Besides the fact they’ve all been on hit TV shows and are venture capitalists, Ashton Kutcher, TV’s Shark Tank investors Robert Herjavec and Daymond John all have one more thing in common. They were all keynotes at the recent Sage Summit in Chicago, where 15,000 entrepreneurs gathered for the annual conference run by UK-based accounting software giant Sage.
Herjavec, from his end, laid out the basics for the businessperson on ambition, taking hard knocks, and giving your all.
“Purpose comes from either you are incredibly driven and you know it, or it comes from pain. When the pain becomes unbearable, you will change,” commented Robert Herjavec, CEO of the Herjavec Group, “a global leader in information security”, according to his website.
“We don’t determine the stuff that happens; we determine the direction. We determine what will take us upwards, or make us miserable… Life is gonna throw some really bad crap. You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can always control how you react… when you’re in the moment, you have to survive,” he cautioned.
He also noted how startups often require the entrepreneur to attend to business at a moment’s notice.
“My business is a living breathing thing, like a baby. If it needs to eat, it needs to eat. If my relationship is in trouble because I’ve left something on the business, too bad. You have to find a way,” he warned.
“Someone out there build a great business. They didn’t do it by dreaming; they did it by execution.”
Daymond John, fellow Shark, and founder of the billion-dollar apparel company FUBU, began as entrepreneur at age six selling pencils at school to buy more gummy bears.
“I took responsibility for every single action,” he noted. “Failure is part of the process.”
Part of the process is baby steps, too.
“You slowly work your way up. You start with the $20 blackjack table, and tomorrow you go for the $50 table.”
Chiming in about knowing one’s limits, and social media engagement, actor and venture capitalist Ashton Kutcher (who lately was a guest judge on Shark Tank) has invested in high tech startups, as Skype, FourSquare, and AirBnb.
“I learned by sitting in the rooms being the dumbest person in there and asking a lot of questions,” he humbly noted.
But one thing he did offer a strong opinion on, was social media.
“I was aggressively into social media early on,” he said.
“From a business perspective, I think it’s valuable from a customer service/customer relations perspective. Building a social media environment for their feedback in a dramatic and visible way creates transparency and delivers a high quality product and service. From a marketing perspective, if used right, it can be beneficial.”
There’s just one critical caveat, he noted, to marketers nosing in on social media.
“They come up with these elaborate social media marketing plans which inevitably fail along the way, because marketers tend to forget it’s a conversation, and they don’t account for feedback.”
Kutcher cautioned against having fingers in several social media platforms, noting it’s more about quality than quantity.
“I feel a lot of people aggressively chase the latest in social media marketing, and waste a lot of time in it. It’s this sort of race to be on the cutting edge, but in another sense it’s time on inefficient platforms. It’s like in acting – the fans don’t go to the actor; the actor should go to where the fans are.”
Twitter, Instagram and Facebook already have “huge swaths of people and have really great tools for targeting.”
Co-panelist Yancey Strickler, one of the three founders of Kickstarter, “the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects”, has also been the crowd-funding site’s CEO for the past three years.
Despite Kickstarter’s online reliance, Strickler had his own strict words for social media.
“I think social media is bad for our brains, and it’s hard to have introspection on these platforms… I wouldn’t doubt in twenty years if they found what social media does to our brains, is what smoking does to our lungs.”
“I’m worried about my brain now,” Kutcher retorted.
Participant Pasha Romanovski, founder and managing partner of Solomoto, stressed the need for B2Bs to constantly cultivate their online presence.
“Any business, regardless of their consumer classification, needs to be online to survive,” Romanovski stated. “From one single dashboard any SMB can grow in 30 minutes a day.”
At nearly three years old, Solomoto’s online platform for small and medium businesses offers tools to manage web activity, marketing tools, ecommerce assistance and social media.
Meanwhile, another tech company says that person-to-person communication is critical before any electronic engagement.
“When you need a technology advisor, don’t just talk to one person. Talk to as many people as possible, for who you can really go to as a technology advisor,” explained Seth Ellerston sales director of Net@Work.
Among many services, Net@Work assists in B2B ecommerce, IT security, and provides online marketing solutions.
“There’s a lot of marketing fluff out there. What you read isn’t always the reality.”