Eddie Lou is the CEO and one of the founders of Shiftgig. Prior to that, he was a general partner with OCA Ventures, where he led ten technology investments and had nine board responsibilities. He was the founder of PlanetHVAC, a business-to-business software and service provider to HVAC companies, and started a manufacturing facility in China. He also co-founded and is an executive board member of a non-profit, One Goal Graduation. Follow him @eddieplou.
Who is your hero?
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
“You can’t accomplish anything unless you’re having some fun,” by Chuck Knight, chairman emeritus of Emerson Electric Co.
Chuck told me early in my career that business is like a game but it is the most challenging and most rewarding game in life. He said that if you are going to play the game you must be passionate, and therefore might as well have some fun at it.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
During the dot-com era, my advisors told me to get a bunch of eyeballs regardless of cost. So I hired people quickly and threw a big launch party. When the bubble burst, the company had a high burn rate, nearly impossible fundraising landscape, and customers who were afraid to spend on technology. We stayed alive for another year but I had to let go of the entire team. It was personally difficult letting dedicated staff (with families I had met) go.
Lesson learned: Be sure to manage costs tightly and have a clear pathway to profitability.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I typically check my calendar and emails before an early morning workout and breakfast. This gives me time to exercise and fuel my body while thinking about key objectives and meetings later in the day.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Understand your burn rate and cash position at all times.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Find great partner/s or co-founder/s.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Changing the world, creating jobs, and getting to financial security defines success for me. However, once you “succeed,” there is a new mountain to climb. So be sure to enjoy the journey.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.