There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Andrew Finn, the cofounder and managing director of ArborBridge, which was launched to “deliver world-class, one-on-one SAT prep” and truePrep, an online SAT test prep company, which launched in 2014 and is taking on industry stalwarts such as Princeton Review and Kaplan to “revolutionize the journey to test prep.” In order to create a super-affordable online test prep product, truePrep eliminates some of the middlemen involved in the process. Think of them as the Warby Parker of test prep.
The cost of truePrep is around $1,000. Students take a diagnostic test and then get a tailored prep program based on their specific needs. The results, on average, are a 200-point increase for every 12 hours of test prep. The average cost of the competition’s services is over $5,000.
Finn says he can compete against these larger companies by being more nimble and staying ahead of online trends in his industry. And, he says, not having an academic background helps him look at the industry from a different perspective.
A former consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Finn is committed to bringing the excellence of an elite professional services firm to world of test prep and academic tutoring.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Andrew Finn: When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a garbage man. When I was in first grade, I wanted to be an archaeologist. Then I wanted to be a professional baseball player until I was probably 10. After that, I’m not really sure. I think I just wanted to be as successful as my older sisters who got good grades and were star athletes.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Finn: Many reasons, but fundamentally I love the challenge of building real things in the world. I love creating a living organization that evolves. I love making decisions. I love the future being full of endless possibilities.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Finn: I wouldn’t say we have achieved “success” yet—but we are hopefully on a path there. The most important moment was when my best friend, Tim Urban, and I decided to become business partners. The linchpin of any success we’ve had is our partnership.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Finn: If you hire the right people, everything is relatively easy.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Finn: Don’t interview based on resumes or ask a lot of theoretical questions. Have people do actual tasks that are difficult, and see how they react and perform.
Lesonsky: Do you have a small business prediction for 2015?
Finn: Technology will continue to eat the world—the future is coming faster than we think.
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
Finn: Rich Dad, Poor Dad got me started on my entrepreneurial path. I also loved the biography on Cornelius Vanderbilt called Tycoon. He was just an incredibly interesting guy.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Finn: “Be tough, yet gentle, humble, yet bold, swayed always by beauty and truth.”—Bob Vies, Voyager Outward Bound School. Really random, but I did an Outward Bound course when I was 16 and that quote always stuck with me.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.