Connect with us

Interviews

Interview with Aunia Kahn, Founder of Rise Visible

Published

on

Interview with Aunia Kahn, Founder of Rise Visible

Aunia Kahn is the CEO of Rise Visible. With 24 years in the field, she is a highly sought-after digital marketer strategist public speaker and digital influencer. She is also an internationally recognized and awarded visual artist photographer author who has shown in over 300 exhibitions in over 10 countries at places such as San Diego Art Institute, iMOCA and the St. Louis Art Museum. She founded Create for Healing and the Oregon Disabled Business Owners Association. Aunia also identifies as a disabled business owner surviving and thriving with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (Type 3) Mast Cell Disease Dysautonomia and POTS PTSD etc.

Where did the idea for Rise Visible come from?

Our name, Rise Visible represents everything we do and believe in as a company. We believe that everyone deserves to be uplifted by the community and have visibility. We all have a story and we all deserve to be seen and heard.

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

For 24 years, I have worked from home due to a rare health condition. So, before remote work became fashionable in the last couple of years, I had mastered the art of working from home (for me). Meaning, that I have learned how to deal with the loneliness many people feel not having in-person work connections regularly. I have mastered the art of wearing PJ bottoms paired with a professional work-safe top and I have also mastered good time management and a schedule. All of which needed many years of effort and finesse.

A typical day starts with feeding the dogs and taking them outside. Once inside I do some self-care and try my best to not look at my phone or computer (still trying to master that). I like to know what is going on for the day ahead, but I am trying to teach myself that nothing is going to burn down in the 30 min of self-care time. I stretch, journal, and write down all the things I am grateful for.

My partner, Michael de Vena, and I look at the schedule for the day. We start making plans or returning to plans from the day before that might not have been completed. We work together in the same studio and we don’t often argue or want to kill each other. We are not only partners in businesses but we are life partners and that can get difficult at times. For us, it improved our personal relationship adding a working relationship. Go figure!

We break and eat some lunch, and do a bit more stretching. Being at a computer a lot is hard on the body so we try to stretch a lot.

We try to end the days early but this very rarely happens. We both love what we do and you never know when last-minute things will come up. Our goal is to end at 4 pm but can often still be seen working until 6 p.m. If special things are needed or a major deadline is approaching, we have worked late into the night. We mostly have curbed that to better take care of ourselves. We believe that when you love what you do, it’s important to set hours so you don’t go off on a tangent, and before you know it, it’s midnight.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We have a very large whiteboard that takes up half the studio, on the weekends we wheel it back to the other studio space – the art studio. We love that board and it is where we start the planning and brainstorming process.

Depending on the project, various things are used to inspire. If it is design, then we love looking at other great designs and Pinterest. If we are working on automation for an email marketing campaign, then we love to map it out in software and brainstorm before we start the implementation. If we are working on SEO (because we are nerds) we love to crunch the numbers and make the goals.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The trend that inspires me right now is that people are being more transparent and real. Example: We used to only have perfect models selling us a bar of Ivory soap and now we see bodies and faces of different sizes, ages, races, etc. We are also seeing a lot more inclusion with disabilities in advertising and it has excited me as a disabled business owner.

We are also seeing this in our everyday, real-life experiences too. People are being open about their struggles. Social media has made seem that people look perfect and have perfect lives due to the highly curated nature of the platform. However, now, people are taking it a step further and are willing to show their flaws, mistakes, and reality. This is truth and we can all relate this is why this trend excites me!

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

Resting. Although it is counterintuitive to my brain to even say that! I like to be busy and do things, many things! I am not good at being still. I lost a large chunk of my life due to health issues, so I am always eager to do something or be busy. Even without considering the loss of time in my past, I think I am just wired that way. However, when I have made myself rest more, the work time is more solid and I am more productive! I do see the value. It is just hard to make it happen.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self that even if you will lose 18 years of your life to an aggressive and undiagnosed illness, that in 2018 and 2021 you will have breakthroughs and finally medical support. With this, you will live a more normal life than you ever have. You will be writing interviews like this right now and not just surviving, you will be thriving.

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

I believe that most people are genuinely good and I find most people do not agree with that. I also believe in diplomacy. There is a lot of grey area in the world and almost everyone I know lives in black or white. These times are very polar, so living in the grey is not super common.

I think it is important to weight al sides, look at peoples experiences, and evaluate things without always being self-focused. It is common to want to make sure things are good for ourselves, to go after achievements and to be self motivated, but the world is a big place and the world does not revolve around anyhow. The world is rich with so many great people, places and experiences – let’s not shut things out just because they are different or we don’t understand them. Considered different ways of thinking and opinions outside of your own makes you a more well rounded person.\

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

Remember your value. Not egotistically, but with truth, compassion, and confidence. If you don’t value yourself – no one will. You will revisit your value and worth over and over again. Your value will change based on many things and is a fluid and moving metric. Your value is a very deep part of your self-worth and you can grow your value and self-worth based on the decisions you make.

Other people will not value you unless you value yourself. You can be nice and not be a doormat. You can stand in your own confidence and not be an ego maniac. You can find value in yourself that others won’t value – let them go. It won’t always be easy and can bring fear, but do it anyway!

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

My tenacity has been one of the biggest traits that I am so honored to behold. Over the last 24 years, most of the time, I was not focused on growing. I was dealing with severe undiagnosed health issues that almost killed me and my goal was to not die until someone could finally help me – it took 18 years. In this, my tenacity also played a very large role in my work and how I kept going without ever giving up. It’s not easy, but it’s been worth it.

In 2018 with the right diagnosis and medical treatment and another major diagnosis in 2021, we are on the road to some epic growth. I have the health, strength, and energy to move the needle and I am doing just that. Over the last two months, we have won many awards and certifications.

The strategy from day one is to never give up. Keep on going, one day you will get there!

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

I was grossly undercharging for my services for years based on not having anyone to compare myself to. When I met with a client and she shared the pricing from the agency she was moving from, I about fell off my chair. Over the years, I was so focused on just paying my bills because I could not get a normal job due to my disability, I never thought to investigate pay wages for the work I did.

It was a huge failure on my part because I could have worked a lot less and it would have been a more adequate work-life balance and helped my health. After researching and meeting others who work in my field, I realized my skills and experience were so much more valuable than I had given them credit for.

I overcame it by asking for more. It was not easy! I was even called out one time in a consult that it looked like the rate I had asked for was hard for me to say and asked if I get kickback. I had tripped over my words when saying my rate and it was painfully obvious. I got red in the face and told the person, yes, that I was stepping into my new value and I had gotten kickback for asking for that rate, but that I knew my worth and I was sticking to it. The person did not question it and said, that it was fine – I will pay your rate.

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

To create a passive income; start teaching something you love. Online education is having a huge boon right now and if you have something you love and it can value others, teach it! You don’t have to be a teacher, you can learn to do it. You can build platforms on your own business website or use things like Learnworlds and Teachable. If that does not sound appealing, there are so many other ways to make passive income – start researching them.

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

The best $100 I spent was purchasing a ring security system. I know that is way more than that, but let’s just focus on the door light camera which was a couple of hundred dollars. The one in our backyard is officially bird TV. We have a crow family that comes to visit. Lonan (Papa), Koa (Momma), and 3 babies. We feed them on the back deck and the camera lets us know when they are there. Before we would have to get up and check to see from time to time. Now we are notified and we feed them. Bird TV, as we humorously call it, is pretty funny. We catch so many things on that camera.

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

We love Semrush for SEO. We use 4 other SEO software tools, but our favorite currently is Semrush. We use this software to do website audits to find out areas we can improve a website. We improve local listings, backlink analysis, keyword researching and more. We also love their CRM (Customer Relationship Management). We can add our clients and keep them up to date in real-time – they get the reports and tracked tasks in real time.

We have learned with many of our clients that had hired other SEO companies got a lot of talk about what’s being done but nothing to prove what was really happening. SEO is an enigma to so many people, which makes it easy for scam companies to take advantage of clients that don’t know any better. Transparency is key, we want our clients to see everything we are doing and be in the first row, front and center in the game of website SEO improvement and growth for they business.

It not only keeps us accountable but it’s also is extremely motivating for us and our clients to see the growth and visibly improve.

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

This is hard to choose just one! I love to read and read so many books. A great book to read and I highly recommended is: This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See (Seth Godin)

What is your favorite quote?

Fall down 7 times, get up 8. – Japanese Proverb

Key Learnings:

  • You have value, it is one of your biggest assets.
  • Ask for more money. If they say no. Ask someone else.
  • Lifting others up is a great way to lift yourself up as well.
  • Health is important. Don’t take it for granted.
  • Be real and authentic, your audience will find you.
Originally published on IdeaMensch.

Interviews

Interview with Ekke Uustalu, Co-Founder of Planyard

Published

on

Interview with Ekke Uustalu, Co-Founder of Planyard

Co-founder of Planyard with a background in B2B software and cyber security. Now tackling profitability forecasting in larger construction companies to make sure they don’t go out of business due to insufficient visibility.

He was born right when Estonia regained its independence from the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 90s. This experience has been invaluable as he saw the rapid development and life quality improvement this new way provided.

When growing up, everything in his life was digitalized – the communication, the school work, government and medical services. This meant that that was since childhood the normal. He couldn’t really expect less than excellent and user-friendliness from any service. This part is probably normal for 99% of Estonians though.

He studied computer systems in his university studies and found entrepreneurship interesting from early on. He worked in various startups during studies and attended various startup events and competitions. Some of these competitions were also where the first attempts (and failures) at personal startups took place.

He also tried Amazon FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) product selling which failed quite miserably as the product was completely custom designed and was just a one-time thing. The product was also partially a safety device so Amazon deciding to now allowing to sell the product was a good learning point. Never give too much decision power to someone else. Also, don’t make safety products without having great suppliers. 🙂

After a short stint in a cyber security company, he was invited by acquaintances to work on Planyard. This has been the main focus for the past few years.

Where did the idea for Planyard come from?

The idea for Planyard came from our acquaintances working in the construction field. Many of them work as project managers and complained that they don’t have good tools that help them do financial tasks efficiently.

They often need to use multiple unlinked spreadsheets with duplicate data where the processing and data copying takes way too long. So when one of our founders had multiple discussions with these PMs, he was able to identify key issues that we started to work on once the mockups were confirmed.

So now we are providing a cloud-based software tool for construction companies to automate much of the annoying manual work they have to do anyway. This can save up to 5 days for each project manager per month. Additionally, colleagues and managers can also easily see what the status is if the company prefers to share the access inside the company.

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

Since we are a small bootstrapped team, the day consists of various tasks that have to be done – often some development work, marketing actions if we have some content planned, calls with customers and representatives from tools that we integrate with.

It is important to list and then prioritize all of the things that need to be done in the day to make sure that you can really focus on the important tasks. Depending on the task, we have different Trello boards to track them or for stuff only specific to me, I also use Gmail snoozing to not lose anything.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We often hear about problems that our customers are having. When we hear these brought out, we have to validate that many or most of our customers face similar issues. When we validate that indeed this is a relevant issue for many people, we then start work on solution proposals.

We then make very low-quality mockups that we can validate with all of the parties and often do multiple rounds of these discussions to tweak the solution before we start implementing it.

This means that we can be very sure of the technical solution before we do anything. We might make small adjustments to the design or the process later on, but the fundamental assumptions are correct, thus reducing the amount of rework we have to do.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Young and/or tech-savvy people who are becoming decision makers in (construction) companies. They have grown up with productivity tools and user-friendly tools and expect that when they try to find a solution. Also, a more bottom-up management style is nice since everyone’s’ opinion matters and the boss doesn’t decide alone.

