Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
There are so many heroes that I’ve looked up to throughout my life and my career. I’ve never met most of them. However, I’d like to recognize my grandmother for her pragmatism, independence, honesty, conviction and her ability to always find the humor in everything. I strive to emulate these qualities. They have had a major impact on how I approach my business and how I’m able to react to both the positive and negative developments that happen on a daily basis.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
My first mentor, Jerry Sherlock, and my grandfather, Ron Portnoy, both gave me the same advice at different points in my life: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” No one is going to hand you anything and never assume that others know what you want. Never be afraid of asking for something; the worst answer that you can get is “no” and then you’re right back where you started.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
My biggest mistake was procrastination. After I had the idea for the New York Code and Design Academy, I was terrified of leaving my steady and successful career in finance to launch a startup. The fear of failure was a constant, negative roadblock to getting started. After some time, the fear subsided and I realized that even in failure, I could return to my previous career and find a job. Once I realized that there were safety nets in place, I was able to make the leap into entrepreneurship. All entrepreneurs must confront that decision and everyone works on their own timeline. My biggest mistake was taking too long to get to the decision to launch.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
My first boss told me that the key to success was being the first one in the office and the last one to leave. In the beginning, this was intended to demonstrate my commitment and work ethic. It has since evolved into a habit. When I arrive at the office in the morning, I spend the first hour reading the news, catching up on emails and planning my day. It’s that quiet hour before everyone arrives when I am most productive.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
When capital is tight, cash management is critical. During the first four years of the NYCDA, I managed every dollar of incoming and outgoing cash and could tell you to the dollar the amount of money in our bank account. I kept track of everything on a Google spreadsheet. It wasn’t the most efficient process, and there are new products out there that claim to help small business owners manage their cash flow, but I was comfortable with my system, it worked and it drove a sense of urgency that revenue and profit were of the utmost importance.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
That difficult decision you’ve been flip-flopping on for three weeks? Make the decision after reading this sentence, execute the action and move on to the next problem.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Entrepreneurs define success differently. To some, success is the financial reward of a profitable enterprise or an exit. Though financial success was always important to me, success was more an attitude that I felt when I saw my customers truly enjoying our classes and using the skills they learned to improve their lives. Their success was my success and that feeling was worth more than anything.