Making Something From Nothing: Chris Kille Of Payment Pilot On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

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Learn to delegate. As entrepreneurs, we tend to do things by ourselves because we’re control freaks, and we like to be involved in every step of the process. While that’s important in the beginning, it’s equally as important to bring people on and to be able to delegate those tasks. This allows you to focus on things that are going to continue to grow the company.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Kille.

Chris Kille is a serial entrepreneur and investor based in Charlotte, NC. He is currently the CEO of Payment Pilot, a financial technology and payment processing firm and Elevate Outsourcing, a global outsourcing firm specializing in elite level Virtual Assistants. Chris has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs scale their business with the help of virtual assistants.

He got his start in entrepreneurship at an early age, starting his first company while still in college. Since then, he has founded or been involved with over a dozen businesses spanning a wide range of industries including technology, marketing, and finance.

When he’s not working on his businesses, Chris enjoys spending time with his wife and their three dogs. He also enjoys golfing, traveling to new places and experiencing unique cuisines.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

Growing up, I liked to talk. More specifically, I liked to argue. I would challenge almost everything that was presented to me. I liked to see arguments from both sides, and I often created discussions from nothing. As you might imagine, this put me in situations where I was labeled as a troublemaker or a defiant, when all I was trying to do was to understand what was being told from multiple points of view.

I liked to argue so much that I was always told I’d become a lawyer. As I went through college, becoming a lawyer was something I was interested in; however, I wasn’t a massive fan of reading so that thought quickly dissipated. Instead, I decided to focus on business.

Both of my parents are entrepreneurs, and they own multiple businesses. Some were successful, some were not. Therefore, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I graduated from college, I got my first job at a large software company and found out right away that questioning procedures in an office setting was not the best way to move up the ladder or to keep your job. After several unsuccessful job experiences, I decided that perhaps it was best if I go out on my own. It was the best decision I have ever made, and I haven’t looked back. I have since started multiple businesses across different industries and been fortunate enough to exit all of them for profit.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’m not sure where I heard this from but I use it a lot. It’s also something that keeps me on track personally and professionally. The quote is “It’s okay until it’s not.” What that means to me is that oftentimes, others, including myself, will overlook small mistakes and inconveniences over and over again until they become a big deal. For example, in one of my recent companies, we had a Sales Manager who would constantly skip steps on the SOP to make his job easier. Due to its low impact level, the mistake was uncorrected for several months even though it was brought to his attention, until we started to lose customers. I overlooked something minor that needed to be addressed, which eventually cost us business — so it was okay until it’s not. The impact from skipping those steps could’ve been lessened had it just been confronted and corrected in time.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Absolutely. The film that comes to mind immediately is Boiler Room starring Giovanni Ribisi. It’s a great story line with lots of excitement but is ultimately a redemption story. There are a lot of sales knowledge nuggets sprinkled throughout, and I like it especially because not only does it show the journey of someone with an entrepreneurial spirit going from rags to riches, but also having a strong conviction of what’s right and wrong and right always wins in the end.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

There are a lot of people out there who have plenty of ideas, and you get to hear about them in almost any congregational setting. However, the difference between successful people and dreamers is execution — this is where 99% of people fall short. This could happen for a number of reasons but I’d say the biggest one is fear. Many people are afraid to take that action step because they’re afraid of failing, being judged, or being told it is a bad idea. Consequently, they don’t take action at all, and the idea will never come to fruition. Overcoming the challenge by taking action is the first step you can do. Action creates momentum, momentum creates small wins, small wins turn into big wins, and big wins ultimately turn into a successful business.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but there are very few instances nowadays where someone has a truly original idea. There’s an episode of South Park called the Simpsons Already Did It, and the overall theme of that episode was no matter what idea they tried to come up with, the Simpsons had already done it. I feel like that translates to the real world because there are very few original ideas left and most ideas have already been taken by other people. I believe many businesses are born from improving upon ideas that already exist. When someone dismisses the idea simply because someone else had already thought of it, it is, in my opinion, an excuse to continue procrastinating and not take action.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

In my experience, it’s a simple, yet involved process. When you first get an idea, you should write it down or find a way to document it to maintain the integrity of the idea. Once you have the idea, you should research it and find out how many people are doing it, how they are doing it, and, most importantly, are they making money and is there a need in the marketplace for a similar product.

