Category Archives: Think

Do You Hate Your Job? 5 Tips To Change That

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

“I knew I had to quit when I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning to go to work.”

Those words stuck with me. I heard them from a successful entrepreneur and I think about them almost every day. It’s a quick gut check against the happiness and balance in your professional and personal life.

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard similar words from countless friends and colleagues.

The lawyer that started a legal career because it was a safe and steady job.

The financier that went to wall street because of the big bonuses.

The doctor that attended medical school because the parents said they should.

The consultant that joined a big named firm because of the prestige associated with it.

To the outside world these jobs are normal. In fact, they are celebrated. But to the individual they can sometimes feel like a cage with no escape. However the good news is that I’ve seen people successfully make the switch from a career they hate to a career they love. In all of these situations, there were at least five common themes that enabled these people to make the leap of faith and recalibrate their life for a happier, more successful career.

Hone in on your transferable skills. A friend recently described his job to me. He does “platform sales to financial institutions and hedge funds.” When I asked him what that meant he said, “I’m basically a waiter. My tables are my clients. My dishes are my financial products. My tips are my commission. And my job, is to basically keep my tables happy and answer any questions that the customers may have.” A waiter on wall street. Pretty simple. But a good waiter must have good people skills and good people skills are transferable to any industry. However, it’s not just people skills that are valuable. Organization, communication, and leadership are also very important. We sometimes take these intangibles for granted, but if you can hone in on your strongest transferable skills then you can figure out where else they might be applied in a setting that you enjoy.

Leverage your transferable knowledge.  Another friend of mine has been working in commercial real estate for the past few years. When he took a sales leadership position at a new technology startup, someone asked me, “what does a commercial real estate broker know about startups?” I said, “not much. But he knows more about real estate sales than anyone I know and for a technology startup that is focused on the real estate market, that’s a pretty big asset to have.” Sometimes a career change isn’t as big of a change as you think it is. If you have deep industry knowledge it’s likely that there are multiple opportunities and jobs that could benefit your experiences.

Try something new. I recently saw a Facebook status that said “Learning how to code. I’m a nerd and I love it.” In a million years I would have never guessed this person to learn to code or to even know what “ruby on rails” means. In school, you’re required to take classes in different disciplines. But just because school is over it doesn’t mean you should stop exploring new horizons. Take chances. Open new doors. Learn something new because you might actually enjoy it and it may very well lead to a new, professional path.

Ask for help. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help when help is needed. Sometimes it’s easy to let pride get in the way but as someone once told me, “ducks that quack get fed.” If you want to make some changes but don’t know how then simply pick up the phone, write an email and share your thoughts with someone. It’s human nature for people to help one another but no one can help you unless they know you are looking for it. So don’t be shy. Ask for help.

Recognize the difference between quitting and recalibrating. I wonder what Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerburg’s parents thought when they decided to drop out of school. Is that considered quitting? If it is then I plan to quit something as often as possible. There is a big difference between giving up and realigning your goals and objectives. Sometimes people are afraid to “quit their job” because it’s viewed as just that, quitting. But the thing is, it’s not. If you have a game plan and a strategy in place then you owe it to yourself to “quit” so that you can recalibrate your path to success and happiness.

Follow me on Twitter at @DanReich.

Startup CEO: Would You Max Out Three Credit Cards To Start A Business?

Image representing Alec Lynch as depicted in C...

Image by None via CrunchBase

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Would you max out three credit cards, spend your life savings, and take on loans from family and friends all for some cool website idea? In January 2008 Alec Lynch did just that and started a freelance marketplace in his garage called DesignCrowd.

Today, Alec and his team announced a new round of financing putting the company’s total fundraising to date at $6.3 million. Back in March, I was able to spend some time with Alec to hear about how he took his small garage-based startup from Sydney Australia and $60,000 in debt, to multiple locations worldwide and $1 million per month in revenue.

Dan Reich: What were you doing before DesignCrowd?
Alec Lynch: I studied Bachelor of Information Technology at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).  I loved it and did well academically (I was awarded a $36,000 scholarship and the University Medal).  When I graduated from UTS I was 20 and started my first business with a friend from UTS (Adam Arbolino who studied a Bachelor of Science in IT).  Our business was online CRM software and, while it ultimately failed, we learned a lot of good lessons.  After this, I went to work in strategy consulting at Booz & Co where I worked for 2 years.  While I was there I had the idea for DesignCrowd.  In 2007, a few weeks after scoring a promotion, I quit my job at Booz and moved back home to live with my mum and start DesignCrowd.

