Adam Stern on the Entrepreneur’s Life: Tips from the Road

Adam Stern | The Entrepreneur Way

  • In today’s business world the central role of the customer has been lost. The customer’s role is the most important role. Customers should set the tempo. They should decide what’s most important to them. Businesses should be trying to address those things that pain them most. I believe that’s been lost today.
  • If our main selling point is that we’re cheaper or slightly faster, at the end of the day, those are things that anyone can do — but they can’t necessarily be as good at addressing our customers’ needs and listening to them.
  • The real issue is that whether you attract VC money or not, or whether or not you have a fantastic product, someone has to understand you and your product. Someone has to want you and your product. It has to do something for them that they can’t do for themselves or that something else in the industry doesn’t do for them.
  • There are a couple of different types of entrepreneurs: those who jump without looking, and those who embrace risk and when they fail, pick themselves up and leap in again. While their road is just as hard, they don’t have the fear that can prevent someone from being successful.
  • If you intend to have honest employees, you need honest owners. If you intend to have hard-working employees, you need hard-working owners. If you want good communications, you have to communicate effectively yourself. To build a strong culture, you have to have strong ideals and execute on those ideals every day.
  • To build a company, there’s a standard process that people follow: it’s resumes and interviews and talking to people. And for small businesses, it might be hiring people’s family or friends. But it really boils down to having the ability, through direct contact, to determine if this is going to be the kind of person who is going to make your company better.
  • Part of what a good business owner has to do is use their limited interactions with every employee to maximum effect. You interact with people at the top of the chain a lot more than you do than at the bottom. You have to use every interaction as an opportunity to demonstrate what’s important to you and what should be important to the company.
  • I love the mission statement process that every MBA student goes through; it’s a wonderful exercise, but mission statements are a one-time thing you stick on a wall. If you can illustrate your mission to your employees daily by behavior, with good communication that explains to them why we do what we do, you do a much better job of getting people to understand their role in the business and what’s important to the business itself. Is it closing a support ticket — or is it leaving the customer at the end of the support ticket feeling supported? There’s a huge distinction there, one that I think often is lost.
  • In life, as in business, you have to make mistakes. I don’t know that there is a real way to jump over the mistake part. The things I did poorly in my ‘20s as a manager and the things that I did poorly in my ‘30s as an owner led me to where I am today. If you want to run a business, you have to do your part in learning from your own mistakes.
  • It’s sometimes difficult to have an open-door policy. It can be frustrating to listen to every suggestion your employees bring to you, but it’s better to hear them out and not dismiss them out of hand. Encourage employees to bring them. Very often the first thing that comes out of an owner’s mouth when an employee makes a suggestion is “no” or “we can’t do it that way.” And if you do that, your employees will never help you make your business better.
  • As an owner, if you can remain open to new ways of doing things – not necessarily with a suggestion you implement but one that might lead you somewhere that makes your business far more successful – you will have built a learning business. That’s very difficult to do — to build a company that can learn from contacts with stakeholders, customers, vendors, employees and other owners.
  • There’s an in-between that you need to find; you can’t analyze everything to death or you’ll never make a decision. And if you’re going to make decisions quickly based on limited information, you have to build a very strong decision-making paradigm. Because you never have 100 percent of the information you need. If you do, it’s too late. You’ve already missed the opportunity.
  • If you fail, which you will — and you may fail over and over and over again — that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you just haven’t picked the right idea yet. You haven’t executed it in the best way possible yet. And so long as you learn from your failures, you can be successful.
  • At the same time, just because you’ve started a successful business doesn’t mean you’ll remain successful for the rest of your career. You have to be willing to chart and change your course based on the currents you encounter on your journey.

Excerpted from the podcast,

About Adam Stern
Adam Stern, founder and CEO of Infinitely Virtual, is an entrepreneur who saw the value of virtualization and cloud computing a decade ago. Stern’s company helps businesses move from obsolete hardware investments to an IaaS [Infrastructure as a Service] cloud platform, providing them the flexibility and scalability to transition select data operations from in-house to the cloud.

Stern founded Infinitely Virtual in 2007, to provide virtual dedicated server solutions to growing enterprises, offering what was essentially a cloud computing platform before the term existed. Infinitely Virtual is a subsidiary of Santa Monica-based Altay Corporation, which Stern founded in 2003 to provide Windows, VMware and other service solutions to small and medium-size businesses.

Since 2007, Infinitely Virtual has grown exponentially through its offering affordable, customized cloud-based solutions, using the most sophisticated technology available. Host Review named the company to its list of “Top Ten Fastest Growing” enterprises in 2011 and it has made the list on a regular basis ever since. Stern is a firm believer in corporate responsibility. The company’s products and services feature low-power consumption and fit squarely within the green IT movement. As a provider — and consumer – of cloud based services, Infinitely Virtual is committed to sustainability.

Prior to founding Altay and Infinitely Virtual, Stern worked for CallOne, Inc., a value-added reseller of computer equipment and professional services. From 1997 to 2000, Stern led CallOne as the Vice President of Operations. He then worked for 3Com in 2000 as a network consultant.

Stern holds a B.S. degree in business administration and management from Cal State, Northridge.