Being consistent. Not every day has to be an absolutely great day, nor will that happen, but being consistent in how you carry yourself makes things easier for everybody.
Kent has lived nearly twenty-five years in the Wasatch Mountains of Northern Utah, but he traveled out-of-state for college, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from Linfield College in Oregon and a Master’s degree in Technical Communication from San Diego State University. He worked as a Lead Technical Writer for industry-leading companies like American Express and FLSmidth, then transitioned into a Software Project Manager for BioFire Diagnostics.
In his three years as Software Project Manager, Kent improved the usability and grew the influence of BioFire’s nascent quality management system by overhauling the system’s document search capabilities and adding multiple quality trackers to trend business goals.
Kent is currently a Grant Writer/Researcher for the Park City School District which strives to increase access to quality education for the community and to improve its curriculum. Working in various industries has diversified Kent’s skillset and has shown him numerous perspectives on how to solve problems.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
The idea to become a grant writer came from my parents. When I was young, they saw that I had a passion for writing, and they helped me to develop and hone my passion by encouraging me every step of the way.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Beyond the obvious of writing and editing grants, meeting with individuals willing to offer grants is probably the most important part of the job as it allows me to get any questions I may have to be answered directly by the source. It is important for me to be prepared for these meetings to ensure I ask the right questions and, thus, receive the information I need to complete a particular grant. An incomplete or incorrect grant proposal can slow down the process considerably or, even worse, result in an outright rejection of the grant funds, so it important to get the details right the first time.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a pretty strong believer in conceptualizing your ideas first before really diving into it head first. This is essentially the “investigation” phase where I first have to ensure I am on the correct path of what type of grant I am requesting and what is needed from me to secure it; I kind of work backwards from the goal I know I need to get to, which are the requirements needed to secure the grant, to the steps required to actualize that goal. I speak with the individuals I feel are primary stakeholders to record their input, thoroughly research that feedback, then write the grant in the appropriate voice.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Companies seem to slowly be realizing that their employees are assets with important knowledgebases and, as such, need to be appreciated more. The recent trend of growing benefits like maternity and paternity leave is a good start, but there still is reluctance in many industries to offer more employee-centric benefits. Work is a two-way road and improving employees’ lives will work wonders in improving their work.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Being consistent. Not every day has to be an absolutely great day, nor will that happen, but being consistent in how you carry yourself makes things easier for everybody. You will be able to maintain your routine and ensure that you will get out of a funk quicker.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Take every opportunity to improve yourself. There may be some things, especially professionally, that you may not want to do but if it is an opportunity to improve your skills or learn new ones, take it every time. There is only one person in the world who will truly fight for your well-being and improvement as a person, and that is you, so don’t sell yourself short by saying ‘no’ to yourself.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Critical thinking skills in the workplace are fading because there has been less emphasis on it in America’s education system in recent decades. I understand the importance of the STEM fields that have been growing exponentially, but the education required for those disciplines does not cultivate the environment to look at a set of information critically and consider the decisions that were made that resulted in that set of information. I think this lack of critical thinking skills has been evident in the greater US population when one considers the current political and professional climate, and I hope it quickly rebounds as this skill is important when working with others.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Sticking to the same schedule. I am pretty adamant of building good habits, like going to the gym on a regular schedule, that turn into any other part of your life. If you decide to go to the gym every other day in the morning and stick to that schedule, after a few months it’s just part of your daily/weekly/monthly/yearly life and you’ve suddenly built up this great habit. Obviously, some things change during my days and weeks, but things I can easily control I like to build a habit of it so it’s normal to me.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Being honest with people goes a long way in strengthening relationships. Sometimes I have things to share that I know the customer doesn’t want to hear, but the truth hurts sometimes and it is more constructive to think of possible solutions together rather than hiding an issue by lying, which almost always comes back to haunt you. I think ego gets in the way too often in these situations; people want to be considered reliable and able to do things without hand-holding or constant guidance, but there’s nothing wrong with asking for help to overcome an obstacle.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I rushed through a project a few years ago just to meet the deadline, and the lack of quality really showed. I knew it wasn’t the best work of mine, but I presented it anyways to less-than-ideal reactions. I was given an extension on the deadline and nailed the second chance, but I learned that it’s OK sometimes to tell people I’m not ready and I need a little more time to present what I think you want. Life happens to everybody and taking a little extra time to give your best effort is always the best option.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I recently was opening a package delivered from Amazon, and as I was pulling out the ridiculously long chain of air-filled, plastic packing air bags to keep whatever is in the box from shuffling around I was thinking that there has to be a more sustainable way of doing this. I remember growing up that packing popcorn was all that was used, and that stuff was a nightmare to deal with and, to make it worse, it was made out of unrecyclable Styrofoam. Now these air-filled plastic pouches are being used which, in our current world of fights over plastic straws and such, seem antithetical to our efforts to reduce plastic waste. I was thinking perhaps something like air-filled egg cartons that are made of paper and easily recyclable.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My new ski mittens! I was skiing with gloves (with individual fingers) before this ski season, but those style of gloves are terrible at insulating your fingers. I had some rough days last year with freezing cold fingers. I can even throw a little heating pad in them for each hand that lasts a few hours. I wish I had them years ago.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
This has to be Microsoft Note for me. I was a terrible note taker in college, mainly because my handwriting is terrible, but I also just never really learned how to properly take notes. My entire career is based around listening to people talk and taking notes while engaging with them, then transcribing those notes to content. An old friend first showed me how to use it and it immediately helped my organization and record-keeping habits.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Atlas Obscura. It’s not a novel in the traditional sense, but it’s more like a single-edition encyclopedia of information about the natural (and unnatural) world that we may not have learned about in school. The Washington National Cathedral, for instance, has a bust of Darth Vader on a buttress instead of the more traditional gargoyle head; it has some other hidden gems like a fragment of lunar rock from the Apollo 11 mission. That’s pretty neat for one of the largest cathedrals in the world. That book has tons of fascinating things in it from all over the world.
What is your favorite quote?
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
• Don’t be afraid of failure, but also don’t revel in on your successes too much. Life keeps going so no matter what happens, you have to keep up with it.
• Always be ready to think on your feet and consider the ‘why’ of things you are tasked with doing. Critical thinking is important.
• Surround yourself with things you enjoy, not things you may think are required for your advancement. Too often I see people commit to things they do not enjoy because “it looks good on a résumé” or something similar. I understand life is filled with obligations we cannot get out of, but in professional life if you cannot find at least something you enjoy about your work, it will be a long road until retirement.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.