so it’s a decision that is left to each person.

And if you have the six essential traits, I personally believe either way, you’re going to be successful because you’re genetically encoded to be an entrepreneur and you are an entrepreneur, you just have to decide for you. You know, for me, I’d love to go study Psychology for a couple of years, because I’m very passionate about that. But again, I knew for me, academics were not for me. I had to get as far away from academia and get to work as I possibly could you know, once I graduated high school with my solid 2.3 GPA. So anyway, it’s an individual decision. I write an entire chapter on it, all the facts, a list of successful entrepreneurs that have a degree, successful entrepreneurs that don’t have a degree. And so it’s a personal decision.

Robert Leonard 13:28
I really like that you say that, because that’s exactly how I think about it. I think there are so many people that have been successful with entrepreneurship that don’t have degrees, and then there have been plenty that have degrees. So I definitely think it could go either way. But I think what’s really interesting about it is you learn a lot of soft skills that I think help in entrepreneurship, you’re not going to learn entrepreneurship, just like we talked about. You learn organization, you learn how professional communication, how to speak in front of people, how to give presentations, things like that. I think it’s those soft skills that I personally have benefited from the most in my entrepreneurial journey. So I think those have value but maybe not so much your specific degree or what you studied, but the soft skills.

Gino Wickman 14:03
Yeah, it’s interesting because as I think about it, it probably took me a little longer to develop my soft skills, because I had some pretty hard skills, you know, taking the battle hardened approach that I’d taken. So that’s really insightful.

Robert Leonard 14:16
Yeah, you know, I mean, for me, there wasn’t a ton that I think that I got out of college. But one of the things was my professional communications. I went into college where I could not talk in front of anybody. Then I had a professional communications class, the professor was amazing. And now, I mean, I host the podcast, I talk to people, you know, I host networking events. I do all kinds of things where I talk in front of people all the time, and I’m super comfortable with it. And I can pinpoint that back to that exact class. And that’s exactly how I got over that leap. Now, it’s well known that the majority of businesses fail in the first five years, what have you witnessed as some of the most critical mistakes entrepreneurs make and how should they be avoided?

Gino Wickman 14:52
You know, with that, back up one step and create a little context around this because you know, my personal mission around this book in this content is to greatly increase the success ratio. Because it’s abysmal, like you said more than half of startups are out of business within five years. And that’s terrifying. And when I say that, there’s really two ways I want to hopefully change that trend. The first way is the controversial one. And that is, I believe, if you don’t have the six essential traits, you should not take an entrepreneurial leap.

And so it’s talking people out of taking this leap that shouldn’t take this leap because there’s some percentage of those failures are people that don’t have the six essential traits. They’re not entrepreneurs in the making and so they should have never taken the leap. And so all the sudden you weed all those people out, the success rates going up. But the second is just as important and this book is written in three parts: Confirm, Glimpse, and Path. And so the whole confirm, the first third of the book, is helping someone to confirm whether they even have those six essential traits or not.

Then Glimpse shows them a glimpse of what their life could look like, all of the options and opportunities as an entrepreneur. And then the third part, Path, it’s into showing them a path that I believe I can help them eliminate half the mistakes they’re about to make. They still need to make the other half. It’s all part of the learning process. It’s what helps you learn.

And so I say all that to get back to the second part, and that is, in all of my work with entrepreneurs there’s actually a chapter, in one of the chapters in the book, is the eight mistakes to avoid. So to your point, what are the mistakes? I believe there are kind of the top eight mistakes almost every entrepreneur makes when taking their leap. And I learned this because our clients that come to us with EOS, these are the mistakes that they made and the issues they’re suffering from and we help solve them and so there are eight. So I’ll try and kind of get through them kind of fast for you. But my goal is that your audience that’s considering taking a leap will heed this warning and get ahead of the curve. You know, the reason I was able to launch and grow EOS Worldwide is I was fortunate enough to have made these mistakes, learn these things. And so I was able to avoid all of them, quite frankly, and I’m not bragging but it’s possible to avoid them. And so here they are, take them one at a time. And I’ll just try and give a quick kind of nugget on each one.

