Now is the greatest time in history to be an entrepreneur. Even with a challenging economy. Even emerging from a global pandemic. Right now is the time to seize your moment, chase your dream, and reframe your future.
Why and how?
Technology, which has made everything more scalable, cheaper, and given people around the world the opportunity to build their dreams at just a fraction of the cost from years ago. Rubicon epitomizes this. We hit the sweet spot in time when people were acquiring smartphones at a rapid pace and technological innovation around smartphone use was exploding. As a result, we were able to introduce technological innovation to an industry that had not seen major change in nearly 2,000 years.
We did it during a down economy as well. I started Rubicon in the depth of the 2008 market crash when most people were running for cover. That was the perfect time to take a big risk. What did I have to lose?
We are emerging from a pandemic right now, and I can tell you that now is the time to be bold and take action. I believe the market will reward that action. We need thought leaders to step up and get the economy moving again. Even in the worst of times, like the Great Recession, or at the end of COVID-19, great things can happen, and great people can and will step up.
Being an entrepreneur is a lot like being an artist. You are imagining and creating something. You are also taking a little of this and a little of that; taking the best of the waste industry and the best of the environmental industry and putting it into a pot and coming to a middle ground where all of these things can coalesce into the best in business leadership.
One of the things my mother used to tell me was “Your thoughts are free. It doesn’t cost any more to think big.” She encouraged me to think bigger and bigger, even though we had next to nothing.
I do not think of my background as something I overcame. I think of it as my greatest advantage. I was raised in a working home in Kentucky with a single parent. I am a ninth-generation Kentuckian who attended public schools and lived in a pro-union household. I’ve put a premium on surrounding myself with people who have expertise in subjects I do not. I was not a policy expert, a garbage expert, a recycling expert, or even a technology expert when I started Rubicon. I learned these things along the way — from the people I surrounded myself with.
I’m a big believer in finding experts. It is next to impossible to have every answer. We went out and found experts in compliance and policy and how to interact with government. In every business, you need people with blueprints. There are experts that you can attract who have their own manual, their own blueprint, their own knowledge they can bring to you that maybe you do not have.
Be thoughtful, and bold. Ask others for introductions to people you want to meet. A lot of people like to make introductions because networking creates value. You are doing them a favor by asking for an introduction. People do business with people they like and people they trust. Oftentimes the market bets on people, not businesses.
Rubicon started with the right mindset. We were so hungry, we were willing to do whatever it took. We are now a multi-billion dollar company with operations in 20 countries around the world. We made it happen through sheer force of will.
COVID was a challenging time for us all and, I trust, a once-in-a-generation challenge for most. In every challenge, there is an opportunity. Have confidence in yourself, dream big, and seize your opportunity.