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Interview with Dan Bunting, Game Developer

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Interview with Dan Bunting, Game Developer

Originally published on IdeaMensch. Source

Dan Bunting is a proven creative leader and game developer. During his nearly two decades of experience in AAA game development at the video game studio Treyarch, he was responsible for building out numerous successful software and entertainment offerings. In particular, he played an instrumental role in the development and growth of the popular Call of Duty franchise, leading its spinoff series Black Ops to the title of best-selling game ever for three years running.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

No two days look quite the same, but there are a few habits I’ve adapted to keep me going throughout the week. Most importantly, I value sleep, exercise, family time, continual learning opportunities, and quiet reflection as necessary foundations to a productive day.

I always try to get seven or eight hours of sleep. There was a time when I bought into the myth that high achievers only need five or so hours of sleep per night, but it is so unhealthy and counterproductive. I do something physical every day, whether it’s fitness training, walking around my neighborhood, or riding the Peloton. Several times a month, I get outdoors for more extended, rigorous activities like mountain biking, surfing, and skiing/snowboarding. I love those activities because you make an increased commitment that then rewards you with a thrill that breaks through your limit thresholds in a rejuvenating outdoor environment. I dedicate time to quiet reflection and learning. Even blocking out my calendar to pace around the house a couple of times a day is an effective way for me to process the sometimes-overwhelming flow of information. Listening to podcasts while on long walks has been a great routine for doubling up on productivity-boosting activities, as I always come out of those sessions inspired. Lastly and most importantly, I set boundaries around my schedule to spend time with my family in the morning and evening. My family is the true foundation supporting my drive to do what I do.

When it comes to work productivity, I always want to respect people’s time, so I try to keep meetings short and focused. I really value my one-on-one meetings with team leaders, because you can so efficiently dig deep into problem-solving with the most experienced people on the team, and those meetings provide constant growth and strengthened focus.

Also, coffee doesn’t hurt.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Wherever an idea comes from, I first try to find its “soul”: What makes it unique and exciting? What are the pieces that will supercharge the team’s inspiration as it journeys from imagination to reality? What fundamental components will serve as the springboard for every decision you need to make throughout development? I try to imagine the headlines that will be written when it is revealed, because that’s a way to think about marketability, how it will connect with people. What are the big beats that people will remember from the first 20 seconds of a commercial, or the message that will resonate most from a couple of seconds of glancing at an ad?

Thinking in that way helps me reverse-engineer the vision back to the start, where I can communicate it clearly to the team and get started building a development plan. The simpler and more concrete the vision is in the beginning, the better the team will be equipped to navigate the twists, turns and surprises (both good and bad) that will eventually come. Then, throughout the project, I’ll constantly return to those fundamentals to reinforce the mission. And I’m totally okay with sounding like a broken record if it helps maintain focus and shield against the distractions of a million fires and shiny things.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The growing convergence of gaming and adjacent industries really excites me. I believe that games can be used to make every kind of experience better and easier to learn. I’ve used this analogy before, but when you see two puppies playing tug of war, they are teaching themselves skills valuable to their survival. All living creatures use games to strengthen their ability to survive and prosper. Games are not just a niche entertainment activity; game principles can and should be integrated into most applications and platforms to onboard and retain customers. With new juggernaut entrants into the gaming space – like Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix, etc. – competition will increase and lead to a greater variety of ideas explored. The future is an exciting place for those who have honed their craft at making games, and for those who use digital services and applications and would like everything to be a bit easier and a bit more rewarding.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I try to approach every problem from an unexpected direction. It’s a practice that lies at the heart of creativity and is useful in synthesizing the data around a problem into solutions that surprise and delight. And it’s a skill that can be learned. I don’t believe that people either have creativity or don’t; we can always train ourselves to be more creative. It starts with asking thoughtful questions, followed by intense and focused listening to a variety of points of view and a macro awareness of trends already occurring in an idea space. This helps to understand what ground has already been covered and what themes people are gravitating towards, so that you can look for angles that have not yet been explored. I’ve used this throughout my career to get teams “unstuck” when trying to solve creative problems, and I would say it’s one habit that has defined my leadership style.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t over-invest in your own beliefs. You have much to learn.

Don’t get so focused on moving forward that you forget to look back and appreciate what’s been accomplished.

