October20 , 2021

    Succeeding as an Entrepreneur and Leader

    Jeff Gold discusses how to build a team and succeed as a leader.

    Jeff Gold, the man behind Nexus Fuels and several other successful businesses, knows what it takes to succeed. Having achieved success early on using proprietary intellectual property, Gold’s companies have developed reputations as leaders in their fields. In addition, his ways of thinking and approach to problem-solving can enable you to transform your idea into a full-blown business. 

    Nexus is the world’s only commercial-scale, 100% circular waste plastics solution. It was the first technology ever to receive the International Sustainability and Carbon-Plus Certification (ISCC) for converting plastic waste into oil. The oil is converted to new plastic material. His ability to inspire and lead others has marked Gold’s tenure to achieve more for themselves and the company. Whether you’re developing a multi-million-dollar system or mentoring new employees, Gold’s thoughts can serve as the guideposts you need to succeed.

    Jeff Gold headshot
    Photo courtesy of Jeff Gold

    Entrepreneurs Want To Do Good

    According to Gold, the decision to do good is a personal, ethical, and philosophical choice. However, he thinks it’s unlikely that entrepreneurs dedicate their life’s work, at least for some period, to pursuing success in a purely selfish way. “I think it’s important for a professional or an entrepreneur to want to do good. This is just strictly opinion, of course. I think from the people I’ve met, and speaking for myself, you always create with the idea that you will improve something. You’re going to make something better. You’re going to make something more efficient. You’re going to create something that will make the world a better place, no matter the industry. You’re doing it to improve what’s currently available. You’re pushing the boundary forward, whether it’s technical knowledge or business knowledge,” Gold says.

    Wanting to do good as an entrepreneur is, as Gold mentioned, an individual choice. However, it’s unlikely that many entrepreneurs pursue their ideas in a way that benefits only themselves. As he so eloquently stated, entrepreneurs push the dial forward, smashing boundaries and pushing the needle of human development along the way. By its very nature, their work improves the industry within which they’re operating, at least in some small way. Likewise, their failures help propel industries forward by providing valuable solutions or adding to a wealth of knowledge that will inform future generations to come.

    Entrepreneurs Need Mentors

    Entrepreneurs should undoubtedly seek out mentors. When you’re an entrepreneur, Gold says, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs are impatient and want to achieve success overnight. Unfortunately for almost all entrepreneurs, this isn’t the case. Entrepreneurs are rarely, if ever, overnight successes. And the ones whose businesses take off immediately usually have a string of failures nobody considers.

    You don’t know what you don’t know.

    Entrepreneurship is about trial and error. You must be able to view your business, its opportunities, its failures, and so on objectively and act accordingly. You must hire subject matter experts to inform you of the things you don’t know. You must have trusted advisors who can help you navigate the murky waters of your business journey. These advisors will provide you with a level of honesty most others won’t. You might not have access to each of these types of individuals when you’re just starting as an entrepreneur, and that’s okay. That’s where high-quality mentors come in. Mentors, especially those who’ve been entrepreneurs themselves, can help keep you grounded and guide you along your entrepreneurial journey. 

    Mentors can also help you slow down and realize success will come with consistency over time. The key is to “just be patient; you’re learning how this whole thing works, your time will come, you’ll see an opportunity” and be successful, Gold adds. Take good mentors seriously. “Having a mentor is a big deal. From talking to my friends, colleagues, and speaking for myself, mentors stay with you for your entire life. They might not be a part of your everyday life anymore, but their minds and their souls stay with you. And I think that’s an essential part,” adds Gold.

    Gold is no stranger to mentorships. As a mentor himself, he focuses on the enrichment of his mentees. Specifically, he empowers them to achieve more rather than simply solving problems for them. According to Gold, mentorship isn’t about solving a problem — it’s about helping someone develop the mindset to evaluate, understand, and solve the problem. In addition, it’s helping someone create a framework through which they can continuously find solutions.

    Developing frameworks to solve real-world problems isn’t something you can just create. Sometimes you just need to wait for the right moment when the problem naturally arises and have a good mentor by your side to help guide you. As Gold puts it, “it’s an approach not only to a problem and problem solving, but it’s also an approach to what you’ll need the outcome to be. Those kinds of lessons get taught and conveyed at different times. Those lessons are conveyed under different circumstances, and often those messages get conveyed by example.”

    A perfect example of how mentors can help you succeed as an entrepreneur is by asking you difficult questions. You don’t know what lies ahead on your path as an entrepreneur. As Gold said, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” 

    He elaborates: “you think you’ve thought of everything: you’ve written your business plan, you’ve figured it out, and you’ve got an interesting idea. And what’s going to happen? This is a tough thing to hear. For most people, it’s like, ‘yeah, so what, good ideas are a dime a dozen. What makes you so special?’ Nexus is becoming a mature company, and we still have to prove ourselves.”

    Entrepreneurs Are Thinkers

    Gold’s environmental company has a reputation for solving problems other environmental companies can’t solve. It’s not that Gold’s company was great from the day it was founded, no. Over the years, Gold and his team have always kept an open mind and have prided themselves on their ability to think through solutions to complex problems. Thinking, according to Gold, is free. We can all think, but few people do so meaningfully. “Everyone cansense the outside world and see what’s going on and think about things, but people just want to watch Netflix all day,” Gold notes.

