Connect with us
Apply Now

Executive Voice

Steve Duke of Duke Business Advisors on his business Journey

Steve Duke is a renowned business advisor with an impressive portfolio of successes and over two decades of experience in the field. Duke Business Advisors are here to help businesses of all sizes reach their fullest potential. They have created the Savvy Business Owner Model™ as a tried and tested approach specifically tailored for success, drawing from their extensive business experience in conjunction with cutting-edge researched tools and processes. This model encourages owners to evaluate what they want out of their venture both personally and financially; then build an actionable plan that will get them there –and finally implement it! Working together through this process is key to achieving optimal growth results.


Tell us about yourself and Duke Business Advisors

Like most or all of us, I am sure I was melded when I was very young. I started life in a humble way on a family farm. We didn’t have a lot of extra money, but as is true of time past, we didn’t know the difference. We had a good life with a close-knit family. I was the oldest of seven kids, which imbued me with the traits of the oldest child. I learned that your work didn’t get done unless you did it, so I blame my parents for my work ethic.

Given my starting situation, I didn’t embark on my career with any great plan. It was a step-by-step affair. I first went to community college and received an Associate Degree, followed by a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering, and then a Masters in Mechanical Engineering. Much later in my corporate life, I received an MBA. The MBA experience further fueled my interest in business. Out of the corporate world, I got first-hand experience in business by starting and selling my own business, as well as playing a leading role in a start-up business.

This all provided me with an excellent base of understanding about business. I have subsequently continued my education through extensive learning and certifications related to business as I evolved into working with and helping business owners with their businesses.

Growing a successful business is a challenging affair. One only need to look at the statistics of the percentage of businesses that survive past 10 years and of those the number that make it above $1MM in annual revenue. (It is a small fraction of the number that start!) However, if the market exists for a business’ products or services, there are known tools and processes to assist businesses to achieve success and sustained growth.

In my business, I work with business owners to help them wherever they are in their business journey. On the early end, I mentor early-stage businesses at a local business incubator, for more mature businesses I help them with growth, as they approach an exit, I help them prepare an exit plan and finally I can also help them exit their business.


What motivated you to start Duke Business Advisors? How did the idea come about?


I spent most of my career in the corporate world in a variety of functions from engineering to general management. I was always interested in business in general. I studied and received an MBA later in my career, which further stimulated my business interest.

My journey included starting and selling a small business and playing a leading role in a start-up business after my corporate time. This taught me what my MBA and corporate experience didn’t teach me.

Subsequently, I worked as a mergers and acquisitions professional. Since I am one of those continuous learners, I kept adding to my skills and added business growth advising and exit strategy planning for business owners. I am motivated by the statistics about businesses. Only about 35% of companies have survive past ten years. Less than 10% of businesses make it past one million dollars in annual revenue. Less than a quarter of businesses that go to market sell. These are sobering and distressing statistics. I am motivated to help business owners beat those odds and get a return on their efforts!

What was your mission at the beginning of starting your business?

My current business is a result of evolution. I had just sold a small business I had started and was looking for what to do next. An acquaintance of mine offered me an opportunity to join his business as a business broker. At the time I thought, well I know business and I like to help people, so I said yes. That started a long journey. If you are familiar with the DISC behavioral model, I’m a D/C. The “C” contributes to me being a life-long learner. A “C” is detail oriented and always wants more facts. My “D” conflicts with “C”, because the “D” just wants to get on with things. So that is my own internal battle all the time. Nonetheless, driven by the disturbing statistics about businesses mentioned elsewhere, I continued to learn more and more about the finer points of business success. In the process through study, I acquired more certifications in mergers & acquisitions, exit strategy planning and business growth. The mission has remained the same, but I now have much more skill and tools to be able to better help business owners achieve their goals.


How would your parents describe what you do?

Honestly, my parents come from a different world, and they would only be able to provide a vague description of working with businesses.


What does your morning routine look like?

It is pretty standard. Upon rising, I do a quick email scan to see if there is a new urgent matter. Besides consuming my fair share of water, I drink an espresso while reviewing my to-do list, which is typically put together the night before. Next on my agenda is a workout of either cardio or resistance training, or both. This is followed by clean-up and getting on with that list of things to do.


What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten?

The best compliment I ever received occurred when I was in the corporate world. One year I received the Leader of the Year award, and this was out of a huge population. My accomplishment for which I was honored was leading a project to win a multi-million dollar contract. The aspect that made it exceptional is that it was won against all odds. We were unknown in the space and usually would not have even been considered. But we put together a very innovative and technically sound approach to win, defying those odds.


What do you attribute your success to? Is there a trait you have or a person who helped you along the way?

All behavioral types can and do succeed. But I would attribute my success to my DISC D/C characteristics. The “D” part of me makes me driven; the “C” part of me makes me detailed oriented and constantly learning.


