Student Innovation kicked off E-Week by bringing serial entrepreneur, author of Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain, and gang member turned multimillionaire, Ryan Blair, to the University of Waterloo campus. Ryan highlighted three key factors as fundamental to his success:
Mentorship. Ryan stresses not only the importance, but also the accessibility of mentorship. Unlike most mentorship models, Ryan notes that there’s no need for a formal mentorship defined by titles and lengthy relationships. Instead he advises individuals to treat every event, every encounter and every great business venture as an opportunity to learn. Any individual from whom you adopt a practice or thought process is a mentor. Despite reinforcing the value of such advice, he cautions adoptees against becoming caught up in the various systems these individuals have used to attain success. Consider the systems of successful innovators in the same line of thought as your own – whatever it is you identify with – but use that only as a guideline for your own growth.
Company Culture. This aforementioned system or model will translate into your company’s organizational structure in later years. If you haven’t created a system that is truly yours, or that you are wholly invested in, this will adversely effect your dedication to its parent organization. Again, don’t adopt what worked for someone else; rather, create what works for you. Design a company culture that draws you into work each morning – something that excites you daily, and that cultivates creativity. Without this, how will you as an entrepreneur continue to innovate? Without this excitement, you’ll likely become bored and sell the business, or worse still, fail.
Goals. Start with small goals, simple things that are easily attainable. A higher level of difficulty isn’t necessary to make a goal meaningful. Focus on those small goals, but when you reach them, do not be satisfied. Continually reassess. Never be satisfied. If Ryan was satisfied after reaching his first few goals, he’d still be earning $7/hr. Instead, he’s earning $20,000/minute.