“Your product doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be good enough.”
Tony Centeno is a former Marine, so you would expect him to move directly to his objective without unnecessary embellishment. Addressing a group of entrepreneurs and investors in Austin, he outlined his approach to business startup, lessons learned as he moved from Marine to MBA and finally, internet retailer.
The keyword of the day was action.
“Stop thinking about things with that 20-pound brain of yours,” he said. “Instead, you need to use your hands, your arms, your legs. Seriously, just take action. Sometimes we are just scared to succeed.”
Centeno markets custom-made men’s suits exclusively online. A strange occupation, it would seem, for a man who grew up with virtually no fashion experience. “Growing up, shorts and a Cowboys t-shirt was all I needed.”
Getting fashion savvy wasn’t the only obstacle he faced. Tailors were initially adamant that his concept of selling a bespoke (individually tailored) suit without a personal visit for measurements, was impossible.
“People get stopped by the search for perfect.” he said. “Your product doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be good enough. If I can get a 95% fit it will be better than any suit most men have ever worn.”
Watching every dollar spent.
Centeno is not enchanted with the idea of being an innovator. He characterizes himself as a “fast follower” who waits for competitors to waste money searching for a market approach. Minding his money is a bit of an obsession for the self-funding entrepreneur, who claims that the only outside investment funding he has raised was $50 from his brother-in-law.
“If you are bootstrapping your own company, you eat what you kill,” he told the gathering. “If I don’t make a sale, nothing happens.”
One observer noted that Centeno’s approach seemed somewhat at odds with the rest of the week’s activities, including the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition, in which student entrepreneurs vie for angel and VC investment dollars in pursuit of their business expansion dreams.
Nonetheless, he likely felt at home with this Type-A crowd of budding entrepreneurs regardless of their funding strategy, as his Marine-charging-up-hill message seemed to exemplify the approach of most of the competition’s participants. Just take action.
“The world is full of ‘No,’” he told the students. “Nobody is going to give you permission to be successful.”
Asked by a member of the audience to explain why the breast pocket of his sport jacket was on his right side rather than the traditional left, he smiled and replied, “Because I can.”
Austin American-Statesman on Global Venture Labs Investment Competition