Jessica Gonzalez is an entrepreneur with a knack for bootstrapping. Eight years ago, she moved back into her parents’ home and began working three jobs so she could start InCharged while retaining 100 percent ownership, operating without debt and with positive cash flow and using no external funding since day one. With InCharged technology, consumers can plug in their mobile devices for a free recharge while the brand that sponsors the charging station can present messaging in a non-obtrusive way. Follow them @InCharged.
Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
My hero is my dad. As a single father, he raised three kids from age 10 on. My dad managed a lot. He always made sure we had everything we ever needed and taught us about budgeting. But he also made sure to take us on adventures and balance the serious side of life with knowing how to have fun. I attribute everything I have to the way he raised us. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have the structure and motivation that I do in my day-to-day life.
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 think the best piece of advice I received was: “Work on the business, not in it.” Early on in my career as an entrepreneur, I remember being offended by the phrase “Jill of all trades. master of none.” I thought this was somehow a derogatory label. But I realized later that it wasn’t. For example, as a business owner, I need to know enough about SEO to be sure that I am moving in the right direction with my strategy, and then hire a professional to execute that strategy. I like to think of myself as the conductor of a symphony; I know a little about each instrument, but I am truly only a master of understanding how they all work together. I work every day to become a master in business and in the act of running a business — not just a master of the particular product that we produce.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
I think the biggest mistake I ever made in my business was hiring people and expecting them to somehow know exactly what I wanted. Early on, I remember being very focused on growing sales. I thought if I added a sales director, they would have all the answers and, somehow, our sales would magically grow. Sixty-thousand dollars and zero sales later, I realized that wasn’t the case. In order for me to get what I wanted, I needed to do it myself first to truly understand what I needed from someone else. Only then could I hire the right person and train them to do what I needed them to do. In this way, I managed to take the $120,000 per year that I had allocated to a “sales director” (who never managed to get us any new sales) and instead invest it in three new employees to take his place. Working together, they managed to execute and deliver in a way that provided return on investment for us.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
The first thing I do every day is jump straight into the hardest thing on my list. I know that early in the day, I have the most clarity and focus that I’ll have for the rest of the day. I am able to complete that project and avoid procrastination later in the day, when my mind is full and my eyes are tired.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
I started my business in my old bedroom after moving back home at 25. I worked three jobs to fund it and spent every last second of my waking hours working to develop and grow my business. What helped me with cash flow early on was pretty simple: borrowing things instead of buying them (whenever I could), and doing as much myself as I could manage. For example, hiring a consultant to provide SEO services for my company at the time would have cost $2,000 a month, and I couldn’t justify that expenditure. So, I learned the basics over the course of about eight hours, and I was able to launch my own PPC and SEO campaign for just $300, which was what it cost to take the day off and teach myself about SEO.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Take a business owner out to lunch and ask them all the questions you have. In 2017, whenever we have a question, everyone’s solution is “Google it.” But I am here to tell you: nothing beats a good hour of getting real-world advice from a business expert who’s actually running a business.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success to me is being able to spend time with my baby boy every morning and put him to sleep every night. I have been able to delegate enough with the business that I have the time and energy for my personal life and family, which is extremely important to me. And on top of that, taking time for myself allows me to really enjoy running my business when I am at work.