“A person who sees a problem is a human being; a person who finds a solution is a visionary; and the person who goes out and does something about it is an entrepreneur.”
– N A V E E N JAIN
This month I had the pleasure of getting to know Kris Jones. A father, entrepreneur and a true rags-to-riches success story. He is the founder of not one but several apps including, Special Guest App, LSEO.com, ReferLocal.com, French Girls App, and APPEK Mobile Apps. He grew a multi-million dollar business while in grad school at Villanova and he sold a separate business to eBay after law school at Albany Law. If that doesn’t give you a dose of motivation I don’t now what will.
As someone who focuses a lot of my time and energy on self-help and personal/professional development, I’m always searching for new tools that will take me to the next level (as I’m sure you do too). The best way to stay inspired is to surround yourself with the wise and great. Kris has achieved huge success and is willing to share some of his secrets with us. In this discussion, we explore the entrepreneur psychology, how to successfully set goals, and what must be developed to get an idea off the ground.
Before we start, I would like to share a side note and small world ‘coincidence.’ After we connected online, I found that Kris attended law school in my hometown of Albany, NY. How serendipitous that we both share that ‘Albany to Los Angeles’ familiarity. It’s truly inspiring to see someone who had no network and still become wildly successful. With that being said, let’s get right to it, enjoy this month’s special guest, Kris Jones!
What are your top laws/rules for success?
KJ: Execution over ideas. I’m a doer. I believe strongly that success doesn’t come from ideas, but rather the execution of those ideas. Building up confidence and skills that leads to successfully executing goals is my super power. Everyone has untapped God-given potential.
The key to success is believing that you can accomplish just about anything you set your mind to. You don’t have to wait. You can take action right now. It all starts with the first step toward your destiny. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Get in the game.
What’s one book you would suggest for any budding entrepreneur?
KJ: The Lean Start-up by Eric Ries
What’s the one psychological skill/mental muscle you believe one should develop to succeed?
Clearly you know how to set lofty goals (100 episodes of ‘Ask Me Anything’). How do you set goals that are big yet attainable?
KJ: It takes practice. One way to increase the likelihood that you accomplish a goal is to share it with loved ones and make it public – we don’t like to disappoint others so it’s more likely that we won’t come up with reasons to quit something once we set a goal and take action. I don’t recommend that people set realistic goals. Realistic goals tend to be puny and are not inspiring.
Instead, I recommend setting goals that are uncomfortable. Uncomfortable goals are stretch goals – they give us little choice but to take immediate action toward the goal. For instance, at the beginning of 2017 I set a goal of creating 100 “Ask Me Anything” videos focused on personal and professional development. For people that don’t know me – (like most of you) I have a lot going on managing multiple businesses, writing monthly for publications like Forbes, Inc., and Search Engine Land, 3 kids, yada, yada, yada. So the idea of coordinating and finding time to shoot 100 videos in 1 year bordered on crazy. In fact, in the final weeks I received a message from someone saying “Kris – it’s OK that you aren’t going to accomplish your goal. It’s hard to accomplish all the goals we set, etc….” Indeed I accomplished the goal by the end of 2017 (with a band might I add) and I was able to do that because I created incredible momentum by setting an “uncomfortable” goal instead of a puny one that was realistic.
You’ve touched on the necessity of being risk averse as an entrepreneur in one of your interviews. Are there any techniques one could use to strengthen and/or develop this quality?
When I use the word “risk averse” as an entrepreneur I’m referring to something I learned from the author / speaker Malcolm Gladwell at a conference the two of us spoke at 5 or so years ago. In short, he referenced that SUCCESSFUL entrepreneurs are social risk takers, but operationally risk averse. He went on to describe that as social risk takers SUCCESSFUL entrepreneurs don’t care much if people tell them they have a bad idea or that what they are attempting to do has a low probability of success. However, at the same time the SUCCESSFUL entrepreneur is plotting our a highly specific plan from A to Z to execute on his or her idea.
See my response above about how important execution is in success. So the key to building muscle around execution (in effect being operationally risk averse) is to learn and master business skills, such as financial analysis, growth marketing, mobile / web / product development, branding, etc. Again, one of the reasons why “ideas are overrated” is because having an idea isn’t enough – you’ve got to master how to take an idea and turn it into a business – that requires learned skills around business execution. Once you do that (it’s an ongoing process) your odds of business success go up dramatically.
What do you attribute your success to?
KJ: I believe in my potential to be successful. Success is part psychology and part skills. You can’t have consistent success with strong psychology and weak skills – I’m constantly self-educating on how to master my psychology and extend my business skills. I started reading and attending seminars about 20 years ago or so and I haven’t stopped. Everyday is a baseline.
So you’ve got a great and unique idea, where do you begin? What are the necessary steps that need to be taken to ensure it survives, evolves and flourishes?
KJ: Going from idea to business requires an understanding of how to build a business. It’s just that easy. There’s a massive gap between people with idea’s and people with skills to execute those ideas. So the key is the develop the skills. There are a lot of skills required to execute a business idea, but some of the most important are finance (probably #1), marketing, legal, accounting, HR, and development. Of course you can hire talent to fill some of the necessary skill sets, but I have never met a successful entrepreneur that hadn’t acquired ninja skills across all of the most important areas of business execution. In fact, I think it’s required that you develop the proper skills so that early on you can do things yourself and later on you can step in if necessary to hold staff accountable or to do their job if they aren’t.
How do you find your competitive advantage and make an idea/entity so unique that it cannot be copied?
KJ: It’s all about brand. People don’t buy things – they buy how those things make them feel.
I think you’d agree, most self-starters like yourself are forward thinking. On that note, what’s next for Kris?
KJ: As you know I founded a talent booking platform with actor / comedian Damon Wayans, Jr called Special Guest App. We are currently focusing most of our resources on the Greater Los Angeles market, but we intend to expand that considerably in 2018. I’m also excited about the growth of a two complementary businesses that are growing quickly – LSEO.com is a digital marketing company that I founded in 2014. It offers a range of growth marketing services, such as search-engine optimization, Google AdWords management, and social media management. APPEK Mobile Apps is a mobile and web development company that I cofounded back in 2011 that helps people build apps. In addition to these businesses I’m excited to continue to support the success of a range of technology investments I’ve made, speak at a few select conferences, and focus most of my time on making sure that Special Guest executes on its mission to democratize the booking and experience of LIVE entertainment.