Don’t overthink the first steps. It’s scary to start something new, but you will learn faster by doing than by overplanning or trying to figure everything out first.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

We’re never going back to the office, at least not in the way we used to do it. Global connectedness is only going to increase, and the ability for people everywhere to contribute to projects anywhere in the world is getting easier and easier. The gig economy is going to expand to encompass more fields, which will become a freeing factor for a huge portion of the workforce, where people can choose projects that resonate most with them or that help them grow new skills. The flourishing startup scene will need to build off growing workforce systems like this, because new young businesses often can’t absorb the high costs of relocation, full-time benefits, and expensive office space in high density areas.

Most executives that I’ve dealt with on this topic are in denial about it, largely because of fears around productivity, team cohesion, and significant costs already sunk into real estate investments. But these worries are also opportunities to rethink how companies adapt and approach their concerns with new ways of thinking about how people work and how to use those office spaces that they’ve already invested in. Leaders who fail to adapt to this new reality will find their resistance to it a liability.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Don’t be afraid to cut scope frequently, and in fact, build it into your process. This was hard for me in my early leadership roles because I would get attached to ideas that felt innovative or buzzworthy. But I learned that it’s far more important to prioritize correctly and always focus on the scope that your team can execute with excellence. You have to boil down the essence of your venture, connect its purpose to a marketable product or experience, and repeat the goals over and over, if for no other reason than to harden yourself against distractions that will get in the way of an amazing first release.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

The teams I’ve worked with have always placed a high value on not resting on our past successes. We worked hard to try to foresee where the trends were moving, adapt to the changing landscape of our industry, and not rely too heavily on what worked well the last time. I can’t say this is universally a good strategy, because in many cases, it’s better to keep building on what you’ve done before. But in a rapidly changing industry where consumers are extremely fickle, it did help us to cement a reputation for being fearless industry leaders.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

The most memorable failure for me was when I first took on the role of Game Director in 2013. I had previously held a similar role with a much smaller portion of the team, maybe a 50-person development effort, and it was a huge leap in responsibility to oversee the full range of development of our studio with 350+ developers. There were a few other disruptive changes that were happening at the same time: We were moving from a development model of multiple siloed teams to one which would unify under a single leadership structure. We had been given an extra year of development time, extending our typical two-year cycle to three years. And the engineering department had undertaken a huge task in overhauling our core tech to future-proof it.

It was a lot of change at once, and I was not experienced enough to understand how critical that factor would be. I pitched a boldly ambitious vision for our next game, something that broke the mold of what we had done before and required us to flex new muscles in unproven domains. Almost immediately, I encountered resistance from all directions. Instead of spending my time focused on refining the direction, I found myself swimming in internal politics, constantly meeting with key people on the team to try to convince them that this concept was achievable and clarifying parts that were misunderstood or had not had the time to be developed. It snowballed. I was taking on too much because I felt I needed to work harder to prove it out and fill in gaps. Within a year, it had become untenable, and we abandoned the riskiest innovations of the concept, reverting to something closer to what we had done before, and changed the leadership structure to again distribute into more siloed development teams. It was devastating. But I value that experience, because it taught me important lessons that would define my future leadership:

– Don’t underestimate the effect that changing variables will have on an organization, and pay close attention to how many variables are changing at the same time.
– Be a good listener and work to build consensus on ideas before they get put to paper – and definitely before they get rolled out broadly.
– Healthy distribution of ownership is key. Don’t try to take everything on. If you feel that way, you’re not being an effective leader. And if you have healthy distribution but you’re still working insane hours, you’re trying to do too much and need to cut scope immediately.

