To Find Success as an Entrepreneur, Focus Less on Your Bank Account and More on Your Purpose
Every year, we publish the Entrepreneur 360 — our list of the 360 most well-rounded companies in America, based on an evaluation of impact, innovation, growth, leadership and business valuation. Our 2019 list debuts on Oct 1. In advance, we're checking in with some 2018 honorees, including the one below.
For Amit Mehta, the CEO of Moblize, a Houston-based data analytics company that primarily works with oil and gas companies, success isn’t defined by how much money a company makes; rather, it's defined by that company's larger purpose for the world we live in today.
This sort of mindset has not only helped Mehta and his company expand — Moblize currently has 100 employees worldwide and, according to the company, has seen 200 percent year-over-year growth in the last three years — but it's also one reason Moblize snagged the top spot on the 2018 Entrepreneur 360 list, a ranking that looks at five metrics — impact, growth, leadership, valuation and innovation — to determine success.
Below, Mehta goes deeper into his definition of success, advice on how to build a powerful company and tips for overcoming challenges.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How do you define success?
I define success by the difference you make, not the dollars you make. By focusing your motives on being selfless versus selfish, it helps when you are hit by outside forces that can have a negative impact on your business, making you want to quit during your journey. Focusing on the selfless promise to yourself can help during those hard times.
For me, the selfless motive has always been to ultimately build schools for orphans with infrastructure access to them in third world countries. Becoming an entrepreneur was the best vehicle I knew to help me get there, so whenever I went through tough times in the journey, this selfless motive kicked in and pushed me to keep going. For example, I fought a lawsuit which cost $1 million, but we fought and won it. It affected my health and I wanted to quit, but each time, I remembered my motive.
How do you build a strong company culture?
Culture grows and evolves — when you're a startup, your culture is different than when you're a fast-growing company or when you transition into being an established company. At every phase, culture will have to be tweaked, but your company values should remain the same.
As the company grows, team members have to grow, too, as you will introduce new people, processes and policies. Many old habits will have to be shunned. You need to always be sure you are identifying the top performers and rising stars and seeking their guidance as you go through different phases of culture evolution. They are your change agents.
What are your best practices and advice for retaining employees?
I have a Ph.D. in making hiring mistakes; I have hired and fired plenty of good people who were in the wrong positions. The best thing I learned over time is that no matter what you ask in an interview, you will rarely understand the person in a few hours. So I now hire them for a 90-day probation period and closely observe their actions, as those speak louder than words.
What makes a great employee?
I look for top performers based on two traits. First, a hard-working attitude. If they have a great attitude but are not driving results, you can move them into different positions. If they drive results, then promote them into positions of power and authority.
Second, less ego. Note: I didn’t say "no ego." But top performers always have less ego, and they tend to be hard on themselves and hold themselves to higher standards versus craving validation from others. I don’t encourage them to be best as they are already doing their best; I encourage them to be better through continuous learning, pushing them outside their comfort zone and giving them more responsibilities than they can handle.
How do you define your leadership style, and what can others learn from it?
I work about 14 hours a day. I will make time for hungry minds in my company during nights and weekends, or as needed, if people want to learn something. In general, I move fast, but I understand you cannot have your team always move at your pace. So, now I have adopted a new concept to lead my team. Called the staircase approach, I make them aware in step one and give them time to understand and accept the concept or new strategy in step two and step three. Once they do that, they will commit to it in step four. I am a firm believer that you lead by example. You should always be open to learning, as life is like a pole: The day you stop learning is the day you slide down.