    Thinking isn’t hard to do. “You just have to keep an open mind, which can be a difficult thing to do. It’s easy to say it’s got to be this, it’s got to be this, it’s got to be this and keep hitting a brick wall. Or there’s something else going on, and you must step back, and that’s a hard thing. But, being able to step back and evaluate the problem is a self-taught skill,” adds Gold. Stepping back will enable you to think clearly about the problem you’re trying to solve.

    The Four Characteristics Needed To Succeed

    Gold holds that there are four key characteristics entrepreneurs need to have to weather the storms that come with being an entrepreneur. Optimism, enthusiasm, perseverance, and curiosity are necessary to continuously rise above and overcome the challenges you’ll face on an almost daily basis. With these four things, Gold notes, “you can accomplish almost anything.”

    Optimism. Optimism is critical because, without it, Gold holds, “you won’t pick yourself back up. Optimism will enable you to get up time and time again. If anybody starts a company and thinks, ‘I won’t get knocked down, well, it’s going to be a harder lesson to learn.”

    Enthusiasm. If you don’t have enthusiasm, you won’t have the willpower to push through and continue believing in yourself or your ability to do anything. Instead, you’ll jump from shiny opportunity to shiny opportunity without ever fully following through on one. 

    Perseverance. Starting your own company is hard, and people have no idea just how hard it is until they do it. According to Gold, “you can learn, you can read, you can listen, and you can hear all these things, but you won’t fully understand until you’re out there trying to make payroll. If you can stand up to those storms and just remain standing, that’s huge because you’ll be there when they pass. Competitors might disappear because they couldn’t withstand the headwinds. So, perseverance, to me, is an essential characteristic.”

    Perseverance can surely help you rise above the obstacles you face as an entrepreneur. It’s also what makes the Navy SEALs so unique. Navy SEALs train to persevere under challenging circumstances before they’re even SEALs. Their training is rigorous, including a week called ‘Hell Week,’ consisting of five days of cold, wet, and brutal training on just a few hours of sleep. But, what gets them through Hell Week is perseverance. 

    Curiosity. Curiosity is vital for entrepreneurs because it naturally sparks the desire to know more and develop solutions to problems. Without curiosity, there’s no real reason to investigate a problem and keep trying to find a viable solution.

    Know Your Why

    Knowing what you’re doing is good, but it’s not great. You’ll need to be able to explain what you’re doing to people, and you’ll need to know what you’re doing to manage your business, but you must know why you’re doing what you’re doing before you can successfully lead your business. For example, if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re going to start your own business, you must ask yourself, “why am I doing this,” according to Gold. “You need to be able to answer this question. If you’re doing it to stroke your ego, then failure is going to have a much greater impact on you than if you’re doing it for some other reason,” he adds.

    Knowing your why will also enable you to confront your fears, which Gold holds can be broken down quickly. As Gold puts it, “one of the primary weapons to use against fear is to both ask and answer objectively to yourself, what’s the worst that can happen? You know, so the worst that can happen? Your business fails. So what? Are you going to be shunned? No. Will you be ostracized? No. Are you going to be sent away? No. Is your credit going to be damaged? Maybe. Okay, you borrowed some money and couldn’t pay it back. So what? You’ll still be a free person.”

    You learn the most from your failures.

    Knowing your why will help you frame things within the context of what’s essential. Such a framework will enable you to confront and overcome your fears effectively, thus providing you with the stick-to-itiveness to achieve success. Knowing your why will, over time, also provide you with the momentum you need to achieve success time and time again. As you overcome your fears and move forward, you’ll both succeed and fail. It’s the nature of life. If you learn from your mistakes, you’ll develop an experiential body of wisdom from which you can draw solutions in the future. Wisdom, as Gold puts it, “comes from both experience and failure. You don’t learn much from succeeding or winning. You learn the most from your failures.”

    Know Your Purpose

    Entrepreneurs might have a duty to their shareholders and other stakeholders, but their business’ entire purpose for being is to serve their customers or clients. “And if they’re not happy with your product, service, or whatever you’re offering,” Gold says, they’ll go somewhere else. They don’t have to use you.”

    He continues, “your whole reason for having a company, the whole reason you’re going to get paid is because you’ve made your customer satisfied in some way.”

    Know Your Responsibility to Employees

    Entrepreneurs must enrich the lives of their employees. As Gold holds, when you hire someone into your business, “they’re giving you their life’s energy in the form of time, in the form of their labor, and they aren’t going to get that day back, that year back, or whatever it is. They’re giving you their time and life’s energy to help move your idea along. So, I think you need to keep them safe, employed, and informed.”

    Be a Visionary

    To be an entrepreneur is to be a visionary. However, as Gold mentions, it all boils down to how you define “visionary.” A visionary, according to Gold, “is someone who can simply see a future that’s different than what we have now. As an entrepreneur, you envision something both different and better than what’s currently available. So I think in that respect, under that definition, an entrepreneur needs to be a visionary because you’re envisioning something different and better.

    Conclusion

    Whether you subscribe to Gold’s thoughts or hold a different opinion — one thing’s for sure: his experiences and ways of thinking can enable you to build long-term value for both your business and employees. 

    View this article in the September 2021 issue of MP.

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