How Failure Helped These CEOs Become Experts: Black Tech Week Miami

How Failure Helped These CEOs Become Experts: Black Tech Week Miami

failure helped these CEOs
Juan Casimiro, Bjorn K. Simmons, James Taylor and Michael Hall spoke on a panel at Black Tech Week Miami 2018. Photo: Anita Sanikop/Moguldom.com

Everyone who has been an entrepreneur has, at some point, endured complete failure.

Admitting it can difficult, talking about it can be painful, and doing so before a live audience at Black Tech Week can make a grown man cry.

Failure is just a process, something to get through if giving up is not an option, according to four entrepreneurs who shared their failures at Black Tech Week Miami. The topic of the panel discussion was “Building From College To CEO: What to Know Before Starting Your Own Business.”

Panelists included Juan Casimiro, Bjorn K. Simmons, James Taylor and Michael Hall.

Juan Casimiro is the founder and CEO at Biznovator, an educational and youth development company with a mission to empower, teach and create young entrepreneurs, social innovators and global leaders.

It’s typical for a startup in the U.S. to fail within the first five years — at least 65 percent do — Casimiro said. By your second or third business, you start to see success, he added. Know that it’s “just a process” and something you can learn from, he said.

Juan Casimiro on failure

My failure is not valuing my intellectual and human capital. I am so passionate and good at what I do that others have exploited it. The minute you know you have an amazing talent and intellectual capacity, don’t sell yourself short. Two companies I started, I literally gave them away as far as what I sold them for. Others that I have worked with, at least from a contractual standpoint, from a partnership standpoint, they saw (my) vulnerability… Be careful of that. I’ve done that.

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Folks, particularly of color, we sell our souls. We’re much more worthy than that and you need to stop that mindset. Demand what you’re worth. But that also means you (have to) build your assets. You build your capital, your intellectual capacity, and then you call the shots. Instead of seeking a $1-million deal, why not $10 million? Especially when certain levels of corporations are targeting you guys. You’re the consumers for a lot of predominantly white-run corporations. We come around as entrepreneurs and say, well we can cut this deal, that deal, and yet they’re trying to market to our folks. We are huge consumers. Leverage it, or be leveraged.”

Bjorn K. Simmons on failure

Bjorn K. Simmons is chief strategy officer at Wyzerr, which builds artificially intelligent solutions to make market research accessible and affordable. “Chief strategy officer” means he’s head of marketing, sales, partnerships, and public relations. He is also CEO of The MEANT Group, an experiential marketing firm and brand launch pad.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that everyone’s trying to figure it out. Now I’m in a position that I work with big corporations, C-suite executives at P&G. I’m going to dinner with these people and they’re all still trying to figure it out. Everyone has their moment. That moment that you have — that’s part of a process to success. The universal language to success is that process.

My failure was I had a company, we raised $2 million and I actually left the company because I didn’t trust the process of getting to where we needed to go. I needed to be there and it was underperforming. I did not trust that process or invest in the process of getting to success. I was living on milestones and goals for myself and when I did hit those, I reacted emotionally. I had to learn how to take that out of myself. Over the course of leaving my startup that I co-founded, I was sleeping on the ground in a two-bedroom apartment with four different people for three months. I had to be there to invest in the process and now I’m there and I trust everything that I bring to the table. I’m back with the company, helping them still get to the next level. How you get over failure is key. As hard as it is, that’s what you have to figure out.”

failure helped these CEOs
Juan Casimiro, Bjorn K. Simmons, James Taylor and Michael Hall spoke on a panel at Black Tech Week Miami 2018. Photo: Anita Sanikop/Moguldom.com

James Taylor on failure

James Taylor is CEO at Taylored Athletes, a manager of sports recreation, entertainment, and events with youth sports knowledge and experience.

I’m the national and Florida basketball director for USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association). I went out on a limb. I took on a $275,000 commitment to have the Marriott World Center in Orlando bring in 15 courts, put them under one roof and give teams around the country an opportunity to come down to Orlando, stay and play in a beautiful resort. And we did not make a dime.

However, we’re getting ready to do it again in June. The aim this time, we’re gonna make some money. It was a vision — maybe a little too much to bite off. However, if I could go back and play you a reel of the laughter, the smiles, the parents who were able to wake up and not have to rush and take their time and watch their kids play in a safe fun location — and see young kids have access to multiple amenities to enjoy outside of the sport — oh man, we won.

We’re going to get the whole business model down in order to make some money this time. However the experience was worth easy a million dollars. Other properties (saw) what we accomplished — almost 2,000 room nights over three nights. If you’re in the sports-hospitality-tourism world, you know that’s not an easy feat. (We got) another property to say, ‘You know what? We’re going to give you an even better deal. Man, bring that stuff over here.’

Because this time, we’re gonna make some money.”

Michael Hall on failure

Michael Hall is the founder of Digital Grass, a Miami-Fort Lauderdale-area social impact group and diversity accelerator.

I’ve learned that sometimes my failure is what’s allowed me to be an expert. I get to see what I did wrong. Our people — we don’t like to tell the truth of our failures. I wanted a Nissan GT-R until I realized it cost $3,000 to fix the brakes. I could afford the car. I couldn’t afford the maintenance. Somebody had to let me know how bad those brakes were going to be.

Everything has to look good. We don’t share information past the surface of what people want to know because we’re scared to admit our own failures. If you told other people about your failures they could avoid those same roadblocks. Those are the same people who are going to come and get you back and say, “Hey, you helped me here. I’m going to help you next.” And if they don’t, you give without expectations. But everyone at this table, at one point in your life, there was something you did as an entrpereneur that was a complete failure. I want everybody in here to hear that failure.”

Here are some questions from the audience following the CEO admissions of failure:

I’m a black female. I know I devalue myself, especially when dealing with white people. How do you know what you’re worth? We don’t go around telling one another.

Juan Casimiro: Survey the market, look at what other consultants and coaches and engineers are making, look at their value and multiply by two, simply because you’re bicultural. I understand you are an African American woman. I say you are a powerful woman. You happen to be African American. That makes you very, very unique. When you look at entrepreneurship at the highest level, you are an oddity. Survey the market, ask questions, and you have to build the capacity so that (they have no) excuse to turn you down. Get testimonies from others based on the great work that you do.

 What are your top skills?

Juan Casimiro: Hard work ethics.
James Taylor: My top skill is being led by transformation.
Michael Hall: Resilience. (As an entrepreneur) you’ll hear 50 “no”s before you hear “yes”. I will call my competition posing as another company and get a quote. I will look at their quote and say, “I’m better than them so I’m going to charge more.” I call them all the time. In business, you start to remove emotions. I don’t need everyone to be my friend. I’m always my friend.