Entrepreneurship

A Founder’s Journey Requires Seeing Crushed Dreams As Opportunities for Growth With Brian David Crane

A Founder’s Journey Requires Seeing Crushed Dreams As Opportunities for Growth With Brian David Crane

VENTEUR spoke with Brian David Crane, founder of Spread Great Ideas and CallerSmart, about his entrepreneurial journey. Crane started his entrepreneurial journey at a young age when his father gave him a lawn mower instead of the mountain bike he wanted. As a result, he started a lawn care business, which sparked his passion for entrepreneurship. 

After selling his first company after college, Crane ended up in Silicon Valley, where he had the opportunity to apprentice under several mentors who taught him how to build, grow, and scale digital businesses, plus run distributed teams. Their guidance enabled Crane to help launch four multi-million dollar e-commerce brands, including Archives.com, which Ancestry.com acquired for $100 million three years after its launch.

The Journey

The entrepreneurial journey is one of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself while building your business?

The importance of community.

I've been a digital nomad for the past decade. Still, I prefer to slow travel and strategically settle where I know I will find people with similar mindsets. We learn much through osmosis, and I'm a big proponent of sharing knowledge and in-depth conversations. 

The entrepreneurial journey is often lonely. Have you experienced loneliness as an entrepreneur? 

Community has played an enormous role in my entrepreneurial journey. I truly value the friendships and connections I've made along the way. However, isolation can be a real threat to entrepreneurs as they pursue their dreams. I've avoided this isolation by finding collaborative co-working environments and joining vibrant entrepreneurial communities. 

What role has intuition played in your success as an entrepreneur, and why do you think this is the case?

If you're feeling uneasy about something, there may be an underlying reason that's not so obvious. Entrepreneurship is a journey, and as Einstein said, "Failure is success in progress." You're not always going to make the right decision, and your intuition will only sometimes be correct. But you need to take risks. 

Your ability to assess situations and make decisions will improve as you continue your journey. 

If your gut feeling is telling you "no" or "yes," ask yourself, "why?" 

It is imperative to be analytical, but you also need to listen to your intuition, especially when it comes to new hires. If you're getting cold feet with a potential new hire, look at why you feel the way you are. It will guide you in future employment. 

The same goes for investing in a new business.

What is the most significant difference between how an entrepreneur sees their career path versus how an employee at a company sees their career path, and why?

Entrepreneurs need to be on their toes. Sometimes a business won't work out, interests and passions change, or you may see that something you're doing is working better than anticipated, and you decide to pivot. Whereas an employee at a company might follow a clear career path, an entrepreneur's career may have more peaks and valleys! 

The Psychological Warfare 

Entrepreneurs generally sleep less, work more, and let their health slip. This combination, combined with loneliness, often results in insecurity, self-esteem issues, and low self-worth. Have you experienced any of these issues as an entrepreneur?

After selling my recycling business after college, I embarked on an epic worldwide journey. I had made several investments I was sure about, and I was starting a new business. 

In my mind, I was at the top of my game, but then life kicked me in the teeth. My investments fell through, I ran out of money to support my business idea, and I was alone 5,000 miles from home. So, tail between my legs, I returned to the US with my dreams of epic travel and adventure crushed. 

Fortunately, I found an opportunity to be mentored by some incredible tech entrepreneurs and digital marketers in Silicon Valley. I learned the value of having coaches, mentors, and a community of people to learn from and grow with. I took the time to develop my leadership skills and absorb as much as possible from the people around me. When I set off again to pursue my business ideas, I took what I had learned and leveraged it to create communities where I traveled.

What is the most unrelatable part of being an entrepreneur, how does this impact your mental health, and why?

Your team will always expect you to have all the answers, and that's impossible. As leaders, we are expected to have the answers, but we must accept that we don't always have the answer and communicate that to our teams, partners, etc. 

I'm an avid reader and think of myself as a lifelong learner, but I still know that I will only sometimes have the best answer for specific situations. The ability to answer back, "I don't know," can help reduce the stress and pressure entrepreneurs sometimes feel. 

Entrepreneurs also need to master the art of delegating. As your business grows, you need to be able to entrust specific tasks to your team.

The Mistakes

What are three mistakes you made early on as an entrepreneur, what did you learn from them, and how can others avoid them?

1. Always Trying To Have the Answer

You can only sometimes have the correct answer, and there are some things that, as an entrepreneur, we need to be qualified to answer. So it's okay to say, "I don't know."

2. Not Having a Community

You need to build a community and make connections in your area. Seek out like-minded entrepreneurs, and you'll inspire and grow from each other. 

3. Not Learning From Your Mistakes

Maybe you start a business, and it doesn't work out, but that doesn't mean you're not meant to be an entrepreneur. Give yourself time, assess your skills, identify your shortcomings, and work on them. 

What are three things you see that are often overlooked by entrepreneurs you encounter, and how can other entrepreneurs be aware of these things from the beginning?

1. Creating a Separation Between Your Personal and Professional Life

Even though you might be putting in long hours, you need to take breaks to nurture your personal life and yourself. Entrepreneurs often overlook self-care, and this leads to burnout. 

2. Starting Too Aggressively

When starting, focus on only a few products or services. Stay calm, and keep your business streamlined and with a clear purpose. 

3. Not Investing in the Right People

Take the time to find the right people to build your team and invest in them. 

The Successes

What are three seemingly insurmountable obstacles you've faced as an entrepreneur, and how have you overcome them?

1. Self-Doubt

Self-doubt can snowball over time. One simple way I've overcome it is by journaling. Every night I write down three wins from that day. These wins can seem insignificant, but if you're proud of them, you should write them down. Doing this builds my confidence and helps me sleep better at night. 

2. Failure

Sometimes even the most thought-out plans fall through. My plans didn't work out after I graduated, and they helped me grow. If you're trying and taking risks, there is bound to be a failure. Take it as an opportunity to learn, adapt, and grow.

3. Isolation

Find people who share your interests and are on the same entrepreneurial journey as you, online or in person. Put yourself out there to meet new people, talk to people, and listen to their stories. We're so over-connected that we sometimes don't connect. Have meaningful conversations, leave your comfort zone, and be open to new experiences.

The Advice

What three key pieces of advice would have made your entrepreneurial journey more manageable, and why?

1. You Don’t Know Everything

Find mentors who can help guide you and give their input, but always follow your gut. 

2. Don’t Be Overly Ambitious When You Start

Plan out your business and only take on what you can handle.

3. Build Your Community

Find people you can debate and discuss things with, and bonus points if they're also on an entrepreneurial journey.

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