N6A CEO Matt Rizzetta looks back on a decade of entrepreneurship
Ten years ago, I was 26 years old and I took the most important steps of my life. I walked down to my basement.
My wife and I had just closed on a house, we were expecting our first child, and she was going on leave from her job as a schoolteacher in Brooklyn. I had a crazy idea to leave my job and start a business. We didn’t have much money, so I had no choice but to use my basement as our center of operation.
My only prior experience with entrepreneurship was a failed attempt at trying to build a sports agency while I was working a full-time job as a 22-year old.
I had real responsibilities now – a family to support, a mortgage to pay – and I simply couldn’t afford to fail this time around. It was all about survival. Fear of failure would turn into fuel for me at the time, and to this day remains one of the most powerful motivational drivers that has stayed with me. I simply can’t go back to the basement. It’s not an option.
While I was scared, anxious, and nervous, it was also an exhilarating time in my life. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was slowly falling in love with the idea of creating a new reality. If I only knew how beautiful the next decade would be. The people I would meet, the lessons I would learn, the thrill of the journey I was about to go on.
Ten years later, these are a few things I would tell my younger self as I walked down those steps to my basement for the first time.
Business is not a straight line, so enjoy the bumps
Quickly, almost immediately, you will find out that business is not a straight line; it’s a curvy line with countless bumps and unpredictable turns along the way. You will not be prepared for these bumps and turns, and they will be difficult to navigate; but tackling them head on with the right spirit will make you better in the end.
Enjoy these bumps and turns when they come, because while they aren’t easy, they represent what makes this journey fun and exhilarating. You will learn and improve as a result.
Celebrate the winning moments
After your first year, you will be told that 80 percent of people would have failed at this endeavor – you are part of the 20 percent. As the years go on, the percentage of people who succeed at taking the next step will decrease exponentially. While you’ll get some joy from beating the odds, you will already be focusing on the next challenge – never fast enough, and never satisfied.
While this fire and drive will motivate you, it will also become your greatest weakness. It’s an unhealthy quality; remember to breathe, relax and take time to celebrate the achievement of beating the odds rather than miss out on the joy by chasing what’s next. There will be a lot to smile about, so slow down and enjoy the winning moments.
Find the right co-pilots to take flight with
Soon you will realize that you can’t do this alone, and it will be a difficult adjustment; but know that assembling a team will turn out to be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do in your career. Build a circle of people who are much smarter and more intuitive than you. You will find that the contributions of others are more important than your own.
When you find special teammates and realize the immense value they bring to your vision, hold onto them and treat them as if they are family. You will be amazed at the pride and joy you get when you find the right co-pilots to take flight with. You will become a better leader and person because of them.
Never forget the doubters
There will be so many people who believe in you on the journey. Thank them and stay loyal to them. But keep the doubters even closer. They will be more important to your success than the believers. At times, the doubters will tell you are too young. Too old. Too small. Too big. They will tell you that you don’t have the resources that others have. These are nothing but built in excuses that will distract you from reaching your goals. Kill them silently through innovation, work ethic and constant self-reflection. Have respect for everyone’s opinion, but never carry an inferiority complex. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t belong. Never let negativity breed paranoia or insecurity.
Stay true to yourself
Know that a lot will change throughout this journey. Most notably, you will change. Never forget who you are. Stay humble, never get complacent. Every day is a fight for survival just like it was in the basement. You can never take anything for granted.
Recognize your weaknesses, be accountable and listen to others around you as their perspectives will help you see through your blind spots. You will make so many mistakes along the way. Ultimately you will be defined over the next decade by your willingness to make adjustments and improvements after making these mistakes. You will be surprised how much satisfaction this brings. Pivoting will be a beautiful thing.
Everything will be just fine
After a decade has passed, you will be just as energized for the next chapter as you were for the first one. Because of your blood, sweat and tears, you will have a destination within reach. Take all of the lessons learned from the first decade and apply them. Go get it.
But please, enjoy it more this time around. Celebrate when you win, smile and learn when you lose. Surround yourself only with the best people who keep you grounded and support your vision. As always, remember there are no guarantees in the next chapter. But if the first one is any indication, I think you’re going to be just fine.
Written by: Matt Rizzetta, CEO N6A
Matt Rizzetta has served as CEO since N6A’s inception. Under his leadership, N6A has been ranked as the #1 fastest-growing agency in the United States in its revenue category by O’Dwyers, as well one of the 50 most powerful agencies in the United States by the Observer. Matt has been instrumental in creating N6A’s “Compete and Care” culture and “Embrace the Pace” atmosphere, which have been lauded as the most rewarding, collaborative and unique in the agency world by Forbes, Monster.com, New York Post, Chief Learning Office Magazine, Entrepreneur, and others. N6A was named a finalist for Digiday’s Most Innovative Culture Award, and as a winner of PRWeek’s Best Places to Work. Matt serves on the Alumni Board of Directors at his alma mater Iona College, and resides in Westchester County, NY, with his wife and three daughters.