Reich: What gave you the idea for DesignCrowd?
Lynch: While I was working in strategy consulting at Booz I was constantly looking at different industries.  I had a personal interest in the design industry, as I’d been building websites since I was 14 and I could see three key problems in the traditional design industry: for small businesses buying design it was 1) slow 2) expensive and 3) risky (you never knew what you were going to get back).  One example that highlighted these problems for me was the release of the London Olympics logo in 2007.  It cost £400,000, took one year to make and was absolutely panned by the public and the media.  I thought to myself  ”wow, imagine if they had run a global design contest for £40,000 or even £10,000?”.  I knew they would’ve received thousands of designs and ideas from around the world and saved half a million dollars.  At the same time, I could also see a lot of friends graduating with degrees in creative disciplines but struggling to find work.  Essentially, I could see the dynamic for a marketplace that could disrupt the traditional design industry.

So is Alec and his team disrupting the traditional design industry? According to Techcrunch, “the company currently has over 250,000 registered users in 197 countries, including 100,000 designers and says it recently hit $12 million in design projects through its site, a figure that it expects to exceed $20 million in 2014.”

When I asked Alec back in March what his ultimate goals were, he said “our goal is to pioneer crowdsourcing around the world.”

And with the latest round of financing of another $3 million it looks he is one step closer to that goal. Not bad for someone that maxed out three credit cards and moved back home wit his mum to start some nifty website called DesignCrowd.

Startup CEO: How To Build A Double Sided Marketplace In the Fashion Industry

Textile Supplier with President George W. Bush

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Websites like eBay and Amazon have transformed the way people buy and sell products. With a current market cap of $68B and $151B respectively, it’s clear that efficient and highly engaged marketplaces between buyers and sellers can provide real value to both parties.

A new NYC based startup realized the same marketplace dynamic could be applied to a different part of the retail value chain, and in a very specific but necessary category: textiles. Until recently, textile suppliers from around the world had no way to conveniently sell their products in a global marketplace.

I caught up with Benita Singh, the CEO of Source4Style, to learn more about how she is building an online marketplace for a very interesting but critical part of the fashion business.

Dan Reich: There are hundreds of online marketplaces in existence today. Alibaba.com is one example. When did you realize there was a need for a textile marketplace?

Benita Singh: Throughout my career, I spent a lot of time at trade shows, on expensive sourcing trips and even on sites like Alibaba. And it wasn’t unusual for a two-week sourcing trip to India to result in finding only one new supplier. So I learned early on that it was a highly-fragmented market.

At the same time, many of my “best finds” were suppliers that didn’t showcase at the biggest trade shows. And their online presence was limited to a three-page static content site.

We then started to do some research on the market opportunity. In one of our surveys with independent designers, we heard that they spend up to 85% of their time sourcing and navigating the complex textile supply chain. And among the larger fashion brands, we saw that since 2008 travel budgets on the production side of the business were dropping. Couple all these industry trends with the rise of B2B marketplaces and we saw a clear opportunity.

Reich: Any entrepreneur that has built a double-sided marketplace will tell you how hard it is. How are you building both the supply and demand for Source4Style?

Singh: At the beginning, we focused exclusively on building up the supply side of the marketplace. In our case, that was getting a critical mass of textile mills onto the platform. Within three months, we were working with suppliers in over 30 countries. We learned that we must have a baseline of supply before we could go to the demand and start the engine.

We’ve also learned that the two sides of your marketplace may very well have two very different reasons for wanting to be part of your platform. For our buyers, it’s about discovery and access. They want to be able to replicate the inspirational experience of walking a trade show floor 365 days a year, and that’s how we present Source4Style to them.

Our suppliers on the other hand want a more practical tool to help them streamline their leads, follow up with potential buyers and track conversions from sample requests to purchase orders.

It’s critical to learn the value proposition for each side of your market. For our buyers, we have to effectively merchandise and market. For our suppliers, we have to really focus on building a great SaaS platform for them to help manage their global business.