When times get tough, what would you say motivates you to keep going? To not hit the snooze button and to keep fighting for your goals.

I believe I am doing something that has real societal benefit. Per the statistics cited earlier, more businesses fail than succeed, and more don’t achieve their aspirations. Most are unable to get a return at the sales table when they want to exit. If I can do my little part to improve those statistics, I get out of bed.


Employees are one of the most important players in success in business. What do you look for in an employee?

Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. I agree whether it is a business or a sports team. In the sports world, frequently, a team with a great culture can beat a team with more talent but lacking a team-oriented cohesive culture. This is true for business as well. In business, I am less interested in the list of values every business claims to have. What company doesn’t want integrity, honesty, etc.? I am more interested in the actual behaviors that employees should exhibit. Behaviors are where the “rubber meets the road”. So, for example, if you want every employee to treat clients with dignity and respect, make sure that is one of your “must-have” employee behaviors.


What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest?

My competitive advantage is my knowledge of the entire business lifecycle – from start to finish. I know full well what happens at the end of the lifecycle if the owner has not taken the appropriate steps to prepare for the end. Like death and taxes are a given for everyone, it is also true that every business owner will leave their business one way or another. A recent statistic I saw said that over 50% of business exits are unplanned. That knowledge helps to reinforce the need to, as Stephen Covey said, “begin with the end in mind”.


Have you ever gotten a disappointed client or customer? If so, how did you handle the situation?

I can’t say that I ever disappointed a client, but I have had disappointed clients. This is notable in the exit space. Generally, owners have an inflated view of their business’ value. They have toiled and worked extremely hard on their business, and they naturally think it has high value. Unfortunately, unless they have periodically gotten a valuation from someone like me, they often don’t have the proper calibration. They can be disappointed when the “marketplace” speaks and delivers a lower value.


Is there a type of marketing that has worked amazingly for Duke Business Advisors, Inc? If so, how did you stumble upon it?

Since my business is B2B and my clients are business owners, they frequent LinkedIn more than other social media sites. Of course, you need a good website, but you can meet your clients on LinkedIn and begin a dialog.


Is there any resource or resources that helped you on your journey to becoming a business owner?

Be an insatiable learner. Also, since most/all of us don’t know everything, no matter how much we educate ourselves, get help. I am a member of several communities of advisors that do what I do. These are incredibly useful for expanding your knowledge and getting advice. A formal mechanism, I use to help business owners, is mastermind groups. In our case, we have a group of capable CEOs get together regularly to help each other solve problems or think through issues.


What are the three best pieces of advice that you would give to anyone starting a business? What do they need to know from the very beginning?

  1. Make sure your business makes sense. By that, I mean make sure there is a large enough market for your product or service. You may be able to offer a product or service, but you must ensure plenty of buyers are willing to pay for it. Just because you can develop and offer something doesn’t mean you should.
  2. You may only get some of the ways there, but you should at least have a goal and a plan to get there. As you were figuring out your market, this should have been part of that process. Following a plan and measuring your progress against it is a key to being successful. How do you know if you are winning if you aren’t keeping score?
  3. Know your numbers. Most businesses fail because they run out of cash. Cash for a business is like oxygen for a human, and a business can’t do without it. This isn’t usually an owner skill; get competent help.


Continue Reading

Copyright © 2022 Disrupt ™ Magazine is a Minority Owned Privately Held Company - Disrupt ™ was founder by Puerto Rican serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Tony Delgado who is on a mission to transform Latin America using the power of education and entrepreneurship.

Disrupt ™ Magazine
151 Calle San Francisco
Suite 200
San Juan, Puerto Rico, 00901

Opinions expressed by Disrupt Contributors are their own. Disrupt Magazine invites voices from many diverse walks of life to share their perspectives on our contributor platform. We are big believers in freedom of speech and while we do enforce our community guidelines, we do not actively censor stories on our platform because we want to give our contributors the freedom to express their opinions. Articles are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by our community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Disrupt or its employees.
We are committed to fighting the spread of misinformation online so if you feel an article on our platform goes against our community guidelines or contains false information, we do encourage you to report it. We need your help to fight the spread of misinformation. For more information please visit our Contributor Guidelines available here.

Disrupt ™ is the voice of latino entrepreneurs around the world. We are part of a movement to increase diversity in the technology industry and we are focused on using entrepreneurship to grow new economies in underserved communities both here in Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America. We enable millennials to become what they want to become in life by learning new skills and leveraging the power of the digital economy. We are living proof that all you need to succeed in this new economy is a landing page and a dream. Disrupt tells the stories of the world top entrepreneurs, developers, creators, and digital marketers and help empower them to teach others the skills they used to grow their careers, chase their passions and create financial freedom for themselves, their families, and their lives, all while living out their true purpose. We recognize the fact that most young people are opting to skip college in exchange for entrepreneurship and real-life experience. Disrupt Magazine was designed to give the world a taste of that.