The first thing before any action plan is making sure the idea will be profitable. The second step is to determine your execution plans — this is the time when you’ll begin looking into a patent, and then manufacturers, retailers, or partners to distribute the product or service. Once you have a game plan, I recommend separating the action items into categories and tackling them one by one. If you have a team already, you can delegate things easier that way. When you start tackling a big project like starting a business, there are a lot of moving pieces and a lot of things to be done. It can be very overwhelming if you look at it as a whole; but by breaking them into categories, you simplify every moving component and allow yourself to find weaknesses along the way.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

Number one, learn to delegate. As entrepreneurs, we tend to do things by ourselves because we’re control freaks, and we like to be involved in every step of the process. While that’s important in the beginning, it’s equally as important to bring people on and to be able to delegate those tasks. This allows you to focus on things that are going to continue to grow the company.

Number two, which goes hand in hand with the first one, is hire slow and fire fast. Great talents are very hard to come by. During the interview process, people will exaggerate their abilities and have their cute faces on, so make sure you take your time. If you do bring somebody on and start to notice red flags, you have to move on to the next one because one, replacing somebody after they’ve been integrated is very expensive. Two, you want to make sure that the person doesn’t bring down the culture.

Number three, which ties together with the first two, is no one will care about your business as much as you. Remember that and don’t be discouraged. Again, as entrepreneurs, our business is our baby. We’re going to care about it on every level and, unfortunately, most people aren’t going to have that same type of passion like you do. That’s not a bad thing, but I see entrepreneurs get jammed up from time to time because they assume everyone is as passionate as they are.

Number four, you may not be as important to your business as you think. When you have a strong team in place and you are able to delegate a lot of the day to day, even the advanced activities necessary to scale your business can be performed without you. It’s kind of a weird feeling. Case in point, I got injured a couple of years ago and had to miss several months of work. Not only did my business not suffer, it actually improved while I was gone.

Number five, it’s lonely at the top, but only if you make it that way. What I mean by this is whenever possible, lift people up and bring them with you. It’s called an abundance mindset. When you’re able to lift others up and bring them along for the journey, it makes success that much sweeter.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

As the first few steps, I would write them down. I would then perform market research to see if that product is available, who’s manufacturing it or providing the service, are they making money, and is there a market share to be had.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

It’s my strong opinion that when you enter something you’re unfamiliar with, you should hire a coach or locate an expert who has been there before. There is almost always a cost to this, but it is completely worth it because hiring a coach/mentor is going to compress time for you, meaning you will have the ability to learn from their mistakes before you make them yourself. This will get you from an idea to execution much faster as they already know where the landmines are and how to avoid them. Hiring an expert to help you every step of the way will save you an incredible amount of time. Time is money so if you find the right one, it’s worth its weight in gold.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

This is an interesting topic. Bootstrapping versus looking for venture capital is about balancing speed and control. This is another area where I see entrepreneurs struggle. If you’re going to bootstrap, you’re more than likely to have less money than you would if you go venture capital. This means slower growth since you might be doing this on your own with all of the capital coming out of your pocket. However, you will maintain full control, which is very important for some people.

Venture capital, on the other hand, gets access to cash and people who have a high business acumen that can compress time for you. The drawback is that you may give up some control of your company. I find that entrepreneurs can be very stubborn when it comes to giving up control. These are definitely two things you should consider when deciding whether you want to bootstrap or obtain capital from somewhere else.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I’ve found that the more success we have, the more visibility we get. As you gain market share, you become impossible to ignore, and this allows you to influence the way things are done. Influence and visibility are critical factors in improving the overall integrity of the market. The bad actors in any industry are forced to change poor policy or risk being exposed.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to see more of an initiative for young entrepreneurs, especially when we’re starting to find out that a 4-year degree may not be as useful as practical life experiences when it comes to finding a higher paying or rewarding career. College is not for everyone and I would love to see initiatives taken to incentivize the youth to start acting and executing their ideas. There is no shortage of ideas coming from them, and we should encourage creativity and independence because who knows what could come from them.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to spend time with Alex and Leila Hormozi. I found out about them about a year ago, and the knowledge they made readily available for everyone at no charge is astounding. Their desire to help entrepreneurs is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Their instagram accounts are a must follow! Plus, they have a trending Instagram hashtag #neverskipdessert, and that is right up my alley. I love sweets.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market