If small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, then entrepreneurs are the spinal cord. But what’s to gain or lose personally from becoming one? WellWell recently spoke to Marty Park, author of Tiger by the Tail: 99 Secrets to Tame and Master Your Business, about benefits and pleasures of the entrepreneur mindset and also how and why to avoid simply being a cutthroat competitor.
You were running your first business with eight employees at age 21. What was that experience like and how did it lead to your discovery of many of the tips in Tiger By The Tail?
It was very much like the blind leading the blind. I benefited a lot from blissful ignorance. I thought I’d start a business and be retired in a matter of months. Then it turned out to obviously be much more complicated. I quickly had to search and regroup and develop these skills mentioned in the book and figure out a selling process. Then the business started to take off. But it took years for me to really learn and develop these skills. That’s why I wanted to share with people some of these things that I found to be really practical, helpful tools and learnings that they could potentially get a from this book, as opposed to doing what I had done which was accumulating them over 20 to 25 years as a business owner in different industries.
Similarly, you often refer to yourself as a serial entrepreneur. What does that term mean to you and how does it define you?
I like the term either serial or chronic. It took me three businesses before it really dawned on me like, “Oh, maybe I’m an entrepreneur. Maybe that’s my calling” and the title really resonated. Leaving college, my parents were devastated, they couldn’t understand why I wasn’t finishing my degree. But by the second or third restaurant or bar I opened, it become clear I was an entrepreneur. I also realized I could never see myself working for anyone else, I only ever wanted to run the show.
So, for me, a serial entrepreneur is somebody who enjoys the process of being an entrepreneur. It just fits and isn’t based on trying to prove something or necessarily the ego piece, it’s just finding that place of passion for business and building companies.
Many of the tips in Tiger by the Tail highlight the nature of being your own boss. What are benefits beyond the obvious ability to make your own schedule and not answer to anyone?
I think it’s, ironically, the challenge of it. It’s something that drives a lot of people. The satisfaction of seeing this thing you built grow and succeed knowing you faced all the obstacles on your own, it’s indescribable. The freedom is nice but certainly in the beginning, it’s really about personal exertion and hustle. When all that hard work pays off, it’s unbelievably rewarding.
The title of its first section is “Your Mindset is 95 Percent of the Battle”. How crucial is mental wellness to creating and running a business?
The reason I say it’s 95 percent of the battle is that it occurred to me whenever I talked to most people in business, they rehearse what they’re going to say in a meeting. They rehearse everything, especially what they want to accomplish. The successful ones manifest it. It all starts in your mind, everything you dream of. Obviously, working out the logistics to create it is pretty viable no matter what, but you need to vision it first.
What about from a wellness standpoint?
It’s really important. Getting to a place of realizing that you probably have more control over things than you think is everything. 95 percent of the things you stress about really never come true. There’s certainly a pressure where some people get into running a business during that early stages and it’s stressful. It really is a lot of effort. It’s not necessarily paying you back a whole lot a first. It’s stressful because everything’s new and you’re not quite sure how to handle all the problems that are coming at you. But it’s important not to lose track of what else matters, like your health, family and relationships. You can’t let go of those. It all starts in your mind and you manage the creation of a business in your mind but being in a great place mentally is equally critical to success.
You have a fairly positive and optimistic outlook regarding business. It’s not cutthroat or anything like that. How did that impact your career and writing?
Being a student of business, I’ve read lots of books and there’s plenty of people that take that approach. The approach that’s all about killing your competitor. It’s driven by this idea that everything is grind, battle or competition. But in actuality, there’s more than enough work to go around. In my experience there’s an abundance of clients, work, employees, and opportunity everywhere. It does take away the idea that I’ve got to battle for everything, but I find that operating from that positive mindset is way more enjoyable than getting up every morning and thinking about the grind I was going to go through. I just find that mindset to be draining and honestly not super productive.
It’s clear throughout the book that you really love this work, you love business and business development. How much of an asset is that genuine passion for what you’re working on towards growing a successful business?
I think passion is pretty important. Now some say, “Well, I know people that have been passionate about a product or service though they’re a terrible business owner” so I think you also have to also have an intention to say, “I’m going to actually build a business out of this passion.”
I’ve talked to many people over the years that truly love their product or service but really just want it as a weekend hobby. They love their work, but they’re really not interested in making it into a full business. Which is totally fine and understandable, but to be able to have that passion and harness it into a real business can have real benefits. It generates a lot of financial reward and it’s something you can deal in. Then advertising, marketing, and business development all come into play, which are less romantic but equally crucial. I’m a big believer that passion can’t be the only thing but it’s certainly an important thing to longer term success in the business and enjoyment.
About Marty Park
Marty Park is a entrepreneur, business coach, speaker and author. Tiger by the Tail: 99 Secrets to Tame and Master Your Business is his first book.