Archive: December 2012

  • Press

    Three Secrets Of Entrepreneurship That Will Transform Your Career

    It’s no secret that “career” doesn’t mean the same thing today that it did a generation ago. Generous pensions, retirement parties and company watches are a thing of the past and job-hopping every few years has become the norm. But what does the shifting economy and tightening job market really mean for the success prospects of Millennials?

    According to Mark Hopkins, VC and author of Shortcut to Prosperity: 10 Entrepreneurial Habits and a Roadmap for an Exceptional Career which hit shelves January 1, the changing employment landscape means that every one of us—from the mailroom to the mid-level managers–is in need of an entrepreneurship reality check.

    “For someone in their first or second job, it’s not unusual to be questioning what you’re doing, where your path is headed or what success and prosperity even means for you,” he says. “Personal entrepreneurship is the answer.” For anyone embarking on their career, entrepreneurial examples are instructive, he says—these risk-takers live and breathe risk in the relentless pursuit of success.

    But Hopkins’ message isn’t for American youth to quit their jobs and strike out on their own en masse. Instead, he’s sharing the trade secrets of some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs—their most ingrained habits and thought-processes—that he says everyone can make a part of their playbook for success.

    Secret No. 1: Find Your Field Of Play

    Success, in entrepreneurship as in career-climbing, depends on identifying and making the most of opportunities. From Hopkins’ standpoint identifying the end-game is the first in many steps towards those opportunities and, ultimately, prosperity. Entrepreneurs excel in this area: they benefit from single-minded commitment to their projects and ideas and unshakable passion for fulfilling their dreams.

    Seth Godin, the marketing evangelist and guru to a generation of entrepreneurs, says, “The universal truth is beyond question—the only people who excel are those who have decided to do so.” Entrepreneurs, Hopkins says, have made that decision in spades.

    For those of us still in the career trenches, though, deciding on success requires that we fully understand not just what we’re passionate about, but where our skills lie—and ultimately in identifying what Hopkins calls a “personal vision” for success. “It takes a lot of soul-searching to identify what you’re truly passionate about,” he says. Some benefit from journaling, others from simply following their natural curiosity. Whatever the method, identifying your unique passions and vision for success in your career, he says, is absolutely imperative.

    Why? Because once the vision of your ideal future is established—whether it’s the C-suite or creative control or just a massive paycheck—something quite powerful takes place. Hopkins calls it creative tension. Once you identify where you want to be in your career (your end game) a natural tension occurs between where you are currently and that ideal future. “From here on out you’re either working towards that goal or you’re giving up on success,” he says. “It really is that simple.”

    Secret No. 2: Develop an Unfair Advantage

    Entrepreneurs have a natural hustle about them—a go-big-or-go-home sensibility to the way they live their lives, run their businesses and pursue opportunities. Hopkins says this “I can do anything attitude” is natural to entrepreneurs who are building businesses in uncharted territory. “Being a pioneer is scary,” he says. “Taking risks that may or may not be successful is scary, but for entrepreneurs, that’s where you need to be to make it.” And from those risks, he says, comes hard-won lessons and, in turn, confidence.

    In the context of career development, conveying confidence can be a tricky issue. If you swan about the office as a first-year associate your confidence could seem unwarranted, alienate your colleagues and earn you a bad reputation. “If you’ve paid your dues though,” Hopkins says, “If you’ve put in the work and won the successes to earn that confidence, you’ll be well-regarded—and walking the path to success.”

    So what, exactly, does earning your confidence entail? Identifying opportunities and pursuing them, even if they seem like extreme risks. “I don’t care if you’re in a big organization or a small one, the people who are going to get noticed and advance are the intrapreneurs,” Hopkins says. If there’s a process or a workflow that you think could be fine-tuned or overhauled, he suggests asking your manager to allow you to test it out. “If you position yourself and embrace the pioneering, risk-taking spirit of an entrepreneur, you’re going to be noticed.”

    Secret No. 3: Recruit Allies

    Have you ever watched entrepreneurs at a networking event or industry conference? These people hobnob like their lives depend on it. And that’s because, professionally speaking, they do.

    The success of any organization—from startups to bluechips—is only as strong as its team. With that in mind, Hopkins advises to build your personal dream team from the first day of your first job. “Call it building a rolodex or call it relationship building, but what it really comes down to is the fact that every person you interact with counts towards achieving your ultimate goal,” he says, “You’re meeting and collecting your allies along the way.”

    But just collecting business cards isn’t the path to prosperity. “The secret is in really truly caring about the individuals that you meet,” Hopkins says. He points to Millennials, who will hold between 15 to 20 jobs during the course of their career. “Along the way you will meet people who complement your strengths, who can support your weaknesses, or who you just really click with,” he says. “Keep track of them, help them keep track of you,” for you never know when your paths will cross again or you’ll be able to help each other find success.

    (Source: Forbes.com, Meghan Casserly, December 12, 2012)

  • Press

    Former Longmont businessman seeks to impart lessons

    Former local Mark Hopkins said his children, as much as anything, inspired him to write his first book.

