Turning the corner from bootstrapping founder to successful entrepreneur makes for a great story. There are many plot twists and conflicts on the path to building a business.
As I transition to become a mentor to young and emergent entrepreneurs, I see my experience as a differentiator and a vehicle through which I can give back. Compellingly telling my story and inspiring others is the core of my work moving forward.
On the entrepreneurial journey, there are times when you believe what you are doing is creating or accelerating a transition, but the outcome of the action is uncertain. Inflection points—the decisions and actions that forever alter a career trajectory—gain definition and context over time. When they occur, we may not recognize these moments as life-changing, although there could be a hint of something monumental to come. We merely go through them on our way from point A to point B. That was certainly the case for me.
The first critical decision that shaped my destiny was rejecting an offer I received from Goldman-Sachs after graduating from the University of Texas in 1996, in favor of traveling to India to rescue a distressed family business. My life trajectory would be markedly different had I gone down the Goldman path. After 15-plus years of grueling, 80-hour workweeks, I would have likely made a partner, perhaps earned an MBA Degree along the way. Not a bad outcome.
Instead, I went to India.
A strong sense of personal obligation drove my mindset during that time. I went in with no prior experience and no translatable skills, only the conviction that I could help a struggling family business right itself. I was in the trenches, giving of myself in any way I could and providing support. Ultimately, the company failed. I acknowledged the failure and emerged from the experience with a newfound purpose, a framework for my future ventures, and a key narrative piece for my story.
Good entrepreneurship comes down to making sound decisions and being flexible as the business develops. Often, the direction a founder takes is not the one initially envisioned. Some choices do not impact the grand scope of things, while others forever alter the course of our lives. As entrepreneurs, we try to do what we feel is best for the business at any given moment. The key is to stay confident and keep making decisions. Build on your successes. Learn from your mistakes. A professional failure with valuable lessons learned is a big win.
In retrospect, I could not foresee what would play out in India. At the time, I felt I had made the right decision. And the experience helped mold me into the person I am today.
I have arrived at another inflection point. I am ready to speak about my imperfections and vulnerabilities and inspire and support founders who wish to capitalize on their intellectual properties and take their vision to the next level.
With the wisdom of hindsight comes the promise of future value.