(Interview conducted by Raul Candeloro)
In the pursuit of helping Small Giants and aspiring Small Giants challenge themselves, tweak their thinking, find ideas, gather resources and build experiences, we’re lucky to encounter a wide variety of leaders who are passionate about sharing what made them a success. This brought us to Kevin Johnson of Johnson Media Inc. and his new book “The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs.” Kevin was gracious enough to spend some time talking with us about the path of his company and new book.
Raul Candeloro, Small Giants Community (SGC): Let’s begin by talking about yourself, so our readers can get to know you better. Could you briefly describe your life journey until you wrote The Entrepreneur Mind?
Kevin Johnson: I started my company in 1999 as a sophomore in college, making my first sale for $1,800. Recently, my company won the largest bid in its history, a $40 million project. My company began by serving mostly small startups with little profits; now we serve Fortune 100 businesses with billions of dollars in profits. Starting and continuing to grow my marketing and communications company, Johnson Media Inc., has been an incredible journey and overwhelming joy.
Growing up, I never thought I’d be a successful entrepreneur. I was raised in Boston, went to college in Atlanta at Morehouse College, and studied computer science to be a software developer for a corporation. That was the golden path, as it were. But I caught the entrepreneurial bug, and I am glad I did.
Becoming an entrepreneur is one of the most rewarding decisions I have made in life. I love advocating entrepreneurship, and one of the best ways to do that is to write a book. Out of my passion to encourage others to pursue entrepreneurship and to mentor business owners came my book, The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs.
SGC: Now about the book. With already so many books out there about entrepreneurship, what new information does The Entrepreneur Mind offer?
Kevin Johnson: The main reason that colleges and universities are already using my book for business classes and that we are fast approaching 1,000 pre-order sales is because the book breaks down complex topics and makes them digestible. Likewise, the read is entertaining. This has been the consistent feedback that people who have read the book and samples tell me. The 100 concepts in the book are presented in a way that makes them easier to learn and master quickly. For many people, that makes all the difference. The book is a comprehensive treatment of new and old concepts that are needed to excel as an entrepreneur in today’s business environment.
SGC: Could you give us an example out of The Entrepreneur Mind that reflects your main ideas or concepts?
Kevin Johnson: No other book about entrepreneurship examines how elite entrepreneurs think and provides 100 lessons to adopt this way of thinking. How we think affects our actions; and our actions determine our fate. This principle is especially true in business. The Entrepreneur Mind offers simple, digestible concepts that entrepreneurs must master to reach a high level of success. The book is pragmatic, not theoretical. Every reader will gain new ways of thinking that will help to improve his or her business.
One of the most important and popular concepts we discuss in the book is the need for entrepreneurs to create new markets. Research, statistics, and cases prove that new markets represent the greatest potential for growth, sustainability, and profitability. Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com), and Henry Ford (Ford), created markets that didn’t exist and were able to capitalize on those markets. Considering this cogent data, elite entrepreneurs must think in terms of creating and exploiting new markets.
SGC: In a short sentence, what kind of person should read your book? What kind of advice should they be looking for? Or what kind of problem should they be looking to solve?
Kevin Johnson: This book is for a wide range of individuals who are excited about entrepreneurship and business. The range includes those who are thinking about starting a business and those who have been in business for decades. There is something for everyone. More specifically, I think people who are considering starting a business or just starting their own business will benefit most from reading this book. As the book’s title implies, readers will learn how to think like an elite entrepreneur. They will receive practical advice in seven areas: Strategy, Education, People, Finance, Marketing and Sales, Leadership, and Motivation. The book helps readers to solve the problem of not having knowledge presented in a pragmatic way to spur tremendous, business growth.
SGC: What’s the first thing you would like a reader to do after finishing The Entrepreneur Mind?
One of my main goals in writing this book is to create an ongoing dialogue, not just a monologue. It is important that entrepreneurs help one another. Considering this, the first thing people should do after reading my book is send me an e-mail and tell me how the book has helped them. They can share what they liked and disliked, where they need more help, etc. I’d love to begin a relationship with readers that enables me to help them grow as entrepreneurs.
About your work as a President/CEO:
SGC: What is the biggest mistake you see small business owners making in the areas covered by your book?
Kevin Johnson: One of the biggest mistakes that small business owners make is not thinking big. For example, an entrepreneur approached me about starting a company that would serve a niche market in a certain geographical area. However, the idea had global potential because it was useful for a global market and could be applied to other industries. Because of the limitations of his environment and experience, he couldn’t understand the global potential of his idea. Because of his myopia, he was missing an opportunity to make millions more in profits without necessarily expending more effort and resources.
SGC: What suggestions would you give them to improve? Where should they start?
Kevin Johnson: How do you think big? There are many ways, and I tackle these in detail in the book, but I’ll give you a basic step that can help. You must establish a diverse network of individuals who think big and understand what it takes to arrive at that level. One way of doing that is by joining and following and actively using organizations like Small Giants that provide great knowledge, connections, and resources.
SGC: What about managers? In general, what do you think they should STOP doing if they want to improve their results? Anything they should start doing more?
Managers play an important role in providing structure, holding team members accountable, and driving growth. I will focus on what they should do as opposed to what they should not do. Managers must realize and remember that they cannot manage people, per say, only expectations. Conflict often comes from failed expectations. Therefore, managers must always be clear and thorough about what they expect from team members. Results will improve when you do this. I go into further detail in the book.
SGC: After all the research you did for The Entrepreneur Mind and based on all your experience in this area, what kind advice you see out there that you disagree with – think is wrong and makes you mad when you hear someone giving it?
Kevin Johnson: There are two pieces of advice that I think are wrong or misleading.
The first is to follow your passion. I talk about this entrepreneurial mantra in detail in my book, mentioning Mark Cuban’s perspective on this issue, which is similar to mine. Mark and I believe that entrepreneurs should follow their efforts, talents, and opportunities. I have pursued great business ideas and opportunities that weren’t necessarily my passion, and they have paid tremendous dividends. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t be led to believe that following their passion is a requirement for true success.
The second bad piece of advice is also in the book. I dismiss the idea that it takes money to make money. I’ve started a few businesses without money. This advice is most crippling to new entrepreneurs who often get caught up on raising funds instead moving forward with the resources they already have.
SGC: Any additional comments or thoughts for our readers?
Kevin Johnson: Thank you for this opportunity to talk about The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs. You can purchase the book on our web site at TheEntrepreneurMind.com for $19.95.
SGC: Want to get the book or get hold of Kevin?
- Websites: 1) http://www.TheEntrepreneurMind.com 2) http://www.JohnsonMedia.com
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheEntrepreneurMind
- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/BizWizKevin
- Linkedin: NA