Meet Your Advisor: Kris Kelso

It takes a village. Entrepreneurship is hard work. The impact that our advisors are making in the lives of the entrepreneurs in Nashville is intangible. We want you to know who they are and why they are a big deal. Welcome to out “Meet Your Advisor” feature that will run its course until we have introduced you to all the “doing it, done it or invested in it” people who are navigating our city’s entrepreneurs.

How did you make the transition from such a highly technical role (programming, UI design, data center construction, etc.) to business leadership (CEO of two companies)?

The progression of my career has really been driven by simply following my interests. Over time, the things that really intrigued me shifted from the technology itself to the businesses that are wrapped around and/or enabled by the technology. The early signs of this shift were the books and articles I was reading, the podcasts I listened to, and the types of people I wanted to follow. As those moved from highly technical topics to more economics, marketing, and leadership development, I began to consume more information in those areas, which naturally lead me to pursue those roles. It’s one of the reasons I became an entrepreneur in the first place – in order to be able to direct my own career down non-traditional paths that followed my interests and passions.

How do you suggest busy entrepreneurs focus on personal development? How much time do you spend on yourself vs. building your business?

Personal development is critical for an entrepreneur. In the words of the flight attendant, you have to “put your own mask on first before helping others”. If you are not growing, changing, learning, and stretching, then everything you do will be limited by your lack of progression. I recognize that everything I do to invest in myself benefits all of the relationships and organizations that I am a part of – from my marriage and family to my church and my companies and colleagues. I place a high priority on personal and professional development because it doesn’t take away from my business, it adds to it.

What do you view as the single most important factor of the EC having the advisor program?

Learning from someone else’s experience and mistakes is the easiest and most cost-effective way to avoid huge missteps. Not everyone can do it – some people only learn from their own experience, but if you can let another person guide you through tricky situations or warn you about the pitfalls they experienced before you get there, it’s a great advantage. A friend of mine often says “a map is great, but a guide is better”. Let someone guide you.

What is unique about the EC’s advisor program?

Nashville is such a relationship-driven city, and the advisor program creates opportunities to instantly generate relationships you might not otherwise be able to build on your own. The diversity of experience and influence among the advisor group is really valuable, and there are not a lot of organizations or social circles where you can find all of that.

If a song was played every time that you walked into a room, what would it be?

“More than Fine” by Switchfoot.

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when starting out?

Keep your personal and business finances completely separate. It seems simple, but so many entrepreneurs mess this up – especially sole proprietors or single-founder companies. It’s easy to blend everything together when you are the only one who has to understand it all or who is impacted by the decisions you make, but sooner or later you will have to untangle that web and it can be a mess. Keeping everything separate makes reporting and measuring your business so much easier, and it can also keep you out of legal/financial/compliance trouble.

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