Catalyst for Thought is a local nonprofit organization with a goal to advance the community by educating and motivating individuals to create, develop and act on their entrepreneurial ideas. Through its MINDS series, Catalyst for Thought seeks to create a unique synergy between featured speakers and a small group of local entrepreneurs to empower each individual to help create solutions that affect society and inspire others.
As chief knowledge officer of As Seen Everywhere, it would seem that Trygve Duryea is the man with all the answers.
“I certainly don’t know everything, but I do know where to go for the answers,” Duryea told an intimate crowd of entrepreneurs who joined him for his lunch talk on the “Top 10 Common Senses to Running a Business” at the University Club of Santa Barbara.
Duryea’s list of professional accomplishments over the years is quite extensive. He is also the CKO of Retained Earnings, a consulting firm enhancing the personal and professional lives of CEOs and their top staff, resulting in business success through its innovative consultant/partnering programs, business executive think tanks and enhanced best business practice tools. Duryea has spent more than 25 years assisting companies in workout situations to profitability, and as the CEO of As Seen Everywhere, he has created an advertising exchange matching direct response markets with media outlets.
He also holds 28 international trademarks and patents in the photographic, search and rescue, and wireless communications industries. He is one of the founders of the nonprofit Conner’s Cause for Children in San Diego, as well as the founder of the Santa Barbara Outrigger Canoe Club and a founding member of the MIT Enterprise Forum Central Coast.
Duryea also taught in the SBCC Business Department for nine years, and one of his most recent projects, titled Success Rules LLC, which creates study skills programs for K-12 students, sold as a startup in 2007 with revenues exceeding $50 million.
And he’s done all of that with only a high school diploma.
“I found that although people have MBAs, that often made them feel like they already knew everything they needed to know,” Duryea said. “But since I’ve dedicated my life to being a constant learner, I can often learn more in three weeks than someone who’s been in the industry for over 30 years. I want to know everything.”
Duryea attributes much of his success to having strong role models in his family, especially his father and grandfather, who were both inventors. When Duryea moved to Santa Barbara as an 18-year-old, he began his career as a serial entrepreneur by being the first person to invent the nylon camera bag. He named his first company The Ultimate Experience, and learned one of his first common-sense lessons of business at a photographic trade show when an editor came up to him and asked why a massage parlor would be there.
“This showed me the importance of answering the question, ‘What business are you in?’” Duryea said. “This is not about what industry you’re in, but instead knowing the benefits and features of your product/service.”
Duryea’s nine other common senses of running a business followed from there:
“The critical task of management is to create an organization capable of infusing products and services with irresistible functionality and, better yet, creating products and services that customers need by have not yet imagined,” Duryea said.
He followed this statement by exclaiming that we should make everyday our own masterpiece, by way of always keeping our eyes open.
“I believe I’m gifted with understanding,” he said. “I’m a change agent. I like to find problems, then search for the solutions. Life is full of peripheral opportunities” — you just have to have your eyes open and look for them.
“You must have passion for your product or service,” Duryea said. Simple.
3. What Business Are You In?
As exemplified by Duryea’s story of The Ultimate Experience, all entrepreneurs must be able to answer this question regarding their product/service.
4. What Is Your Unique Ability?
“What is it that you do better than anyone else? It’s your responsibility to know what that is and focus on it,” Duryea said.
5. Lead from Behind
This common sense focuses on the importance of being a mentor or a coach to others, and the necessity of listening with compassion and always following through.
“I have never had a failure in my life, only nonsuccesses,” Duryea said.
It’s the ability to learn from these nonsuccesses that enables the truly great entrepreneurs to also be great leaders.
6. Systems, Systems and Systems
“One hundred percent of the time, it’s the system and not the market that’s the problem,” Duryea said.
He talked about the necessity of having standard operating procedures in place, then he elaborated on that idea by sharing that whenever his companies reach 25 people, he starts an internal university. It’s important to always have strategic planning sessions where the company/team can set goals and discuss how to execute them.
7) Plan, Plan and Plan
Once you have a plan in place, execute it!
“Let your team come up with ideas of where to go so they’ll take ownership,” Duryea said. “Then get out of their way!”
8. Always Be on the Quest of Improvement
It’s important to constantly ask yourself the following questions: “Why?” “What if?” “Are there any questions I should be asking, but haven’t yet?”
9. Financials Are 99 Percent of the Decision Process
But not always. Sometimes it’s important to make decisions based on what’s best for the employees.
“If you ask for 100 percent of what you want 100 percent of the time from 100 percentof the people around you, it may be terrifying, but it’s always worth asking, and often you may be surprised by the answers you receive,” Duryea said.
10. Thank You, Thank You and Thank You
Celebrate success! When asked what he felt his most valuable life lesson was, he answered quickly: “Relationships are more important than anything you’ll do. Sacrificing relationships for business is a huge mistake.”