Finally, your influential first adopters can help you grow both sides of the marketplace. Some of our buyers bring their suppliers onto the platform because they want to use Source4Style to manage all of their sourcing. These buyers are also offering case studies that are inspiring others in the industry to give us a try.

Reich: You had to build a global business pretty quickly. What challenges did that entail and how did you overcome them?

Singh: Sourcing is inherently global, so yes, we had to become an international business pretty immediately. Operationally, we built a dynamic platform that allows buyers and sellers to confirm final pricing before proceeding with a purchase order. This accounts for currency fluctuations in the 36 countries where our suppliers are now based. We also brought on local agents in key markets like India and Italy who help us to both onboard new suppliers and ensure that their collections and data are kept up to date.

We have a global market on the buy side as well. And with a small team, we have to provide top-notch service around the globe. This isn’t easy and it means our phones are ringing around the clock. But I consider it the best incentive to grow quickly and intelligently!

Our next steps are to translate Source4Style.com and optimize our platform in key markets as well.

Benita’s work is paying off. In less than two years Source4Style has created a presence in over 76 countries. More recently, they partnered with The Council of Fashion Designers of America to provide their members with “concierge-level access to their comprehensive online sourcing marketplace.”

From Law To Liquor: How One Corporate Attorney Left Law To Start A Luxury Tequila Company

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Over the past few months I’ve heard the same brutally refreshing remarks from a handful of friends: They all want to quit their job as a lawyer so that they can pursue a business of their own. As one corporate lawyer friend put it, “it’s rewarding to help my clients with their business but I think it would be entirely more satisfying if it were a business of my own.”

This is one of the reasons a new tequila company called Qui Tequila was launched. Pete Girgis, a once corporate attorney, felt the same way and decided to leave his corporate gig so that he could launch a tequila company. Pete put it this way.

“I was at a big firm where I felt like a cog in the wheel.  There wasn’t a sense of creation.  Growing up, my father was a small business owner who owned liquor stores that I managed while in school. I had a passion for the spirits business and was lucky to have met my cofounders while practicing law. We are like brothers.  We saw a great opportunity in the luxury tequila market. Now every time I walk into a bar or restaurant and see someone enjoying Qui, it is incredibly satisfying.”

Pete’s leap of faith to start his own business is now paying off. His tequila is now carried by dozens of liquor stores like Sherry-Lehmann, Bottlerocket Wine & Spirits, Park Ave Liquor Shop, Chelsea Wine Vault and prestigious hospitality venues like the Bowery Hotel, the Standard, Lure Fishbar, Casa La Femme, Darby, 1OAK, the General, and La Cenita.

Although hard work and hustle are two key ingredients to Pete’s success, he was able to share some more tips for future x-lawyers and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Education Matters. Although he doesn’t practice law anymore, Pete’s academic background as a JD/MBA provided him with critical building blocks to build his business.

“If I had to do it over, I would have still studied law and business. Starting a successful business is incredibly challenging and big businesses can have lots of complexities. I’m a firm believer that a strong foundation in the business and the legal worlds only helps your likelihood of success.”

Create a unique product. Pete and his team spent a lot of time meticulously developing a product that they would be proud of and the once lawyer is now a full blown tequila connoisseur.

“On the product side, Qui is the first Platinum Extra-Añejo Tequila in the world. So after the tequila is made, it rests in French Bordeaux and American Whiskey barrels for three and a half years.  This aging process gives it a rich flavor, character and beautiful aroma. Then we filter it 9 times and distill it a third time for an incredibly smooth finish. No one has done that before and as a result, we just won Gold in the Spirits of the Americas Competition.”

Have a good distribution strategy. In the world of liquors and spirits, it is incredibly difficult to stand out. Pete and his partners figured they could create a unique product and distribute it in a competitive landscape by targeting specific market segments.

“We knew that New York was one of the most challenging spirits markets in the world, but if we could win here, we could go anywhere.  We set out to create a brand that was more elegant, sophisticated and cosmopolitan then the rest with a juice that was equally as refined.  So far, Qui has had great traction in the fashion, film, music and art worlds because of our focus on strong product-market fit and distribution.”

