Entrepreneur Kirk Taylor has been successful at building many companies from scratch. As a serial entrepreneur with experience stretching back 34 years ago, he is happy to share what he has learned to help small business owners. Although success and building new companies is somewhat akin to riding a roller coaster. Ups and downs are bound to occur.
His first company project was launching and building LimoLink, a website that catered to transportation needs for people all over the world who were seeking elegant rides. A second company was built after that experience. It was successful enough to produce revenues of $20 million annually within a three year period of time. The company was recognized as one of the fastest growing private companies by INC magazine. He was also awarded Entrepreneur of the year for small-midsize companies in Iowa.He reveled in sales tallying in the neighborhood of $20 million in three years.
He left the company in 2002 eager to move on to bigger and greener pastures and start on a new project. “I’m not a CEO-type guy,” he says. “I like the starting-up phase.” But he was wise enough to take what he’d learned in his first experiences with him, and creating new opportunities in other niches.
Catching on quick to an opportunity and moving double quick to get it functional is what real entrepreneurs do, Taylor says.
Kirk Taylor knew a good thing when he saw it. “It” was the weekly ABC Shark Tank Show. Entrepreneurs who have what they are convinced is a good business idea have an opportunity to try to raise capital if their idea is appealing to the panel members. Panel members are five recognized business geniuses who are millionaires, and billionaires ready to invest in new ideas. The panel members listen to the pitch, then offer (or don’t offer) partnerships providing money and sometimes expertise to the entrepreneur.
Taylor assumed, rightly, that the show was going to attract a huge audience of people itching to get into business or to improve a business already established. He piggy-backed by creating a blog focused on Shark Tank’s entrepreneur interviews. Communication then opened up between Shark Tank producers and Kirk.
One of the people who has been very helpful to him is Barbara Corcoran, one of the Sharks who swims weekly in the ABC Tank. On his blog, he interviews contestants of the show and publishes those interviews. The blog has become very popular,” he says. “She has given me scoops regarding things that are likely to happen, but we have no direct conversation. It’s a trust relationship,” he says, “and I work hard at keeping that trust. I’m careful not to abuse it.”
Over his years as a successful serial entrepreneur, Taylor has learned a thing or two (or a whole lot more) about the relative roles of idealism and realism . Without the dream, nothing happens, “But there has to be realism, too.” Most entrepreneurs, in his very educated opinion, are strong-willed people who learn to recognize that magic spot where idealism has to be set aside for the sake of facing up to the real business world.
The barrier that trips up many would-be businesses short of success is the money issue, he says. “Every entrepreneur has to raise capital.” Trying to go solo on that challenge without any understanding of the process has sunk many a newcomer to the competition. He suggests involving others who know the ropes and can find the most suitable investors to back your idea. Often the entrepreneur has friends with expertise. “Work them all.”
Small Business Mistakes
His own biggest mistakes in building companies, he admits, have been in turning too much control over to managers. When he associated himself with people who had been successful in big companies, the tendency then became to let them supplant him at the top of the decision-making pyramid. “That’s been a real disaster,” he says. It’s the entrepreneur’s life, financial well-being and ability to keep expanding that’s on the line — too much personal investment to turn it over to someone else without restraints, he has learned.
The most important goal, according to Kirk, is to get to a point in life where you and your company are completely debt free. In 2008, he turned to affiliate marketing, building yet another new source of income. “I like it,” he says. He sees “huge potential in sales with relatively low start up expenses.” He likes the independence it offers and the feeling of not being bound to others when decisions need to be made.