Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Stephen Shapiro, an Innovation Keynote Speaker and Author based in Orlando, FL, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

For the past 25 years, I have focused solely on innovation. Innovation for large corporations. Innovation for small businesses. Innovation for non-profits. And even innovation for individuals. It is about leveraging the power we all have to bring our greatest gifts to the world. My corporate work is heavily focused on identifying the biggest opportunities and finding the best methods for finding solutions. My latest book, Invisible Solutions®, provides a tool that can help an organization reframe problems as a way of revealing hidden solutions. My Personality Poker® system helps create high-performing innovation teams.

Tell us about yourself

I started my career at Accenture. After a few years there, I got involved with business efficiency work. We optimized the way companies operated, and as a result, they downsized their workforce. People lost jobs because of my work. I decided that this was not the legacy I wanted to leave. So I took a 6-month leave of absence. During that time, I committed to helping companies grow (not shrink). With the help of others, we created a 20,000-person innovation practice that made a huge impact on the company and our clients. In 2001, I decided I wanted to be an author and speaker -and left the world of consulting. My first book, 24/7 Innovation, was published then, and I spoke on stages worldwide. Now, in addition to delivering speeches, I do a lot of deep with my clients as part of my FAST Innovation Mastery Program. This enables individuals and teams within companies to master the process of innovation. Innovation is not for a small group of people. I believe that we need to create a culture of innovation where everyone knows how they contribute.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Staying in business for over 20 years is probably my biggest accomplishment! It has been a fun ride. As an innovation guy, I have evolved my business over time. My content has evolved. The way I deliver my content has evolved. And certainly, over the past two years during the pandemic, everything has evolved. But the one thing I have stayed focused on is innovation. That's it. Nothing else. I think that clarity has contributed to my success.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I miss being part of a bigger team. When I was at Accenture, I was surrounded by other consultants. We created programs together. We worked on clients together. We even socialized together. When I launched my own business, I intentionally decided that I would not have any W2 employees. I have a number of 1099s, such as a bookkeeper, a web developer, and a strategic advisor. But our interactions are infrequent. Most of the time, I am developing ideas on my own, traveling on my own, and supporting clients on my own.

Although working with others is appealing (either as an employee of another company or scaling my business), I like the flexibility of doing my own thing. Choosing the clients I want to work with. And working only as much as I want. I do have strategic partnerships with others, and this has partly helped address my desire for a team.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Recognize that your expertise is not what matters most. Your ability to sell and the market is what pays the bills. Yes, you need an incredible product or service. But if no one knows about it or know one buys it, you'll be out of business quickly.
  2. Recognize that what made you successful may lead to future failure. Without innovation, what you offer will eventually become irrelevant. Someone will either copy what you offer and bring it to market at a lower cost or offer something even better than the market wants even more. Or potentially, what you offer is no longer wanted by consumers.
  3. Focus on your sweet spot of passion, skills, and value. That is, make sure you are doing work that gets you motivated (passion), that you have the skills to deliver, and that is valuable to others. If you offer something distinctive that is desired by the market and is hard to replicate, you have a great starting point. Adding in the pleasure gives you to do this work (meaning/purpose), and you have a winning combination.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Watch out for confirmation bias. This is where the brain only gives you evidence that supports your beliefs. If you think an idea is great, you will only "hear" feedback that aligns with this belief. As a result, you may make large investments that don't pay off.

Although we want to have people who encourage us, we also need people who play the devil's advocate. Find people who will shoot holes in your ideas. Surround yourself with people who think differently than you do. Bring in people with different backgrounds and personalities. The biggest danger to your success may be a lack of divergent points of view.

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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