When it came time for another shot at it, I took all those lessons to heart and fundamentally changed how I approached my leadership role. We were able to unify the team under a streamlined leadership structure. We were able to innovate in meaningful ways. We were even able to release our product with similar scope on shorter timelines.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Going back to my response in question 6, how about a business that broadens the gig economy to highly skilled workers globally? International outsourcing has exploded in recent years, yet somehow those expansive supply lines still get constrained, and they are aggregated into companies that struggle to recruit and retain quality talent. If you could build a platform that exposed a massive network of shorter-term opportunities to specifically skilled professionals who could crank up or down as demand required, you would open the spigot for talent and create new entrants into career paths that otherwise might have been closed to people in some parts of the world. Think about a doctor who can see patients remotely and doesn’t need to be tied to a single healthcare provider. Or an engineer who loves solving hard problems but doesn’t want to get tied down to one company or one type of project. Allowing people with specialized training to become owner-operators and maintain the flexibility to work their own hours or pick and choose their projects would be incredibly powerful.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently bought a proper, sturdy, portable folding desk (aka lap desk) that I use to work from anywhere. It may sound like the most boring possible answer to this question, but after working for the past two years in a static home office that I tried to make just like my static work office, this was a much-needed change for flexibility and peace of mind. If my wife or son need to use the space I am in, I can just grab it and move to another room. I can go outside to get some fresh air while relaxing on a lounge chair and still work without fumbling around with an unstable laptop. It’s been a quality-of-life game-changer!

What is your favorite quote?

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”
-Sherlock Holmes in “A Case of Identity”

I loved pulp spy and mystery novels growing up, and I went through a Sherlock Holmes phase one summer in college. I loved the idea of an exceptional eccentric who transcends his own biases to see what others don’t, and that to get to something big, you have to start with something small. It speaks in so many ways to leadership in the modern era.

Key Learnings:

  • Do less, better. Ideas are exciting and ever flowing, but you can’t do everything well. Always keep the core of your endeavor front of mind and cut features that aren’t core your central idea.
  • Listen, learn, and follow your curiosity. No one has all the answers. Getting out of your own way and listening to the people around you will set you free. Curiosity is the foundation of creativity.
  • Don’t bear all the weight. The expectation that successful entrepreneurs are superheroes is a myth. Successful entrepreneurs know how to build teams of incredible talent, distribute ownership of success, and right-size scope to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • Fail early and often. Maybe clichéd, but forever true. Don’t wait to start working. Embrace the attitude that failures are key to the learning process and will teach you far more than you could learn by overpreparing.
  • Know thyself. Commit the time and effort to genuinely understanding your strengths and struggles and embrace both! Your personality quirks make you unique, but key to this is understanding and minimizing the parts that get in the way of leading a healthy, productive organization.

Interviews

Interview with Sara Sheehan, Founder of Sara Sheehan Consulting

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Interview with Sara Sheehan, Founder of Sara Sheehan Consulting

Sara Sheehan, PCC, is a consultant and Executive Coach who works with C-Level executive leaders in designing organizations, developing business strategies, managing change, optimizing talent and leadership development, and solving complex human performance problems. Through executive coaching, Sara helps leaders sprint their way up the corporate ladder and increase their performance.

During Sara’s 25+ years in business, she has worked with leaders, teams, and organizations in Fortune 100 companies and individuals. Sara specializes in change management, talent and leadership development, executive coaching, and organization design. As a collaborative, results-orientated coach, Sara provides support and practical feedback to help clients effectively navigate change and address business challenges. She also integrates coaching techniques, methods, and approaches to help her clients develop change capabilities and learn to apply them right away. With a servant leadership mindset, she supports her clients in building new skills and customizes frameworks to her client’s project needs. Sara works with clients based on her network, referrals, and appointment.

Sara has been featured both nationally and internationally on podcasts as an expert on topics of change management, talent and leadership development, executive coaching, and organization design.

Where did the idea for your career come from?

The idea for Sara Sheehan Consulting is based on almost 30 years in management consulting and executive coaching. Through business consulting, I help businesses through complex business transformations from a human capital perspective. Through executive coaching, I help busy executives sprint their way up the corporate ladder by setting goals, increasing their performance, resolving conflict, and setting up an advisory team so they are even more successful in their current role or their next one if they are in transition.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

