Serial entrepreneur Dave Parker is taking a break from launching businesses to lead Code Fellows as its CEO.
Since 1997, Parker has founded or cofounded five companies and served on the board of a dozen more. In his current role at Code Fellows, he helps launch startups while making sure his own company is reaching its milestones. Parker credits three aspects of team leadership to his success as an entrepreneur.
The three aspects of leadership are universal, according to Parker. The application of each might vary across different types of businesses, but one cannot build and grow a business without taking care of its people, organizing mission and strategy together, or without passion and drive.
1. People Matter First
“Ultimately, people and culture of the company is the thing that is going to most directly impact the outcome.”
Parker said that entrepreneurs should look at a business the same way a potential investor does. “Can you grow a team? Can your recruit amazing people who are smarter than you are? And can you empower them to go make a difference? If you can do that, frankly, you’re off to such a great start.”
2. Mission and Strategy Together
Sometimes an entrepreneur will come along who you think can see around corners. Parker said it’s about the right product at the right time. “A lot of entrepreneurs see the future, and sometimes the future becomes what they see,” Parker said.
Before Uber was a twinkle in Travis Kalanick’s eye, ridesharing got its start in the late 1990s. But without a way to find a ride in real-time, the trait that differentiates Uber from traditional taxi services, the idea took a back seat. Until late 2006, next-day service was considered the latest and greatest adaptation. With the advent of smartphone technology, and the right timing, Kalanick was able to capitalize on the idea, effectively changing the way everyone views taxi and ridesharing services.
As Parker said, seeing the future and at least having an incredible sense of timing are pivotal to good business.
3. Passion and Drive
“The hardest part is you get knocked down a lot,” Parker said. “If you can’t sell the first person to become your cofounder and join you to work for free, then you’re never going to be committed to making it to product and getting customers.”
Research shows that most startups fail. Parker said the challenge is learning what worked in the business and what didn’t. “The opportunity is, did you learn from the failure or success to go do it again, or not?”
“When I look at someone who wants to be a serial entrepreneur, it’s like success in any area of life. Just like being a good parent, it requires a lot of work.”