Last night I had the chance to interview my friend and mentor, Charles Brewer. When I was growing up running Spunlogic, Charles was one of the most well known startup leaders in the country. He grew MindSpring to a company worth over $3 billion at one point and his story of humble beginnings never ceases to inspire me.
We had our fireside chat at the newly opened Switchyards Downtown Club. If you are interested in startups at all, you need to see the place. The energy there is palpable already and I believe it’s going to be a great addition to the city of Atlanta. I already know I’m going to be a regular there.
Charles and I spent over an hour talking, and here are the 3 main takeaways for me:
#1 Having strong values should be the cornerstone of a healthy business. Charles famously created his Core Values & Beliefs before he even knew what kind of company he would start! He decided, “this is the type of company I want,” and then he proceeded to figure out what that company would actually do for customers. Those values helped guide his company from a one-man operation in his apartment in midtown Atlanta at the age of 36, to a company with thousands of employees and market cap of $3 billion. All along the way, the values stayed intact and helped guide their journey.
#2 The recipe for instilling values into your company as a CEO is a 3 step process:
- Communicate the values all the time. In meetings, in emails to the company and to customers, in one-on-one conversations with employees and customers, etc. Charles even went as far as to use his guitar and sing songs about their values.
- Make sure that everyone in the company fully emodies them. Do not tolerate anyone that violates them, and use them as a guide stick when hiring new employees.
- Integrate them into the business somehow. Make them part of the process and the inner workings of the company.
#3 Stay humble and credit luck for most of your success. Charles gave credit to luck over and over when he talked about his success. Clearly, it was a lot more than luck that propelled him to be one of the most successful entrepreneurs that Atlanta has ever had. But his ability to stay humble and even to this day stop from giving himself too much credit, is inspiring to say the least. He talked on and on about the great people he hired and how they did these amazing things for MindSpring, never once crediting himself with the great success they had. That’s the kind of leader we should all aspire to be.
So, thanks to Switchyards for inviting me to interview Charles last night, and thanks to Charles for agreeing to hang out!