Driven: How Did I Get Here Ep.2 – Learning to Trust and Act On Your Instincts

In this episode, serial entrepreneur Pat Sullivan, CEO of Ryver and self-described paradox, talks with host Justin Gray about his eventual path to entrepreneurship and the traits he believes forms a great entrepreneur.

Did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur when you grew up?
When I was growing up I could not spell entrepreneur, and it never occurred to me that I would be an entrepreneur. In fact, I thought about that question a lot. What do I want to be when I grow up? And I have no recollection of wanting to be anything.

What was your first job then?
My first job was selling printing in Chicago, and I did that for about 10 years or so.

What caused you to make a shift, and at that point create a software?
After the job selling printing, I went to work for 3M, and that was my introduction into the technology world. Soon thereafter, I worked for a microcomputer dealer, and during that time I taught myself how to program because I became obsessed with the idea of automating everything I did as a salesman. And the last thing that I built was a contact management module and little did I know that basically I was building a prototype for what ultimately became ACT.

So you’re in sales you decide to teach yourself programing and you basically produce an MVP and go to market 10 months later. During that time, was there a mentor or huge influence on your ability to say “I can go out there and do this?”
Well I have thought a lot about that in the past and I have said that probably the biggest impact on my life came from my father and probably my mother as well. I tell people that the greatest gift they gave me was that I could do anything that I set my mind to.

Has there been one major or is there a struggle that stands out in your mind along the way – a time where you were like “I don’t know if I can do this?”
I can’t site a single one. I would say there were hundreds. Running a startup is very hard. You are going to run into things that you did not expect. You are going to make mistakes. You are going to go down paths that prove to be a dead end. And it is the tenacity that is required to say OK, there is an answer to this. I made a mistake. What can I learn from it, what does this teach me and where do I go from here? And you know being driven by the belief that there is always an answer.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would advise myself, and anyone else, to act on your instincts.

How do you find good employees? What is your favorite interview questions when you are trying to get to the heart of will this person be someone I want to take on this journey with me?
I don’t have a specific question, it’s more of a conversation. I’m really looking for social intelligence as much as I am looking for technical intelligence. Do I like this person? Can I work with this person?

Who would you hire to do your job? What would be the traits of that individual?
Tenacity. I personally believe, based on things I’ve read, is that the best entrepreneurs tend to be generalists. They have lots of interests. It would have to be someone who is willing to do something that others might not do.

Take away quote: I tell entrepreneurs now you know if you want to know if your a leader, turn around and see if anybody’s following you.

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