Elliott Bisnow is the Co-Founder of Summit, whose family of organizations includes Powder Mountain, Summit Series, and Summit Junto. He’s also a startup investor in 50 companies like Uber, Coinbase, Warby Parker, and Albert. Elliott describes his passion for building companies and cultures, connecting deeply with people on his teams, and building events and communities. He believes that what is good for business should be what is good for the community and the world.
[2:20] Elliott Bisnow is focused on building companies with a great culture, and teams he loves, connecting deeply with the people who work at the Summit businesses, designing and building events and experiences, and meeting the people that come. He loves building communities and getting to understand them. He loves creating teams he wants to be part of. Elliott is a people person.
[4:31] The least important part of any business is caring about profits and making money. Those things come from a well-run business with a great product. Good entrepreneurs, good CEOs, and good leaders are obsessed and focused on the thing that their company is making or selling. Consider why you are an entrepreneur. What are you bringing to the world? Elliott loves designing products.
[6:239] Elliott recalls growing up watching MTV’s Cribs and seeing the Forbes 400 list, which he remembers with negative associations. He remembers the first group of entrepreneurs he met who cared about the product, the customers, and the communities they were serving. He contrasts the old business model of profit-seeking with a new business model focused on the good of the community.
[11:09] Are new entrepreneurs better people or do they just talk more about what they do in the community than the CEOs of the ’90s talked about? Growing up, Elliott never heard of CEOs doing good in the community. He realized he could build businesses that combine profits and purpose. He says, “Profit Enough. What’s good for our business should be good for the community and the world.”
[12:46] It’s a lot more enjoyable to do business when your team is happy, when your community is happy, and when you feel good about what you’re creating.
[13:44] Elliott liked college as a place to start a business because you have your dorm, food, and classes even if the business fails. His first two businesses in college didn’t work. His third idea did work so he quit college and moved back in with his parents. He made every possible mistake as he learned how to run a startup. The key is to take small risks and make small mistakes and learn from them.
[16:56] Elliott builds community by creating things that allow people to self-select into them, being very defined about its mission. However, once people have self-selected into an event, you can find yourself with a lot of similar voices and little diversity.
[19:21] Elliott has kept a notepad on his phone for over 10 years. Anytime he hears something or reads something interesting, he writes a note down. He might write one note in a week or three in a day. He has thousands of notes he re-reads. He receives wisdom from other people in two ways: the first way is by reading one book a week; the second is by meeting people in the flow of life and listening to them.
[21:45] Elliott has an 80% rule about conversations. In 80% of his conversations, he tries to ask questions. He will ask a question rather than answer one. He finds wisdom from ordinary people. Between his conversations and reading books, he’s getting a lot of good ideas.
[24:59] When Elliott realized he wanted to be an entrepreneur, he read a lot of very simple books about people’s journeys to becoming entrepreneurs. Then he was done reading about entrepreneurs and wanted to go be an entrepreneur.
[25:36] Elliott sees that MBA courses would serve people better after the people had experienced some years in business. Elliott spends a lot of time thinking about the books he is going to read. He identifies the types of books he wants to read. He also reads some books for fun. When he meets people that don’t read, he suggests books that are just for fun, to get them to fall in love with reading.
[27:31] You have to be in a good mindset to sit and read a business book. Elliott will skip a few pages ahead if he gets bored. He doesn’t get stuck on pages. Reading is a big part of Elliott’s life.
[28:30] Elliott discusses the virtues of knowing when to quit and cites Warren Buffet who only makes small mistakes because he knows when to get out of a deal. He’s never been in a massive mistake.
[29:27] Elliott’s view on ideas is that it’s quite difficult to come up with good ideas, so you need to create a culture where the most ideas possible can come forward, no matter what they are. That’s a hard environment to maintain when people naturally shoot down ideas or want to take credit for them. Elliott says there’s no limit to what you can achieve if you give other people credit.
[32:03] Elliott describes what it means to be a “favor-economy millionaire.” Build up a network of people with whom you trade for services. Having relationships where you and your network can help each other grow is extremely important.
[35:05] Being an entrepreneur or a leader is hard. Making money is hard. Saving money is hard. Bartering makes it easier to do business. Relationships are like muscles and the more that you work with them, the more you nurture the relationships. Give to people and it will come back many times over.
[36:32] Elliott’s takeaway from his book, Make No Small Plans: Between the life people are living and the life they want to live, there’s a lot of white space. Make No Small Plans, is in the context of the life that you want to live. Step out of anything that’s held you back. Make plans to get to where you want to be.
[40:06] Closing quote: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald.