Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
Definitely my parents. They came to the United States from the Philippines, hardly knowing anyone and with very little money. They came out of it with educations and careers that enabled my sister and me to have opportunities. My mother became a chief resident at Harvard Medical School as a 4’10” Asian woman in the 1960s in Boston. I was fortunate enough to grow up learning from her determination and confidence. I feel very lucky to have had such incredible role models.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
I once asked my mom how she was able to rise above the fact that she was a minority and a woman to achieve her accomplishments. She told me that it was because she never once thought about the fact that she was a minority or a woman, but that she was just the best doctor there. So basically do not negotiate with yourself, sell yourself short or compromise your approach before you even walk into a room.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Our company is fundamentally about our people and bringing in the best talent. Because of that, the biggest mistake I have ever made is hiring someone even though something in my gut told me not to. Because we have grown so quickly, there have been times when we had to walk away from work if we didn’t have enough people to place on the project. Every time we made the decision to hire someone despite some apprehensive feelings, it has come back to haunt us. Do not compromise on hiring, ever. It is a short-term gain with long-term costs.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
Besides giving my husband and children massive hugs to remind me why I do all of this, the first hour of my business day, if not in a meeting, is spent organizing. I look at my calendar and my to-dos and prioritize what I have to accomplish. With two young children, every second counts in my life so I have to make sure I am as efficient and effective as possible.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Be conservative in your projections of cash flow and when receivables come in. We like to approach it with a worst-case scenario lens from an A/R standpoint when we look at our month-to-month so we don’t have to resort to surprising cash calls.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Focus on your people and treat them right. I am a big believer in karmic leadership. Foster a sense of community and family with your team members to engender loyalty and reduce attrition. You want to love what you do, and who you get to do that with is a key influencing factor. We spend the majority of our lives at work, so we should really surround ourselves with people who we genuinely enjoy being around.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success to me is the ability to watch not just our revenue and profits grow, but also to watch people’s careers grow within our firm. The most fulfilling thing about running a business for me is the people, especially seeing our team members proud of what they do and watching them accelerate in their careers.
Additionally, it’s also finding that balance between my family and my career. There was one day when my 7-year-old daughter Kelsey told me that she would love to become an “OnPremmer” when she grows up, and that just about completed my to-do list in life.