Interview with Serial Entrepreneur and Businnessman Ben Allison

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Ben Allison: Hi Tayo thanks for choosing me to do this interview – it’s truly an honor.

Tayo Rockson: You are very welcome. I'm happy to do it! You and I obviously go way back but to those that don’t know you, can you tell us about yourself and your journey so far in life? So both your personal and business paths. Also, please discuss some of the obstacles you have had to overcome to get to where you are today.

BA: No problem but first of all, I want to thank you again for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences with you and I want to encourage people out there to subscribe to your blog. I truly believe they will learn and be encouraged by the different blog posts.

TR: Thank you very much Ben! You are far too kind.

BA: You are welcome! Well let’s start with the personal side of my life. I’m currently 24 years old and working on obtaining my MBA with a specialization in project management. I will finish the MBA program in December. I’m also currently studying for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and hoping to attend a law school starting the fall of 2014. Also, this past March I got engaged to love of my life, and we are set to get married in December.

I’ve been very fortunate to work with the companies I do. Currently, I juggle my time between six different companies while going through a rigorous MBA program. I am directly in charge of three small businesses that collectively do over 2 million dollars in sales every year. Each of these three businesses is located in three different states so having a good team surrounding me is crucial to each business’s success.

The other three companies I work with are much larger than the three above and our team is able to do some pretty amazing things together. My favorite company that I work for is called Wildfire Weekend. It is a men’s conference that brings faith, family, and the outdoors together. This conference truly encourages men to become "real men" and lead the family. Our goal in 2014 is to reach numerous cities across America with these conferences. In the past we have brought in keynote speakers such as Tim Tebow, Drew Brees, Willie and Jase Robertson from Duck Dynasty, Bishop TD Jakes, Max Lacado and more. This past year we have had an average attendance of nearly 10,000 men at each arena, which is truly remarkable. My job in all of this is work directly with the Keynote speakers and coordinate any conference need they may have. Needless to say, I have learned a lot from being around these successful men and the memories are things I will never forget.

As far as the biggest obstacle in my life thus far… It actually occurred to me when I was merely 12 years old. To make a long story short, I was involved in a sports accident that caused my vision to leave me. I woke up one morning with 20/20 vision and I woke up the next morning legally blind. For months I could not see, I had to be escorted around the middle school. I had to record all of the class lectures and take tests verbally. It made my life very difficult and the idea of not being able to see ever again became more real to me every minute that it lasted. However, I always had to keep faith in the fact that one day I would be able to see again. After a CAT scan that reported back negative for brain injury, the doctors recommended that I go to Duke for more testing. However, before I went, my dad contacted a highly regarded chiropractor and set up an appointment with him. Sure enough, there is an optical nerve in my neck that was compromised in the sports injury that was making it impossible for my eyes to focus. After a few weeks with the chiropractor my vision started to come back slowly but surely. After a few months I was able to see 20/20 again!

My faith and my family were the only things that got me through that period of not knowing if my sight would ever come back.  One of my favorite quotes in life is, “Walk by faith, not by sight.” I had to apply that quote to my life both literally and figuratively. When I truly could not see, I had to continue to keep faith that God had a big plan for my life and that no matter what I could impact this world. Now that I can see, I still face daily struggles with work and school, but I always remind myself to keep faith in myself and God’s purpose for me.

TR: Woah! That's incredible! I have known you for years now and I didn't even know that. That's definitely walking by faith! I appreciate you sharing that!

BA:  Thanks bro! I don't really talk about it much, but it definitely helped shaped me into the person I am today! I just hope the people who read this are encouraged from it!

 

TR: O I am sure they will be! So as you said earlier you have worked and work in several places, how did you go about determining the best places for you to work?

BA: For me, this question is easy to answer. I found work that I love or that I believed would benefit me down the road. One of my core values is that I need to learn something new everyday. Working with six different companies has really given me a lot of experience in many different fields. I always recommend finding a job that pays the bills, that you can learn from, and that you enjoy.

TR: Awesome, staying on the topic of work, why do you think a lot of people aren't happy where they work today?

BA: I think the idea of “self worth” or “purpose” has a lot to do with people’s satisfaction in the work place. There have been a couple of jobs that I have taken on in my past that I truly hated. I wasn’t able to learn much, it was a repetitive job, and I truly felt that a 13-year-old child could replace me if it wasn’t against the law. Those jobs didn’t make me feel good. I was always trying to find ways to get out of my day-to-day job in order to do something more purposeful with my time.  I would encourage anyone who can relate to my feelings to start their own small venture, or start looking for a job that they believe they would be happier doing.

TR: Can you discuss the importance of people building skills especially in today’s world?

BA: When I think of the word skills I think of separation. Skills are what will separate you from everyone else in the workplace.  You just can’t be skilled in one area to be very successful either. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, was heavily skilled in computer programming. However, that is not his only skill. Mark has had to gain skills in leadership, finance, personal relationships, investor funding, etc… If Mark was truly only skilled in programming then he would only be an employee of Facebook today and not the CEO. Therefore, I believe it’s very important to build your different skill sets. Naturally, there will be some skills that come easier to you, however, work on building those skills that don’t come easy and it will truly help separate you from everyone else.

TR: What is one piece of advice you can give to young entrepreneurs today?

BA: I know you asked for only one piece of advice but I have to give two. If you are going to start your own business and your goal is to build a company that will impact the world; you as the founder need to truly LOVE what your company does and you need to have good CHARACTER. If you aren’t passionate about what you do, your success will never be truly gratifying. It’s likely you will get burnt out and your vision for the company may dwindle. You have to love what you do so much that you wake up every morning excited to get to work and build your dream company. So my first piece of advice is build a company that you are passionate for, and that you truly love. My second piece of advice today is to be a man or woman of good character. I don’t do business with people I can’t trust. Period. If I can’t trust my employee I’m forced to fire that person. Therefore, as a person who is running a business, you need to strive to have a business reputation that is good and people are able to trust you. Money comes and goes – and we all love it when it comes – however, character is something that you can control and is something that everyone will remember you by.

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I hope you enjoyed this interview. Be sure to follow him on Twitter at @benjaminallison

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Tayo Rockson

Tayo Rockson is an avid lover of sports, marketing and non profit who loves helping and meeting new people. This blog is a refection of all he has learned. You can reach him at tayorockson@yahoo.co.uk or on Twitter at @TayoRockson.

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