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Founders Inspiring Founders: Aaron Walton

“My founding journey is still unfolding. Always in a state of discovery, finding diverse possibilities, interacting with talented people whose perspectives open new paths. I am future focused.”

 

Aaron Walton, Founder & CEO at Walton Isaacson

 
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Photo by Kal Yee

What inspired you to embark on the entrepreneurship journey and become a founder?

 

Before I ever knew the word “entrepreneur,” I was drawn to innovation and disrupting the status quo in pursuit of new ideas and culturally relevant creativity. My college years were spent at Babson, one of the most respected entrepreneurial colleges in the world. The professors and professional speakers were my inspiration as I honed my skills with internships and student politics. My post-Babson career began at PepsiCo, under the leadership of Roger Enrico, an inspiring marketer renowned for his entrepreneurial vision within a corporate setting. From there, I went out on my own, opening my own entertainment and experiential agency, knowing I was ready for the journey. I never looked back. I am still learning and growing, but I’m also told I’m inspiring others on how to live the entrepreneur’s life.

 

Reflecting on your journey, what has been the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it? 

 

The entrepreneur’s journey is full of challenges, but I don’t view them as something to overcome, but rather something to understand and engage with as a path to resilience. When I encounter challenges, I resist getting overwhelmed by them or entering into an adversarial relationship that takes a lot of focus and energy. I break them down into bite-sized pieces, looking at drops of water rather than the whole ocean. In this way, I can problem-solve, learn, and move forward. I don’t get stuck easily. One of my biggest challenges might be described as a “blind spot.” Early in my career, I had a tendency toward perfectionism. I found myself setting unrealistic standards for myself and others in the name of excellence, only to come to recognize there is no perfect. I was able to address this by applying something I learned from our client Lexus, which is the philosophy of Kaizen – continuous improvement.

 

Could you share one or two key pieces of advice you'd give to aspiring entrepreneurs aiming to become successful founders? 

 

  1. Innovation requires discovery…and discoveries require missteps (aka failures). You can spurn failures, or you can learn from them, but you can’t avoid them if you want to succeed.

  2. Be passionate and purposeful about the business you choose to build. You will be spending a lot of time in this world you have chosen. Loving it makes it easier to sustain and flourish. 

 

4.     In your opinion, what makes a founder a successful founder?

 

Curiosity: The business case for exploration is real. Questioning can be messy, but it opens possibilities which drives innovative problem solving.

 

Accountability: Founders can be dreamers, but they also need to be doers. Holding yourself accountable means setting goals and measuring progress. It means being open to feedback. It means keeping yourself honest.

 

Authenticity: Trust is critical to the entrepreneurial journey. You need to trust yourself and engender trust in clients, colleagues, and others. Authenticity sets you apart as your values and story are yours alone.

 

Diversity: A successful founder is someone who knows that founding a company is one thing but growing that company depends upon finding diverse voices with distinct strengths and being open to their perspectives.




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