[quote style=”boxed”]We take action immediately. Time wasted on meeting, talking and planning often turns into opportunity wasted. One pillar of an entrepreneurial mindset is not fearing failure, and we certainly don’t. We put our ideas into action, make plenty of mistakes, then make sure to learn from them to grow and improve that idea. I make sure to tell our new hires on day one, “Go out and make plenty of mistakes.”[/quote]
Rob Bellenfant is an entrepreneur and investor specializing in IT, sales, marketing and talent development. He is currently the CEO of TechnologyAdvice, a Nashville-based IT marketing company focused on connecting buyers and sellers of business technology.
Rob has created dozens of businesses over the last two decades, starting with a door-to-door venture selling handmade crafts in his neighborhood at the age of 7. He hired his first employee at age 8, started his first technology-based company at age 12, and sold his first business from his dorm room as an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Tennessee.
TechnologyAdvice was one of five new investments Rob made during his time at UT, but was the only one that survived. The company, which recently rebranded under its new name, has enjoyed an average revenue growth of nearly 60% over the past eight years.
Rob is also passionate about angel and real estate investing, personal finance, traveling and spending time with his lovely wife, son and daughter. He is on Twitter @robbellenfant.
Where did the idea for TechnologyAdvice come from?
I fell in love with technology early and sold my first technology-related business as an 18-year-old college freshman. I invested in five new ventures that were aligned with my technology interests, including the marketing company that eventually became TechnologyAdvice. Not all of our clients were in the tech realm, but we developed a specialty in serving tech companies as our business grew. We decided to rebrand that aspect of the business “TechnologyAdvice” to align our focus.
What does your typical day look like?
I try to keep a routine before and after I leave the office — up at 5:30am for breakfast, a workout and time with the wife and kids, then home for family time and some professional development before bed at 10pm – because no two days at the office are ever alike. I do a lot more managing and mentoring these days, working with and for the brilliant folks we’ve hired to help grow this vision. Delegating and communicating are keys to being a good leader, and try my best to become a better leader for our team every day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We take action immediately. Time wasted on meeting, talking and planning often turns into opportunity wasted. One pillar of an entrepreneurial mindset is not fearing failure, and we certainly don’t. We put our ideas into action, make plenty of mistakes, then make sure to learn from them to grow and improve that idea. I make sure to tell our new hires on day one, “Go out and make plenty of mistakes.”
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m obsessed with emerging markets and their technology needs. The world is more connected than ever, opening the door for new opportunities in new countries as tech leaders continue to push the boundaries of creativity. The recent Generation Next study, which was published by London-based law firm Linklaters LLC and research analysts Ovum, predicts revenue in five big tech trends will more than double by the year 2017. It’s amazing to think of the new tech companies that will be created, not just in countries like China and India, but in Brazil, Russia, Malaysia and Nigeria, as well.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Every night I try to take a few minutes out of the grind and away from the office to take a step back and look at the big picture. Where are we going as a company? Are we heading in the right direction? What types of people do we need to hire? I just free myself up to freely THINK about these things away from the work environment. More often than not, it naturally produces great new ideas.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
It may be hard to believe, but I really don’t feel like I’ve had any bad jobs. Even if there was a job I wasn’t particularly good at, I still feel like I learned a lot from it. I was rejected for several part-time jobs in high school, including one at CompUSA, but not getting those jobs turned out to be for the best. I actually put more energy and focus on the server management business I had started, fueling its growth into the company I sold in college.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
When it comes to TechnologyAdvice, I would have taken a more focused approach. We had so many ideas and wanted to make them bigger and better as quickly as possible, but doing that made our mistakes more costly. We needed to be more intentional in the positions we created and the people we hired. We learned that finding quality people to grow your team and raise its level of performance is not something that can be rushed.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do and recommend everyone else do?
Get a good night’s sleep! It’s such an easy concept, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. It’s an absolute must if you are running a business – especially if you have a family on top of that. You never know what the next day will hold, so you have to be rested and ready, both mentally and physically, to meet all challenges.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Delegate. One person can do great things, but that one person can still only do so much. Good leaders need to be aware of limitations, surround themselves with smart people who make up for those limitations, and then trust those people to get the necessary jobs done. Work hard. Work often. But also learn to delegate. It makes everyone more productive.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
TechnologyAdvice was the fifth investment I made in college after selling my first business. The other four failed. I made a variety of bad investments early in my business career when I was too young and dumb to know better. I overcame it by taking note of my mistakes, then taking massive action. If I needed to make 10 sales calls to make the next venture a success, I made 100. I embraced Grant Cardone’s “10x rule” and went above and beyond to bury my failures with my successes.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Why don’t golf courses and country clubs provide a babysitting service? Someone needs to open a year-round, indoor golf course and bar that offers a babysitting service. When my wife leaves me with the kids on the weekend, that’s going to be my first stop.
Tell us something about you that very few people know.
I was voted most likely to succeed in middle school. (It might have had something to do with the fact that I was already running my own business)
What software and web services do you use?
We use Salesforce, WordPress and Evernote extensively in the office. We also use Leankit for task and project management.
What do you love about them?
They all help simplify or streamline specific daily tasks, making us all more productive. Leankit is a startup based here in Nashville that I love. It’s geared towards the enterprise, but I also use it for my personal to-do lists. It replaces whiteboards!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiosaki. It has a ton of great personal finance lessons that translate well into starting and growing a business.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Right back to Robert Kiyosaki. He writes about leadership, finance and business in a very inspiring and relatable way.
TechnologyAdvice on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/techadvice
TechnologyAdvice on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/3088065
TechnologyAdvice on Twitter: @Technology_Adv
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.