Interview with Scott Patterson

1. How has your career path changed up until now?
Well, I own several companies, and over the past year or two, I have continued buying more. I would say that rather than having a portfolio of three companies, what is now a portfolio of five brings a lot more responsibilities, especially when each company operates in different fields of expertise. With that, these acquisitions and management responsibilities have changed my path greatly at this stage in my career.

2. Did you have a mentor who helped you get to where you are now? If so, what would you say is the most important thing you learned from your mentor?
I feel like I'm the OG in the network, ha ha, and I have a lot of mentees. But of course, I did have a lot of mentors. Long before I became an entrepreneur, especially when I was in the Air Force, there were a lot of mentors that I had there. Lots of colonels and a lot of generals because I was an officer. I was really taken under their wing and they guided me on how the game is played. Then, I really just ventured out and learned on my own from there. Beyond this, there were a lot of people I've met throughout my experiences and throughout my travels that offered me feedback and strategy towards a particular goal I had and showed me a particular way of doing things that really helped out. I took those little nuggets and added them to everything else. Even though it's very difficult to find a mentor, especially when you're a CEO and have multiple companies, what you find is that you meet a lot of people and pick up on a lot of different mental models along the way.

3. What advice would you give to those pursuing their first business venture?
Learn how to do everything. Oftentimes, what I hear when I teach my classes is that people don't really know how to handle something like finances and aren’t going to do that themselves. They also might say that they don't really understand how to develop the product, and so they have to figure out who to hire for that. When you're first starting a company, you have to be everything, you have to be the Chief Marketing Officer, you have to be the Chief Financial Officer, you have to understand the product immensely. Even if you're in a product or service that develops or manufactures a particular brand. While you might not own the manufacturing plant, you still need to have absolute knowledge of how the process is done. With that, what I like to tell everyone is to understand how to do it all yourself. When you absolutely have zero time remaining, and it's actually hurting the business by you developing a product, handling the finances, expanding the business, working on the website, and you reach that point where you literally have no more time remaining, then you bring someone on. That is the mistake that a lot of young entrepreneurs make.

4. How do you overcome risk when it comes to making business decisions?
The saying “It's lonely at the top” is definitely true. There are not a lot of people who are successful in business and so it's very difficult for young business owners to get solid advice. From a risk management standpoint, you have to make sure that you're doing something that adds value. If you're doing something that you're passionate about and it makes no money, that math doesn't check out and it doesn't make sense. Go do something else, but keep your pursuit of the passion project on the sideline for a time. Whatever it is that you're looking into, your math should check out, there should be a need for it, you should have a good price, and you should be able to articulate your business to someone in about 90 seconds. When all of these things are in play and you're able to get a client, then leverage that one client for multiple clients that you can gain organically from that first client. Then at that point, your risk model becomes almost obsolete, because there is no risk. Of course, there are inherent risks that every business has, but there is no high-level risk. So go make sure your business works. If it works, it will ease all the trepidations when you get clients, when you get sales, when you start to understand the process, and when you're able to build that organic growth off the one or two clients that you were able to attain. This will take the risk profile and reduce it drastically. The reason why a lot of people have a lot of risk in their business is because the business isn't working. What they're doing is they're trying to figure out different strategies in order to put life into the business, but if it's dead in the water, you need to move on to something else. You can't bring life to death. It's death, and you need to understand that. You can't take it personally. Learn to adapt, and move on if there is nothing there.

5. Why did you decide to become a mentor/ investor for the Hospitality Innovation Hub Incubator?
There are a lot of people who volunteer for things just for the sake of volunteering, just so they can have it. They can market that and it sticks out on their resume because it sounds cool or opens social circles, but they add absolutely zero value. When you're able to add value, especially in this particular space, then you should do it and give back. The purpose of having a mentor and the purpose of mentoring is not to make the path longer, it's a relationship that helps people attain some of the things that they want in business in a shorter time. If a mentor can help minimize risk and minimize cash, even beyond guidance, then that's great. Additionally, I like a lot of the young guys’ ideas, the new generation is great. They just need a little bit of help, and I want to help them out as much as I can. If I can help out from an investor's standpoint, that's even better as well, right? With the aid of guidance and infusion, you get the tools you need in order to propel your business along. Mentors have a lot to give, and I think that when you have a lot to give, you owe it, to the universe and that new generation you can open the door for. You can do that by donating your time and donating your expertise as if you're in the business with them. There's something of value that everybody should be doing.

6. Are there any good books that you would recommend?
I just came back from the James Collins conference, and he wrote the famous book Good to Great, I read that book about 10 years 11 years ago. It's something everyone should read on how the mighty fall and how companies fail. What are some of the last gasps and attempts that they make in order to save things? A lot of the time it actually propels the failure even higher. Greg McKeown's Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less was another book that changed my life, teaching how to divide the vital few from the trivial many.  

Scott Patterson