Secrets of Success: Gary Whitehill

June 11, 2014 Rieva Lesonsky

secrets of success

We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.

Meet: Gary Whitehill. Among other ventures, Gary is the founder of Entrepreneur Week. He believes entrepreneurs need to be at the epicenter of radical global economic development. From his perspective, communities grow rapidly only when entrepreneurship accelerates socio-economic progress through connection, innovation and knowledge-sharing. Right now, he’s focusing on creating platforms and infrastructure to unlock the invisible and unrealized potential of business ecosystems. Gary sits on the Global Board of Directors for the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs, and has been featured in industry-leading publications including the Harvard Business Review, Inc. magazine and The New York Times.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Gary Whitehill: Since I was young I knew being an entrepreneur was the only way I could achieve my vision for the world.

For me, entrepreneurship is and always will be the most efficient and effective vehicle for providing opportunity to those who have the least. This manifests itself in building companies, which provides job opportunities, social mobility and, most important, a sense of purpose.

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Whitehill: My first business, tattoo aftercare, was built because there was a glaring unmet need in the market, and which, in the early 2000s, was still a bit too taboo for most folks.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Whitehill: The most pivotal moment [concerning] Entrepreneur Week was when we realized how to scale a global infrastructure with local deployment based on the cultural needs of local communities on four continents. This is when our community scaled like wildfire.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Whitehill: The job of the CEO is to hire the best talent. This does not always mean the smartest or most capable. In fact, those at the top of their game are a nightmare because they suffer from the “me first” syndrome. What it does mean is that the CEO should hire for the right cultural fit first and foremost, and attributes such as grit, open-mindedness, honesty and a humble passion for the vision of the company.

Two excellent tests to have any prospective hire take are the Stengthsfinder 2.0 and the Kolbe A-Type Index. It’s the best $65 a CEO could ever spend on a new hire, because eventually if you have a wrong hire, you either pay now, or pay triple later.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Whitehill: Most of the articles and “best of” this and that focus on operational advice. News flash: In today’s world, skills are becoming ever more a commodity.

Instead, focus on your purpose and learn to operationalize it, because the foundation for change as well as the law of attraction are built from the inside out. The correct mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health are extremely valuable in today’s hyper-competitive global business environment.

Lesonsky: Do you have a 2014 small business prediction?

Whitehill: Business, just like everything else, is part of a larger cycle. As humans, we easily forget about these cycles or think, “This time will be different.” That just is not reality, and sadly, right now the market is in gridlock, peril, and wholly defunct. As long as the current hierarchical, bureaucratic, exclusive structures stay in place socially, economically and politically, we will all be at risk. But that boat, which hit an apex during the efficiency obsessed industrialization age, has sailed as we approach a new era.

In mid-2016 we will see the economic crash come our way again. This time it will be more evenly distributed and volatile. This is when we’ll see what America, and the entire world, is truly made of in terms of resilience.

Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?

Whitehill: For mental anguish there is Embracing Your Inner Critic by Hal Stone. For operational challenges in business, check out Predictable Success by Les McKeown.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Whitehill: “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”—Herman Melville

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Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at rieva@smallbizdaily.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.

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