This means that our potential customers are more open to embracing technical solutions that will make their life easier. Additionally, when looking for solutions, they are very selfishly trying to find a great experience. That differs from the “old school“ enterprise sales where the management would just decide for something and the end users would not really benefit from it.

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

If you don’t get it 100% clearly, just ask again. I think I need to fully understand the problem and why it is a problem to be able to solve it for the customer.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Ask more questions before rushing to propose solutions. You probably didn’t fully get it yet.

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

Probably not that unpopular, but raising money is not everything. Raising money too soon can hurt or end your business.

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

Blocking out time for deep focus time. This is probably more a techy thing to do, but having the freedom of no distractions for some part of your day really lets you achieve a lot.

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

We still need to do a lot of work on our online presence and messaging, but we for sure are already seeing successes from our SEO efforts however limited the time is that we put in there.

In short, it’s better to be where the customers are searching for you instead of cold calling and reaching out to them yourself.

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

A few years ago, I tried doing Amazon FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) as a business. We developed our own product from scratch for just a one-time event.

The production delays and strict Amazon restrictions meant that we actually could almost not sell any products to our customers before the date. We lost a lot of time and money doing this, but I learned to value my own control over the process more. In that case, we did make a lot of mistakes on our own as well. But giving so much power to someone else can be risky as they can just shut you down when they decide to do so.

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

I recently heard of an idea for an app to order food in the restaurant. So basically Uber Eats to eat in – no waiting for the waiter, no payment struggles, and the possibility for the company to do dynamic pricing.

I’m not sure if it is a great idea, but it’s an idea.

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

Trello. Keeping track of what you need to do, what you did, and to prioritize what needs to be done. Without structure, you just do whatever you want to in the morning and that probably won’t take you too far.

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

Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

What is your favorite quote?

Change in all things is sweet – Aristotle

Originally published on IdeaMensch.
Continue Reading

Interviews

Interview with Neil Parsont, CEO of Zero Cheating

Published

on

Interview with Neil Parsont, CEO of Zero Cheating

Born in Livingston, New Jersey, Neil Parsont moved to Florida with his family when he was twelve years old. After graduating from high school, he attended Florida Atlantic University (FAU) where he received both his undergraduate degree in Finance in 2008, and his MBA in 2016.

Since entering the professional world, Neil Parsont has been a prolific entrepreneur. He is currently in the midst of launching Zero Cheating, an online exam proctoring company with patent-pending hardware and software solutions designed to prevent all forms of academic fraud. One of his earlier ventures, Cram Tutoring, is a successful tutoring business offering instruction for business and math students from middle school through graduate level.

Neil Parsont is also the CEO of 6-Pack Macros, a firm that creates custom fitness plans, including workouts and nutrition programs. The company recently launched a mobile application met with tremendous reviews from users. Neil is also involved with 6-Pack Crypto, a cryptocurrency incubator hedge fund based on fundamental investment strategies.

Among his many business accomplishments, Neil is most proud of helping thousands of students graduate from Florida Atlantic University and gain acceptance to other schools through the services provided by his academically focused companies. Additionally, he has worked with several startups to form successful business plans, one of which was in the top eight of the FAU Business Plan competition. Neil also raised half a million dollars in capital funding for his own businesses.

Today, Neil Parsont still resides in Florida. When not hard at work, he enjoys chess, tennis, and golf. When he was younger, Neil played tennis competitively and won a few local tennis tournaments. He also once hit a hole-in-one at the Red Reef Golf Course in Boca Raton, Florida, an accomplishment for which he received an official certificate.

Where did the idea for your career come from?

I was part of a large group chat of FAU students who decided to kick me out of the chat so they could cheat. Using secondary accounts, I saw students sharing the entire exam, and I decided this dishonesty needed to be stopped. Armed with years of firsthand knowledge of how students circumvent existing proctoring services and cheat, I knew exactly how to prevent it going forward.