The first mistake is not having a vision. And so what that means is that an entrepreneur takes a leap, sets out, and I’m not talking about a business plan, and we’ll talk about that and some concerns around writing business plans when you’re taking a leap, but this is just they don’t clearly have a vision. And so they are rudderless. And they’re kind of winging it.

The second mistake is hiring the wrong people. And so it’s so common that you’re growing your business, you’ve got your startup, you’re just throwing people at the problem. You need people and you’re hiring your brother, your sister, your cousin, your friend, your mom or your spouse. And a lot of times these aren’t the right people for you long term and you’ve find yourself a year, two years, three years, four years down the road having to make very tough decisions because these were not people in alignment with your core values and with your culture. And so we have clients coming to us at EOS Worldwide, on average, they have to get rid of 20% of their people. And the most extreme is when they have to get rid of half their people because they realize, “Holy cow, these people don’t have our core values” or “These people are in the wrong seat.” And so that mistake is all about hiring the wrong people. And I get into some prescriptions for making sure you’re hiring the right people. But bottom line is make sure you hire people that are in alignment with your core values and have the skill set to do the job that you need them to do.

The third mistake is not spending time with your people. And so this one is in every case, I’ll summarize it in one word, it’s communication. The issue that the client brings to us is it’s communication, that communication is poor. We’re not communicating. And so a classic entrepreneur mistake is you’re just going hard all day every day and people are just kind of following your orders. And the only time you’re talking to them is when there’s a problem. Well, you have to be proactive and you have to meet with your people every week, you have to sit down with your people face to face every quarter. And you need to give feedback often both ways open and honest. If you just do those three simple disciplines, the communication will go through the roof and your people will feel like you’re keeping the circles connected.

Fourth mistake is not knowing who your customer is. And so it’s so important as you take your entrepreneurial leap, you know exactly who your customer is, the demographic, geographic, psychographic of your ideal customer so that you’re not trying to be all things to all people and taking this buckshot approach. And so the way to solve that, again, is you get crystal clear on who they are, where they are, what they are, and make sure that your messaging is targeting them. Make sure you’re focusing on them, make sure you’re obsessing about their needs and it will help you create a laser focus on your customer and grow your business even faster.

Fifth mistake is not charging enough and this one is so rampant and so common. And the truth is people are afraid to charge what they’re truly worth. And so most of these businesses are going out of business because economically, they just can’t stay afloat. They’re bleeding money. And what’s ironic is, you know, a 10% increase drops 10% of the bottom line, and some of these companies, they’re breaking even, and just with a 10% increase to fees or pricing drops 10% of the bottom line and all of a sudden, you’re now generating a 10% profit. And so the idea here is your job is to make sure you are providing value to your customer, but make sure you’re educating them as to that value so that you can charge what you should be charging them because again, most companies are undercharging for their product or service. And so not charging enough is a cardinal sin. There’s a great rule of thumb, my mentor, one of my mentors, Dan Sullivan teaches and he says when it comes to pricing, think about the number that scares you the most and then add 20% to it. And by the way that is held true for 20 years of my life since he taught that to me.

Number six is not staying true to your core. And so, a successful entrepreneur that takes a leap, you know, wows their customers and clients, is going to get distracted by shiny stuff, because success breeds success, and you’re gonna have lots of opportunities coming at you. And if you try and capitalize on every one of those opportunities, you’re going to get really distracted, and it’s going to potentially put you out of business. So the idea is to absolutely stay true to your core, your sweet spot, what it is you started the business doing so that you don’t get distracted by all the shiny stuff.

Number seven is not knowing your numbers. And so this one, another cardinal sin, and so many entrepreneurs take their leap and for the first one, two, three years, everything is based on gut feel and waking up every morning in a cold sweat and then asking five people a bunch of questions and then all of a sudden you start feeling calm. Well, if you just simply know your numbers, have a weekly scorecard with five to 15 numbers in it, look at your monthly P&L, have a budget in place, even if you’re just starting the first month, the six months, the 12 months. These things are vital so you know your numbers.

