When the first season of The Apprentice aired back in 2004, I remember tuning in each week to watch the aspiring apprentices from across the country take on different business challenges, all in the name of entrepreneurship. It was mesmerizing and inspiring. I remember how lucky I thought Chicago-native Bill Rancic was when Donald Trump told him “You’re Hired!”
I was fortunate to finally have the chance to hear Bill Rancic speak at the Small Business Expo held at Navy Pier on April 9, 2015. Bill has lived through some of the most interesting entrepreneurial experiences, from launching a cigar of the month club, to being on reality TV, to constructing Trump Tower Chicago and being a restaurateur. Bill is the definition of an entrepreneur, and his insight lived up to every expectation I had.
Here are the 3 key lessons to entrepreneurial success that I learned from Bill Rancic’s story.
1. Practical Execution
Actions speak louder than words. Unless you’re actively doing and executing, it doesn’t matter what you say. Bill’s father used to tell him that it’s okay if you make a mistake, but it’s never okay if you don’t try. To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to go the extra mile. “Be the first guy up and last to leave. When you’re tired, make that extra phone call.” If you don’t take action and don’t execute on your ideas, then it doesn’t mean anything.
2. Be a Conductor
One key lesson Bill learned from his mentor Donald Trump was that to be a successful entrepreneur you need to be a conductor. An orchestra conductor is not an expert of all instruments, but instead a conductor knows how to get all of the musical experts to work together to make beautiful music. In fact, if conductors tried to play all of the instruments and do it all themselves, it wouldn’t work.
The same applies to entrepreneurial leaders. To be successful, you need to let go of your ego and rely on your team of partners, employees and mentors. You should orchestrate all the pieces and lead rather than micro-managing or trying to do everything yourself.
3. Convert Risk into Success
In reference to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bill said to always do what you’re afraid to do and success will find you. He spoke to reverse engineering your life – twenty years from now, will your future kids or grandkids be proud of who you are and what you’ve done?
It’s important to avoid telling yourself what you want to hear. Make sure you are honest to tap into your potential. Just like when we listen to our voices recorded back on a message or video, it’s a shock to hear what we actually sound like. In our minds, we believe we sound a certain way, but it can come as a surprise to hear that our voice doesn’t sound quite how we imagine it. Only when you accept reality will you be able to be successful.
When Bill was first launching his cigar of the month club, he was struggling to get exposure, and customers. In a clever marketing move, he shipped a letter, cigars and a pair of coke bottle glasses that he taped a note to which referenced taking a closer look. He sent this to radio shows and eventually got the exposure that brought in the customers needed to ensure the success of his company. Bill had to hustle and execute to get things done, take risks and coordinate the success of all the moving pieces. Take a lesson from Bill’s experience and be on you’re on your way closing deals and paving your own entrepreneurial journey.