1. When is the first time you knew you were destined to be an entrepreneur?
In College, I was actually going to school for a Chemistry degree with the thoughts of becoming a Doctor. However, I realized a few things along the way.
1- I can’t stand blood
2- I’m not good at science
3- I had to study much harder from chemistry than I ever did for anything business related.
When I switched majors to Business and Marketing, things just seemed much easier and clicked into place. I ended up helping to teach my Marketing class my Junior year, and was the first ever student judge my Senior year in my Entrepreneurial class.
I ended up starting watch stores while in college, wrote three books on Credit Improvement and Finance at the age of 21, had an infomercial called “Give Yourself Credit”, spent 6 years in financial services, started my first Internet company in 1996, and the list goes on and on.
I truly believe there are different types of people, especially at it relates to building a company. There are visionaries, executioners, builders, growers, and maintainers. Each plays a role as a company is being formed, built, brought to market, expanded, and led along.
2. What is the hardest part about being an entrepreneur?
At times, it’s a lonely existence. There are long nights, lots of travel, events, calls, coffee’s, and more. This may often be at the expense of your friends, family, and relationships.
Not that it must be that way, but being an entrepreneur is certainly NOT a 9-5 type job. For me, I think one of the hardest parts as well is trying to “sell” something as a vision or idea. Often, you may be the ONLY one that can see it, understand it, or has belief in what your idea is. You must be able to sell your idea to others; whether it’s investors, customers, management, press or others. Yes, selling the dream is often selling the vision of something no one else can see.
3. Where does your inspiration for ideas come from?
I often joke that I’m OCD about time. Many of my ideas come in the form of trying to improve on something that doesn’t make sense to me, is an existing gap or inefficiency, or can improve something in my daily life. Whether it’s a lack of notifications in a cell phone call, a need for a jacket when none exists, or even something as mundane as not wanting to flush a toilet- just to do my part in helping the environment. Yes, inspiration comes to me in many, many forms.
4. Once you are inspired by an idea — how do you determine if it’s viable?
There are many ideas I have which I believe are viable. However, only there are very few that I decide to take in an attempt to build a company around it. I know that many of the company ideas I have may take a few years to bring to fruition. I also have created a list or framework of what I call “life style” criteria’s which I measure each idea or opportunity against. Much like Stephen Covey with “begin with the end in mind”, I have an outline of what I’d like to accomplish for myself, my family, my associates, my community, and my humanity of people.
There are other ideas that I really feel need to be done, yet have neither the time nor desire to do so myself. It is in these instances that I hope to find someone who might be looking for an opportunity, and I can attempt to convince/persuade into taking on the project themselves.
Last, there are other ideas that are just fanciful thoughts, and those are better left for others to pursue.
5. How do you go about putting together a team?
One of my strong points is in identifying executives and then determining some of what they need to be successful. I like to use the principal WIFU/WIFM, as in “What’s in it for You; Then What’s in it for Me”. In seeking what someone else needs may be, you can often either help them accomplish their goals, or offer them an opportunity to reach them.
I believe that building a team is like building a house. If you view your house like being an architect, with your job being to bring in the best possible people for each task (foundation, carpet, painting, electrical, etc.), then you must identify what your needs are and who you would like involved.
Marketing, Finance, Sales, Operations, and more are all part of building a great organization.
6. Is there ever a time when you say this isn’t working and pull the plug?
I tend to stay with ideas longer at times than someone else may. However, I also tend to build companies that have never been done before, often don’t have competition, are almost always first to market. That means a company may take longer to bring to market than otherwise might be thought.
If I have a company that I feel there is still a market and need for, as well as a dearth of competition, then I may pursue the company till the bitter end- whether that be success or failure; delayed or otherwise.
7. They say experience comes from failures. What lessons have you learned from mistakes?
I’m constantly trying to get better, as well as learn from others. I’m a big proponent on reading books regarding business, self-improvement, psychology, and more. I have a saying (one of many) which is “experience is a great teacher, it’s also the slowest”. To that end, reading books around business and biographies helps one learn about the successes, and more often the failures of others.
Why make the same mistakes that someone else has made before you. If you can read and learn from prior acts, it can help reduce mistakes and failures.
There are also times when factors may be beyond your control (the crash of 2000, the events of September 11th, a Change of Governor from Republican to Democrat, a change of Mayors from Giuliani to Bloomberg, and Change of CEO’s from Galvin’s to others) and the list goes on and on.
These events are often called “black swans”, as a rare occurrence that is beyond your control.
It is often in these times of turmoil and despair that you have to continue to drive forward.
8. Where did the name for BigBamboo come from?
It’s funny, as when someone see’s the name I’m often asked, “Oh, so you sell Bamboo?” Being in Los Angeles full time, it seems that question happens more and more.
The name big bamboo actually comes from the story of Chinese Bamboo and how long it takes for it to grow. It’s an analogy that growing companies is like growing Bamboo trees, and both offer a great metaphorical lesson. Unlike normal crops that you can harvest annually, the Chinese Bamboo tree takes a little longer.
The process goes like this: You take a little seed, plant it, water it, and fertilize it and nothing happens for four years. Then, sometime during the fourth year, the Chinese bamboo tree sprouts and grows NINETY FEET IN SIX WEEKS!
The story of the Bamboo tree is much like growing a company- you have to have faith, belief and persistence.
Additionally, it is a story of stability, structure, and maturity. It’s about laying down and growing the ROOTS that will become the FOUNDATION to support MASSIVE growth.
In becoming an entrepreneur, growing companies, or growing as a person, remember to always be watering your tree, growing roots, and building your foundation.
9. Where would you like to see BigBamboo, LLC, the incubator be in 5 years?
As a personal incubator, there are several big projects we are working on. I often joke that we have one company that could be bigger than Google, on trying to win a Nobel Peace Prize, and one that could help connect businesses within their own group as a way to improve the transactions between all parties.
I like doing things that have never been done before. I believe some will work to my fullest expectations, and others may come along at a pace that is slower than I would want.
However, in the end, I’m spending my time doing exactly what I want to be doing; Creating companies.
10. Tell me why you think your idea, Wet Rock is a winner.
There is a growing concern around environmental issues, water, conservation, and more. The idea of saving money, saving water, and helping the environment are all paramount ideas for consumers and corporations alike.
My WetRock, and the first product, The DropBox; are consumer friendly, inexpensive, and have a major, positive impact on the environment.
The timing for My WetRock is a perfect confluence of factors and we are really excited about the opportunity it presents, and the impact it can make.
11. You were networking before networking became cool. Tell us your thoughts
on the best way to go about doing so in a professional manner.
12. As an entrepreneur is it better to know your greatest strength or greatest weakness? Why?