Word From the Wise

There's a lot to learn on the road to the top. Here, 5 highly successful entrepreneurs reveal what the journey has taught them.

Lesson 1: We're All in This Together
Doug Ducey
CEO & Chairman, Cold Stone Creamery

Before I came to Cold Stone Creamery, I worked in sales and marketing for Procter & Gamble. It was the ideal place to learn the right way to do just about anything in business. But the emphasis seemed to be on personal achievement. Success was all about me making it happen. When I came to Cold Stone, some of that thinking had to change.

Cold Stone Creamery was founded [by] Don and Susan Sutherland in Tempe, Arizona. When I joined the company, my job was to grow the popular local ice cream store into a franchise. The first franchisees taught me more than I could ever convey.

By the time we had about 10 stores open, a man named Dan Farr came into our offices and boldly said, "I want to open up a Cold Stone Creamery in Alaska." I smiled and told him Alaska wasn't really a priority for us right now. Dan wouldn't take no for an answer, and by the end of our meeting, he had talked me into opening a store in Anchorage.

When Alaska became a success, we knew that Cold Stone Creamery could be a national phenomenon. Aside from being a great store owner, Dan and his unbridled belief in us opened our eyes to how big the world could really be.

In August 1999, our leadership team went on a strategic planning retreat. With just 74 stores open, we staked our claim that "The world will know Cold Stone Creamery as the 'Ultimate Ice Cream Experience' by having 1,000 profitable stores open by December 31, 2004."

As monumental as that vision was, equally important was a single line in our mission statement: The success of the franchisee and the ultimate happiness of the consumer will go hand-in-hand as our number-one priority.

After all, our success so far was hardly a solo act. From Don and Susan, who succeeded together, to the early franchisees like Dan Farr, we have been inspired by and have contributed to each other's success. Mutual success is the true success story at Cold Stone Creamery. Our success isn't about an individual, and it isn't just about a team. It's about putting the success of others before your own.

Lesson 2: Listen to Your Dreams
Jeff Taylor
Founder, Monster.com
You can change the world during a 30-minute shower. There's something about the hot water flowing over your head that makes what I call the "good part" and the "absent part" of your brain talk to each other. When you stand there with the soap in your hands, you begin to reinvent the soap. You think, I can put this clear soap together with this cream soap... I can make a better soap! Then you think, The shampoo doesn't have very good packaging. The next thing you know, you dream up a cool business idea. You turn off the shower and step one foot out onto the bathmat, then suddenly, you can't remember anything.

[In the shower], your mind, body and spirit are all moving into your subconscious, where you invent new things, solve problems and potentially create opportunities or big ideas. You have to pay attention to your subconscious. Learn to focus on your idea and maintain that idea long enough, so that when you get out of the shower, you're able to capture your idea on a nearby pad of paper.

I keep a pad of paper next to my bed, ready to catch my dreams and ideas. This leads me to a small, but important, life story.

In 1994, I had an ad agency that specialized in recruiting and retaining talent. Our success was built around the concept of creating "big ideas" for our clients. One day, a client said, "No more big ideas. I want a monster idea."

I actually had a dream about a monster idea, a bulletin board system for jobs. Paying attention to my subconscious, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and wrote down much of the interface and the concepts that are still used at Monster today.

Monster.com is now in 25 countries and has become the largest and most popular job search and career management site on the internet. Listen to your subconscious, learn to capture its power, and maybe, just maybe, you'll be the one to come up with the world's next monster idea!

Jeff Taylor is now working on Eons, a web business targeted at the 50- to 100-plus age group.

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This article was originally published in the October 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Word From the Wise.

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