And then number eight is not crystallizing roles and responsibilities. And it’s this one is always so odd for a startup that has one employee. But I tell you, even if you have one employee, two employees, three employees, it’s so vital that everyone knows their role, so that everyone’s focused on contributing value. So you’re not tripping all over each other, and you don’t have this amalgamation of people, because it’s so inefficient. You’ll get so much more accomplished, you’ll grow faster if everybody knows exactly the role they’re playing in growing that company. So that’s the fastest I can give you of the eight mistakes, but those are the most common mistakes.

Robert Leonard 22:36
So out of your eight that you just listed there, I think it’s really interesting to point out too is that almost half of them were about people. And there’s so many things about people that you need to get right. And if you can get your people right from those various aspects that you mentioned, but if you can get your people, right, I mean, you’re halfway there.

Gino Wickman 22:51
Exactly right. It is all about people at the end of the day, if you’re going to build an organization and let’s go back to that entrepreneurial range, if you’re just going to be self-employed, solo entrepreneur, one person show… Listen, man, life is heaven because you don’t have to deal with people. But if you want to build an organization and you want to grow and build a company that does multi-millions of dollars, it is all about people. So great observation.

Robert Leonard 23:15
I wanted to touch on the price that you talked about, too. I think that’s really interesting. How do you work on that dynamic if you’re in a competitive space? Or if you have even just a couple competitors? How do you set what you think you’re worth? Say a company thinks they’re worth x, but there’s a competitor who is charging y and they’re undercutting you, or you know, they’re obviously working at a much lower margin just because they want to take that market share. How do you adjust or how do you attack that dynamic?

Gino Wickman 23:41
Well, the first thing I would say the best work I’ve seen done around this is if your audience would go to you know, you’ll find it on YouTube, but just google Casey Brown, CASEY, Casey Brown, she is the expert on this topic. So it would take me 30 minutes to give you the perfect answer and looking at her work, watching her TED Talk. It’s 15 minutes. It’s really powerful. But the short answer is, you know, I don’t know a business where pricing isn’t competitive or it isn’t competitive that you don’t have competitors.

And so what I’m trying to say is really two things fundamentally that I’ve learned is number one, people are undercharging for their service. And so I can’t tell you how many times I’ve advised a client and urged a client to raise their fees, and they seamlessly raise their fees. There are no hiccups or road bumps. And again, simple math. If you raise your fees 10%, that’s 10% that drops to the bottom line. It might be 5%. It might be 2%. But the point I’m making is fundamentally people are undercharging. The second point is you have to do a great job educating your customers and clients. You’ve got to do a great job making sure you know exactly what your customer and client needs and know that you are providing them value. And so if you’re not doing that and you are fiercely competitive with other competitors in pricing, it’s probably really stupid to raise fees. But if you’re providing value your clients and customers can’t live without you, they understand the value, then my experience shows you’re able to charge a premium over your competitors.

Robert Leonard 25:18
Yeah, I think right now is an interesting time. And I think Uber and Lyft are really good examples to look at that because those two are essentially in a price war and they have been and now that they’ve IPO-ed, they’re both struggling to really gain profitability, and maybe they need to just take your advic. Raise their fees, focus on providing value, providing the best experience they can, and maybe they can get to profitability that way.

Gino Wickman 25:39
Yeah, you know, that prompts such a great point, because in this work that I’m doing and who I’m teaching, the reality of it is my life has been working with entrepreneurs of privately-held companies that have tended 250 employees, okay? And so these are typically $2 to $50 million companies, maybe S2 to $100 million companies. So I’ll be frank, I don’t know what Uber and Lyft should do with their pricing.

