Patrick Riley – CEO of the Global Accelerator Network

Life is all about resilience. There are plenty of things that will rock you, but that’s part of life. You’ll be knocked down, but you can’t spend too much time being a victim. It’s more important to learn a lesson, get back up, and try again as quickly as possible.

Pat Riley is the CEO of the Global Accelerator Network, a group of accelerators spanning six continents and more than 100 cities around the world. GAN gives startups the power to create and grow business regardless of geographic location. Pat previously served as director of business development for Techstars, an investment accelerator for technology-based startups. He is passionate about skiing, hiking, entrepreneurship, and technology.

Where did the idea for GAN come from?

GAN was started by the two founders of Techstars: David Cohen and Brad Feld. Leaders of some of the top accelerators in the world had been asking how they could better collaborate. Techstars decided to start a global network that would connect those accelerators and their startups.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

We have a company policy that we don’t work more than 40 hours a week. All of us are in this for the long term, and we look at our work as a marathon rather than a sprint. There are times when we work 16-hour days, but that’s definitely not the norm. We feel like we’re better to our clients, colleagues, and families when we consistently work eight hours a day.

I split every day into two parts: focus time and chat time. I’m an extrovert, so I can’t deal with a full day of staring at my computer and answering emails. I have one four-hour block of focus time, and the rest of my day is dedicated to six to eight phone calls that average about 30 minutes each.

Once I leave the office, I avoid checking my email. As a CEO, there is no lack of information — both good and difficult — that’s coming my way. To ensure I’m fully present at home and able to give my mind a breather, I don’t check my email or do any work at night.

I have three main priorities: soul, family, and work. If I spend time in the morning journaling or meditating to take care of my soul, I’m more focused, alert, and centered the remainder of the day. When things at home are good — my wife feels supported and my kids know I love them — I’m more efficient at work. This approach helps me avoid carrying burdens from my personal life into the workplace.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Magic. Just kidding.

I’m the sort of person who trusts my gut a lot, but I wasn’t always this way. I thought I knew so much in my 20s, but I’ve found that going with my gut is crucial as I’ve “grown up” to be in my 30s. My intuition usually guides me toward the right decision. I’m always intrigued by how many people don’t trust subtle signals from their bodies.

I strongly believe your team members — not senior leaders — should be the ones who bring ideas to life. Team members are the ones who are consistently chatting with clients, and they often have the best ideas. I frequently think about what it means to provide autonomy, purpose, and mastery to every member of my team. I try to be mindful of what I need to do to ensure all of my team members know why they are here, that they have complete autonomy over what they’re doing, and that they already have the tools to accomplish amazing things.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The vulnerability trend. A lot of this stems from the work of Brené Brown, an American scholar and storyteller. Brown believes everyone is driven by fear, though people can take away the power of that fear by being vulnerable about it.

I love that so many of our clients are vulnerable about what’s working and what isn’t. Similarly, I appreciate how honest my team members and colleagues are about how they’re doing. I recently learned a potential investor might not be working with us anymore. I walked into the office after hearing that and said, “Guys, I’m feeling pretty sad about something that just happened.” We were able to process it as a team. It’s liberating to be able to trust my colleagues with that sort of information.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I am obsessed with rhythms.

Every Monday, my team meets around a table over lunch. At the end of that time together, we share what we’re thankful for about one another. It’s a good reminder that we’re all humans first and foremost.

Every week, I try to set aside at least two or three hours to think about the company and clear my head. I learned this from John Coors, who ran CoorsTek here in Colorado and whose grandfather started Coors Brewing Co. He would get out of the office every Thursday and visit his family’s cabin. I try to leave the office and hang out at a favorite coffee shop as a way of resetting for the week.

Every month, I sit down with a coach to talk about successes and challenges from the past month. My coach helps give me perspective and think about the world differently.

Every year, I spend at least one week taking a break from my phone and computer. It serves as a nice escape from the day to day.

Every three years, I’m starting to take a one-month sabbatical. I tell my team members to do the same.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Life is all about resilience. There are plenty of things that will rock you, but that’s part of life. You’ll be knocked down, but you can’t spend too much time being a victim. It’s more important to learn a lesson, get back up, and try again as quickly as possible.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

The best startups aren’t in San Francisco or New York City. Startups are growing everywhere and changing their communities in the process. They might not be the $30 billion Ubers of the world, but they are $10 million companies that employ 10 people and will be around for the next several decades. I believe those companies are the true champions of the startup world.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Having a firm, blatant, clear company mission. Our company’s mission took a ton of time to develop, and it’s something everyone believes in. We keep that mission in mind at all times.

It’s easy to lose sight of your mission in the hunt for quick cash. GAN’s mission is to give startups the power to create and grow regardless of their location. Corporations often ask us to run an internal accelerator for them — to help their employees think more like entrepreneurs — or to help them innovate. The money is tempting, but we stop and ask ourselves whether doing that will serve our purpose of helping startups have more power to create and grow. Whenever the answer is “no,” we don’t do it.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

We keep who we’re working with front and center. We can’t be everything to everyone, nor do we want to be. We are clear about who we work with to ensure we can comfortably say we aren’t a good fit for every client who comes our way. We look for clients who aren’t located in major cities, who follow the GAN values, and who recognize they need help. If they already have all of the resources they need, they probably don’t need to work with GAN.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I mistakenly thought the world had scarce resources. When we see a limited amount of pie in the world with everyone fighting for a sliver, we constantly play with a defensive mindset. When we play defensively, we can’t score. I once thought I was losing every time a potential competitor won a client. When I instead realized the world is full of opportunity, I stopped feeling frustrated or defensive when I heard news about potential competitors.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A night nanny service. We have a 12-week-old who isn’t sleeping, so we recently hired a night nanny to help us out a few times a week. Night nannies actually help train your baby on how to sleep. The only issue is that they’re not cheap — they run about $25 an hour. My wife and I are actually working to make this service more accessible to everyone.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

I bought a welcome box of wine and chocolates for the wife of a team member who recently joined our company. I wanted her to know she’s part of the team, so we sent a welcome box to her house. It helped her realize her husband works for a company that cares for her spouse and her.

What is one piece of software or web service that helps you be productive?

I actually don’t like using software to boost my productivity. I spend most of my day staring into a computer monitor. When I use yet another piece of software, it gets lost in the mix. Instead, I use a Moleskine notebook. I find that taking notes and creating a handwritten to-do list is a lot more productive.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read?

Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly.” The premise of the book is that you can’t take risks if you’re afraid of being shamed. When you can’t take risks, you can’t grow your business.

What is your favorite quote?

I’m not one to quote scripture a lot, but there’s one part of the Bible that I love. It comes from Luke 12:48: “Much is required from the person to whom much is given; much more is required from the person to whom much more is given.”

I love this for a few reasons. I appreciate the concept that a lot is required of you if you are given a lot. You’re in a unique spot where you can’t sit back and call it a day — you’re asked to do something with your wealth, talents, and connections for the greater good. Furthermore, there’s the idea that you’re asked to do more if you’re given more. Even if we accumulate more wealth and power, we should put that success to work for the good of humanity.