It’s a combination of time blocking for specific purposes like business development, market research conversations, reaching out to ideal clients or close contacts that can refer me to ideal clients, scheduled current client meetings, a wide variety of marketing activities, and time for things that feed me like exercise, cooking, or other interests like spending time with friends and family. I am innately extremely productive so when I am at my best I am in a positive flow.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I have a lot of creative ideas so bringing them to life is not a chore. Typically, writing is the first step to bringing new ideas to life, then it may spread across my marketing mix into videos, presentations, new offerings, or marketing research conversations to test market viability. Once an idea has filtered through these touchpoints, I am able to put more structure around it. Two ideas that I am formalizing right now: a paid membership community on Mighty Networks called The Center for Change Leadership and a chapter in a collaborative book.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I love progression and innovation in technology that helps us be more productive at the least possible cost. To provide a little more context, I love the current trend in software that allows users to get started on a web platform at a low cost and you can increase your plan as you need to if the services fit your needs. These pay-as-you-go plans and the ability to play with new tools are fantastic. Specifically, I have a project team that uses Monday.com and it serves as a tremendous productivity hack.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I know that I am not supposed to do everything, nor should I if I want to scale a successful business. To this end, I am working with the best expert vendors that are aligned with me to amplify my business and my message.

What advice would you give your younger self?

The advice I would give my younger self is that it’s ok to start thinking about how you want to use your craft as an entrepreneur. I’d express to younger me that thinking about offerings and solutions that can be commercialized is going to benefit you. You can start planning now, frame it up, and test your assumptions in market research conversations. You may find that it manifests differently than you expect and that it’s important to be open to the gifts it brings.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

One of the offerings I have done a lot of market research conversations on is my Mastering Change Management Course. The course can be delivered live via Zoom to a cohort or through self-study via Kajabi. I have had no opposition to the course to date, and I have also not found the right pilot group yet. Based on the conversations I have had, the right pilot group is out there! I understand that this is such a different way to deliver consulting work that people may not be open to it just yet. People that disagree with my approach are more likely to engage a consultant based on the project timeline, although this option will require more time with the client and be more costly. The differentiator for the course is that I am seeking qualified education provider status with the Association of Change Management Professionals so that anyone that takes the course could apply the credits toward the Certified Change Management Professional (CCMP) exam or credential renewals.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

The one thing I would do time and time again would be market research conversations on programs, solutions, and offerings. This is the best way to validate that a new offering is viable in the market, and it provides opportunities to uncover ideal clients or get referred to your ideal clients.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

One strategy that has helped me grow my business significantly has been increasing my visibility through engaging a professional marketing agency and a publicist. I was already active on LinkedIn through posting, writing, and videos weekly, however, engaging a marketing agency to support me has allowed me to get strategic in planning on a quarterly basis, as well as executing a broader plan. They also created my branding and collaborated on my website design so everything I produce visually supports my message and purpose. Engaging a publicist that I am aligned with has magically connected me with the right opportunities for increased visibility. Both my marketing team and my publicist are trusted advisors and I am looking forward to seeing how these advisors will continue to grow my business.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

It took me longer to attract my ideal client than I’d hoped since I spent so many years working for other firms. It’s not surprising or unexpected, it’s just a fact that it takes time to be known for your expertise. Additionally, I should have engaged a marketing agency and publicist sooner than I did on both fronts. To be honest, it took a little bit of time to come into contact with the right people to work with. I also think the patience and time allowed me to work on my own mindset which is invaluable.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

When I see questions like this one I immediately think of Peanuts, Lucy, and Charlie Brown at an advice booth with a sign that reads “Advice 5 Cents” with a dixie cup next to it. What’s the quickest way to start a business that can serve a wide customer base? Marketing and business development are two things that every entrepreneur needs to focus on to scale. If you can fit in that space and speak directly to the pain points of a differentiated ideal client, things should manifest fairly quickly.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Definitely reconnecting with friends, family, and clients over a shared meal. You can’t replace being in person and truly connecting with others following such an isolating two-year period.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

The top three online tools and resources that I am currently using to grow my business are Google Workspace, Slack, QBO, and Quickbooks Online. All three tools make work easy, support me in what I am doing, streamline all of my efforts, and keep me focused on what’s most important.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller: I believe the Story Brand is absolutely essential for entrepreneurs to incorporate as they build their business.

What is your favorite quote?

I have so many favorite quotes! Here’s one that is on my mind and heart right now: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Jack Welch

Key Learnings:

  • If you want to grow and/or scale your business, it’s important to know that you can’t do everything alone
  • Working with the best expert vendors that are aligned with you and your business will amplify your business and message
  • Strategic partner progression and the right innovation in technology can help entrepreneurs and businesses be more productive at the least possible cost
Originally published on IdeaMensch.
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Interviews

Interview with Blake Kohler, CEO of Pulse For Good

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Interview with Blake Kohler, CEO of Pulse For Good

Blake is passionate about, well, everything! As the CEO of Pulse For Good, he uses that passion to help nonprofits worldwide gather feedback from vulnerable individuals more effectively. With his background in technology, Blake is helping to bring business-class survey tooling to organizations ran on shoe-string budgets.

