By Lacie Blankenship
The Center for Entrepreneurship (C4E) hosted Brian Fox (MBA’01), Founder of Confirmation.com and Rivio.com, and Managing Partner of Rockmont Investments, for a November segment of the Voices of Entrepreneurship speaker series.
Fox started Confirmation.com between his first and second years at Vanderbilt.“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” says Fox. “My grandmother had been an entrepreneur. She started a dress shop in the middle of Green Hills, which is the Green Hills Mall now. My grandfather didn’t graduate or go to college, but he had a construction business, and my mom was a real estate agent, so it was just kind of entrepreneurial in my blood.”
Dean M. Eric Johnson moderated the discussion with Fox. Below, we share 4 key takeaways from the conversation.
Never give up
“There will be a time when it is really really hard and really really tough,” says Fox. “You have to be creative, you have to love problem-solving, and you have to get out there and figure it out. You’re going to operate with much less than perfect information and visibility.”
Fox credits the late Germain Böer with the tagline ‘Never give up.’
Accepting the uncomfortable and being okay with being in survival mode is crucial to the success of an entrepreneurial venture. Fox noted that in his first-year after graduation, he made $10,000 with Confirmation.com. In 2019, the company sold for $430 million.
Stand up front
“Leading means standing up front taking the bullets and arrows first,” says Fox. “I never did anything that I didn’t ask everybody else to do, and so if I was going to ask them to take a half salary, I was taking no salary.”
Fox noted a time he almost had to sell his car to pay for everyone’s insurance (and was luckily saved by an unexpected investment check).
Find the self-starters
“Early on, you need a lot of Swiss Army knives,” says Fox. “You need people who can do a lot of everything, and as you continue to grow and scale, you need people who have more of a depth of knowledge. Ideally, your team grows with you and can grow into those roles.”
Regarding hiring, Fox noted that going with your gut is always the answer. In the fast paced environment of an entrepreneurial venture, there isn’t time for hand-holding. The best people for the startup industry are ones that are self-starters, problem solvers, and passionate.
Build a culture of ownership
“Invest in yourself… If you are doing that, others will as well,” says Fox.
The ideal employee isn’t just a Swiss Army knife, but a partner too. Employees must fully invest in the venture. Fox noted that the best way to build investor confidence is to demonstrate employee buy-in.
“The 4 of us that were in my grandmother’s garage were there 19 years later when we sold it [Confirmation.com], and you almost never see that,” says Fox.
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