This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Ken Burke. Ken is a serial entrepreneur who built a massive enterprise software company and sold it for over $100 million. He then went on to create Entrepreneur NOW, a company that provides over 160 eLearning courses designed for entrepreneurs to help them start, grow and run their business. EntrepreneurNOW courses are also distributed all over the world on over 40 major eLearning sites. Ken has been featured on the INC 500, been named Entrepreneur of the Year, and has authored multiple books, most recently the best-seller, Prosper, 5 Steps to Thriving in Business and Life.
Needless to say, Ken has a wealth of experience and knowledge on how to succeed as an entrepreneur, and I’ve brought him to squeeze every bit I can out of him.
Entrepreneurship is in Ken’s blood. It’s all he knows. It started 25 years ago when he started MarketLive and rode the E-commerce wave. It took 4-5 years before it took off, but they became one of the major players in enterprise e-commerce software. Ken learned a lot through the experience and honed his skills. As things grew, he had to go through the ups and downs of growing and scaling a large business. Sequoia Capital was their large investor and at one point, Ken had his “Steve Jobs” moment where he was replaced as CEO. He was moved to the chairman role and the new “more experienced” CEO was brought in. It was a miserable failure. Ken came back in after 4 years and built things back up and made it very successful selling on a high to a large software conglomerate.
He then started EntrepreneurNOW and is at it again and as he says, it having to learn a lot of things all over again. It’s never the same path.
At the 8 min mark, we talk about how it is different the second time around and just because he was successful once doesn’t mean the same things will work in the next venture.
Talk to us about the state of entrepreneurship as you see it…
- The latest batch of entrepreneurs has experienced another crash.
- Entrepreneurs have had to get a healthy dose of persistence and are learning that the notion of having a startup that maxes value in 3-4 years and the founders cash out is not a reality.
- The VC/Equity money is drying up.
- The cost of capital is much higher, and inflation is causing a lot of issues across the board.
At the 13 min mark, we discuss persistence and Ken’s thoughts.
- “You have to be in the game the win the game.” A lot of entrepreneurs take themselves off the field because they are not willing to persist through the major barriers they encounter.
- Don’t expect things to always go as planned.
Thoughts on the entrepreneur mindset?
- Ken wrote Prosper to help entrepreneurs in this area.
- It is impossible to fail because we are here to learn, grow, and develop.
- Challenges are part of the growth process.
- There is a lot of “You” in the business, so you must build a structure in the business that allows others to come up and help build the business and learn, grow, and develop. Do not let your ego get in the way.
- Be careful not to hamper the ability for your business to grow by injecting yourself too much in the business or letting limiting beliefs stop progress.
Prosper: 5 Steps to Thriving in Business and Life. Can you take us through the 5 steps?
- You take you wherever you go. All your baggage comes with you into business or personal life.
- The healthier you are as a person, the better you are in business and life.
- Step 1: You must accept yourself. Don’t self-sabotage.
- Step 2: Manage your ego. Your identity is not things, money, success, etc., it is internal.
- Step 3: Clarity. You need to know exactly where you are going and have a clear vision.
- Step 4: Take action. It comes down to consistent action. Fear is usually the #1 roadblock.
- Step 5: Gratitude. Serve and live with gratitude for all those around you and part of your journey.
- You must practice these things daily.
What should entrepreneurs know about how to prepare themselves and their business for a sale and what did you learn through your process?
- It starts at the very beginning.
- Covet thy equity. Protect every ounce of equity that you have.
- Never give more than you have to give up when it comes to equity. Stair-step your investment. Take a little bit more at each step to bring your business 18 months into the future at a time.
- Be prepared for a “down round.”
- Manage your board and investor as if they are employees otherwise, they will manage you.
- They must know you are the leader and are in charge.
- Do not have a “parent-child” relationship with your board or investors.
- In the end, you are 100% accountable for everything in your business.
- When going to sell, you must prepare at least 1 year in advance.
- Think about how to maximize every aspect of value.
- Try to find a strategy investor and partner with them ahead of time.
Anything you have seen that has worked for you consistently in building businesses?
- The bigger the problem, the more successful you can be. Start with the problem and find the solution.
- Finances. 3-5 year financial forecast and reviewing it each quarter keeps you on pace and helps to ensure you are on the right path.
- 5 clear, key initiatives per year that you are working toward that everyone knows in the business.
- Focus is widely important. Land and expand. Own a niche first and expand from there.
Best advice for an entrepreneur just starting out?
- Focus. Focus. Focus.
- Master, then move on.
- Take action. Action creates momentum.
Best Quote: You have to be in the game the win the game. A lot of entrepreneurs take themselves off the field because they are not willing to persist through the major barriers they encounter.
Ken's Misfit 3:
- Practice the idea of fulfillment, joy, and happiness on a daily basis.
- Leave your ego at the door. Avoid the judgement of yourself and those around you.
- Know that it is impossible to fail. Growth is at the center of what you do.
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