As someone who likes to talk, he knows how hard it can be to listen, and along with the Pulse For Good team, he’s working towards building a more empathetic future.

Where did the idea for Pulse For Good come from?

Pulse For Good emerged from an early pilot of a partnership with the city of Seattle. The various city offices were trying to figure out how best to facilitate gathering feedback from the youth homeless population in Seattle, and our early solution, which was designed to gather employee feedback, was suggested. We quickly found that traditional survey methods left a lot to be desired when gathering feedback from vulnerable populations and set out to build something that better fits the unique concerns of serving vulnerable groups.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

As a small startup, our typical days are full of adventure. Some days are dedicated to sales, other days we spend doing support, some days we are working on marketing, and other days we’re trying to improve our operations.

We find that using an agile model works well for our team. We utilize Kanban boards and team standups to keep track of everything from development tasks to customer onboarding.

How do you bring ideas to life?

As a team, we tend to be very visual-focused, so often, our ideas begin to emerge onto whiteboards before they become something a little more tangible.

Once they’ve been thoroughly debated and diagramed on a whiteboard, they make it onto one of our tasks on our kanban boards.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Our team is excited about the combination of technology and social impact. More groups are looking to do good in the world instead of maximizing profit. It is fantastic to see people use their time and talents to help those around them.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

One of our core values is a default to action, which has proven time and time again to be the primary driver of our productivity. Too often, we spend hours debating something, and nothing gets done. By defaulting to act, we might at times cause some headaches, but those headaches are often quickly fixed, and the value we gain from the constant action greatly diminishes any headaches we’ve created.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Spend less time worrying about what others think of you and more time worrying about how you think of others.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Pain can be good for you. It’s a form of feedback, and the more you experience it, the more opportunities you have to make a change.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

We’ve had tremendous success posting on Linkedin. We try and do it every day, and it’s been an incredibly valuable part of our growth.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Very early on, we developed an advisory board of industry experts. This helped us gain a considerable amount of credibility and allowed us to develop tools, relationships, and techniques far beyond our abilities as just a founding team.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One failure we had coming out of the pandemic was a communication breakdown amongst our founding team. Previously, we had conducted in-person meetings, but with the world changing, we switched to a more remote first attitude. Over time, our perceptions and goals changed without getting together.

We had to have some serious heart-to-heart conversations and institute more formality in our processes to help bridge the gaps that this lack of communication caused us.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

We’ve always thought there would be an opportunity for a crowd-sourced travel agency. We believe you could utilize people’s passion for planning vacations and natural competitiveness to offer tailored vacation plans to the masses without the expense of full-time travel agents.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

We recently conducted a series of case studies with our customers, and we paid each person who participated $100. These case studies are invaluable to us, and it is one thing for us to share how our system can help an organization. It’s entirely different for a peer of those organizations to share how we help. Case studies are worth their weight in gold.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Slack – we use it for all of our communication, and as a remote team, it helps us all stay connected and on the same page.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Outward Mindset – changing the way we think and feel about others helps all aspects of your life

What is your favorite quote?

“Listening is the first act of love.” – Paul Tilch

Key Learnings:

  • Defaulting towards action drives productivity
  • Pain can be good for you
  • The best $100 spent is the one that makes your next $1000
Originally published on IdeaMensch.
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Interviews

Interview with Dayana Doncheva, Founder of EcardForest Group Ecards

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Interview with Dayana Doncheva, Founder of EcardForest Group Ecards

Dayana Doncheva is the founder of EcardForest Group Ecards – a company for greeting cards that can be signed by many people online and sent digitally. Their ecard collection includes all key occasions and features birthday, farewell, baby, wedding and many more cards. EcardForest is highly invested in environmental protection and engages in tree planting around the world.

Where did the idea for EcardForest come from?

