In this ongoing series, we share advice, tips and insights from business warriors who are out there doing battle day in and day out. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
What’s your business?
My name is Dillon Auxier, I have several businesses that I am currently involved in. One of which is called Shieldz Technology, which produces thin silicon sleeves that let consumers protect their headphone pads, while simultaneously customizing them.
How did you get the idea?
It started when I borrowed a pair of Beats from a friend. I worked out in them every day for two weeks while he was out of the country and the ear cushions began to tear from the sweat. I looked for a solution on the internet but found nothing. Then I checked all of the 1 and 2-star reviews of Beats on Amazon and about every third negative review was about this issue, so I knew there was a market.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
This is a funny question. Entrepreneur to me means obsession. For as long as I can remember I have looked for problems or inefficiencies in the world and tried to solve them, even as a little kid. I was always trying to prototype something crazy or build something that definitely would not work. It was the thrill of creation that would excite me more than anything.
Entrepreneur, to me, means someone who is an out-of-the-box thinker, loves having the odds stacked against them and is driven by creation and problem-solving as opposed to monetary compensation. To an entrepreneur, monetary compensation is simply a scoring system used to see how large of a problem you solved or how many people you helped. “Helped” in this instance would mean saving someone time or money.
What was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?
My toughest challenge has been finding quality people to buy into the dream and help with daily operations without compensation. This has to be done at the beginning of most startups and it is, in my opinion, the most underrated skill a founder must have. I have overcome it by being lucky enough to find a few good people who believe in me to the point where they will do anything to ensure the company’s success.
What’s the problem you just solved or are attacking now?
Issues that we are currently attacking are content generation, getting more headphone companies to let us be their OEM for Shieldz and meeting with decision-makers.
How did you discover this problem?
These problems were discovered through trial and error. We are such a content-driven society now that if you are a company you have to always be putting out new content in order to remain relevant. In terms of being a headphone company’s OEM for Shieldz, our goal is to show them the profit that can be made by offering this value add to customers. Our goal with getting them involved is to help us offset the cost of producing the mold and production costs.
Related: What It Means to Be an Entrepreneur
What did you/have you learned through attacking this problem?
Attacking these various problems have taught us that there are times when you need to just keep being persistent and push through resistance and there are times when you need to pivot or try a new approach to attacking the problem. The thing that we always have to remind ourselves is the only time you fail is when you throw in the towel.
What’s the most important trait in a new hire and why?
Reliability/Loyalty. I will take someone that is loyal and reliable over any other trait. You can teach skills and job specific requirements, but it is very difficult to take an unreliable person and make them reliable. People are going to make mistakes and they will get things wrong, but as long as they are consistently putting in great effort and learning from their mistakes, they will be an asset.
What trait do you depend on most when making decisions and why is that useful for you?
I just ask God most of the time. I guess some people call it “gut” instinct. I use to do the whole analytical thing and I am still a big fan of collaborative decision-making and have seen great things can come from it, but at the end of the day if there is no clear cut decision I ask the man upstairs.
How has your leadership style evolved?
I don’t do the whole “rah-rah” style anymore. I am a much bigger fan of the “in the trenches” style of leadership where I lead by example. I believe it really is the only way to have consistent results for a long period of time.