Meet Mike Funkhouser, the CEO of Small Business Mentor. Small Business Mentor is a platform for entrepreneurs and business owners. It includes free resources and education so that anyone who wants to start or grow their business can do so. He started his first business the day after he got his driver’s license and has been in love with entrepreneurship ever since. From dive bars to startups, and those just starting to seasoned entrepreneurs, IMike’s been dedicated to helping small businesses grow for over a decade.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Mike Funkhouser: I started my first business when I was in high school as a photographer. I’d go around to local sporting events and take photos of my peers and then go up to their parents and ask $20 for the photos. It helped me pay for some of my degree at the University of Michigan. I found a passion for solving problems and connecting dots early on in life and entrepreneurship was a natural choice. I consulted for companies big and small on their marketing and growth strategies before eventually deciding that if I was good enough to do it for others, I was good enough to do it for myself. Soon after, Small Business Mentor was born.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your view point, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Mike Funkhouser: I believe that entrepreneurs are made. If you put someone in a situation where they need to fight their way out or need to solve problems in order to succeed, you’ll make an entrepreneur. I definitely believe that entrepreneurs are made from pressure and problems. They learn how to fall forward, be lifelong learners, and create opportunities where others see problems.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Mike Funkhouser: I have a tattoo of a puzzle piece on my arm. I love solving puzzles and I love creating opportunities out of problems. If I had to describe myself in a few words I would say I’m passionate, driven, and excited about growth.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Mike Funkhouser: My company started as a marketing agency. We worked with clients of all shapes and sizes and eventually realized that we could make a bigger impact through education and providing resources. Now, instead of working directly with businesses, we connect them with the resources they need and provide a library of content.
Today, Small Business Mentor is a platform that businesses of all shapes and sizes can use to start, manage, and scale their business. From agency matching to funding resources, we aim to provide anything someone needs to make their dream come true.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Mike Funkhouser: They aren’t going to get it right the first time. This isn’t to say that their business is going to fail, but that the entrepreneur is going to need to be flexible and fall forward when they make mistakes.
Take 2020 for example, the businesses that survived the pandemic were the ones that were able to confront a situation and come up with solutions. Entrepreneurs can’t plant their feet in the ground and decide they aren’t going to change with the times and adapt to new problems.
An entrepreneur must assume that things aren’t going to go right, but they have the knowledge and decision-making ability to figure it out.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Mike Funkhouser: I wouldn’t say that I paid for it dearly, but it definitely slowed down the growth of the company. I assumed that because I had a great idea and a great mission, that things would fall into place. However, I quickly learned that just because you have passion and a great idea, it doesn’t mean customers and revenue are just going to come to you. It takes a lot of blood sweat and tears to build a business – even if you have a perfect idea.
Once I realized that it wasn’t going to be easy and if I truly wanted my business to succeed I had to earn it, I started getting more and more wins.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Mike Funkhouser: If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to enjoy the process. As entrepreneurs, we are always going to find a way to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. It’s in our nature to solve problems. Early on I spent so much time trying to figure out how to make everything work right away that I forgot to enjoy the process. Looking back, I wished I’d enjoy the ride and sightsee a little bit more.
However, no regrets. We still had fun!
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Mike Funkhouser: I’ve met a lot of business owners in my life and I would say the worst advice I received was to stop caring so much about the customer. There are a lot of business owners out there that spend their entire careers focused on improving revenue and getting higher margins.
That may work for some people, but I didn’t start Small Business Mentor to take money out of people’s pockets. Being an entrepreneur is so much more rewarding and so much more fun when you’re focused on improving lives and solving problems. The money will come. You don’t have to take advantage of people to do it.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Mike Funkhouser: I think Covid-19 has definitely made an impact on entrepreneurs, but I think it’s mostly in a positive way. They saw how large companies handled laying off employees and how CEOs received large raises. I think a lot of people realized that there’s a better way of doing things. Covid-19 illuminated a lot of problems and in turn, created a lot of opportunities.
I would say the thing that hasn’t changed is the mindset of an entrepreneur. Covid-19 put a lot of strain on a lot of people. But I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs take what they have learned and grow from it to improve their organizations. As I said earlier, entrepreneurs always fall forward.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Mike Funkhouser: The classic stereotype of an entrepreneur making a ton of money and working 24/7 isn’t as common as people think. I’ve met so many parents building their businesses in between working and taking care of their kids. I’ve seen people living out of vans making just enough money to be free and off the grid. Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re aiming to be the next Jeff Bezos or just want to get out of the rat race, you can be a part of this community.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Mike Funkhouser: Some common traits that I’ve seen entrepreneurs have are a love for learning, motivation for growth, and a knack for problem-solving. There’s a reason you see so many articles about what books entrepreneurs read – they love to learn. This also leads to their motivation for personal and professional growth. Most entrepreneurs are always looking ahead and looking for things that can be improved. Lastly, entrepreneurs use their love of knowledge and growth to solve problems. Solving problems is at the core of who they are.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Mike Funkhouser: I’d love to shamelessly pitch Small Business Mentor to anyone reading this. However, my advice to any future entrepreneur is to take in as much information as you can and fall in love with the process. There is no book, website, or movie that will make your dreams come true. But if you fall in love with the process and learn as much as you can, you’ll be just fine.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Mike Funkhouser: Growing up I went to a community center after school every day. I’ve always said that one day I’m going to build a community center and give back to the community that helped make me who I am today.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Mike Funkhouser: I’d add my grandpa! He’s always preached that asking better questions will make us all better. I think that would be a pretty cool face to put on the side of a mountain.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Mike Funkhouser for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Mike Funkhouser or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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