My entrepreneurial journey began at age 16 when I dropped out of school and faced the world with no job experience or high school diploma. Struggling with dyslexia, I knew I would not succeed in a classroom setting.
Growing up with a single mom, we had to work hard to make ends meet. It was time for me to start earning a living and take on the world. My mother was supportive of my decision to drop out of school, as she always enforced the idea of responsibility, tasking me with projects throughout my childhood such as building our family cottage. Now, it was time for me to take that lesson and find the right avenue to start a career.
My support system
It was my grandfather who supported my move to entrepreneurship and further taught me the value of hard work to earn a living. For years, he had been saving me $10 a month as part of a college fund which amounted to $1,200. He gave me the money he put away and tasked me with turning it into something great.
I took the money, bought a squeegee, a bucket, and a ladder and started my first enterprise – a window cleaning business which I built up over eight years. From there, I always had an itch for entrepreneurship. I went on to create 14 businesses including a few national franchise brands and that's when my next career move fell into my lap - I discovered a small business frustration and focused on building a solution.
The biggest realization for me after dropping out of school was that I had no safety net to fall back on. This created a level of motivation that was stronger than ever and inspired me to work harder and take responsibility for my actions. I learned to hustle, love what I do, and achieve one goal after the next.
I've always had a personal drive to achieve greatness. Whether it was my ability to create a window cleaning business as a teenager or launch a small business software company from the ground up with no tech background, I credit much of my success to the art of hustling.
The start of The Better Software Company had its fair share of ups and downs. After one of our venture capitalists backed out, we were forced to let go of 40 employees. Managing a startup with aggressive goals and objectives, it's easy to get overwhelmed, but the hustle never stops.
In order to build the brand back up, I relied on the personal drive I felt at a young age growing my businesses to get it back to where it needed to be. Hustle is not something you learn. It's more of a state-of-mind that drives you to succeed.
Hire smart and inspire hyper-growth
To take the business to new heights, I needed a strong team by my side. Sticking true to my roots and upbringing, I approached hiring in a less than traditional way. Instead of hiring based on resumes, I focused strictly on character.
My team is motivated through transparency. Whether positive or negative, everyone on my team is aware of company performance, personal impact, and benchmarks to move the needle quickly and strategically.
I live by the mantra: "If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough." One way we go about inspiring hyper-growth is by welcoming kangaroos and baby lions into our office, seriously. They symbolize being a leader – not following, but jumping ahead of the competition, a hunger to perform better, and to always strive for that "wow" factor. Today, The Better Software Company is obsessed with small business success. The business supports more than 3,000 users and seeks to expand with franchise brands across the country.
It all comes back to my grandfather's $1,200. To honor that lesson, I've created the B-Better Foundation to pay it forward and help kids like me follow their entrepreneurial dreams. The foundation offers a $1,200 grant to get programs up and running as the young entrepreneurs aim to achieve their entrepreneurial ambitions.
About the author: Steve Cody is the founder and CEO of The Better Software Company.
Edited for length and clarity by Shannon Gausepohl.