Peter Sena is the founder and Executive Creative Director of Digital Surgeons, a digital-first creative agency with offices in New Haven, New York City and Vancouver. Peter’s passion lies in creating businesses and experiences that create value for brands and consumers. Follow him @petesena, or connect with him on LinkedIn.
Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
I’m not a huge superlative fan. That being said, I have a few heroes and sources of inspiration in various aspects of my life. My father was the son of parents who came right off the boat from Italy. They barely spoke English and did the best they could to raise my dad and his three sisters. With no formal education he managed to provide a great life for me and my family and he pushed me every day to be better than I’d let myself become. I owe my drive and my motivation to him. He made me hate failure and stop at nothing to achieve my dreams. That’s part of my company’s culture and my life philosophy. I also admire Steve Jobs for his relentless pursuit and vision to make Apple the most innovative brand in the world. I too strive to make a dent in the universe, and give my teams the tools and support to make their own dent.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Don’t listen to the naysayers. Never let someone else tell you what you can or cannot do. I’m not talking about being a rebel or an anarchist, but rather finding your spark and chasing it. My former bosses would tell me all the things that weren’t possible: “Don’t start a business in the recession.” “Don’t open an agency without 10 years experience of working for someone else.” The list of things I shouldn’t have been doing was longer than the list of things I should have been doing. I believe if you have the will and the drive, there is always a way.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Believing there is a “Holy Grail” in business. I used to think there existed a silver bullet, an ultimate answer to the problems I experienced as a business owner, and that I couldn’t quite reach it because of some fault of mine. At one point, I thought the missing puzzle piece was that one key hire. When that person couldn’t manage to solve my problems, I thought maybe I just needed to discover the right tool. But alas, no stateof-the-art platform could address all of the issues that remained at the end of the day. But I pressed on, searching for that one something that would change everything. Understand and visualize your personal and professional goals. Know your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your key people. Don’t lose sight of the “why.”
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I plan how I’m going to attack the day. I look at what my open and closed time blocks are. Things shift and knowing what I absolutely have to complete helps me prioritize my day.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Fast nickels are better than slow dimes. When you are cash poor, call out all the stops and figure out how to reduce costs. If you can do it yourself instead of paying for it, I recommend it. If you aren’t sitting on a nest egg to power through the early stages, making sure you have some form of consulting dollars available is key to keeping things moving. I’d also just recommend in general not to underestimate how expensive it is to start your business. Cash is king in any industry.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Get yourself educated on leadership and growth hacking. Great leaders attract and lead great teams. Growth hacking can help you drive the growth you need no matter what stage you are at. I’d also suggest meditating and reflecting. I like to use guided meditation apps like Headspace or Calm to help me balance the stress and daily grind.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
As Mark Twain said, I think success is making your vocation your vacation. Said differently, it is finding what you love and getting up every day and making a living doing it.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.