The following is an excerpt from N6A CEO Matt Rizzetta's upcoming book, Embrace the Pace: The 100 Most Exhilarating Lessons Learned in a Decade of Entrepreneurship. Pre-order your copy today online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon
In January 2011, I was putting the finishing touches on our inaugural year in business. I was introduced to an older, well-respected gentleman who ran a successful consulting firm that had scaled considerably since he founded the business. I was looking for some advice on how to scale to the “next level”, and he was kind enough to take me out to dinner.
He said that out of 100 entrepreneurs who tried to do what I did in their first year, maybe 20 of them would have succeeded. "Congratulations, you are one of 20," he said. I immediately asked him what it would take to get to the “next level”, and he said that of those 20 entrepreneurs, only about 10 would get there.
He offered me advice on what it would take to be successful at the “next level” – hiring, infrastructure, delegation and cost structure – things that weren't even a blip on my radar that would suddenly become a necessity to scale to the "one of 10" stage. I spent the next year listening to his advice, and our company became "one of 10."
The following year, he told me what it would take to get to the "one of five" stage – innovation, risk assessment, financial discipline and P&L management.
More than a decade later, we still meet for dinner each year and discuss surpassing each stage and what it will take to scale to the “next level”.
The one common thread is that, there always seems to be a “next level” no matter how good you are at your job, no matter how big your business is, and no matter what your aspirations might be.
My ultimate career goal is to one day build N6A into a large global company, and to run the organization alongside all the other people who helped get us there. The level of impact, stimulation and complexities that come with running a large company are the ultimate test for an executive. My goal is to one day put my management and leadership skills to the test at that level. Many people say founders and entrepreneurs are not effective CEO’s of large companies, but I’m determined to defy that notion. I am motivated by the challenge of proving myself at the “next level”.
To this day, I still hear doubters and naysayers tell me, “Matt, you are a great entrepreneur, but you are unproven at the next level.” This drives me to keep getting better and working on my skills so that one day I can successfully manage a business of that scale. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this over the years, and here’s the lesson that I’ve learned.
We are all unproven at the “next level”.
If you’re an entry-level employee who just broke into the workforce, guess what? You’re unproven at the “next level”.
If you’re a first-time manager, guess what? You are unproven at the “next level”.
If you’re a recently promoted Chief Financial Officer after spending the past several years in different mid-level financial management roles, guess what? You’re unproven at the “next level”.
If you’re an office administrator who now has responsibility to handle inventory for a second office, guess what? You’re unproven at the “next level”.
If you’re the CEO of a publicly traded company who’s dealing with an external crisis for the first time, guess what? You’re unproven at the “next level”.
The truth is, there’s always a “next level” and it means different things to each of us. No matter who you are and what you’re looking to accomplish in your career, you will always have a “next level” at which you’re unproven.
Being unproven at the “next level” has become a great source of motivation for me. I hope there is always a “next level” for me, and I always get the chance to prove that I belong there, just like I hope you can prove that you belong at the “next level”, too.
Here’s to the thrill of being unproven at the “next level”.
Posted by Matt Rizzetta