Despite the startup successes dominating the media spotlight, it’s widely known that around 90% of startups fail. The go-to reason usually comes down to a lack of funding or being in the wrong market. This staggering statistic gives food for thought as far as the formula goes for growing a successful franchise or company that lasts. Regardless of technical details, could it be that most businesses are simply shooting at the wrong target from the outset? In this post-pandemic hybrid world we find ourselves in, is it time to restore conscious connection within company culture?
I caught up with start-up magnet and CEO of Mitsuoka & Company recruitment firm, Takuya Davis, to unpack his secret ingredients to supercharging startup success rates by putting the people back at the heart of the business. Having grand-scaled numerous franchises and startups of his own, racking up more than a decade worth of knowledge and experience, Davis is a seasoned pro in the practice of mapping out successful business plans and prolifically proficient in problem-solving, helping companies bypass the common pitfalls that kill most try-and-fail startups.
Georgie Lawlor: When and how did you get your taste for business? Did you always set out to be a CEO and entrepreneur?
Takuya Davis: I started my first venture back when I was 18 years old, running a painting business called College Pro. I originally went to the University of Washington with the dream of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. I did well in school and some of my closest friends are definitely orthopods today, but I just really loved running this painting gig I did every summer for three years. I eventually moved to the franchisor side and got an opportunity to take up a position in Boston, developing franchises across the US.
That’s actually how I met my better half. I had a recruiting team at that time, and we’ve been working in business together ever since. From Boston, we moved to Arizona and eventually started a family together. A lot of the people I work with today, in my recruiting firm and in other businesses are ones that I’ve met at College Pro. I’ve been able to build lots of long-term relationships through it.
Georgie Lawlor: How does it feel to be heralded as someone who can come into a business and is guaranteed to grow it significantly? How do you get the ball rolling with these companies?
Takuya Davis: I would never want to take all the credit, it’s not just me. A lot of it comes down to putting the right person in the right seat. The basis of the whole model that I learned over the years was that the number one capital I could ever have was the people around me. My job was to simply surround myself with the most talented people. I don’t have to always know or solve everything.
So, regardless of which venture, it’s always been about putting the right person in the right position. Then, making a lot of decisions around the orientation of people and their skill sets. Right now for example, I’m currently building a roofing, solar and a recruiting business. These businesses just happen to be the platform we’re currently using as our business vehicle. Ultimately, I’m in the people business. That’s what I’m really interested in.
Georgie Lawlor: What’s your first order of business?
Takuya Davis: So of course for any new business venture we go into, we analyze the industry, needs, impact, community, and people within it. Once I get a good overview, we will spend the time going through the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, risks, and assessing the realistic timeline to profitability, before getting started in the venture. Part of the decision making process is to ensure it aligns our 10, 3, and 1-year goals for both business and personal. Specifically for everyone involved in the venture, we ensure there’s clear alignment around financial, emotional, spiritual, physical, and intellectual goals. That’s really the foundation of everything I've been a part of and what aids the decision making process. People have to share our mission, vision, and core values as well as us fitting with their own personal objectives. Our business will only be as good as the people inside of it, so we spend more time around alignment. That’s our first order of business in any venture.
Georgie Lawlor: How important is it for these key personnel to not only align with the company's values, but also with your own?
Takuya Davis: Oh, it’s absolutely crucial. Without alignment, or synergy it’s almost impossible to steer it in the right direction. I’ve had some of the most talented high performers with incredible skill sets, yet, they just weren’t a fit with the core values of the organization. We might have lost some additional business opportunities, but from that long-term goal perspective, it just made sense. From a profitability standpoint, most businesses chase after the top and bottom line numbers, but often there’s a lot of different dynamics contributing from the cultural side of the company. It was the right decision, every time. Sometimes, you have to take a step backwards to take multiple steps forward. Making those hard decisions of the wrong person also helps elevate the rest of the team and its culture. You see a lot of brands from all different backgrounds share the same type of mission, vision, and values. Why not follow suit?
Georgie Lawlor: Did the pandemic impact your approach to helping small businesses?
Takuya Davis: Without question. It’s been incredibly challenging, especially right now with the unemployment challenges we’re facing in the US, both people and talent are scarce. But that’s where our recruiting firm has been such a good go-to spot for small businesses and get help with their recruiting needs. Our recruiting firm has been extremely busy solving talent shortages and continuously helping entrepreneurs adapt in this pandemic. Not only are we currently facing the pandemic, we’re also dealing with the war in Ukraine, which is also impacting the entrepreneurs here in the US. We have to continue to adapt and innovate in our approach with helping small businesses.
On the plus side, the current environment also forced massive changes and how we’ve evolved. We had to quickly adapt our marketing, branding, and sales strategies, as well as delivering promises to our clients. The world had to adapt and technologies have helped bridge the gap. I believe that we’re going to have to continue being on our feet and being nimble in the months to come. As Gary Vaynerchuk would say, “If we don’t innovate, we die.”
Georgie Lawlor: What’s your long term vision? What kind of footprint do you want to leave on the world?
Takuya Davis: Whatever I decide to go and build and get into, it always starts with my family and our goals. We have our own 10, 3, and 1 year goals that we’re going after. I’ve always had a personal goal of building wealth, but to be specific, generational wealth. It’s creating wealth for my kids, kid’s kids and then also impacting an enormous number of people and leaving a better social or carbon footprint to the best of my abilities. That’s ultimately the brand and the legacy that I want to leave for sure.
I have an old vision board I carry around, that I made when I was 21 and a bucketlist of things that I want to cross off over the next couple years. Fortunately, my wife and I have the same interests/hobbies which makes crossing it off much easier.
We have two little boys, a four and a three-year-old, and I don't want to have to make a decision like my parents had to; where they had to work all the time and not be around for certain things.
A good mentor told me to go work your tail off; develop in your 20’s, build businesses and wealth in your 30’s and then start gaining return in your 40’s, and that's really kind of the space that I'm operating on. Hopefully, there'll be a point where I can be a full-time dad. Choosing to work if and when I want to work. That’s when we’ll start doing more global impact and social work with some of my good friends and people that have the same type of mindset.
Takuya Davis is an internationally renowned expert in the fields of entrepreneurship, leader and team training, executive coaching, creative problem solving, innovation, business systems, business skill development and creating thriving cultures of entrepreneurship and innovation.
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