Richard Lorenzen might only be 24, but he has already earned a level of success that often takes decades. The young entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of Fifth Avenue Brands a public relations firm that has earned praise from clients in tech, finance and media. He founded the company at just 15 years old. Since then he has been named one of the Top 50 Digital Marketing Influencers of 2016 by Entrepreneur Magazine, one of the Top 8 Entrepreneurs on Twitter by Inc. Magazine, and one of the Top Millennial Influencers of 2016 by LinkedIn. He’s now also passionate about speaking, especially to young entrepreneurs and students around the world. I sat down with him to see what lessons and insights he could share for other young people who aspire to start their own company.
You do a lot of speaking, especially for young entrepreneurs. What’s the most common question people ask you about entrepreneurship?
“How do I know if my idea will work?” In reality, there’s no such thing as any “idea” that works. The only thing that works is implementing and testing your concept. I really believe that action is more important than an idea itself more often than not. There are of course, some really bad ideas that never stand a chance in the market. But far more often, I’ve seen entrepreneurs take average ideas and with massive action, turn them into highly successful companies. You can always improve a product as time goes on, but you need feedback from the market to do that. You also need cashflow to do that. So spend more time focusing on action and implementation rather than thinking about an idea works, and you’ll find out a whole lot faster and more effectively.
What’s the best piece advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Be careful about listening to advice.” Haha. The fact is everybody has an opinion on everything and now with social media, it’s never been easier to quickly access the opinions and advice of thousands of people before you even have time to formulate an opinion yourself. My system for taking advice is first to consider the source and how credible they are on the subject. If it’s the right source, it’s fine to take their advice into consideration. But do your own homework as well, listen to your gut, search past experiences for clues and then ultimately make your own independent decision.
You started your company very young. Do you think entrepreneurs are born or made?
It seems like this has become a hot topic in the startup world lately and I’ve heard so many opinions on it. What I truly believe is that all entrepreneurs are made. There may be certain personality types that are more conducive to being entrepreneurs (such as high risk tolerance) but that may even be more nurture than nature. I believe anybody can find success as an entrepreneur on their own terms if they first develop the traits and skills that are needed and second understand themselves well enough to create the right environment for themselves.
Thanks to the overwhelming amount of information now available online and in books, you can develop just about any skills you could possibly need to succeed. Read books, do your homework, find mentors and implement. I haven’t seen anybody follow that formula and not improve their life.
What’s the best thing you’ve done for yourself and your success over your career?
It would have to be reading. These days I try to read a book a week and if it weren’t for the hundreds of books I’ve read since starting my company, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Most people don’t realize exactly how much knowledge is at our fingertips today. No matter what you want to do, there is probably a wealth of information available about it. Learning from experience and mentors is also necessary, but if you aren’t regularly reading or listening to as many books as you can find, you are at a disadvantage.
What have been the most challenging aspects of starting, running, and growing your business? How have you faced those challenges?
The most difficult part is probably scaling at first. When you’re a very lean company, success is pretty linear. You have a product, you hustle, you network and you close deals. As you grow and try to scale, it becomes necessary to build systems and teams around what you do so that you can take advantage of leveraging your own time to focus on the highest priorities to grow your business. Getting the right systems and people into place to truly make your business work without you having to be involved in every detail takes time, patience, planning and a lot of execution.
Is there anything you wish you had known before starting your own company? Any other advice you’d like to share with new or would-be entrepreneurs?
I actually wrote an article for Entrepreneur.com recently about the ten things I wish I knew when I started. Of that list, I would say the most important was learning how to delegate quicker. Like I said earlier, one of the most difficult challenges is systematically scaling a company. A large component of that is delegating. I think a lot of entrepreneurs (myself included) don’t learn to delegate fast enough in the beginning, whether it’s because of budgetary reasons or because we like controlling details and making sure everything gets done perfectly. But without delegation, you will burn out so quickly. Plus as soon as you do start delegating you see an immediate rise in productivity and even revenue, so it really pays for itself.
What’s a typical day in the life like:
I get up very early, around 4:30am. 4:30-6:30am is really the only time I get to myself all day before the craziness of running a business starts. I use that time to read, write and even plan the goals that I’m working on at that time. I’m at my desk by 6:30am.
From 6:30am to 6:30pm my schedule varies widely so the morning hours are really the only time I can control. A lot of my day consists of communicating with clients and members of our team about campaigns that we are working on and goals that are being met for clients. A lot of my day is a whirlwind of emails, phone calls and meetings. When possible, I like to get out for lunch and typically have lunch with clients or partners. I also try to swim for an hour around 4pm.
I end the day around 6:30pm although emails and phone calls tend to continue until about 8pm. In the evening my fiancée and I often attend events for charity or clients. I try to get to bed around 11pm.
I’m on the road a lot, but my schedule mostly stays the same whether I’m in New York, Los Angeles or Singapore. Consistency is a big key.