It’s a patent-pending software and hardware system that prevents all forms of cheating within online exam environments. Creating the business was my way of making a difference. I’ve been a tutor for about a decade and a half, and in that time, I’ve seen every way that students cheat. Unfortunately, the practice has grown exponentially since the onset of the digital era—and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread adoption of distance learning. Academic fraud devalues degrees, which isn’t fair to the students that actually put in the time and effort to learn the material. A lot of universities are continuing to use lecture capture online exams, but the current system is highly flawed. I’ve seen a group chat where over 75 students shared screenshots of an entire exam. Once I saw that and realized all the other ways that students can cheat, I was motivated to create this system. Simply put, it prevents all manner of academic fraud without violating the privacy of students.

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

I wake up around 5:30am to pray and meditate with a sunrise view centering my mind on God and helping others. I swim for 30 minutes and then head to the gym where I work out for an hour. After taking care of my mind, spirit, and body, I head into my office. I’ll work from 11 am to around 5 pm, focusing predominantly on tutoring while making time for my other businesses. After work, I like to relax by playing chess, eating dinner with friends, or other social activities.

Regarding Zero Cheating, it’s in the development phase, right now. I currently have a company building both the underlying software and the prototype, and I’m also working with someone that’s finalizing the business plan. Day-to-day, it’s just a matter of trying to source and put together materials for pitching to an investor. I’m talking to some lawyers to set up a regulation CF to crowdfund on WeFunder, and that will probably launch in the next two months.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Immediate action. Once I have an idea, I find a way to make it concrete and implement it. For example, when I realized the extent of cheating and formulated a solution, I immediately contacted a patent attorney. Once the non-provisional patents were filed, I began the process of writing a business plan with a partner and sourcing a technology provider. As of now, the camera and software are being built, the fundraising is started, and testing is scheduled for Spring Semester 2023.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Health and fitness. We’re seeing more and more people valuing their health and wanting to get into good shape, and I’m excited about this trend. A healthier general population is a panacea; there is no downside to it.

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

I don’t hit the snooze button. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I get up without hesitation, write down my specific tasks for the day as a to-do list, and check off the items as I accomplish them.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Listen to older people. Their experience and perspective are invaluable.

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

You can lose weight without necessarily being in a calorie deficit if you understand how your metabolism and hormones work. I’ve done it before. I’ve looked at how much I’ve eaten versus how many calories I’ve burned that day and lost weight, and I have a good idea why.

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

I constantly bounce my ideas off of people who have previous experience in a similar field. Any time I have an idea, I check in to get the opinions of someone who’s already been through the process and come out the other end successfully.

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

Focusing on what the consumer wants. By asking and constantly testing what the consumer wants, I know what features and services to develop, which areas to market, and where demand is.

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

One company I created early in my career was called Owl Tutors, and it was a platform for tutors to list their services and find clients. With this model, the tutors would pay a membership and a per lead fee, but they would keep all the money they made with the client. The failure I encountered was not listening to the tutors who were using the platform. My marketing team interviewed all the tutors and the tutors constantly said all they wanted was access to students. Getting students was very costly and difficult, so I focused on providing other services a businessperson running a tutoring company would want. These included a scheduling system, payment process, and marketing materials including posters and business cards. However, none of these items directly made tutors money so they were not interested. Instead of switching the revenue model to splitting the revenue with the tutor, I stubbornly stuck to my original plan. By the time I accepted my business model was not viable from the tutor’s perspective, it was too late, and the company’s cash had run dry leading to a bankruptcy. I’d love to say I overcame the failure, but in reality, I learned a valuable lesson—provide only products and services the consumer is willing to pay for. Had I focused on the consumer’s (tutor’s) willingness to pay, Owl Tutors would be in business today.

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

Look for any changes over the past year or so in how people are behaving and what they’re consuming, then figure out how to cater to those trends. After finding a suitable niche, consider what consumers are willing to pay for. Focus on the source of the demand and build a business around it.