I don’t think I’m smart enough to advise that. But what I can tell you is the kind of companies that I’m working with, these everyday companies, the 95% of the companies that exist on the planet, you know, so the billion dollar tech unicorns, that’s not who I’m speaking to. That’s not who I’m trying to help. I think it’s a fallacy to lead any of these entrepreneurs in the making to think that anyone can build a billion dollar tech unicorn company or you should build one because most people are not cut out for that and not equipped for that. It’s a whole different ballgame. You know, being public, having lots of investors, it’s just a different game than the world I live in, which is 95% of the businesses that exist on the planet. So hopefully, that point came across clearly.

Robert Leonard 26:54
Yeah, I absolutely love that. You said that because that’s one of the things that I’m probably the most passionate about when it comes to entrepreneurship, is you don’t need to build a billion dollar company in order to be successful. I think back to your point is half of the people that are failing in entrepreneurship are failing because they’re not the right people. But I think there’s another percentage in there that’s probably pretty big that are failing because they’re focusing on growing too big. If they took it back a step and realize I could build a 5, 10, 15, 20 million dollar company and generate $500,000 a year and income for my family, that’s life changing. People don’t need a billion dollars.

Gino Wickman 27:28
Here, here and you know, and again, so I want to be careful not to get into too many of my biases, because it’s not fair. But listen, if at the end of the day, your job is to do nothing, but please a bunch of shareholders and investors and turn your company into 100 billion dollar company so that everybody can win, I think your decisions and your thought process is a little skewed where the world I live in, it’s all about obsessing about the customer and what they need and providing them value. And those companies tend to be profitable and well-run. There is no shame in building an amazing $5 million company that throws off at 20% profit. And so again, it’s just a billion dollar world is not for everybody. And it’s just a different game.

Robert Leonard 28:12
Absolutely. And when you think about it, really from 5 million to even a billion at a 20% margin on the 5 million business, there’s not much that you can’t do with a $5 million business that you can do with a billion dollar business, unless you want a private jet or an island. You know, outside of those things, you could do almost anything you want in life. So I think that’s really important to keep in mind. So now, what is a piece of advice that you often hear given to new entrepreneurs that makes you cringe or shake your head because you don’t believe it’s true? And how would you correct that to make it to be good advice?

Gino Wickman 28:43
Yeah, I love that because that we’ve kind of almost pre-answered that question because there’s three things that come to mind when you say that and I wish I could get it down to one but I cringe… Number one, when all of the press and all of the articles and all of the news in business is around these billion dollar tech unicorns, I cringe at that, because I just think it’s such a fallacy to lead people to believe that that’s what entrepreneurship is. And it certainly is, and at its highest level, but like we’re talking about, we’re talking about the 95% here, so I cringe at that. And then I also cringe when I see the teaching for entrepreneurship, being about raising money and how to raise money.

And when I see it being about writing a business plan, because number one, you know, the statistics show that about 95% of startups don’t seek outside funding. They’re built off of savings, or they’re borrowing money from family and friends, but they’re not going out and they’re not raising funds outside of their sphere of influence, like 95%. And so why on earth would you spend a second teaching an entrepreneur how to go raise funds, when there’s a 95% chance they don’t need to go outside and raise funds? And then in the work for this book in the research, you know, I asked all of my clients these questions and it held true these percentages because 95% of them never raised an outside dollar.

Same thing with business planning. I asked every one of them, you know, did you have a business plan when you started your business? And like 96% said, “No.” And if you think about it, why on earth would you need a 10 page business plan, if you’re not going to seek outside funds? What you need is just a simple vision, a vision statement, you just need to get your vision on paper and get it to your people.

So I just cringe when the teaching around entrepreneurship is how to raise funds or how to write a business plan. And then you know that how would I correct it to make it good advice is you literally already said it and we just talked about it. It is… there is no shame in building a $3 million heating and cooling company that throws up a 25% profit. It’s just the teaching, the hype, and the media is I just think it’s focused on the wrong thing because that’s where most of the world is making their money, on those kind of businesses. And you don’t need to go out to venture capital and angel investors to build something like that. My partner and I built EOS Worldwide. Our funding was $1,000. We started that company with $1,000. So you can bootstrap just about anything.

