I’m a founder, CEO, brand builder, investor, tech geek, family man and juggernaut. I’m most known for RevZilla. Expect a bit of storytelling, inspiration and insight as my different roles and perspective continue to evolve. I won’t settle and neither should you.
My full backstory
I was interviewed last Friday for the Starter Stories video series. It was a fun experience looking back – and looking forward.
You can see the rest of the Starter Stories Video Series here.
This is how my Monday morning started this week. I am still grinning. It’s nice when customers really “get it”.
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FROM: Bill S.TO: RevZilla Customer Service
Once in a great while, like in almost any circumstance of life, you run across someone or something that’s doing it well.
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No, thank you, Bill. You made my day.
Wednesday night we had our first official SkateZilla at the RevZilla warehouse. Skating the miniramp has been great – skating the miniramp, eating grilled meat and talking eCom / social networking is that much better.
I invited a bunch of old friends who I know skate and also happened to be talented web dev / designers over to “play”. What on a whim started as a miniramp distraction in our motorcycle warehouse, has now very quickly evolved into a chance for me to bring two things I love together and be reasonably productive.
It also gives me an outside chance of getting hurt a couple times a month and everyone knows that I can’t resist danger.
About 8 of us hung out from 6-10, ate drank, dropped in and talked a ton of shop. I will take that over the standard “meet after work for a dink” any day of the week any time I can.
Our SkateZilla tweets even got retweeted a bit and next time around – in two Wednesdays on 9/2 – we may have a coupe more talented new web people whom I don’t know previously, coming to play – Granted they sign the waiver. 😛
We are shoting for every other Wednesday. If you are a web geek who rides, shoot us a line.
Obviously we took some shots for posterity. You can see them on RevZilla’s Flickr. SkateZilla #2 Gallery
…and here is an obligatory video of me falling down the ramp – in High-Def, no less!
Before you comment, yes I know it blows out the layout, yes I know I am not that good at skateboarding and yes I know that pads are for wusses. I don’t care.
I started my company, RevZilla.com, a few years ago. My biz partners and I work a ton and I always tell people the biggest difference between working for anyone else and being your own boss is that when you own a company, every day is the same. Tuesdays, Saturdays, holidays & birthdays; you are still at the office or at least thinking about the business. You never stop trying to figure out where you are and how you’ll get where you need to be.
I see a lot of people focused on the eventual end-goal and/or exit, which is fine. But I feel that that laser-beam focus can sometimes take a little of the enjoyment away from the journey, if you forget to come up for air.
I have lost sight of the balance between fun and work at other times in my career. Most notably in my mid-twenties. Now more than ever as a business owner, a husband and a father – I refuse to let myself miss the things I know will make me smile that don’t take place behind my desk.
I stopped skateboarding when I was about 16 years old. I always enjoyed it, but the lure of 10th grade, getting a girlfriend and high school sports were just too much. The skating lost out. By college, I had a ton of free time, but then I discovered the nightlife. The skating lost out again. By the end of college I was so focused on getting my career fast-tracked, that the skating came up empty once more; this time by way of the almighty dollar. I did, however, for the better part of 13 years, always want to learn to ride a halfpipe. It was always right there in the back of my mind.
RevZilla has a warehouse now, so 5 weeks ago I went and bought a 4 foot half-pipe from craigslist and had it delivered (yes, delivered)… I bought some pads and a board too. As I write this, I am one month from my 29th birthday and learning (painfully) to ride the ramp. My wife is still confused by it all, but the smile on my face is all she needs to see to be completely supportive.
This 28 second “run” was the fruit of falling on my head for the last 5 weeks. It doesn’t look like much, but I am damn proud of it and had a blast learning to do it.
Here is the obligatory bail between runs for posterity….
Riding “that damn halfpipe” has done a great job of keeping me sane this summer in light of the many pressures facing a new business launched into an economic downturn.
While there are always times when work just has to be all-consuming to keep the company afloat, when I can come up with 30 minutes after all of my other obligations are fulfilled, I grab my skateboard. I challenge everyone to find their “skateboard” here and there, whatever it may be. You will be glad that you did. Those 30 minutes of falling on your head may just help you find your focus and your smile.
Tonight I guest spoke at BlobLive in Philly and told the start-up story of RevZilla. It was a blast, and I was flattered to have been asked to be there as an “inspirational success story” speaking first to kick off the night. It felt good. I always enjoy interacting with an audience, especially when I get to talk about anything I am passionate about. Its like a throwback to 2006, leading a pitch to c-level exec’s. Catnip for an ex Biz-Dev guy.
At the end of the event I got put on the spot and asked “What are the 3 attributes needed to be a successful entrepreneur?”. Not the easiest question on the fly, but there are many “right” answers.
I shot from the hip and answered “Optimistic, Relentless & Ambitious”. It’s a right answer, but walking out after the event I couldn’t help wondering if it was the best answer.
Mulling it further, I wish I had a do-over. I’d answer slightly differently next time.
I will stick with Optimistic. You have to be a dreamer to roll the big dice. Realists and pessimists have an easier time sticking to the norm – the big dice are scary – maxed credit cards, burnt savings and ramen noodles suck. Optimists are the ones naive enough to think they can will their master plans to fruition.
I will also stick with Relentless, although to me the word carries a bit of a negative connotation. It feels like ruthless. While sometimes good business does call for bit of ruthlessness, I hope that for every one time that being ruthless is the right move, there are 20 other times where prudence provides me a more altruistic course of action. Unyielding may make me feel a bit better as it encompasses less of an iron fist and more of a sense of diligence toward the endless funnel of tasks.
Ambitious has to go. Ambition is an afterthought affecting every decision an entrepreneur makes and it rarely a learned trait. You can be more optimistic and relentless in your pursuit and actively work on those traits. You can not be an entrepreneur without being inherently ambitious.
The replacement for ambitious is a toss up between creative and resourceful which to me are closer than one would probably expect. Both of those words relate to an entrepreneurs approach to problem solving using the tools at hand. Many times unusual circumstances in uncharted waters can be very difficult to solve with a shoe-string budget. At times like those I ask myself “What would MacGuyver do?” – He would be creative and resourceful, and usually pull it off. Be MacGuyver. He always wins. And aside from hopefully finding a solution, you usually end up with a kick-ass story to tell later as an added bonus.
To sum up, if I got a do-over, the magic three are Optimistic, Relentless & Cre-sourceful MacGuyver-style with no firearms.
Its 1:28am on Tuesday. I just got back from the gym and am raiding my child’s uncrustables due to lack of an adequate sandwich in the house and no desire to fire up the grill. It just struck me that, come this June, I will have been in Philly for a full ten years. Its also struck me that during my tenure in this town I have experienced a lot of Philly; some good, some bad, all memorable. Some of my favorite and easily replicable experiences are the hometown eats. Philly is a good food town – its been a decade of lunchtime decadence, if you will.
I don’t know why, but I have been thinking about sandwiches lately. A ton. Here is my top ten-ish list of of unforgettable sandwiches in good old Philthadelphia.
Did I miss any? When I have a massive heart attack next year – at 29 – you will know why. 10 years of eating my top 11 for lunch.
(ps I have no idea, besides being very hungry at the moment, what compelled me to write this at 2am.)
(pps – I just reread the list 5 minutes after posting. Half the sandwiches are exactly the same except for swapping the meat type. Am I that stereotypically Italian? I may be physically unable to not eat anything that is paired with Italian greens and sharp provolone cheese. Pathetic)