We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.
Meet: Casey Graham, the founder of Giving Rocket and one of the founders of Preaching Rocket, both parts of The Rocket Company, which helps churches succeed. Casey spent 10 years “in the trenches of local church ministry,” which ignited his passion for helping church leaders improve their ministries and personal lives. Over the years he has helped hundreds of churches. The consummate entrepreneur (he started his first business at 14), Casey is “fired up about creating GREAT companies that do GOOD.”
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Casey Graham: Mostly I remember wanting to be a baseball player. It was a big deal to me as a kid. During my first year of baseball, when I was 5, I didn’t’ make the all-star team and made the biggest scene crying like a baby behind the dugout.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Graham: I was pregnant with an idea while being an employee and the bigger the idea got, the more restless I became. I wanted autonomy to do my own thing and I felt like I could make a difference.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Graham: A few years ago I reached a point of desperation. I was $80k in debt, just ended a bad business partnership, had to fire three people at once because we couldn’t pay them, and ended up sitting in an empty office that I’d broken the lease on because I couldn’t afford it. In that moment of desperation I said, “I either need to go get a job or change the way I do business.”
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Graham: You must confront the brutal facts. As a business owner, I can get drunk with vision and ideas and became intoxicated and end up not living in the reality that things aren’t working—that what’s happening with our staff, customers and finances is moving the wrong direction. I have to get out of “visionary land” and look at the facts, not just base my judgments on what I feel.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Graham: Focus. Stop dabbling and start dominating.
Dabbling is like a dagger to small businesses. You should have few things you’re working on and making them work really, really well.
Lesonsky: Do you have a 2014 small business prediction?
Graham: I believe that more small businesses will be started in 2014 than in previous years. Business are able to get more funding and capital and it’s starting to boom. As you look around you realize that office spaces that once sat empty are now leased. As I sit here in Starbucks and look out the window there is roadwork, bulldozers and construction in every direction. This is the beginning of a massive boom in the growth of small business across America, and it’s exciting.
Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?
Graham: The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber was the first book that helped me understand that I am not my business and my business isn’t’ me. My value as a human being is not based on the value of my business and I should treat it as such. My business is an asset and its success or failure doesn’t determine my success or failure.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Graham: “The happiest and healthiest people are those whose expectations meet reality.” To be honest, I’ve never been able to find where that quote came from, but I love it because I want to be happy and healthy. So I try to live with realistic expectations of life and people…the more realistic I make those, the better my life is. Confronting the brutal facts is because I’d rather know it’s bad than live in a fantasyland that it’s all good and ultimately end up disappointed.
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