An entrepreneur has to be able to keep going when it feels like all is lost or there is no solution. Having a vision and being optimistic combine to create a tenacious individual.
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Allan Draper.
Allan Draper is a serial entrepreneur, investor, growth expert, attorney, and host of the successful podcast, “The Business Growth Pod”. He specializes in scaling small businesses and helping entrepreneurs transform an idea into a thriving business. Through a dedicated approach to business analysis, Draper has contributed to the growth and development of startups in a variety of industries transforming them into multimillion-dollar enterprises.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I have been an entrepreneur since I was a little kid with a paper route. I’ve always wanted my own business and I put in the work and took the risk necessary to do so. I went to law school and practiced law for a few years before deciding to take the leap and start a business.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I am involved in several businesses and honestly, none of them are necessarily groundbreaking. I wanted to do something to help others and build something that I was proud of. Those things led me to home services. In most cases creating a successful business is more about tenacity and execution than it is about an original idea.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I was born an entrepreneur. It is in my blood. My father and uncles are entrepreneurs. But I had to fight for it over the years. It was important for my parents that I get a good education and as much of it as possible. To their generation, this was the definition of success. For entrepreneurs, education doesn’t hurt but it isn’t necessarily a prerequisite. I had to make sure that my education didn’t pigeonhole me into an unfulfilling career. The way that I did that was to rekindle my entrepreneurial spirit. Focusing on long-term goals and reading about successful entrepreneurs created a passion for the business that I could no longer ignore. I always knew I was going to start a business, after a few years of practicing law I decided it was time.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
In my early 20’s I got to know a church leader who was a successful entrepreneur. He was quiet about his business and money. He didn’t say much about either, but I could tell that he was very successful. He loved organizing and building things. He loved taking something from here and something from there and creating something greater than the sum of the parts. And what’s more, he had little more than a dream and ambition when he started. He immigrated from Canada to California at the age of 16 by himself. He had little more than enough for his bus ticket. He turned that into a group of successful enterprises. He was gracious with his knowledge and time. He was a mentor in many ways and is probably unaware of the impact he had on my life. He always shared information but never offered to help financially-he wanted me to learn the same lessons he had. Lessons that had turned him into a business magnate.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My companies are different because they were designed to give back to the communities they are in. Part of that is our volunteer organization called “proof. Gives Back.” Because of our mission, our companies attract top talent that is interested in more than just money. Our people do a job that they are proud of and build something bigger than themselves.
For example, in 2020 COVID hit a lot of people pretty hard. During that entire time, and continuing today, our team has found ways to better serve our customers who need our help. We have done everything from picking up groceries free of charge and organizing clothing drives to offering discounted or free services to those in need. What’s more, these initiatives were not started by upper-level management or owners. They were started by individuals on the ground floor, who saw a need and wanted their promise to give back to mean something.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Vision- Creating a business and leading are more difficult than most realize. If your reason for doing so is not large enough, quitting is bound to happen. From day one I have been motivated by something more than money. Specifically, I am motivated by giving to my communities and helping to create occupations that others can be proud of.
- Tenacity- An entrepreneur has to be able to keep going when it feels like all is lost or there is no solution. Having a vision and being optimistic combine to create a tenacious individual. Because I believe in what I am doing and I have hope that I will be able to accomplish it, it is natural for me to stick with things and fight through problems when the going gets tough.
- Optimism- When you are positive or optimistic you are able to solve problems that do not at first seem possible. The best way to be optimistic is to be thankful. Every morning I write about 3 things that I am thankful for that day. Because of that, I am able to see the good in my life and world. Just this little exercise allows me to push ahead in the face of daunting tasks.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
This is a tough one because my best lessons have come from my mistakes. And I have definitely made my share of them. The more severe the mistake, the deeper and long-lasting is the lesson.
But if I had to pick one, it would be the advice to not get partners in business. It took me a while to ignore this advice and I don’t want to consider what I would have been able to create with a partner in that time. In business, having a partner is awesome because someone is right there with you, feeling what your feeling, and having the exact same interest.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
I would recommend that they create a vision of the company (i.e. a reason why the company exists) that is disassociated from money. If they create that vision with their team, talk about it, and actually follow through on it, they will find like-minded individuals to join their cause and this will lead to less burnout.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
If business owners follow through on their promises, admit when they are wrong and correct it, and respect their competitors and avoid badmouthing them, the trust, credibility, and authority will come.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
The internet changes the way we do business. If a business loses the trust of a customer, that customer has a platform to share their experience with the world. If you do something right, a customer might share it with one person. If you do something wrong, they will share it with ten.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
- Not allow others to help. A company is like a child and sometimes owners don’t trust anyone enough to help them take care of it. This is problematic because it is hard to scale when the owner is doing everything. If a business owner is proactive about it and works through a scenario about “letting go of the reins” they are more likely to do so. But this is a gradual process. It happens one small step at a time.
- Not spending enough time in the recruiting/hiring process. Business owners can sometimes just fill a seat with a “warm body.” I understand this temptation because business can be so busy sometimes. But hiring the wrong people can cause lasting damage to a company. The way to correct this is to learn about the importance of “getting the right people on the bus.” Many authors discuss this, including Jim Collins in his landmark book “Good to Great.”
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
I always say that owning a business is like being a parent full of highs and lows and very few moments in between. When I look at my kids I rarely think “ya, I guess they’re ok.” It is usually, “my kid is the cutest thing in the world,” or “what was I thinking when I decided to have children.”
