Tony Hawk is one of the most successful professional skaters of all time, but his success outside skating is perhaps even more remarkable.
He sells everything from skateboards to clothing to action figures.
He founded Boom Boom Huck Jam, a travelling show featuring various extreme sports as well as live music. His line of video games is up to 15 titles, with more in the works. He even has a roller-coaster named after him.
How did he do it? We put together five lessons from things Hawk has said and done about business.
If you decide you want to be an entrepreneur and then start thinking about what business you might want to go into, you're already doing it wrong. Instead, go into business to provide a product you wish you could buy, but that doesn't exist yet.
Hawk's first business venture was a skateboard company, which speaks for itself, but perhaps an even better example is his line of video games. An avid gamer all his life, Hawk knew exactly what was out there, and what was wrong with it.
'I loved video games, I loved any games that included skating in them, and I never thought skating was represented properly.' Hawk's line of games is successful to this day.
'When I started the business, I thought that I was easing my way out of being a pro skater, that I would work more behind the scenes,' Hawk recently told Entrepreneur. 'But at some point I realised that was the completely wrong approach: I was more effective being a pro skater and being an ambassador for the company, instead of being the guy that created the ads, which someone else could do better than me.'
'So I jumped back into the pro circuit and started doing pretty well. The X Games had just started, and I was winning most of the events. People recognised my name--and as a result, I started raising the profile of Birdhouse much more than I ever could have behind the scenes.'
Skating every day is important for Hawk's image, but it's also a form of market research -- he connects with other skaters and stays in touch with what consumers want.
'You have to walk the walk. You've got to be out there skating and seeing what people are into. If I don't make time to skate, I feel like I'm faking it.'
'My best advice is to set small, attainable goals for yourself. Don't think of the big picture all the time, because you're just going to end up being disappointed the whole way there. You'll be so fixated on the challenges that you won't step back and realise you're already there.'
Whatever you think about the big picture is likely to be wrong anyway. As we've mentioned before, many massively successful companies started out trying to do something other than what made them big. Very likely, you won't succeed at all. And if you do, as Hawk explains, it may be in a way you didn't even know was possible.
'Brace yourself for failure' is probably one of the most oft-repeated pieces of advice for entrepreneurs. While failing altogether is a very real possibility, smaller failures along the way are a virtual certainty; if you aren't comfortable with that, you shouldn't be starting businesses.
Hawk started his skateboard company at the nadir of skating's popularity in the early '90s, practically inviting failure. He had to sell his second home and take out a second mortgage on his first. The business did poorly, his wife divorced him, and he was more or less resigned to the fact that he would end up working in a cubicle programming computers.
But as long as he was able, he stuck with it, and when skating finally became big again, he was in the perfect position to make it big. He broke into the mainstream consciousness in 1999 at the X Games when he performed 'the 900', a trick many thought simply couldn't be done.
'I didn't really anticipate making (the 900) that night,' Hawk said. 'I told myself that night that I was going to make that trick or get taken to the hospital.' Which is to say that Hawk, who has knocked out his teeth four times, broken ribs, and suffered multiple concussions, expected to hospitalize himself. Instead, he pulled it off, and the feat was featured in USA Today, unprecedented mainstream coverage for skating.
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