5 Tips to Build a Business From Four-Time Start-up Expert Herman DeBoard

Herman DeBoard is currently the CEO and Founder of Huvr, a tech company that blends video streaming, fiber optics, and AI to create mobile security perimeters and marketing opportunities for events of all sizes. However, before this most recent venture, he launched and sold three other thriving businesses and consulted for dozens of tech startups.

Herman DeBoard

Here, DeBoard offers his top five tips for building a business.

1. Empower employees with ownership

On his office wall, DeBoard prominently displays the quote, “As the tide rises, all boats rise,” because he finds that enabling employees to earn ownership cultivates a workplace environment that aligns personal success with company objectives.

“I give every employee the opportunity to own a piece of my company,” DeBoard explains. “Employees with a stake in my business tend to go the extra mile, thinking and acting more like partners than employees.”

According to DeBoard, his employees can earn ownership through stock options, employee stock ownership plans, or direct stock purchases. The best model will depend on the company’s size, financial health, and long-term goals. DeBoard says that enabling ownership among employees is a profound way to drive business success, laying the foundation for an engaged workforce that is invested in the company’s overarching goals.

2. Character matters

Entrepreneurs often focus on strategy, innovation, and financial models in their quest to build a thriving business. While these components are vital, DeBoard argues the most essential quality behind longtime entrepreneurial success is character.

DeBoard says people show their integrity by treating those around them with dignity and humanity. “Respect the person sitting across from you,” he notes. “When you show someone you truly see and value them, you impact them deeply, and they remember you as a person of character.”

For DeBoard, a large part of character involves being a man of his word. “Always do what you say you are going to do,” he advises. “The people you do business with want to know they can count on you, and don’t be surprised when you need a character reference from one of those people later in life.”

In DeBoard’s opinion, character is not simply a moral ideal — it’s a practical strategy that informs every aspect of a business’s operations. “Live by your values in every business interaction. By prioritizing character, your company will build a robust foundation and a reputation that stands the test of time.”

3. Nourish mentor relationships

DeBoard believes that if he could return as a self-made entrepreneur to deliver one message to his 20-year-old self, it would be to nourish lasting relationships with his earliest mentors.

“I would tell that aspiring entrepreneur he is about to meet some very important people with a lot of experience to share,” he says. “I would urge him to keep up with those special mentors even after achieving success. I would tell him to reach out to them, send them birthday cards, and tell them how much you appreciate their guidance.”

As entrepreneurs and their mentors evolve in their respective careers, so should the relationship. In DeBoard’s experience, a long-lasting mentor relationship significantly impacts personal and professional development.

“By investing in these relationships with intention and respect, you gain a trusted advisor who can guide you through the ups and downs of building a business,” says DeBoard. “A life-long mentor not only sees you for who you are but inspires you to become who you want to be.”

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4. Reacting with emotion can derail a career

DeBoard warns that reacting emotionally in the workplace can have repercussions that stretch far beyond a single moment of frustration or anger. “I understand where your emotions are coming from, and you are allowed to feel what you feel, but you must learn to keep those emotions out of your responses,” he explains.

For DeBoard, personal awareness is the first step in managing emotions. “Your triggers could include a particular type of feedback, a specific colleague’s actions, or high-pressure situations. When you understand your triggers, you can develop strategies to manage them constructively.”

Any time entrepreneurs feel rising emotions, they should give themselves a moment to breathe and process the situation. “Write out your emotions as if you were writing an email,” DeBoard suggests. “Sit on that message for a few hours, then delete it. The point is to vent your emotions without causing trouble. After that, you can attempt to understand where that person is coming from and empathize with their perspective.”

5. Find your passion

Starting and managing a successful business requires more than just investment and strategy. It demands a deep-rooted passion that fuels perseverance, inspires innovation, and attracts customers, employees, and investors to the vision.

DeBoard believes that finding and nurturing passion can be the difference between mere survival and remarkable achievements in the business world. “If you are going to do something in life, make sure you are passionate about it,” he says. “Find what you are passionate about and make it work for you.”

The journey to finding passion begins with introspection. Aspiring entrepreneurs can start by considering the activities they enjoy and the tasks they find absorbing.

“Think about subjects you are excited to learn more about or industries that fascinate you,” DeBoard remarks. “Identify the core elements that attract you to these activities. This understanding will guide your entrepreneurial journey.”

Once entrepreneurs have a broad idea of their interests, they can experiment with different activities in those areas, such as taking up short-term internships, attending workshops, or even starting small-scale projects. Real-world experience will refine their interests and lead them to a business niche that genuinely excites them.

DeBoard notes that finding passion is not a one-time event but a continuous journey of exploration. “Discover what excites you, align it with your skills and market needs, and dedicate yourself to a lifetime of growth and fulfillment. By anchoring your business in a passion that resonates with your core values and aspirations, you set the stage for lasting success and personal satisfaction.”