I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. At an early age, I delivered a paper route, then ran a lawn cutting business, and later speculated in concert tickets. These experiences confirmed that I wanted to work for myself.
So, when I graduated college—with a business management degree and all the wisdom that had been imparted to me—I took my first steps toward that goal. I decided to buy my first Subway franchise.
I knew that if I just worked hard enough and told my employees what to do, I would be successful and make a boat load of cash in the process. Let’s pause for a minute and reflect on the part where I thought achieving success was as simple as telling my employees what to do.
Turns out there is a lot they don’t teach in business school. No one ever mentioned the challenges of trying to manage a business when you are 22 years old, and virtually all your employees are older than you. There was no class on how to get folks to buy into your vision. I quickly realized that for my restaurant to be successful, I had to figure out a way for employees to feel like they were part of the mission, as opposed to feeling like they were just along for the ride.
During the next 18 years, I learned how to empower my employees. I discovered how to ensure they weren’t just cogs in the machine, but integral decision makers who had real autonomy. Through trial and error, I started to learn how to build a team.
Fast forward to 2010, when it was time to start the next chapter in my entrepreneurial life. Thanks to the successful business I had built, I could now invest those earnings in my true passion: real estate. A successful software mogul presented me with a unique opportunity. The vision was to build a hard money lending company from the ground up.
This would be a true startup. There was no playbook for creating a new business in an industry that, at the time, was seen as somewhat seedy. Never mind trying to figure out how to scale that business to a national brand with real financials. But it was very clear to me that if I was going to have a shot at being successful in the venture, I had to draw on my past experiences of hiring the brightest, hardest working folks I could find. That also meant I had to focus on the employee empowerment strategies that I had worked out at my previous business.
Without that experience, I never would have been able to make RCN Capital one of the most respected national fix and flip lenders.
The reality is, if you expect to build a company that is successful in the eyes of the owner, management and all team members, you need to realize it is not always about you.
Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to learn this lesson early on through two very different career paths. As I continue to manage RCN Capital, the lessons from my past still ring true and play a crucial role in the company’s future.