Jared Mckenzie is a 24-year-old Chicago native who is the Founder of Headline Solar. He attended the University of Arkansas majoring in Entrepreneurship before he dropped out to start his own digital marketing agency. He was able to work with a few people in the solar industry and it sparked his interest. That is why he left his agency and started his own solar company so he could help give back to his community and educate homeowners about the State’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) which requires 25% of its electricity production to come from renewable sources by 2025.
Eventually entrepreneur and Illinois native, Kevin Gillespie, joined Jared as a partner of Headline Solar in 2018 and together they are now the fastest-growing solar company in Illinois. Here is some advice from Mckenzie.
You started your entrepreneurial journey at a young age. What 3 pieces of advice would you give young entrepreneurs before they start their own business?
Set a goal and make a plan. It is impossible to document your progress or know what you need to do to achieve your business goals without having a plan, and especially if you haven’t set goals. What I like to tell people is that in order to figure out how to achieve a goal, reverse engineer it. Work from the goal backward to where you are now, and figure out what you have to do between now and then in order to achieve it. Saying “work hard” or “make this much money” isn’t a plan, because what you have to work hard on, or how you’re going to make that much money also needs plans. I’m talking about the specific, exact, things you need to do every day, and what they progress into every week, in order to achieve your goal.
Document your progress and analyze data. You can’t find out where your flaws are or what’s preventing you from growing without knowing what is going on in every part of your business. Always make sure you’re collecting data from each piece of your business along the way. You will eventually have enough data to compare to your results and be able to find the equation on how you can scale faster, hit your goals, and then grow beyond them simply by knowing each data point and what it took to achieve that level.
Accountability. Make sure you’re being held accountable by someone other than yourself. When you’re building a business, it’s very hard to do alone. It’s doable, but until you have the ability to hire employees to help along the way, you need to be held accountable. It’s very easy to fall off, not do what you need to do, and then stress and complain about why you aren’t where you wanted to be. Having someone hold you accountable is a great way to keep the fire lit underneath yourself and focus on the things you need to be doing in order to make consistent progress and accomplish the goals you set.
How do you handle all the stress and problems that come with running a multi-million dollar company?
It’s honestly tough. I don’t believe that there will ever be a point where handling stress and problems will be easy, but I do believe that there is a point where they become manageable to the point where it doesn’t impact you as much as a normal person, or as much as it did at the beginning. I could almost describe it as being immune to the negative impact they have on you, but still knowing that they exist and knowing what you need to do to overcome and get rid of them.
Solving the problem of stress negatively impacting you mentally is a big key to success in my eyes. It’s something 90% of people don’t know how to do, but the 10% that do are the ones that continue to excel through the dark times, bad days, tragic situations, and come out on top no matter what the circumstances are that they started in.
One thing that helps me is knowing that there is always light in darkness if you look hard enough, that tomorrow is always a new day, that when every door closes another one opens, and that there is always a positive in every negative. In every problem, there is something you can learn from it. From every bad day, you can find out what was bad about it and how to prevent it in the future.
When you’re a winner, there is no losing. Every “L” you take is a Lesson Learned, not a Loss. That’s one principle that I live my life every day.
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