Entrepreneurial Mindset: Nature vs Nurture  

When: October 2, 2018
Where: Northampton
Who:  RJDM Studios
Miles travelled: 1052
Track of the Day: Born This Way – Lady Gaga

What does it mean to ‘think like an entrepreneur’? Is it the infamous ‘outside-the-box’ or does it mean setting that box on fire and starting from scratch? And are you supposed to be born with that special little ‘something’ or can you just pick it up along the way?

The Nurture Way

Ricky O’Donnell, CEO of RJDM Studios, an animation company in Northampton, didn’t think of himself as a born entrepreneur. At least, not from the start. As a kid, he was inventive and creative. When he was 10, he got into animation. He would create short films the hard way: with VHS and stop-motion. When he grew up, he decided to turn his passion into a career. Having graduated from the biggest animation university in the country (National Centre for Computer Animation), Ricky joined the freelance ranks, but after a while, he wanted to go bigger, open a company of his own. The trick is, you can’t be successful if you don’t give your project your full and undivided attention. At some point, you have to take a leap, leave your comfort zone behind, and focus everything you’ve got on making it work.

Just like RJDM, OnePageCRM was originally a side-project. And just like RJDM, it didn’t really pick up until I abandoned the security of my ‘day job’ and made it my main focus.

Both Ricky and I took that leap and faced the same problem. We now had a business to run. All of a sudden, we became entrepreneurs.

I’m an inventor by nature and I think Ricky is a natural creator. Invention and creativity go hand in hand and have one major thing in common — they happen in isolation. Inventors don’t need people around them. Our main feeling is “Leave me alone in the garage and I’ll crack this on my own.” Creative people usually want to do just that — create. Managing people, strategising, continuously focusing on one and only one project — your business — don’t necessarily come naturally. We had to teach ourselves.

During our chat, Ricky and I realised we had a very similar journey. Books, talks, podcasts, systems, processes…. We consumed thirstily every bit of knowledge we could find to make us better entrepreneurs and our companies more successful. In search of a lean software to help organise his company’s sales operations, Ricky found OnePageCRM and stayed with us these 7 years.

Pay It Forward – The Knowledge Way

RJDM grew and established an impressive portfolio, from global projects for the giants like MTV, Top Gear, Land Rover, and Audi to award-winning short films for humanitarian causes. While it would be easy to just rest on his laurels, Ricky focuses on sharing his hard-earned knowledge and experience. He lectures in universities, helps SMEs learn from the journey of the ‘big guys’, and runs a successful business network — “Success Leaves Clues”.

It is a club of ambitious entrepreneurs who get an opportunity to learn from each other, share their stories, and mentor other companies who want to achieve a “millionaire and billionaire mindset.”  

As Tony Robbins, a life coach and an author with a net worth of $480 million, puts it, “If someone is successful not once, not twice, but continuously, they are not lucky. There’s something they are doing that’s making their lives extraordinary. Instead of envying them — learn from them.”

Ricky doesn’t think local. His network is already international and with the potential access to virtual reality software, it has all the chances to go global.  

The Nature Way

While ‘creator’ or ‘inventor’ don’t necessarily equal ‘entrepreneur’, I think there are some building blocks that make it possible for the first two to breach the gap to the third.

The desire to learn, the bursting flow of ideas, the determination to find a new angle, a new approach, go where no man has gone before, and defiance of mediocracy. That, and a whole lot of energy, courage, and stubbornness.

The first thing I noticed when I met Ricky is the incredible amount of energy that he emanates. He is always on the move, always looking out for the next big thing, and energising the people around him. He is like a Tasmanian Devil on the move! It’s only fitting that he drives a stunning Tesla X that goes over 100 km/h in 2.8 sec.

I think what makes up a “natural” part of entrepreneur in him is his desire to find a different solution and approach to the known challenges.

Challenge 1.

Predominating automation of sales interactions.

Everybody is talking about the need to make sales more personal. We all know that people prefer to buy from people rather than receive yet another generated message. Yet, more and more companies opt out for making their processes more automated. It’s easier, it saves time, but it won’t win you any favours with your customers.

RJDM solution:

They decided to go that extra mile and welcome every new customer personally. With Bonjorno in trial, they can send an MMS to the customer’s phone no matter where in the world they currently are. Nothing is pre-scheduled or pre-recorded. It’s live and personal, every time.

In a way, that’s what the CEO Tour is all about — getting on the ground and delivering the message in person. Just instead of a smartphone, I decided to go with a motorhome.

Challenge 2.

Difficulty to engage and retain millennials good people on the team.

There are many HR companies and tools out there asking the same question, “How do we manage people who are looking to be inspired and motivated even when just coming in and doing a very ordinary job?”

RJDM solution:

They’ve introduced a great internal ‘point’ system that rewards team members for going ‘above and beyond’, be it staying late to finish a project or boosting the team’s morale by telling a timely joke. The whole team can see the ‘point score’, anyone can award or dispute a point, and everyone is engaged. 

In OnePageCRM, I want my team to feel included, feel that they are a part of something great, fulfilled and that they are enjoying themselves and having fun. It is especially important and challenging because half of our team works remotely from around the globe. From our side, we do everything to make them feel connected and involved, from international team gatherings to creating an office where people actually want to come (log) in to every morning.

The Verdict

I still don’t know what part, nature or nurture, dominated my decision to give it all a go. Sometimes, I think that I’m ‘just drawn that way.’ But then again, certain influences, books, blogs, minds left their mark on my journey. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be driving around the UK right now. So I say, let’s call it a draw.

It was an amazing 6-hour meeting that prompted all the thoughts above. Thank you, Ricky, Paul, and the rest of the RJDM team for a fast ride, great talk, and an amount of energy that will keep me going for a while!


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