EcardForest was inspired by a personal use case. I was about to organize a leaving card for my colleague in early 2021 and looked for options online that would allow group signing so that the full team can share their goodbye wishes. I didn’t like the available options and realized that this could be a business idea. After doing my research and checking the competitors, I embraced my entrepreneurial spirit and thought I can give it a go.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

There is not a typical-day concept for us yet. We are growing fast and our routine changes very quickly, allowing us to navigate between new feature integrations, the creation and release of new greeting card designs, as well as support tasks. Of course, every team member has devoted tasks, but we work in an agile setup and adapt quickly based on the priorities.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The process is quite funny actually. We dare to dream and think out of the box. Most of our ideas come to life as funny suggestions. If some of those suggestions still keep us wondering a couple of days later, we put them to a sense-check and see what comes out. We do proper research and talk to a couple of external people to verify the idea before putting it into our backlog.

As a next step, we deep dive into the execution. Once we launch a new feature on EcardForest.com we make sure to monitor it closely. Is everything fine? Does it work as expected? Does it generate added value for our consumers and us? If not, we remove it.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Hybrid working. Naturally, that drives our business since our online greeting cards experience higher demand when people around the globe work in a hybrid setup.

Hybrid working is an interesting trend to us in general too. We experienced first-hand how easy working in a global model could be. Our team is spread around Europe and when needed we involve freelancers from around the world, which allows us to work with the best talents no matter the location.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

People often tell me that I appear to be very well organized. In fact, I am not, and I enjoy the creative mess to the fullest. It nurtures my imagination. It’s contra intuitive but working in a messy environment has proven to help me become more productive in the long run.

If I need to focus on a bigger analytical task though, I try to get a fresh mind by going on a short walk before I start. That helps a great deal.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be braver! Today, I love to challenge myself, even though I know that some things won’t work out. I take it as a learning and grow from there. But a couple of years ago I was still quite hesitant and tended to lean towards safe bets.

Looking back, I am not sure when I changed to become braver, but I can’t help but wonder where I would have been today if I would have done it earlier.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

There is always more to learn. The schedule of an entrepreneur is usually terribly busy and that’s no different in the corporate world. Often times people feel quite comfortable after completing a task or a project and turning a new page to handle the next one. I see great value in reviewing decisions and processes based on new learnings. In my mind, the “good enough” solution can always become a better one, powered up by new learnings.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Do research. I trust in data and have learned to appreciate its value a lot. Doing your research not only saves a lot of potentially unnecessary work but also helps you focus on what’s important.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Investing in advertising has certainly helped us grow EcardForest. We make sure to capture the available demand as much as possible.

When starting a business, thinking about advertising costs might be scary but advertising is usually what kickstarts your business, once the product is ready. Being brave, spending some money but also monitoring the success closely can go a long way.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Before starting EcardForest I was working on another startup. It was focused on financial investment data and most importantly it was a B2B product. That turned out to be incredibly hard to market and required a lot of sales and support efforts. Soon afterward I discovered that the idea was not worth the effort, and it was not going to work out as expected.

I learned two valuable lessons: First, bringing a B2C product to life is easier. Second, holding on to an unsuccessful business idea for too long doesn’t bring you anywhere.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Circular economy products. I am a big fan of renting and reselling and it’s great for the environment. This is applicable to so many product types – from tools to equipment, mobility, etc. Just find a new niche.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

As part of our sustainability efforts, we donate some of our revenue to tree planting organizations around the globe. Just recently we onboarded a new partner – Ecologi that allows us to not only plant trees but also offset carbon emissions by contributing to additional projects like wind power development.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We use Github for our backlog and task management. The project section is a perfect solution for agile teams like ours and keeps us focused on important and urgent tasks. It certainly increases our productivity, and I can’t recommend that enough.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Refactoring UI by Adam Wathan and Steve Schoger is a great resource for any digital business or any website for that matter. It provides an understanding and best practices of website design, UI, colors, fonts, visual hierarchies, etc.

What is your favorite quote?

A single tree doesn’t make a forest. I just came up with that one, but the key message is that even the best entrepreneur or the most knowledgeable person can only go so far on their own. Building a strong team around you is what will bring you further.

Key Learnings:

  • First, do your research before you invest too much time and resources in an idea
  • Be open to exploring and learning more
  • Invest in bringing a strong team together to drive your idea further
Originally published on IdeaMensch.
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