I’ve been told by friends and staff that I’m “creative.” I enjoy assessing a situation or opportunity and brainstorming solutions and ways to bump the needle and drive business for the client and my business. I like to mix it up with clients and employees and discuss challenges and how to best approach them. I have a tremendous amount of respect for creative people and enjoy seeing businesses take on challenges. I often try to put myself in the same positions and think it through. Being creative doesn’t always work, but sometimes you have to push and try new and different things before you have a hit.
Jim Brewer / President, Brewer Media Group
The successful entrepreneur has willpower. He or she isn’t necessarily the smartest or the most connected, but rather has the ability to push through the highs and lows of starting and running a business. Those entrepreneurs you look up to all had an idea and saw it through, and most of them failed at some point. The only reason they have success now is that they persisted. Other skills can be learned as you go, but only if you have the willpower to remain focused and motivated as challenges inevitably arise.
Allan Davis / Managing Partner, Lamp Post Group
A few years ago when John Thornton made some remarks about entrepreneurship he mentioned boldness, and it really resonated with me. Without boldness, it’s hard to be an entrepreneur. You have to push your idea forward, and sometimes, for whatever reason, it is resisted by other people or they don’t really understand it. And sometimes you’ll need to challenge the status quo, maybe not with your idea, but with the way you carry out your business or a unique way you solve a problem. When you’re faced with adversity—your competitor throws up a barrier in front of you or a regulator tells you that you’re not going to be able to get approved—you need bold solutions. What’s interesting about boldness is that it attracts other people. Entrepreneurs have to get other people to buy in, whether they’re employees, bankers, or investors. In order to be bold, you need a clear vision of what you’d like to see happen. And you need the ability to pull it off. Related to boldness are things like courage and fearlessness. I think all of those are part of the same category of getting into a zone where a lot of other people aren’t. It’s a little bit like walking close to the edge.
Dr. Richard Becherer / Emeritus Professor of Entrepreneurship, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Approach every aspect of your business from the perspective of “yes.” It may seem simplistic, but it is a powerful, fundamental business touchstone that sets the tone for every business or professional opportunity, client interaction, and challenge or obstacle in business. Coming from a position of “yes” does not always result in a project ultimately going forward—sound business evaluation processes and analysis are of course mandatory—but it does set the tone for positive exploration or resolution, and that is absolutely crucial for growth, business vitality, and relevancy. One of the biggest benefits we have as a mid-sized, locally owned business is the ability to respond or adapt quickly to local market conditions and to capitalize on opportunities and partnerships unique to our Chattanooga area. That process can only begin by saying yes!
Darlene Brown / President and Managing Broker – Downtown, Real Estate Partners Chattanooga LLC
This quote about courage from Theodore Roosevelt needs to be branded onto the heart and head of every entrepreneur: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” If you aren’t willing to get into the arena and get beaten up for what you believe in, don’t become an entrepreneur.
Shelley Prevost, Ed.D. / CEO, Torch
Every facet of a business, or really any pursuit, benefits from extreme attention to detail and a willingness to get straight to the heart of the matter. If you’re being thorough then nothing gets brushed under the carpet. When building a physical space, it will be obvious if corners were cut in materials or time spent planning. When managing, an unwillingness to fully engage your staff or address issues as they arise can lead to bigger problems that can cripple your organization. Being thorough requires you to step outside your comfort zone, admit your weaknesses or knowledge gaps, take on situations that are socially uncomfortable, and see things from multiple perspectives. Creating and sticking to your systems requires being thorough; so does recognizing that there is a human element to your business that cannot be anticipated or addressed in any handbook. An entrepreneur or businessperson can build an empire without adhering to these ideas, but he or she would have to be incredibly lucky to create something of high quality and harmony by taking a superficial or hands-off approach.
Dan Rose / Co-owner, Flying Squirrel and The Crash Pad
I have come across good entrepreneurs who lack self-awareness, but never have I seen a great one, one of the truly special ones, without it. A highly effective entrepreneur must understand their own emotions and how these emotions manifest themselves in their organization. The company is truly an extension of the founder. To not understand oneself is to not understand your company. Every day brings a new crossroad. Do I need partners? Should I take outside investment? What is the right pace to grow? Should I fire this person? What is my end game? The questions are endless and many times the answers are elusive. Truly understanding who you are emotionally will be your greatest strength in making the right decisions much more often than the wrong.
Barry Large / Partner, Lamp Post Group
When asked to describe traits of great entrepreneurs, “innovative,” “driven,” and “savvy” are often the first words that come to mind. Although these are essential keys to many success stories, the term I would use to describe myself is “appreciative.” I sincerely appreciate the opportunity given to me by Dr. Hyman Kaplan 16 years ago when I joined Chattanooga Allergy Clinic. I appreciate that I get to do what I love every day. Most people don’t get to say that. Being able to practice medicine in the pollen capital of the South allows me and the other doctors at CAC to help so many get well! I am appreciative of my 80 loyal employees that always strive to create the best patient care experience possible. I wouldn’t be a success without them. Never taking anything for granted and believing the glass is always at least half full has always served me well. I think it is, of course, important to be business savvy, but in my view, true entrepreneurs should always be optimistic, and above all else, appreciate the blessings and opportunities their business provides them and their community.
Marc W. Cromie Sr., M.D. / President, Chattanooga Allergy Clinic PLLC
Starting a business is a lot like flying an airplane. A pilot has to take his or her plane from a dead start to liftoff speed all the way to cruising altitude. Atmospheric conditions are different with each trip. Sometimes it’s hot and humid, sometimes windy and rainy, and, occasionally, menacing bolts of lightning come out of nowhere to threaten the flight. A pilot must have the agility to adjust to changing conditions and the skill to navigate through dark skies and storms. Every day I must analyze a wide array of changing conditions. These include product performance, customer service, talent management, R&D, investor relations, and more. I (and everyone on our team) must be agile enough to move from one area to the next and treat each day as a new and exciting challenge. Some days we succeed through skill; other days we make it on sheer force of will; while still on others, we are just plain lucky. But, as the saying goes, the harder our team works, the luckier we seem to get!
Nirav Patel / Founder and CEO, Rapid RMS
An entrepreneur needs vision in every aspect of business. Whether it’s developing a product or service that fills a need or want that doesn’t yet exist or anticipating innovation before it happens, an entrepreneur has to keep her eyes open at all times. She employs her vision to the absolute maximum because she knows that good is the enemy of great, and great is the enemy of what is possible. She knows how to market the product because she understands exactly why her audience will love it, she builds the organization that can produce the product or provide the service, and she finds the people to help her get where she is going because they share her vision for what might be. And that’s the key—to see how far her vision of what is possible can take her, even when everyone around her is telling her it’s impossible.