Moderator Note (Andy): Patrick is a member of the YEC, an invite-only nonprofit membership organization that provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business's development and growth. Each month they send out entrepreneurial-related questions to its members for publication on their site and are also made available to the media. Here are Patrick's recent answers:
What motivates you day-to-day as an entrepreneur?
Waking up every day knowing that we have built something that is reaching millions of people motivates me. Knowing that we have an incredible opportunity to both educate and entertain students looking to learn more about a confusing and opaque industry also gets me excited to wake up for work every day.
Overall, our mission of becoming the most useful and entertaining finance community motivates me. I know when I was on Wall Street and even as an undergraduate, I could have used the support network that Wall Street Oasis now provides for thousands of active members each year. Recruiting is especially tough nowadays with a weak economy...if we can help motivated students gain an edge while trying to make critical career decisions, then we've accomplished our mission.
What is the best way to analyse the most viable business idea before moving forward?
Ask yourself three questions:
#1 What is your unique value proposition that makes you different from your competitors?
#2 Is that difference enough to make your potential customers choose you? and
#3 Do you have the expertise and are you passionate enough about the business to run it as a hobby until you build a large enough following?
Without a good enough #1, it's unlikely you will break through the noise. If the difference in #2 isn't solving a big enough issue, people likely won't care. If you don't have expertise and passion, you likely won't have the endurance to see an idea through to fruition. I would say #3 is the most important, because you can still be successful doing almost the same thing as the competition if you passion and expertise shine through.
With the end of year fast approaching, what are some tips to keep your team energized -- and brainstorming -- for the year ahead?
I think it is important at any time of the year to keep open lines of communication and touch base to make sure the team is all pushing in the same direction and can understand what every person is struggling with. We've had some great insight when the team comes together and someone expresses a problem they've been facing...that includes sales, web development and content.
What's one small but effective thing a business owner can do tomorrow to boost sales in Q4?
Try changing the buttons on your conversion pages to stand out more. So, for example, if you a predominantly blue theme, try making your buttons green. You might be surprised that something as simple as a color could increase your conversion rate 10-50%.
What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received and live by today?
Do not micro-manage and instead focus on finding people you can trust to do a good job. Give people opportunity to expand, learn and challenge themselves.
What's one memorable way startups thank their customers this time of year? Be specific.
Instead of the standard Happy Holidays newsletter, having some giveaways to your best customers will keep them coming back. We actually prefer to thank our best customers at random times, not the standard holidays like everyone else. We think a "Thank You, just because" is more memorable than a "Thank you and happy holidays" message.
What was your biggest "fail" as a new founder or CEO, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest fail as a new founder was to give people too many chances. I had some tough contractors in the early days of my business that would repeatedly not deliver on time or on budget. Instead of moving on, I would plow through the projects with a sub-optimal partner that was not really committed or reliable. I have learned that the time it takes to find the right people is well worth the effort, so I'm not as scared to move on if someone is not working out.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about finance and business before graduating from high school?
I wish I had fully understood the idea of ROI better. My education cost my parents a lot of money and I think it was valuable in providing me a great foundation, but I also think there are more cost effective ways of educating yourself.
Stay tuned for later in this week when I'll post part 2 of his answers