As a student at Seattle Pacific University, Dan Price won second place in the 2007 UW Business Plan Competition for Gravity Payments. This year he was the keynote speaker at the UW Business Plan Competition Awards Dinner on May 22. Price shared his personal story and the lessons he learned while building Gravity Payments into one the fastest growing credit card processing companies. His advice for student entrepreneurs:
Dive in. One important lesson for all entrepreneurs is to learn how to dive in and get things done—even when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Price shared what happened to him in 2008 when the financial collapse hit. First, 20% of his revenue evaporated overnight. Next, two of his major clients filed for bankruptcy leaving him with the prospect of losing $1.3 million, which would have left him with just $200K in the bank. But instead of panicking, he started learning everything he could about bankruptcy law and was appointed to the official committee for unsecured creditors for both bankruptcy cases. In the end, Gravity Payments didn’t lose the entire $1.3 million.
Make incremental progress. He also made the point that building a company is about making incremental progress each day. Instead of focusing on everything that needs to be done, do what you can see today.
Be open to change. You’re not going to follow your business plan exactly like you think you are. He said, “You’re going to shred it. You’re going to redo it.” It’s important to be flexible and open to change to meet demands. He said, “We’re doing things in our business I never imagined we would do.”
Support successful people traits. He concluded with a challenge to the audience. He showed an image depicting successful people versus unsuccessful people. Successful people share information, keep a journal, want others to be successful, while unsuccessful people fear change, secretly hope others fail and criticize others. Price challenged everyone to create a world where the successful people traits thrive.
Guest post by Claire Koerner, Lavin student and Foster undergrad She attended the Networking Secrets talk that was the kickoff event of Entrepreneur Week 2012. The speaker was Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments.
“What do you dislike about networking?” That’s the question Dan Price used to open his Top 10 Networking Secrets talk. Attendees weren’t expecting to hear that the networking “expert” hates networking! But Dan is not your average networker. He started his now almost $100 million (gross annual) revenue business, Gravity Payments, at the age of 19 and has grown it to be the largest credit card processing company in Washington. And he has met President Obama three times! Yet even Dan openly admits there are many things about networking that are difficult, including knowing what to say, following up with everyone you meet, and making it beneficial for all parties involved. Therefore, he suggests a different outlook on networking: incorporate the following 10 key values in your everyday life and an effective, mutually-beneficial network will follow.
BE TRANSPARENT – When interacting with people, it is okay to disagree openly with their opinions, but make sure to honestly engage with them in order to build lasting relationships.
PRACTICE EMPATHY – Even in uncomfortable situations like forced networking events, listen to what others need, understand their perspectives, and try to help wherever possible. Truly empathizing with others’ needs will smooth your networking nerves.
RECOGNIZE SHARED INTERESTS – Don’t pretend you are exactly the same as someone else, but be willing to find and make meaningful connections around mutual interests.
BE HUMBLE – Oftentimes you will be networking with people more successful and wiser than you, so be humble and willing to accept help. People are often willing to help if you are a sponge to their knowledge.
GIVE AND ACCEPT FAVORS – Reciprocity is one of the most important benefits of networking, and is important in building trust in relationships. Try to find three favors you can do for someone else every day. Not only will it make you feel better, but it will also improve your network.
SOLVE PROBLEMS TOGETHER – Be open and honest about issues you see in the arenas in which your connections have influence, and work through solutions to those issues together. This builds relationships much faster than merely shooting the breeze.
HAVE FUN – When you go out and enjoy life, chances are others will come along to share in the fun and this will only increase your network AND social life at the same time.
BELIEVE IN SERENDIPITY – Networking isn’t always about setting out to meet the right people. Sometimes, the best contacts fall into your lap and you just have to be open to the craziest and best opportunities coming your way.
DON’T BE A DOUCHEBAG – This one seems obvious, but integrity is extremely important in maintaining your reputation and the trust of those in your network.
TREAT EVERYONE EQUALLY – You don’t have to seek out the people that will be most beneficial for your success. When you are friendly and incorporate the values above, the best contacts will come your way and stay to help out for the long haul.
Entrepreneur Week is put on by the UW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Learn more.
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