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Thought Leaders, LLC

Dublin, Ohio 43017

Mike Figliuolo of thoughtLEADERS

When and why did you start your business?

I started thoughtLEADERS in 2004. I had done some training and found more demand than I anticipated. I thought, "If that many smart people want training on how to communicate and influence people more effectively, there has to be a market for it."

Did you consider yourself an entrepreneur before that?

I've always been an entrepreneur. I used to paint pencils and sell them at school. I had a paper route and ran a comic-book convention business when I was 14.  

Where did you find your first employee?

My first employee and I worked together at McKinsey & Company. Alan Veeck and I became great friends and he was the first to join the company.

What state or local resources did you take advantage of and how did they help?

I've worked with the Ohio SBDC, as well as the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center. Both have provided facilities and event/speaking opportunities, which helped to spread the word about our services.

What's the most difficult thing about running your own business?

I have to drive the core business while balancing new opportunities. Spend too much time chasing new opportunities and the core business suffers. Spend too much time on the core and you'll never grow. 

What's the best thing?

Being small enables us to make quick decisions, instead of trying to convince 50 stakeholders to take action. There's also satisfaction when you're compensated for your efforts. If I perform, the business does well . . . If I fail, I'm eating ramen noodles for a while.

What has contributed most to your growth?

Diving into the deep end . . . head first. I learn from my mistakes. Not having the safety net of a large corporation forces you to pay attention to every aspect of the business. If you don't, you expose the venture to great risk. 

What other companies or founders do you admire and why?

I admire entrepreneurs who throw themselves into their business with everything they've got. I admire those who are quiet but relentless in their execution. I've seen too many "entrepreneurs" who talk a good game and get nothing done.

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