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Q & A with Hoopla CEO Mike Smalls

This original article appeared on ComputerUser on 02/01/16. Mike founded Hoopla to answer the burning question he faced running sales organizations at a variety of companies: How do you motivate people to perform their best? His inspiration came from a variety of sources including sports, motivational psychology, game mechanics, and a competitive drive. He is motivated by the desire to build a great company, have raving fans as customers, and the ongoing quest to help employees experience the thrill of winning at work. When not working, Mike enjoys hiking in the California foothills with his wife and 3 sons. ComputerUser caught up with him for a quick Q & A session. Here is what he had to say.

Who is your hero?

I always find this question difficult because I don’t have any single hero. There are great men and women that I have had the opportunity to work with and interact with in my life, but I have found that whenever I’ve tried to be like anyone else, I’ve lost focus of what my individual strengths are. What I’ve done instead is to try to observe other leaders to see how I might learn from them and adopt habits and techniques that can help amplify my strengths. For innovation, entrepreneurism, and passion: Steve Jobs. For vision, humanitarianism, and civil rights: Martin Luther King. And for leadership, competitiveness, and ability to lift his teams to win championships: Michael Jordan.

What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?

Listen to your gut. There are so many competing viewpoints and opinions that you will hear when trying to make decisions and whenever I’ve followed that advice and gone against my gut, it has been wrong. If your gut is telling you something, listen to it.

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?

My biggest mistakes have all been related to hiring too quickly and not being patient for the right person to come along. Bringing someone into your company is a big decision and it is critical that they not only have the skill sets you need for that position, but that they are also a great cultural fit.

What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?

It is really easy to hit the floor first thing in the morning rushing to get started on everything you have to accomplish that day. I like to start the day with perspective and less stress so I spend the first hour burning energy by running several miles where I can pray and meditate to get my mind in the right place.

What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?

Don’t spend the money before you have it. It is easy to project what you will need 2 years down the road and spend accordingly only to find that you run out of money before you get that far. Right size you’re spending for what the business needs today and watch your cash carefully. Signing a deal and collecting cash are 2 very different things.

Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their business to the next level?

Go talk to one current happy customer and one ex-customer/ unhappy customer. It is amazing what you will learn from both perspectives.

What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?

I like to think of success from our customer’s perspective. Are we adding real value to their business? Are we making a difference? But, in order to be able to continue to serve them, we need to become a cash flow positive stable business. That combination is success for me.

Favourite quote.

“I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I cannot accept not trying”. — Michael Jordan