Rob Finlay of Thirty Capital has been around finance for a long time. Through his business career he’s run holding companies, real estate companies, software firms and more. He’s been successful in several different fields related to real estate, particularly the commercial side.
But Rob knows there are things he would do differently if he went back. There are things that every owner and CEO knows they’d change, things they wish they knew earlier.
It’s easier to learn those things from other people’s experience than it is to have to learn them yourself through the school of hard knocks. And Finlay wants to share his knowledge with the next generation of leaders.
1. Pivot When You Need to
“I’ve had the chance to dip into several different industries over the years, and one of the biggest things that it’s taught me is to not be afraid of trying something new,” says Finlay.
“I’ve missed opportunities at times from being slow to move. If there’s one thing that’s absolutely essential to being successful, it’s knowing when to move — whether it be pouncing on an opportunity or cutting your losses.”
There are a number of examples of companies failing to pivot when they needed to and riding a dying industry or business model to the bottom. One of them is Blockbuster Video, whose CEO famously laughed an offer to buy Netflix for $50 million out of the room. That’s a decision Blockbuster probably regrets given the landscape of streaming versus video rental today.
2. Be Patient
“Especially when you’re young, you want things to happen overnight,” Finlay notes.
“It’s an easy trap to fall into. You have to be ambitious but patient — allow things time to mature. Sometimes it’s better to let something alone and come back to it later when you have the resources or experience for it.”
Good things take time, particularly when they involve complex procedures that bring quite a few stakeholders to the table — like mergers, acquisitions, and other major transactions.
Many a business owner has shot themselves in the foot by getting impatient when the process drags on. A little understanding goes a long way. Putting yourself on an impractical artificial timeline can sabotage your prospects over the long term.
3. Focus On One Problem at a Time
“One thing that’s served me well in my career is my ability to break complex problems down into bite-size pieces,” says Finlay. “As a business owner you have to be able to take care of things as they come up. You have to be able to prioritize what’s most important so that your company can thrive over the long term. Focus on one problem at a time and devote your energy to solving it.”
A good business owner views a problem from the bird’s eye view first and then gets down to the details. You have to understand the context of how any issue affects your business, then deal with the problem itself.
4. Learn to Delegate
“This is the biggest mistake I see a lot of new business owners make,” says Finlay.
“I’ve been there myself. It’s easy when you’re a capable person to take on everything yourself and not want to give it away because someone might not do it as well as you. You can’t have that mindset. You have to let go to grow.”
Johnathan Dane of Klientboost knows this well. Dane mentions that one of the things that helped Klientboost grow was some advice he heard at a keynote: hire people that can do 70 percent of what you do, teach them 10 percent and be OK with 80 percent.
You can’t get people to do everything you do — so don’t try.
5. Measure, Measure, Measure, etc.
There’s an old business axiom that says, “What gets measured gets managed.” Measuring the success or failure of your ventures allows you to figure out what works and what doesn’t, allowing you to pivot to new areas of opportunity or cut losses in areas that aren’t working.
“I wish I’d measured more early in my career,” says Finlay.
“Not that I didn’t at all — I come from a finance background, after all. It’s more knowing what you’re looking for and what measurements matter. Listen to the people in other parts of your business that know what statistics matter. And be aware it’s possible to fudge numbers for self-interest — educate yourself on what’s important and what isn’t so you aren’t caught off guard.”
6. Learn Lessons Early (So It’s Never Too Late)
It’s critical to build on the understanding that’s come before you.
One of the most important elements of being a successful business owner or leader is having good mentorship, whether in person or through reading, listening and study. Finlay is experienced in his industry, but there are plenty of other businesspeople out there that are very willing to share their experiences and their knowledge.
Take note of strategies that have worked and strategies that haven’t. Every lesson is an opportunity. Maybe you’ll eventually have the chance to give back the same way and help a new generation of leaders learn the lessons they need to become better.