Robert Leonard 31:18
So going back to your point about business plans, do you think it limits creativity? Do you think creating a business plan can almost hurt somebody?

Gino Wickman 31:25
I think it’s silly. I think it’s, you know, there’s that old saying that says, “We plan and God laughs.” And there’s like 1000 variations of that old proverb. So your plan is going to change so many times. It’s crazy. I mean, just sit there and put days and weeks and months of thought into this 10 page document that it’s all going to change within months. It’s downright silly. So that’s my concern. Yes, it absolutely destroys creativity because it is so challenging to take a startup to the first million dollars, $2 million because it’s changing daily. And you got to keep bobbing and weaving, adjusting, and evolving to what your customer is telling you, with what’s happening with the product or the service. Yeah, so you’ve got to be nimble, flexible, and be ready to turn on a dime, not read a document every day to make sure you’re on track with every word in the document. So in my opinion, it crushes creativity.

Robert Leonard 32:17
And for everyone listening, I think it’s very important to realize here what Gino saying is that you need to have a vision, you need to know where you want to go. But you don’t need to have a 10 page business plan to do that. So you do need to be prepared, you do need to know where you want to eventually take the business but you don’t necessarily need that step-by-step guide in the business plan.

I’m also curious to get your perspective on this other thought I’m actually pretty passionate about, that I try and help other entrepreneurs with is you could spend, you know maybe a couple weeks to a maybe a month or two months working on a business plan. And then maybe you get down the line and you realize that the businesses is unscalable or it’s not going to work out for whatever reason. You wasted all of that time. Now if you just didn’t do that you could have done things that actually matter for that business.

And I think that’s something I’m passionate about teaching people,is focus on the things that really matter. Don’t worry about those types of things. You know, I see people create business cards and you know, t-shirts and business plans. And I think they all go into the same thing where they’re not making a material impact on the business and they’re not driving the business forward, and you’re just wasting all of that time.

Gino Wickman 33:17
Now, my thought on that is, you know, I kind of already said it. So we’re in total agreement and in sync on that, that I just think it’s a gross waste of time to put that kind of effort when the reality of it is if you know, it’s all starts with you having an idea, you having a product, a service, a void you want to fill, something you discovered. And so assuming you do that, now you’ve got two choices, hunker down for the next three months and write a 25 page business plan, or go out and sell one of these things that you created. Just go out and find one person that will buy it. I mean, that’s the reality. Because it’s not valuable, it’s wrong. It needs a change, but that’s where you’re going to learn the most than hunker down in your living room typing out a plan for, you know, days and hours and weeks and months. So just get out there and just sell one. And then once you sell one, then sell two, then five, then 10, then 100, than 1000, then you have a company. I mean, that’s really how the process works.

Robert Leonard 34:16
And if you know, say it takes three months to do the business plan, say if you skip that step, and you go right into building the business and halfway through, you realize it doesn’t work. So now you spent a month and a half. Now you’re on your second idea. Now you have a month and a half on that. You can go through multiple things. And now you know you have time to try multiple things and know your first thing might not hit but you have time to keep trying things.

And so I think that avoiding the business plan is a good way to do that. Now, we’ve talked about how the first step shouldn’t be or possibly shouldn’t be building a business plan. So if there’s someone listening to the show right now that wants to become an entrepreneur and has an idea that they’re really passionate about, but they just aren’t sure how to get started, what should be the first step that they take?

Gino Wickman 34:54
What I would say is if you think you have a good idea, if you think you have a product and you think you have a service, go sell one. The number one best thing you can do is go sell one. And that is where you’re going to learn. That is where you’re going to evolve. That is where you’re going to figure out if you really have something. And so to your point, and if you don’t, if nobody buys it, that’s okay. Then you’ll create something else, you’ll have another idea. But step one is you just got to go sell one and see if people even want it. Don’t go ask your mom’s advice. Don’t go ask your brother’s advice. Don’t go ask your boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse’s advice. These people are not the people that are going to cut you a check for your product and you’re not getting the real answer. Go to a real customer. And if they’re not willing to pay you money for what you’ve created, you don’t have anything. That’s the painful truth.

