Simple Yet Powerful Business Lessons From a Broke Entrepreneur Turned Multi-Millionaire

Some wise words that you can put into practice at your own startup endeavors.

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By Carol Roth • Jun 23, 2014

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A boy grows up poor in Poland, drops out of high school and moves to the U.S. at age 17 without speaking one word of English, becomes a millionaire, loses it all and rebuilds over and over again, each time with more success.

That may sound like a movie script, but it's part of the fascinating real-life story of serial entrepreneur Tomas Gorny, co-founder and chief executive of cloud-based communications provider Nextiva -- as well as iBoost (funded by SoftBank) and IPOWER, now part of Endurance International Group where he remains a director.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Gorny recently and he shared some of his secrets of entrepreneurial success:

Related: Hungry for Success? 3 Business Lessons From the Food Network.

Creation is greater than accumulation: Gorny's biggest lesson came from learning to focus on creation, letting his drive and passion guide his decisions instead of money. "Don't chase the money," he advises. He says it is too easy to get caught up in the game of capital raising or focusing on an exit strategy -- which was a roadblock to his own success. When he refocused his energy on creating and innovating, the money followed, instead of potentially compromising decisions that ultimately would not have been in the best interest of the company.

Never compromise quality, especially with people: Quality is paramount, and that extends to the people that you surround yourself with, from friends to employees. Gorny said that having friends that were focused on wealth and flashy lifestyles made him unfocused and actually led to his temporary financial woes. He learned from that lesson and brought it into his professional life where he only hires people that he is proud to work with. This creates the quality environment on the inside of the business that translates into high quality interactions with customers, every time.

Good products will thrive and survive: There is a lot of noise in every marketplace, which is something that every entrepreneur trying to compete for customer mind-share is acutely aware of. However, Gorny advises delivering the best products or services you can that solve customer needs. Those products and services outlast the noise as customers can't live without them and often refer them to friends.

Related: All Successful Entrepreneurs Do These 3 Things (Video)

Making sense makes sense: When Gorny first came to America, he distinctly remembered needing to buy shoes and seeing a July 4th special sale offering two pairs for the price of one. This two-for-one special bothered him, because he only needed one pair of shoes and informed how he approached marketing from then on -- always from the customer perspective. That's why in his current company he focuses on one-stop bundling and offers that are precisely what the customers want and help them simplify their decision-making.

Your past is not your future: Having been extremely poor, losing his fortune and having to start over working as a valet and carpet cleaner in between building million-dollar businesses, Gorny encourages every entrepreneur to realize that your past and current circumstances don't determine your ability to be successful in the future. Only you and your willingness to work hard, work smart and keep trying do.

Having been there a number of times, Gorny's success speaks for itself and will hopefully inspire your success too.

Related: TOMS Founder: 'Focus on Your Passion. Nothing Else Matters.'

Disclosure: Carol Roth has had a client relationship with one of Tomas Gorny's businesses.

Carol Roth

Entrepreneur, TV host and small business expert

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, a “recovering” investment banker, business advisor, entrepreneur and best-selling author. She is also a reality TV show judge, media contributor and host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. A small business expert, Roth has worked with companies of all sizes on everything from strategy to content creation and marketing to raising capital. She’s been a public company director and invests in mid-stage companies, as well.

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