    “This is the book I wish I would’ve had 20, 25 years ago, when I was getting started,” said Hopkins, whose book — “Shortcut to Prosperity: 10 Entrepreneurial Habits and a Roadmap for an Exceptional Career” — officially goes on sale Jan. 1.

    Hopkins founded Peak Industries in Longmont in 1996 with about 10 people and grew it to 300 employees and $75 million in annual revenue, eventually selling it to multinational corporation Delphi for $44 million. That put him in a position where he could be choosy about what he did or didn’t do professionally.

    But he never left the business world and, as he watched his kids — now 20 and 22 — grow into adulthood, he got the notion that maybe he should be “shouting some stuff back to the next generation, saying, ‘Hey, I learned some stuff, and it’s some really good stuff.'”

    Growing something from nothing

    Hopkins, who has engineering degrees from Cornell and Stanford, worked in the corporate world for Hewlett-Packard and Emerson Electric. It was while working at HP in the 1980s that he met his wife, Jenny, an event he describes as “winning the lottery.”

    “In my book, I talk about business partners and life partners,” Hopkins said. “Jenny was the enabler for me to start Peak Industries.”

    The couple’s kids were small at the time, and leaving a well-paying job to launch a start-up is always a risky proposition. But Jenny encouraged him to follow his dream. Without her support, he wouldn’t have made that critical, and life-changing, decision, Hopkins said.

    Shaking up the status quo is addressed in the first part of his book, where he talks about finding your passion in life and then having the courage to take chances to pursue that passion.

    Hopkins started Peak Industries as a plastic parts manufacturer but learned relatively early on that it wasn’t a business model that would keep the company growing. So it evolved into making more technologically complex products, and ultimately it got to where Peak wasn’t just making parts designed to go into bigger products; it was making the products themselves.

    The company really found its niche in the medical device industry, building kidney dialysis machines, oxygen concentrators and blood coagulation analyzers. That led Delphi to come calling in 2004.

    Hopkins hadn’t been looking to sell, but he did see it as a way to pay down the large bank debt he had accumulated. He left the company soon after the sale.

    Incidentally, Delphi later sold off the medical device portion of its business and it’s now Spartan Medical, employing many of the same people who used to work with him at Peak, Hopkins said.

    “The corporate culture that we put together has survived through several transactions and continues to operate as an outstanding unit today, and that’s a tribute to the people who are there,” he said.

    After he left Peak, Hopkins and his wife started a nonprofit foundation, Catalyst, to support their philanthropic interests, and Crescendo Capital Partners, a Boulder-based investment house. They became minority investors in a handful of companies and majority owners of Centennial-based American Medical Sales and Repair, which Jenny Hopkins has been running the past couple of years.

    Meanwhile, Mark Hopkins has been working on his book. He put some basic ideas he wanted to impart down on paper and located a publisher who found merit in them.

    “I didn’t want to write this if it wasn’t going to get published,” he said.

    Lessons to be learned

    Jenny has been an integral partner in both his personal and professional life, and that’s a major focus of the latter portion of his book.

    “With the right business partners or life partners, you can achieve almost anything,” he said. “But with the wrong ones, it makes it almost impossible to do anything.”

    The middle portion, “Develop An Unfair Advantage,” is about learning some fundamental steps people should follow in pursuing their dreams.

    “Once you figure out what you’re passionate about, the middle (part) is about beating down the doors,” Hopkins said.

    Anecdotes about other people are sprinkled liberally throughout the book because he thinks they provide valuable lessons, Hopkins said.

    “Every single one of them had to figure out, on their own, stuff that’s in this book,” Hopkins said. “The purpose of this book is so that you don’t have to figure it out on your own.”

    Hence the book’s title, “Shortcut to Prosperity,” although the title is a bit tongue in cheek, he said.

    “There is no such thing as a shortcut to prosperity,” Hopkins said. “It’s a lot of freaking work.”

    (Source: TimesCall.com, Tony Kindelspire, December 16, 2012)

  • Press

    Entrepreneur, VC offers shortcuts to help startups be more successful

    Suggesting there are shortcuts entrepreneurs can take to improve their chances of success would appear to refute Malcolm Gladwell’s popular “10,000 hours” theory.

    But instead of picking a fight with the “Outliers” author, entrepreneur and fund manager Mark Hopkins is just trying to be provocative to get people to pick up his own book: “Shortcut to Prosperity: 10 Entrepreneurial Habits and a Roadmap For An Exceptional Career”.

    “I’m not at all refuting Gladwell’s 10,000 hours,” confessed Hopkins, 53, who actually references Gladwell in the book. “The shortcut is really a way to get people to pick up the book and for me to say: ’If you do these things then you have a good shot at it, but it’s going to be a lot of work.’”

    As far as the 10,000 hours goes, Hopkins has put in his time as an entrepreneur. After a career with Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Hopkins started his own medical device manufacturing company – Peak Industries – in 1996 and sold it nearly a decade later in 2004 for $44 million to Delphi (NYSE:DPH).

    After that success, Hopkins, who describes himself as an “operations guy,” was looking to share his knowledge with other entrepreneurs and started up his own Denver, Colorado-based private equity firm – Crescendo Capital Partners.