It is the same with a business. Some days I look at my business and think about how far we come, how proud I am of everyone, and that I am at the pinnacle of my professional career. Other days, usually when I am putting out fires or running into roadblocks, I wonder why I started a business in the first place. When I worked for someone else, this extreme dichotomy didn’t exist-most likely because I just didn’t care as much. I put my heart and soul into my business. I have risked a lot to get where I am today. That just wasn’t the case when I had a “regular job.”
The funny thing is business owners who spend more time in the middle are in a better position to make logical and reasonable decisions.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
In 2020, at the height of COVID-19, I found out that a customer service team put a plan together in which our staff delivered groceries to our elderly customers who lived alone. This plan allowed our customers to get groceries without exposure to COVID-19 in a grocery store. They also spent hours on the phone speaking to our customers who lived alone and were unable to visit anyone so those customers didn’t feel lonely. I heard about all of this after it was already in place and functioning.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
I had a technician that was involved in a very terrible and unfortunate vehicle accident.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
As a leader, you can have no bad days. To your team, you are a rock. When the lows come, which they do, your employees will be looking for an optimistic and in-control leader. During these lows, when I am scared, upset, confused on the inside, I want to make sure that I am exuding only confidence, resolve, and optimism.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Optimism- When you are positive or optimistic you are able to solve problems that do not at first seem possible. The best way to be optimistic is to be thankful. Every morning I write about 3 things that I am thankful for that day. Because of that, I am able to see the good in my life and world. Just this little exercise allows me to push ahead in the face of daunting tasks. When you are thankful, you appreciate the highs as well as the lows. The highs are what you work for. The lows are what you learn from.
- Vision- Creating a business and leading are more difficult than most realize. If your reason for doing so is not large enough, quitting is bound to happen. From day one I have been motivated by something more than money. Specifically, I am motivated by giving to my communities and helping to create occupations that others can be proud of. Regardless of whether I am experiencing highs or lows, working to carry out my vision keeps me motivated.
- Resolve- With resolves a leader can make the bumps in the road seamless. It is instrumental for employees to have confidence in their leader. Once employees lose confidence in their leader, it is very difficult to earn back. During difficult times, it is difficult to know what the best solution is. With resolve, a leader can immediately get to work knowing that the best solution will be discovered.
- Patience- A great leader is calm during a storm and careful during the sunshine. Patience is a combination of confidence and focus. Patience allows us to know that while we are going through difficult times, there are better times ahead. Without patience, it is difficult to be optimistic.
- Tenacity- An entrepreneur has to be able keep going when it feels like all is lost or there is no solution. Having a vision and being optimistic combine to create a tenacious individual. Because I believe in what I am doing and I have hope that I will be able to accomplish it, it is natural for me to stick with things and fight through problems when the going gets tough.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is the ability to continue on a planned course of action, unswayed by difficulty and distraction.
Resilient individuals are those that are purpose-driven and focused on a goal or achievement. In most circumstances, they are motivated by internal factors (feelings of accomplishment, giving to others, etc.) as opposed to external factors (what others think, money, possessions, prestige).
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
I have had a job since I was 9 years old. From that time until I graduated high school, I delivered newspapers, mowed lawns, shoveled snow, worked on farms, pulled weeds, and worked in a bakery. I did all of this while going to school, being involved in sports and extracurricular activities. There were times that I wanted to quit one or all of those things. But I rarely did. The only way to build resilience is to not quit. Resilience is an attitude more than anything. Most of the time, people quit doing things simply because they want to. They rarely quit because they have to. Just like anything else, the more you quit, the better you get at it.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Staying positive/optimistic is the key to overcoming difficult situations. If individuals are optimistic, they believe that what they are trying to accomplish is possible, they will have confidence in themselves to do so, and they will be motivated to keep trying until they find an answer. Those without optimism will not try to find a solution because they do not think that such a solution exists.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Positivity, like negativity, is contagious. If a leader is optimistic and upbeat, that leader will encourage others to do the same. Because acceptance is so important to human beings, most individuals will “conform” to what others are doing so they will be accepted. Additionally, happiness is tied to positivity. Because happiness is something sought after, others will emulate the positivity to achieve it.
One time one of my businesses had a potential regulation issue. There was a threat of a severe fine or worse. The employee called to tell me about it and I could tell that he was very upset and nervous. When he told me I could tell he was waiting for me to say that this was the worst thing that could ever happen to us and we would never recover. Instead, I said “ok. We have dealt with similar situations in the past. We have a competent team and I am sure we can work our way through this. Also, we don’t even know how detrimental the situation is. We could be making this out to be worse than it really is.” Immediately, I felt him relax and I could tell he was even smiling. His tone and demeanor changed and he said “that makes a lot of sense. Thank you for that. I know we can work through this also.” Because I was actually very nervous about the situation, just hearing myself say those words made me feel better also.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
“The goal is not to live forever. The goal is to create something that will.”
I have been thinking a lot about my legacy and what will be left when I’m gone. This quote helps me put what I am doing in context. As a business owner, I get caught in the minutiae a lot. Doing so is frustrating and can be demotivating. But when I step back and look at the reasons why I am doing things and what I am trying to create, it helps me regain focus. If I can create something that blesses the lives of others, especially after I am gone, that I can deal with the minutiae.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!