As part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week celebration at the SOVA Innovation Hub in partnership with RISE Collaborative (Southern Virginia’s regional entrepreneurship initiative), Ryan Garrett came to share his entrepreneurial experience. Here are four lessons in entrepreneurship that Ryan shared that could benefit you and your business!

*The information presented below should not be considered financial advice.

Who is Ryan Garrett?

A photo of Ryan Garrett
Ryan Garrett is an entrepreneur and Edward Jones financial advisor with an office in downtown South Boston, VA.  Ryan has 38 years experience at Edward Jones, a Fortune 500 company. As a General Partner, he has mentored other entrepreneurs opening new Edward Jones offices across the country. Four years ago, Ryan supported his son Colin Garrett in launching his Colin Garrett Racing and the 11/11 Veteran Project.
Ryan’s presentation titled “Startup Lessons” focused on new founders, but Ryan encouraged new and experienced entrepreneurs alike to approach their business with a startup mindset. He said, “Every year, I begin with a blank page. If I were starting today, what would that look like, today, in this market?”

Lesson #1
Know Your Why

Ryan’s first suggestion was to know your true why – your reason for being in business. He said, “People often start a business due to an opportunity in the marketplace,” but long-term it may not align with their personal why. 

Expanding on author Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” concept, Ryan suggested, “Take yourself out of your vocation, before you can ask yourself, what is it that gets you out of bed in the morning? Even when you don’t want to? Especially when you don’t want to?”

Ryan emphasized that understanding yourself is essential to being successful long-term as an entrepreneur. He said, “There is something about you, that you just can’t help. Once you understand what that is, you’ll find your why.” 

Ryan shared his journey towards understanding his personal why, which is “because I love solving really complex puzzles.” This motivation explains why he loves his roles as a financial advisor, general partner, co-founder, and community leadership – and why he challenges himself to solve the New York Times Crossword mentally, before beginning to write in any answers. 

Want to explore your why? Watch author Simon Sinek’s TED Talk

Lesson #2
Understand How Your Customers Think and Find Partners to Help You Find Customers

Second, Ryan suggested, “Go find partners who have the same customers or clients that you do. You need to be able to define your client and understand how they think. Then you can find partners to help you find those customers.” 

Referencing the 11/11 Veteran Project, which is a for-profit entity to serve veterans who are at risk for suicide, Ryan described the journey of finding partners as being connected to knowing the why for your business. He said, “Our original mission was ‘to stop veteran suicide’ – that would be really tough. We learned that our mission is actually to help veterans live happy and healthy lives, therefore reducing the risk of suicide.” This realization has made it easier to find potential partners, such as Shawn Barksdale, owner of Press 4 Time Tees and host of the podcast Ten Minutes of Truth, and graphic novelist Aniekanabasi White, owner of Sensiil Studios.

Although seeking partners who serve the same customers may sound counter-intuitive to some who are concerned about competition and scarcity of customers, Ryan reminded the group, “Strategy is not about being better. Strategy is about being different. You need to understand how your business is different, and to whom.” 

“There’s nothing more important than knowing your why, understanding how your customer thinks, and finding people who can help you solve a business problem.” 

  • IDEA: Find another small business in your community who could co-host an event with you.

Lesson #3
Give First, to Create Sustainability

“When you find those people, ask them what they need help with. You might not know how to solve that problem, but you might know someone who does,” said Ryan. He went on to emphasize the importance of growing your network and understanding the various skills that each person has to offer, so that may be helpful by making referrals to help your potential partners. 

“The only way to get what you want, is to help other people get what they want. When you’re solving business problems for others, you are creating sustainability for your business by creating value for customers and partners. This is why the 11/11 Project is a for-profit, to be focused on adding value. We didn’t want to be reliant on contributions or philanthropy.”

Lesson #4
Find a Mentor

“Find someone who’s at a level where you want to be, or a level where you think you want to be, and let them know what, and ask them for their time,” said Ryan. “You need to seek out your mentors.” 

Photos from the event

Join us for our next event!

Our next event, Business & Brews Happy Hour with Keith Washo, is Thursday, November 16! Register for this event and find more events happening at the SOVA Innovation Hub.
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