Eric Thomas is a successful motivational speaker who built a business from scratch. From a homeless high school dropout to a successful business man with a Ph.D., he embodies everything that it means to become an entrepreneur. I spoke with him about his journey.
Nadia Lorencz: How have your life experiences led to you starting Eric Thomas and associates?
Eric Thomas: It has created the opportunity to be authentic. I feel like the definition of a successful business is for it to be an entity that clients can connect with on an emotional level.
NL: A lot of entrepreneurs that I’ve talked to attribute their success to following their passions in life, how did you come to the conclusion that motivational speaking was what you wanted to do?
ET: I was one of the lucky ones and in college I had the opportunity to work with a ministry where I did a lot of speaking. My peers would tell me that I was good at it and it turned into people telling me that I helped them get their GED or I helped them get from point A to point B and I realized that I could make potential customers happy.
NL: In terms of finding your next business opportunities, how often do you reach out to other people to work with?
ET: I’ve found that there are two ways to advertise: the first way is to form an aggressive means of marketing but the more effective approach is by word of mouth. I deliver a great product that satisfies my customers and meets the markets demands.
NL: What has been the hardest obstacle that you’ve had to overcome with pursuing your own business?
ET: Evolving. The market is constantly changing and in order to be successful, I have to always be willing to take on the next form of social media. First it was MySpace then Facebook and Twitter.
NL: What is a piece of advice that you would give to a young adult wanting to start their own business?
ET: You have to know what the market wants and you have to know what it takes to run a business and realistically assess if you have what it takes. A lot of people like the theory of having a business and that’s why not everyone stays in business.
If you want to become a surgeon, you can learn all about what surgery is like but one day you’re going to have to practice on a rat and you’re going to see blood and guts and it’s going to smell. You’re going to have to decide in that moment if you have what it takes.