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Meet Mickey Baines, a higher education expert and founder of Kennedy & Company. In today’s Entrepreneur Story, we’re reminded of the importance of understanding yourself - particularly your strengths and weaknesses - as an entrepreneur. We also learn the value of having a mission for your business as well as clear strategies and goals to carry out that mission.

Uncover that and more with Mickey Baines as we tear into all the best tips and experience-gained insight that he has for other entrepreneurs looking to pave their way to success.

What are three things you think every entrepreneur should know?

To begin with, Mickey mentioned that it's essential to have a clear understanding of yourself as an entrepreneur - we’re sensing the appearance of a common theme... Although entrepreneurs tend to have many ideas, it's important to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and how they relate to bringing those ideas to life. 

Mickey believes that understanding your weaknesses will help you to identify where you may need support. In Mickey’s own experience, when he started his first business as a solo consultant, he struggled with identifying when to hire someone as well as what tasks to delegate. Over time, he was able to expedite the growth of his business, becoming more efficient and productive by hiring people whose strengths matched his weaknesses.

The second thing that Mickey highlighted to achieve success in any business, is having a clear end goal as well as a clear mission that drives and guides you toward that goal. In his case, as someone who provides consulting services to colleges and universities, his mission is an extension of what he used to do when working in higher education. 

Rather than becoming a dean or a vice president, Mickey chose to consult so that he could leverage his skills to help multiple schools find better-fit students who are more likely to complete and graduate. He added that his mission is a driving force behind all his business decisions, including hiring employees and expanding service lines. 

He intends to make sure that everyone he works with shares this mission and vision, so they can work together towards that common goal. Having a clear mission also makes decision-making easier. While Mickey may have many ideas, he only pursues the ones that align with his mission - that resonate with him and his end goal.

Mickey shared a valuable book by Patrick Lencioni in relation to this point, “The Six Types of Working Genius: A Better Way to Understand Your Gifts, Your Frustrations, and Your Team.” The book identifies six components of work and helps you discover your two working geniuses and two biggest frustrations. 

The author developed this model after his team called him out for being constantly frustrated, realizing he wasn't focusing on his geniuses. When building a team, it's important to have all six components covered, but not by covering the ones you're weakest in. Instead, focus on hiring people who fill the gaps your weaknesses leave in the business. 

Another book Mickey highlighted, that ties into his third thing every entrepreneur should know, is “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't,” by Jim Collins. Mickey finds this book to be particularly valuable in building a well-thought-out strategy for executing your plans. 

Mickey struggled with inconsistent workflow when he first started - sometimes having too much work, while other times having none. He identified that it was because he wasn't always actively seeking new business opportunities. To avoid this, it's important to consider factors such as the industry you're in, the buying cycle of your target customers, and the right approach for communicating with them. 

By building a solid strategy that takes these elements into account, you can minimize the ups and downs of your business and focus on growth.

Tell us about the problem your business solves and who your customers are.

Mickey’s business, Kennedy & Company, is an art company that serves as a consultant in the higher education industry, specializing in strategy and technology. Their customers are colleges and universities facing challenges in enrolling and retaining students as well as ensuring they graduate. 

Kennedy & Company helps identify the pain points of these institutions and develops actionable strategies and tactics to fill gaps using technology, specifically CRM-rooted work.

They focus on scaling schools in the right way by ensuring they have the necessary data to provide personalized, relevant, and timely information to their students. They work to bridge the gap between basic and advanced technology use, starting with collecting first-party data to understand their prospective students' behaviours and needs.

Mickey acknowledges that some schools may not be ready for advanced technology, and his business takes a measured approach to implementing it. They work to educate their customers and explain the prerequisites required to deploy certain technologies effectively. Ultimately, the company aims to help their clients build a strong foundation so they can be ready to deploy technology and tools that support their mission.

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur and would you do it again?

Mickey confirmed that he absolutely would do it again. As far as what inspired him, Mickey was working in higher education and felt that he had reached the pinnacle of his existing role. His colleagues at other institutions were interested in how he achieved success and began asking him for advice on how to fix their own problems. 

In giving his colleagues his advice, he realized that he would rather be in control of his own destiny and help multiple schools rather than continue to grow in his current position or find another position to fill. Mickey decided then that he would only pursue a venture that resonated with him and that he would be passionate about for the long term. 

While he gets ideas from time to time, he knows that he cannot pursue all of them and will share them with those who can. He is not a big risk taker, but he did not see starting his own business as a risk because he knew exactly what he needed to do to launch and be successful.

Knowing what you know now, if someone had given you a million dollars when you first started your business, what would you have spent it on?

Mickey had a cost-effective approach when answering this question, stating that he would have hired at least two more people and saved the rest of the money to roll out other services as and when he needed them. 

He expanded on that, saying he would have banked the money professionally so that when they figured out other service lines they wanted to expand upon, he could use the money to hire someone for the role. He would have been more conservative, ensuring a six-month runway of revenue coming in for that person's position before hiring.

What is your proudest accomplishment as an Entrepreneur?

Ever the humble entrepreneur, Mickey mentioned that he doesn't reflect much on accomplishments, however, he is proud of his team's successful enrollment turnarounds and the way his company is growing without the need for a sales or marketing team. 

He has a successful pipeline of returning clients and referrals, and he scales his company proportionately to ensure incremental sales delivery along with high-quality work. Mickey believes that shooting one lever up can distort the entire experience, and he prefers to have all the levers work together in tandem. 

He replicates the approach he used in higher education to build partner relationships that drive other people to his company, which works well for him. Mickey recognizes that the outreach model is not his strength, and he prefers to help others find models to bring people to them.

We love how these stories are highlighting some common themes for success in entrepreneurship while every entrepreneur has their own value to add and perspective to bring to the table. 

Looking to bring your own perspective to our Entrepreneur Stories series? We’d love to hold a space for it! Contact us today so that we can get into all the useful knowledge and guidance you have to offer as a successful entrepreneur.

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