Kevin Berkopes, former director of IUPUI’s Mathematics Assistance Center and Statistics Assistance Center, is the founder and CEO of Crossroads Portfolio Companies. Crossroads’ portfolio of companies works together to support partner communities’ needs in education, facilities and technology.
Crimson Catalyst: If a person has an idea for a business, what are the first three actions they should take to make it a reality?
Kevin Berkopes: 1. Has your idea already been done? What is out there that is trying to fill the need that your idea likely will fill? 2. What does it take to get your idea into something more than an idea? Is the barrier so high that it might be impossible because of time, money or resources to get past the idea phase? Be honest with yourself; I have seen many people bankrupt themselves on an idea. 3. What is your product and how are you going to sell it? This will change often, but you need to constantly work toward answering those questions.
CC: What has surprised you during the course of your day-to-day entrepreneurial journey?
KB: Being a leader and being an entrepreneur are completely different things. Yes, you can put a business together, but the likelihood of your success is often based on whether others will follow you on this journey. You need a leader for that. You need an entrepreneur who understands that your ability to find market fit and wield debt and cash flow is just as important as your ability to come up with big ideas.
CC: How do you define success?
KB: I struggle with this. In my definition of a well-lived life, it is possible to be successful and still have a failed business. I want to have a contribution to my family that is nonnegotiable, so the balance for pursing successful businesses must recognize that.
CC: What is dangerous or scary about being an entrepreneur?
KB: You have to have the ability of dealing with risk and stress. There is no question that this lifestyle is much higher in both, and the payoff of success and failure is, of course, much higher.
CC: What is the best advice you’ve received?
KB: Your timing sucks. You are not in complete control of all the variables, and you never will be, so when you complain and lament about timing, you should remember that it is not just about you and your work. Your timing, therefore, sucks.
CC: What is the best advice you can offer?
KB: You need to keep yourself and your team accountable toward goals that are measurable. People who follow you want to know that they are doing what you are asking them to do toward the goals that you are leading them to. How can you make sure you are communicating their successes and failures in quality ways? How can you ensure you are driving toward the right goals? I would say that the answer to this is to be strong willed enough to fight for what you believe in and be humble enough to always listen to those around you. Actually listen. Don’t just wait for your chance to talk.