Robert Leonard 35:46
Yeah, there’s such a big difference there between somebody that likes the idea and somebody that’s willing to pay you their hard earned money for what you’re providing as a service or selling as a product.

Gino Wickman 35:57
Here’s an example. Okay, so I’ll use a real life example with me. And so shoot forward in time, I created EOS and started EOS now, probably 20 years ago. And here we are 20 years later. And I can’t even think of the exact number, but it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 sessions that we’ve done with companies. And I think that’s the number, but it’s roughly that number.

And so I go all the way back to the very first session I ever did. So here we are 20 years later, 50,000 sessions with 7000 companies. Well, I did that first session just to see if they found value. And the truth of the matter is I did that first session for free just so I could practice on someone and they had value. And then the second one I did I charged for and then each one I did my fees kept going up. It enabled me to practice and hone and try this service that I was trying to create. So that’s the point I just did one and then I did two and then I did three and then 10 and then in here we are, you know 50,000 sessions later. That’s how you grow and build a company.

Robert Leonard 37:02
So over those 20 years, if you were to summarize everything that you learned from being an entrepreneur yourself, but also from the thousands of entrepreneurs that you’ve helped, what is the number one piece of advice that you’d give a millennial listening to the show today?

Gino Wickman 37:16
You know, I have a really strong belief, entrepreneur or not, if you want to be successful at anything, whatever it is, work hard. And this is going to seem so trite and so silly and so obvious, but it is amazing how many people don’t work hard and how easy it is to succeed, if you will just work hard at anything. If you will just work hard, you will outwork most of everybody and things will happen and line up for you that you didn’t even expect because other people notice how hard you work. So just work hard. If you want to be successful, the rest takes care of itself.

And then a little side note, I always like to share and convey, and very appropriate, because this is an investing podcast, is please save 15% of everything you earn for the rest of your life. That’s the other thing. It is so easy to become a millionaire. And that’s talking to millennials, this is different advice. It’s not easy when you’re 55. But if you’re 25 years old, oh, you will be a millionaire. And I know your audience probably gets that, but it’s just so easy. Pay yourself first, save 15%, cut back wherever you need to cut back to make that happen. And you’ll be a millionaire at whatever you do.

From an entrepreneur standpoint, the one piece of advice I would give, if your audience feels that they might be an entrepreneur is figure out if you have the six essential traits. Again, my strong belief in my experience is that if you don’t have them, you’re just not going to be on that right end of the range. And I want to head off that pain for you. But my God, if you have those six essential traits, look out, go forward, pursue your passion. And so that would be my advice.

Robert Leonard 39:03
Absolutely love all that advice. Thank you so much for your time, Gino. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. I know you’ve added a ton of value for our audience. Where can the audience go to learn more about you and all the different things that you have going on?

Gino Wickman 39:15
Yeah, so best place is the website https://e-leap.com/

And so that’s where they will see you know, the blogs, the articles we write. Certainly more podcasts that we post, that’s where they can take that free assessment. There’s actually a free chapter of the book and so the first 25 pages of the book, they can download for free and get a little taste of what the book is.

Robert Leonard 39:35
I’ll be sure to put a link to Gino’s website, his books, and all of his other resources in the show notes so you guys can go check it out. Gino, thank you so much. Look forward to talking to you again soon.

Gino Wickman 39:45
Robert, I had a blast. Thanks!

Robert Leonard 39:47
Alright guys, that’s all I had for this week’s episode of Millennial Investing. I’ll see you again next week.

Outro 39:53
Thank you for listening to TIP. To access our show notes, courses, or forums, go to theinvestorspodcast.com. This show is for entertainment purposes only. Before making any decisions, consult a professional. This show is copyrighted by The Investor’s Podcast Network. Written permissions must be granted before syndication or rebroadcasting.


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