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

On Sunday, I had a date. It was my first date with someone who could be my future wife. Suffice it to say, we got along great and really connected. Looking at it from that perspective, it might be the best $100 spent in my entire life.

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

Acuity Scheduling. I schedule all my clients using this service. It takes care of billing, gives reminders about appointments, and keeps me organized. It also syncs up well with my Google Calendar, so I know exactly who I’m tutoring and what subject I’m tutoring them in, and it enables me to bill and charge them. It also sends text and email reminders to clients.

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

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I recommend this book to everyone because it teaches you to genuinely listen to people. It teaches you to understand what they think from their perspective. It helps in the development of relationships because you learn how to be less self-centered in conversations and not just talk about what you want to talk about.

What is your favorite quote?

“No one ever won a game by resigning.” — French chess Grandmaster Savielly Tartakower.

Key Learnings:

  • Listen to the wisdom and experience of older people.
  • Take immediate action when a business idea comes to mind.
  • When building a business, always listen to what the customer wants and is willing to pay for. Then focus on providing those services or products.
Originally published on IdeaMensch.
Continue Reading

Interviews

Interview with Alex Harrington, Co-Founder of SecureCo

Published

on

Interview with Alex Harrington, Co-Founder of SecureCo

Alex Harrington is an accomplished technology founder and executive with 20+ years leading start-ups and growth technology enterprises. Prior to SecureCo, Alex was Chief Executive Officer and board member of PeerStream, Inc., a public communications technology company.

Alex previously served as CEO of MeetMoi, LLC, a mobile social platform, prior to its sale to Match.com. Prior to that, Alex served as the Senior Vice President of Strategy and Operations for Zagat Survey, where he oversaw a transformation of the digital business which ultimately culminated in the company’s sale to Google.

Alex holds a MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from Williams College.

Where did the idea for SecureCo come from?

SecureCo’s co-founder and I ran PeerStream as CEO and CTO, a business that provides live video communication apps to hundreds of millions of end users around the world. In the Middle East and Asia, we had become a political speech platform, which began to elicit cyber-attacks from nation-state actors who wanted to block or take down our service and go after our end users. We had to develop military-grade defensive capabilities in order to maintain uptime, protect the privacy and identity of our users, and penetrate through national firewalls intended to block our service. We had conviction that the knowhow that protected PeerStream would be valuable to other organizations, so we bought out the IP and the team to launch SecureCo as an independent company.

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

As the CEO of a small growing business, I wear nearly every hat. In a single day I will be working on product, technology, marketing, sales, finance and customer service. A versatile skill base is must, time management skills and the ability to switch context are all critical. One you get used to a start-up environment, it’s hard to go back to a role with a narrow scope and long planning cycles.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Inspiration for new business ideas comes from many sources. Startups are unbounded by a long operating history, freeing them to explore nearly all avenues of opportunity. Decision-making is extremely agile in a startup environment, and the organization can turn on a dime to capitalize on an opportunity or new customer requirement. However, the temptation to chase every bright shiny object has been the undoing of many promising young companies. Large organizations have checks and balances against reckless course changes, but this can also snuff out innovation. The challenge of a start-up is to figure out when to exercise the capacity for agility and innovation, and when to stick to your focus or niche.

What’s one trend that excites you?

AI-enabled, self-driving cars are not very far out in the future. I believe this will be even more transformative to our lives than the advent of the smartphone. Traffic will flow much, much faster once human error is removed. People will travel and commute much longer distances, because the driver is now a passenger who can spend time productively. Cars will be designed with seats that fold flat for sleeping. Urban street parking becomes obsolete since cars would find some inconspicuous underground parking until summoned. On the downside, driving as a career or side gig becomes superfluous, which will cause economic displacement for millions of people.

