Jonathan Simkin is the founder and CEO of Swyft. He’s also the Director of Product at BookRenter, and formerly founded SwoopThat and HubEdu (acquired by BookRenter). He is also a member of Stanford’s StartX Accelerator Spring 2015 class. Follow him at @jonnysimkin.
Who is your hero?
Gandhi is my hero. He is famously quoted saying; “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” That quote has really inspired me throughout my career.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
The customer is always right. When I first heard this, it was always in the context of service staff. I never thought that it would also apply to my technology companies. I’ve now realized that it’s not necessarily about the customer always being right from a complaint management perspective, but rather that in order to create a business, you have understand your customer and solve a key problem they face. The only way to do this is to talk to your customers and to assume that their perspectives are more in touch with the market realities than your own.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
The biggest mistake I’ve made was spending too much time focusing on the how rather than the why. It’s tempting to spend 16 hours a day working on how to build your company. However, I’ve found it useful to frequently take a step back and to ask yourself if you’re working on solving the right problems. If you understand why you do what you do, and if there truly is a market opportunity, the “how” will be much easier.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
The start of my day is pretty boring, actually. I typically read the news, catch up on email and review my meetings for the day. Depending on my schedule, I might hit the gym for a quick workout before heading to work.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
There is ultimately one reason why companies go out of business: they run out of cash. Cash is your company’s blood flow. Make sure you understand your business, your burn rate and your cash flow well. If you don’t, pay an accountant to explain it to you. It’s money well spent.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
You need to focus. I’ve seen so many companies, big and small, get distracted by multiple opportunities. When this happens, you dilute your ability to truly solve a single problem. Find your biggest opportunity and focus solely on that. Don’t move on to other opportunities until you’re ready.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
I define success as having two key requirements: 1) You must be solving a real customer problem that you are genuinely passionate about, 2) You must generate a sustainable business model that doesn’t require a future cash infusion to grow.