    “The motivation there was to continue to be involved in small businesses that we thought we could help,” said Hopkins, who targets companies with market capitalizations of $20 million or less in the health services industry.

    ince starting the firm five years ago, Hopkins has switched from early-stage companies to more mature businesses: “We’re taking larger positions in small, boring, mature companies that we think we can help grow and operate better.”

    He said one of the most important things successful companies share is what he refers to as “creative tension,” which emanates from founders who have a clear vision about where they are and where you want to be.

    “Any entity that doesn’t have that clearly in mind is going to be wandering in the wilderness.”

    The following is an abridged version of the conversation between Hopkins and Reuters Small Business:

    What are some key takeaways for entrepreneurs from your experience and from your book?

    The most fundamental thing about successful startups has to do with people. Startups only survive if they do something better, faster and cheaper than the other guys that are out there. The best indicator of whether you are able to do that or not, is the strength of the people you’re able to hire and how well they work together as a team. Do what you have to do to get the best people on the team and then use trust to cement their relationship. Teams that trust each other way outperform teams that don’t.

    Every startup has a core group of leaders who are going to make great sacrifice and spend an inordinate amount of time with each other to make an organization a success. Choose them wisely. A good partner means someone who shares your values, balances your strengths, will work as hard as you do and is fun to be around. If you can do those things, you’ve got a wonderful opportunity to be successful.

    Where do you see private equity right now and where it’s heading?

    I see two different worlds in private equity. I see the really large private equity entities in the world – the multi-billion-dollar companies that are doing multi-billion-dollar deals – and that’s all about asset utilization and somebody having a better way to utilize assets that are captured in a big company. That’s not the world I play in. I play in the world that makes much smaller investments in arenas that we’re familiar with where it’s pretty clear to us how to operate those companies better.

    I’m pretty bullish about private equity, because I always think there will be companies that are under-utilizing their assets. The amounts of leverage you’ll be able to attract through debt is going to be a lot different going forward than it has in the past, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It puts more of a premium on operating, which is more fundamentally helpful to the company.

    A lot of private equity firms have been pretty outspoken about where they sit on the whole fiscal cliff debate. What’s your take on it?

    I have a pretty moderate take on it. We’ve got spending problems that we fundamentally have to understand and begin to take actions to address. On the other hand we are historically gathering revenues that are under what it takes as a percentage of GDP to run our country the way we want to run it. We need both parties to come together. Somebody, or some group of people, has got to stand up. I listened to Erskine Bowles (Democratic co-chair of President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform with Republican Senator Alan Simpson) on a call the other day and was super impressed – he’s a Democrat I could believe in. I’ve heard Senator Simpson talk and I can say the same thing about him. If somebody would embrace the recommendations from a balanced set of knowledgeable guys like that, I think we can get this thing done.

    (Source: Reuters.com blog, Jon Cook, December 10, 2012)

  • Press

    Publisher’s Weekly Review of Shortcut to Prosperity

    In this encouraging business tome, Hopkins explains how average workers can catapult their careers to a new level. Presenting 10 shortcuts over the course of the book’s three parts—Find Your Field of “Play,” Develop an Unfair Advantage, and Recruit Allies—he explains how to find a field to be passionate about, how to acquire and best learn from a mentor, and how to build genuine and effective work relationships.

    Central to the message is what the author calls a “Prosperity Cycle”: making a “decision to do something,” whether that is motivated by a “compelling personal vision” or “personal hardship”; followed by “self-discipline & focused effort,” then by “a win or a learning moment,” and finally “confidence & perseverance.” Exercises such as “identifying your personal values” and determining a “personal vision” provide the foundation on which to build, and readers are also counseled that failure isn’t bad, it’s simply a learning experience.

    The author’s reassuring yet realistic tone provides the tools anyone needs to be successful in business—and in personal goals—granted they are willing to do the work. This practical guide would be a useful addition to anyone’s business library.

    (Source: Publisher’s Weekly review, December 3, 2012)

  • Mark reminds us how important it is to spend your time doing something you’re passionate about, and how easy it can be to turn that passion into prosperity.

    Mike Fries, President and CEO, Liberty Global

  • Shortcut to Prosperity captured many habits that I learned over the course of my career. I would have loved to have this book twenty years ago, as it would have helped accelerate the development of my entrepreneurial capabilities.

    Dan Caruso, Founder and CEO, Zayo Group

  • I have spent my career preparing young people to succeed in an increasingly challenging global economy. Shortcut to Prosperity does a wonderful job compiling a timeless set of recommendations that will give readers a huge head start.

    John Box, PhD, senior vice president, education (retired), Junior Achievement Worldwide

  • Success is personal. Mark Hopkins has created a powerful approach to identify and achieve your version of prosperity.

    Mo Siegel, cofounder and former CEO, Celestial Seasonings

  • Whether you want to move up the corporate ladder or make it on your own, Shortcut to Prosperity is your success bible.

    Tommy Spaulding, author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller It’s Not Just Who You Know

Shortcut to Prosperity Book

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