Chris Sloan is the Chair of the Emerging Companies Team at Baker Donelson, a law firm of 650+ attorneys across 30 practices that has been in partnership with the Entrepreneur Center since day one. He sat down with our very own Blake Hogan, Director of Partnerships, to talk about both his involvement with the EC and with Nashville’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. You can listen to the full interview below or in iTunes. The highlights are included below:
Blake: What motivates you in the work you do?
Chris: I love working with entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are some of the most energetic, optimistic and passionate people that you’ll ever work with - and they’re very loyal to people who are loyal to them. Every day I’m talking to entrepreneurs that are trying to do something new, do something innovative, they’re facing business challenges, trying to build these companies. And there’s so many ways that it energizes me to be there and have a role in these companies. I get a vicarious thrill out it when they’re successful, when they’re doing well. I get bummed out when things happen to my entre clients that I couldn’t help them avoid. Sometimes, that’s life as an entrepreneur. But I love that ride, I love being able to see the technology and see the spark and help support it. And that’s never going to change.
In response to a comment about being one of the first influencers to build up the Nashville technology community, Chris responded with the following:
Chris: There’s an economic development and a community support aspect of this in the sense that Tennessee’s Economic Development Department- and probably every other state now- has this data that shows that. When it comes to job creation, the overwhelming majority of jobs that are created in a state like Tennessee come from entrepreneurs. Economic development folks have realized that and so what we’ve now seen is that supporting the entrepreneurial communities in all of our markets has that ECD [economic development] benefit. This causes those ECD folks to look at our firm in a different way, which then causes the business community to look at our firm in a different way that goes beyond just our emerging companies practice. We call it a halo effect. We’ve seen it repeatedly and we love that.
Blake: Do you have any final words of wisdom?
Chris: For those starting a company, there are all sorts of things I could tell them, but the biggest advice I would give anyone who’s planning to start a business is to go talk to your potential customers as early in the process as you can. You will inevitably find one or both of two things to be true. One is that some aspect of what you think you want to build that you think people will want to buy, they won’t. They’ll tell you, that’s not really that useful for us. The other thing is you’ll learn is that some other aspect that maybe you hadn’t thought much about, you’ll find out is a real pain point for your customers. And the sooner in the process, even before you start mapping your business model, the sooner in the process you do that, the sooner you orient your business and start building something that your customers will work with. Frankly that’s one of your first tests as an entrepreneur - find those potential customers, and go talk to them.
We’re fortunate to work with the strongest companies in the country who help us fulfill our mission to connect entrepreneurs with critical resources to create, launch and grow businesses. For more content like this, visit ec.co/podcast.