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

I am a compulsive list maker, to keep tabs on and prioritize the dozens of simultaneous work streams and the associated tasks.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be bolder. Overcome the imposter syndrome – most people will give you the benefit of the doubt. Youth and inexperience can be an asset – older, more experienced people are often seeking to partner with energetic, coachable talent. Seek out experienced mentors and don’t hesitate to share your insecurities. Forcing yourself to confront your limitations will clarify that most of them are surmountable.

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

Conventional wisdom says that effective people clear out their inbox or complete their to do list. I believe the opposite is true. At all times we are swamped with rather unimportant tasks that are easy to accomplish. It’s very tempting to clear the decks and push off the difficult, yet very important stuff. The truly disciplined thing to do is prioritize what truly creates value and push off those hundreds of minutiae until failure to complete them has consequences.

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

Spread your bets out, preferable at large scale. I wasn’t trained in sales but learned the hard way what every entry level salesperson knows. Most things in business are a numbers game, and you can’t count on any one opportunity coming through for you, no matter how certain it seems. Figuring out how to scale your outreach and widening the top of your prospect funnel is a big part of making sure that your outcomes line up with your expectations.

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

Invest in relationships. To some people this comes naturally. But to others who are more introverted, and would rather work with code or numbers, other than people. The fact is all opportunities come from people and the goodwill you generate with them. Making a personal connection with your business associates can make a world of difference, since the conventional wisdom is true – people don’t remember what you said, they remember how you make them feel.

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

Taking the long view on your life and career, failure is a much more effective learning experience than success. But it usually feels awful when you are going through it. Still, even in the moment of failure, there are almost always ways of making lemonade out of lemons. Twitter and Slack were originally both pivots from failed ventures. Often, even in failure, there are some great things that you’ve created that can form the nucleus of a new, potentially much more successful venture. Twice in my career I have built successful startups by extracting assets and IP out of another struggling business.

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

There is a huge gap between the current state of cybersecurity awareness and training needs. This goes for consumer awareness, non-technical employee training, staffing and training for entry level cyber jobs. Presently there are approximately 600,000 unfilled cyber jobs in the U.S., but this figure will grow into the millions in a few years. Businesses that support the pipeline of personnel to fill these jobs should do quite well.

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

Airpods. I’m on the phone constantly, and absolutely need to be hands free and to be able to move around, potentially out of range of a speakerphone. I also use the downtime I have, while doing perfunctory tasks to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. They are as indispensable to me as shoes.

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

It’s tough to choose only one. Calendly is a scheduling solution that I’ve found to be very useful, especially to allow third parties to schedule the mutually available time of my partner and me.

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

A brilliant finance professor I had at Wharton recommended The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro to all his students. Strangely, it’s not a business book at all; it’s about a seemingly trivial set of occurrences in the life of an English butler. But the narrator meditates profoundly on topics like dedication to a professional craft, work-life balance, and perceiving the impact of your work on the broader world around you. It is utterly captivating – the only novel I’ve ever read in a single sitting.

What is your favorite quote?

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” This is such a powerful statement by Eleanor Roosevelt, which applies to both personal and professional life. Building a business up from nothing means you are the smallest company on the block and will be for a long time. It’s easy to feel inferior when you have no market power and are sometimes scratching to survive. But the innovation and entrepreneurial audacity of small businesses can be a superpower, and big company leaders admire and seek alignment with these characteristics.

Key Learnings:

  • Successful entrepreneurship requires not just bold thinking, but bold execution. Key thoughts from this interview:
  • The superpower of entrepreneurs is their ability to boldly embrace innovation and sell a compelling vision of the future. These qualities will draw admiration that compensate for other shortcomings of your startup.
  • Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose, I either win or learn.” This is true in entrepreneurship if you take measured bets and fail fast. There is no better teacher than failure, and often successful businesses emerge from failed projects.
  • Never place your bets on one or two big deals – diversify your risk by scaling your outreach.
  • Confidence and resilience are so important in facing off with larger competitors or surmounting the imposter syndrome. While some people have these as inborn traits, I do believe that you can cultivate these attributes.
Originally published on IdeaMensch.
Continue Reading

Trending