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"Accept Fear and Play to Win"

While there are some universal tenets of success, entrepreneurs wouldn’t be entrepreneurs if they didn’t march to the beat of their own inner drummer. Many successful small business owners have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that help them achieve success.

Here some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: Andy Musliner, founder & CEO of InRoad Toys. Inroad Toys was born out of Andy’s desire to share in his three (now grown) sons’ love of toy cars and trucks. But he realized that despite all the toy cars on the market, there were no toy roads—anywhere. That realization led Andy on a 12-year journey to develop PlayTape, the perfect way to create instant roads for vehicle play.  A 2016 Toy of the Year Finalist, PlayTape is now sold globally online, “so kids for generations to come will have toy roads to drive on.” Andy encourages other dadpreneurs to follow their passion but warns, “Be sure you are taking on your new venture at a pace that doesn’t overshadow your most important job—raising your children. They are your legacy. They must succeed!”  

You can find Andy on Twitter @InRoadToys. What did you want to be when you grew up?

Andy Musliner: At one point, [I wanted to be] an architect. Early in my career, I named myself a “Revolution Strategist”: someone who could foresee where the future was and take us there, an ideal job as visionary, best exemplified by Steve Jobs—minus his character flaws. Why did you start your own business?

Musliner: Because I owed it to myself to see what I could really do with my own idea. Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Musliner: Many. The beginning was the moment of panic after I unveiled PlayTape for the first time at the International Toy Fair in New York City in February 2014. I walked away from that show of over 1,100 exhibitors with unexpected press accolades, and a slew of orders I had no idea how to fulfill. It was at that moment, sitting, exhausted, on a big roll of tape on the floor of a beat-up old blue van on our way back from Toy Fair, that I realized I had a great problem on my hands and needed to build a company. What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Musliner: Accept fear and play to win. As a small business owner, you will be faced nearly every day with a terrifying decision that could catapult your company to new heights or strike it down in a single blow. If you let fear run your business, you will surely fail. But if you push past the fear, jump off the proverbial cliff, and take on the new challenge with persistence, you just might win. Never play to lose because you will. What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Musliner: Hire only A+ talent. It’s far too easy to skimp on talent when you have little money. Don’t do it. Here’s the way this works: A+ people hire A+ people. B people hire B people. C people hire C people. If you hire an A+ person, you can assure yourself of great results and, over time, an army of equally over-qualified A+ performers. If you hire a C person, you will get mediocre results, a lot of headaches, and a lot more C people, and it all goes downhill from there. And be honest with yourself about your own skills and abilities. Hire people who will complement you, and are better than you are. The mark of a true leader is one who can lead the best to be better. Do you have a prediction for small business?

Musliner: Small business will continue to disrupt large businesses at an increasingly accelerated pace. History is full of stories and business schools are full of case studies on the disruptive, innovative little guy outsmarting the lumbering, protectionist big guy. This is a fun game to play. For people who want to be where the action is, where the real growth opportunities are, and where the true innovation begins, start with small business. It’s not a job, it’s a thrill ride! What’s your favorite book?

Musliner: I rarely start, let alone finish a book, but I recently ripped through the easy-read Life in Half a Second by Matthew Michalewicz twice in a few weeks. Unheard of for me. It’s like the Cliff Notes edition of the how-to-succeed-in-life-and-business book category. Some would say it’s childishly obvious stuff, but I like books that “keep it simple, stupid.” Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Musliner: “Nothing happens unless it’s necessary.” I haven’t found an antecedent to this quote before my old boss, John McBeth.