Jeff Hoffman traveled the world for three years mentoring startups; he also started a music company, produced and authored an independent film, built airline boarding pass kiosks, won a Grammy, and co-founded Priceline. While he has walked down many yellow brick roads to success, he attributed his achievement to a simple approach, “entrepreneurship is not about making money, it’s about designing your own future,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman was the keynote speaker at the Arizona Technology Council StartupConnect AZ and shared his inspirational stories about solving problems around the world and offered some simple words of advice to startups on pursuing one’s goals and dreams.
- Solve real problems – The mentality of the entrepreneur follows a different path, Hoffman said, “There are so many solutions looking for a problem.” The thought process generally goes like this, “…they look around and ask themselves ‘does this problem bother anyone else?’ Then they begin to research if there a solution to this problem and they don’t know about it. The entrepreneur will find out if there is value in solving that problem and continue until the problem is fixed.”
- Don’t chase money, chase excellence. The money follows excellence- a point emphacized throughout the talk. Jeff said to seek excellence and the money will find you. Which leads to the next point…
- Win a gold medal at one thing. Jeff said startups need minimize all of their ideas and focus on one thing and become the best at it. He referenced Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, on how he started out with the goal of becoming the best book seller in the world, and he did it. “Quit trying to do six things. Excellence is achieved when you become the best at one thing,” Hoffman said.
- Harvest Ideas. Hoffman recommends taking ten minutes out of your day to learn something new and write down one sentence about what you learned. Also, follow your curiosity, Hoffman said, and get out of the mental rut.
- Build a great team. While this is a must do for any company, he stressed hiring people who are smarter than you in the areas that you need. “The day that no one needs you in the company is the day you hired people smarter than you in every single area,” Hoffman said.
- Focus on operational excellence. “Everything you do needs to lead to your goal,” Hoffman said. He gave an example from the founder of 1-800-flowers, who told him everything the company does, from delivery efficiency to sales, is about selling more flowers, nothing else. He suggested to “write down what makes your company succeed and focus on the things that drive your company’s success.”
- Get out of your office and hang out with your customers. All the MBAs in the world can’t truly understand what your customers want until you go and chat with them, Hoffman said. “I schedule time and leave my office and go hang out where my customers exist. Just chat with people. We did the research outside of our office.”
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