Jake Goldman is President of 10up, a full service digital agency that makes web publishing and content management simple and fun. At 10up, he serves name brand clients like TechCrunch, ESPN, Consumer Reports, NBC Universal, and Google. In 4 years, Jake bootstrapped 10up from one to more than 100 full-time employees. Follow him at @jakemgold.
Who’s your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
During one of my more management roles in a consultancy, the Vice President of Business Development told me, “If your business is selling people’s time and you’re not consistently looking for your next hires, you’re just swirling the drain.” It really drove home that owning and growing an agency requires a continuous commitment to adding new people to the team, or being ready to add new people to the team, when the time comes.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
One of my biggest mistakes was waiting too long to terminate an employee who created friction within the company and didn’t produce quality work. Letting employees who aren’t a great fit for the company hang around too long negatively impacts the company’s culture and other employees’ morale.
There was also a time when I undervalued regular one-on-one time and relationship building with direct reports, often skipping check-ins and one-on-ones during busy weeks. Consequently, a couple of strong players exited the company. I’ve since adjusted my priorities to emphasize the softer side of the relationship between employer and employee.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I spend the first hour noodling my priorities and challenges without the distraction of email and instant messages. My personal routine includes driving to a nearby coffee shop for a caffeinated drink (a pleasant drive and sipping my drink helps me collect my thoughts and parse out priorities before digging into more granular tasks). Even as a remote worker, it seems the “morning commute” is inescapable!
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Understand your overall financial position and the value of your time. Be realistic about your priorities.
I’ve encountered far too many entrepreneurs who think that big picture vision, going to conferences, brainstorming their businesses and building ethereal partnerships is what a CEO or owner should be focused on from day one of operations. I vehemently disagree. You’re employee No. 1, and you should be focused on the job eventual employees No. 2 through 10 (and beyond) will eventually need to do. Think about it this way: as a 50-person company, what percentage of your team should be working on long-term strategy, culture and partnerships? Maybe five employees or 10 percent of the team? Then why would you, as employee No. 1, spend more than 10 percent of your team’s time on that (as the only employee)?
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Figure out the things you don’t need to do yourself and can afford to delegate, and figure out how to delegate them so you can spend more time focusing on harder questions and problems.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
As the founder and owner, success is knowing that I can pull away from my company — whether it’s for a month or the rest of my life — and that it will continue to thrive.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.