Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Scott Steinberg, CEO of FutureProof Strategies: The Futurist Consulting Company, located in New York, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We're a strategic consulting, market research, and corporate training firm that has served as keynote speakers, strategy advisers, and thought leaders for over 1500 of the world’s best-known brands, from American Express to Zynga. To put it simply: we help Fortune 500 leaders and cutting-edge start-ups adapt to new and emerging trends– and design cutting-edge products, services, and solutions on the back of them.
For example, in addition to training thousands of business leaders to adapt to change and disruption at conferences and events every year, we’ve also helped design many of today’s bestselling consumer products found in over 100 million homes. (Smartphones, speakers, video game systems, etc.)
We also produce a range of books and training products for executives on topics such as leadership, strategy, and change management: Our most recent being the just-announced FUN AT WORK: How to Boost Creativity, Unleash Innovation and Reinvent the Future of Work Using the Transformative Power of Play – a complete guide to reimaging the office and future of work.
Tell us about yourself
Growing up, I was always into computers and video games and wanted to work in the business – but I couldn’t find a company that was willing to fly a student with no experience across the country to work for them, even for free. So I realized I’d have to find another way in and started publishing a website reviewing the latest games and technology gadgets from my college dorm room. That same year, a big videogame industry tradeshow was happening in town. Tucked away in the lowest hall was a stand for a French game publisher called Microids, whose games my friends used to download back in high school. I was super excited to see them, and they were just stoked that someone in America knew who they were.
By the time I left the show, they’d agreed to give me a gig for the summer, and even though a company in California wouldn’t take me on as unpaid labor, my first internship wound up being in Paris, France — and by the time I left, having helped the company discover and sign hit products like SHOGO: Mobile Armor Division, I was named VP of Product Acquisitions. Afterward, I then ported over to doing freelance gigs with hundreds of media outlets, from CNN to Rolling Stone, and trips to press events around the world.
From there, I afterward became a business analyst and management consultant who worked to help companies and audiences stay one step ahead of emerging technologies, trends, and global events. That path then led to writing dozens of books on trendspotting, innovation, and business development, among other topics. Which then led to speaking, training, and hosting corporate seminars, workshops, and board retreats of all kinds. These days, I work as a trendspotter and futurist for trillion-dollar firms, sovereign wealth funds, and unicorn startup founders… not bad work if you can get it :)
As for what motivates me, in a world of constant change and disruption, it’s become my mission to equip folks with the vital tools, techniques, and insights that they need to adapt to the future, no matter what tomorrow brings. Ironically, people and organizations are far more resilient than they think. Sometimes, all it takes is a slight shift in perspective or change in tactics to turn your fortunes around here.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
You mean besides managing to solo parent, run a business, and still keep the wheels from coming off in the middle of a once-in-a-century global pandemic? Like many modern business owners, I’m just proud we’re still here and chugging along and that we continue to play an active role in giving back to our community. But if you’re looking for more offbeat stuff, maybe it’s the time one of America’s top military leaders asked me to help dozens of the nation’s top commanders rethink how they look at strategy and reconsider how they evolve to address fast-changing operating environments. Perhaps it’s the time we got tapped to help hundreds of border agencies around the world rethink security, customer service, travel, and transport.
It could also be that one time a credit card company had me hop over to Europe for its 20th anniversary, and I found myself hoisting a UEFA soccer trophy on stage. Or perhaps it’s the nearly 30-odd books we’ve been able to produce and share, e.g., Think Like a Futurist 2022: The Next Normal, Make Change Work for You, and Digital Transformation: The Definitive Guide, many of which we’ve been able to make available to thousands of readers for free. Honestly, it’s hard to say – but being named one of today’s Top 25 Consultants by Consulting magazine was definitely up there.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Trying to find time for everything in your life and balance the needs of the business with your need to get an occasional good night’s sleep. We often like to glamorize being an entrepreneur and the late nights and redeye flights that come along with it. But in my mind, there’s more to life than being a hard-working professional. It’s also important to be a good parent, a good partner, and a good human being. And given the increasingly 24/7 demands of being a business owner, carving out the space to master those goals is awful hard unless you actively strive to make them a priority.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Start now, immediately, do not wait. Thanks to a host of online tools, pay-as-you-go services, and freelance marketplaces, it’s never been easier or more cost-affordable than ever. In many cases, you can begin in less than 24 hours for under $100. And the sooner you begin, the sooner you can start learning from your mistakes and adapting.
- You must be your own biggest cheerleader. After all, you’re the one who sees your vision the clearest and believes in it the most – and will have to put in the hard work to execute it and steer it back on track when (inevitably) it doesn’t go to the original plan. Sometimes, the world will ignore you, turn its back on you, or just plain not care. It’s your job to make it care, let it know you’re too important to ignore, and that you won’t back down, even in the face of the ridiculous odds and experiences that every entrepreneur encounters.
- Qualify yourself. You could spend your whole life waiting for someone to give you the green light, or you could give yourself a promotion right now. And if you don’t know something, remember: neither did most other entrepreneurs when they started – at some point, we all have to learn as we go. Besides, there’s tremendous value in “not knowing what you’re doing” sometimes and asking “dumb” questions: sometimes, asking “why not” instead of “why” is the fastest way to come up with an innovative solution.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Just do it. You don’t need to be particularly talented or brilliant to get ahead in life – just more willing and persistent when it comes to taking action, picking yourself up, and dusting yourself off from setbacks. I have no Ph.D. I have no patents. I don’t even have a New York Times bestseller. And yet I frequently share stages and boardroom tables with those who do. Remember - it’s not about being the smartest person in the room, just the most adaptable, inquisitive, and resilient. Or, as I like to say often, you don’t have to be a genius to get ahead in business these days, just a little bit more clever and ingenious instead.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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