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Leaders

 

Greg Nance, Co-Founder and CEO of ChaseFuture.com

Greg Nance, Co-Founder and CEO of ChaseFuture.comGreg Nance (MPhil in Management 2012) is head of the world’s fastest growing university admissions consulting platform, and says his love of mountaineering has given him inspiration in business.

Mountaineering and entrepreneurship have a lot in common. They’re both defined by their objectives. With entrepreneurship, you are trying to create a project that solves a big problem. With mountaineering, your big project is to take one step at a time to reach a peak, and then get back down in one piece. The approach is also similar. You absolutely cannot get to the top of that mountain unless you’re putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again. The same is broadly true in entrepreneurship. The only way you can progress is through sustained effort from you and your team.

My grandfather and my father are my two biggest inspirations. My grandfather was a fellow named Charlie Nance. He was a war hero for the US Marine Corps at the battle of Iwo Jima in the Second World War. He came back to the States with only a tenth-grade education but worked so hard and smart that he became a business leader. He made a lot from a little and that always really inspired me. My father, Mike Nance, also worked very hard. He waited tables and sold books door-to-door. I will always be grateful for the sweat that he expended to give our family a better life.

One of the core philosophies in the Marine Corps is Ductus Exemplo – leadership by example. You can never ask someone to do something that you would be unwilling or unable to perform. An order from a general at the rear doesn’t carry the same weight or credibility as one from a sergeant in the trenches. You must be ready to share that burden. Frequently, when you’re running a start-up, important tasks emerge at the very last minute and you realise: either I could delegate this to someone and go home at 10.30 and get a reasonable amount of sleep, or I could see it as an opportunity to bring someone along with me, as a team building exercise, and we’ll crank it out together.

I learned my leadership values around the dinner table. My parents are both public servants. They would come home at night and share stories from their professions. My mother is a nursing home supervisor – she makes sure that the elderly are treated well and with dignity and have good care. My father is a criminal defence attorney. He ensures that people accused of crimes have adequate legal representation. An early teaching was the importance of giving yourself in service to a greater cause, which I think is a useful lesson for any young person to learn.

I was a competitive athlete growing up. I took part in everything – baseball, tennis, track, football, boxing and basketball. Those all give you an appreciation for hard work and competition, as well as a confidence that you can actually accomplish what you set out to do.

But I spent more of my weekends arguing. I was very involved in high school debate, which is a big activity here in the States. It was great for learning research skills, quick thinking and public speaking while challenging myself and learning about current events. It was also my first chance to travel and see America – tournaments took me to California, Texas, New York, Kentucky, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Chicago. My career highlight was winning the 2007 Washington State Debate Championship and being named an All-American.

Leadership involves sacrifice. There are times when your friends are out there doing something really fun that you’d love to join but, due to your responsibilities, you can’t. That’s one that a lot of people in the start-up world face all the time – I certainly do. There are many times when you’re making tough decisions that affect the livelihood of your staff and team as well as your clients and your company, and sometimes the decisions feature two undesirable alternatives.

Be bold. As a leader, you are going to be defined by the decisions you make and the risks you take. It’s so easy to slide into a comfort zone but if you want to be a leader, you have to boldly go forward and move quickly and thoroughly to accomplish your mission. The worst thing that can happen is that you fail and then you have the chance to try again with better information and sharper instinct. Remember that fate favours the bold – calculate the risks and take them.

It’s the journey and not the destination. The best memories of mountaineering are when you’re suddenly able to turn around and enjoy a frozen energy bar while looking out at the rising sun on the horizon. The harshest days and steepest slopes make the enduring memories. The process of starting-up – the uncertain pivot, the heated discussions, the fun moments, the milestone you meet every day – really gives it meaning and fulfilment.