Ray McKenzie

Founder of StartingPoint

Raymond (Ray) McKenzie is the Founder and CEO of StartingPoint and Founder and Managing Director of Red Beach Advisors. With more than 20 years of experience as a senior business executive and consultant leading global organizations ranging from small businesses, startups, and large enterprises. Ray has held various senior executive positions with companies such as Verisign, Neustar, State Farm Insurance, TeleSign, UltraDNS and has served in an advisory role for several start-up companies in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. Ray McKenzie completed his studies in Management Information Systems from San Diego State University in 2001 and is a certified AWS Cloud Practitioner (CLF). Mr. McKenzie is also a certified Lean Six Sigma sensei (CLSSS) practitioner from Villanova University, is a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) from Scrum Alliance. Mr. McKenzie currently sits on the board of trustees for Resolute Academy Charter School in Watts, CA, on the board of directors for My Friend’s House, Inc. based in Los Angeles, CA and Students With Aspiring Goals based in Merced, CA and regularly speaks to groups of children and youth regarding entrepreneurship, leadership, and achievement.

Where did the idea for StartingPoint come from?

StartingPoint came from a need I had with my technology consulting firm, Red Beach Advisors. I had a growing consulting firm with multiple projects, multiple clients, multiple consultants, and there was no way to manage all of the customer data, questions, and files in a unified location. As a services firm our customer relationship is of the utmost importance and we needed a tool to solve this. StartingPoint does.

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

My typical day starts the night before. We use StartingPoint to guide our strategic and tactical performance with task management. The task list is updated each evening to be ready for the next day. My day typically starts at 5 AM after a workout. Then work starts at 7 AM, after breakfast, and it can be meetings or tactical work based on the list. My day consists of meetings with customers, clients, and team members until about 4 PM. Once the meetings end, that’s when I typically spend 3 hours taking care of tactical work and executing. E-mails usually are flying around hot and heavy to people. After the period of tactical work, then dinner with the family, homework with the children, and hanging out with my wife (if she’s not working).

How do you bring ideas to life?

I write down or create a text note for all of my ideas. Writing down ideas makes them real. Talking about those written down ideas with other people makes the idea even more real. As I work through ideas through notes and concepts, I build a framework for the solution. Once I have the framework for the solution, I talk about the solution to people who could be potential customers. This exercise lets me know if people get excited about it or are lukewarm about it or do not like it and think it is a waste of time. The more favorable the responses, the higher it rises on the list of ideas to execute and build.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The one trend that excites me is the increasing number of entrepreneurs and creators of technology and businesses. I’m seeing more people become leaders of their own companies. The companies can be in various industries and be a product or a service, but this trend is great. If you see a problem or gap, build it or solve it. If you have a talent, use it and benefit from it.

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

The utilization of a task list helps me be extremely productive. If it is something I need to get done, I write it down and then put it into StartingPoint if it a longer task. This helps me prioritize and execute. The number of items I am able to cross off shows accomplishment at the end of the day.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self that the ideas you have had, write them down, and find a way to build them. Pursue the path and pursue partnerships with people who can help. I’ve had some great ideas over the years and a few that other people have had and have had immense success. I would tell my younger self to “GO FOR IT”.

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

Peanut butter is disgusting. It is what it is. It smells bad. It tastes horrible. There you go.

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

There are two things… 1) Work out daily and break a sweat. Take care of your physical and mental health and 2) Have fun with building your business. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing.

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

Being vulnerable and sharing my ideas has helped me grow my business. Talking to my personal and professional network has been an amazing primary strategy. At times entrepreneurs do not want to share what they are working on to their friends and colleagues. I have built a strong professional network over the years and by opening myself up to feedback, criticism, insight, and guidance has been the best strategy for growth of the business.

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

We failed with our first digital advertising campaign for StartingPoint. We launched the product. We knew where it was going. We knew who would be interested. We thought we had it. We were wrong. Our messaging was wrong. Our phrasing was wrong. Our target was too broad. It was a complete waste. We stopped that, adjusted, and said “Let’s just talk to our customers.” So we interviewed our customers and asked them to explain our product and that’s how we refined our messaging. It has worked wonders

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

3-day virtual recruiting tours for college students. As a previous college student and parent of a college student, it would be good to have had a VR experience as a college student (like Sims but with Oculus) to really see how the experience is on campus…without having to travel there.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best $100 I recently spent was on AppleCare. It then saved me $1000 on my MacBook Pro. I use my laptop for everything!

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

I use StartingPoint. My own product. It helps us manage our customers inquiries, projects, tasks, files, and call communication in one. It helps our workflow and productivity.

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

Read “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. It should be required reading for all college students. This book outlines how to have a different perspective on cultivating a business idea and strategy that is different than what everyone else is doing.

What is your favorite quote?

“I believe you can speak things into existence.” – Jay-Z

Key Learnings:

  • Build a business that solves a problem you have. You immediately become an expert.
  • Write down your ideas to make them real.
  • Open yourself up to your network to get insight into the business you are building.
  • Have fun building your business. If it is not fun, it is not worth doing.
  • Mistakes and failures are going to happen. Nothing ever works perfectly right. Make the error. Fix it quickly. Adapt the strategy.