So if you are thinking about leaving your corporate job to start your own business, just remember that hard work, hustle and good planning can pay off. And then maybe you too will see your product in a nice window display like the one above.

Who Gives You Advice?

A few days ago I was at The Barclays golf tournament watching Jason Day as he was about to tee off with his three wood.

(above: Jason Day is a professional golfer that plays on the PGA Tour)

He was standing at the 5th hole tee box analyzing his shot and thinking about what club to use. These are the same steps that he, and probably every other golfer does before they hit the ball. The only difference however is that he is a professional and most other golfers, like me, are far from it. So I really started to laugh when I overheard the following conversation between Jason and some seemingly out-of-shape, mildly drunk, pompous golf spectator.

Golf spectator: Hey Jason, you’re not using your driver, huh?

Jason Day: Hey Buddy, that’s why you’re on the other side of the ropes.

Everyone was laughing including the genius that tried to give golf tips to the golf pro. Jason also had a laugh and then softened the blow a bit to save the guy from pure humiliation.

Jason Day: All good man, I’m just kidding. Thanks.

Too bad he wasn’t kidding.

There are many critics out there and it seems everyone has some advice to give. Sometimes you have to stop and think about where that advice is coming from.

The corporate ladder climber that offers advice on startups.

The single person that offers advice on relationships.

The broke person that offers advice on money management.

The drunk amateur that offers advice on golfing.

When it comes to taking advice the best critic is you. Listen to yourself first. Trust your instincts. Occasionally you can and should listen to others but understand where they are coming from and where they’ve been. Jason’s golf critic was some 300 pound fat dude drinking a beer. Of course he wasn’t going to listen to him.

If you are getting outside input from someone first think about why they are uniquely suited to add value to your situation. If you can’t think of anything meaningful then you’re probably just listening to the guy  outside of the ropes.

Who gives you advice?

Why Borat Is My Hero. A Strange And Uncomfortable Hero.

“I like to ride wild bull!”

The woman looked at me like I was a nut job.

“In my country, I ride wild bull. My teacher help.”

Her eyes were still glued to my face. She didn’t know what the hell was going on. After all, stood before her was a 16-year-old who was..Russian? American? She had no idea and neither did I.

I was trying to pretend like I was from some foreign, made up, Eastern European country. Two years later I would see Borat on television and wonder to myself if I ever encountered him on the street.

I was speaking like Borat. Some made up, nonsensical european dialect. This was before Ali G came out.

I was traveling the country on a teen tour with some friends from high school. We started off in Montana, made our way up to Seattle, down the west coast to Southern California, then to Ensenada Mexico on a cruise, and ended up in Las Vegas. As if the trip didn’t provide enough excitement on its own, I needed to spice things up by invoking some strange persona that only belongs on a stage before a crowd of tomato-throwing hooligans. I’d realize later that this wasn’t so far from the truth. At least the part about standing on a stage before a large audience.

Everywhere we went I’d engage with random strangers and introduce myself.

“Chhheloo, my name is Borris” (I had never seen Ali G or Borat until this point in my life).

“Hi Borris,” said almost everyone.

Then the real fun started.

Once their shields were down and they were open to conversation, I just jumped to it.

“Do you like to ride wild bull?” or, “Why are you wearing those funny shoes?” or [insert something ridiculous here].

The things that came out of my mouth made absolutely no sense but the people remained engaged. They were intrigued and wanted to know what this wild bull thing was all about. I think they really wanted to know what was going on, who I was, and where the hidden cameras were.

The charade continued. From cowboys in Montana to strippers standing on Las Vegas Boulevard, many people had the opportunity to meet, and react to, Borris.

Including Steve.

Steve was a person I met on the top deck of our Carnival cruise ship.

The Carnival Cruise ship docked at the Ensenada marina.

He was a short, skinny guy with blonde hair just mingling about with the other boat guests. I figured he was a good a target to stir up some nonsensical conversation with. I was dead certain his reactions would be different from the cowboy and stripper but that’s what made it fun.

“Chhello,” I said as I did 50 times before, in that strange accent. “My name is Borris, whut iz your name?”

“Chhello Borris! My name is Vladimir.”

My brain started, “What the..”

He responded with the same accent. For all I knew he was actually from the real country I was mocking, wherever that is. I started to get nervous. It was all fun and games but now I was blatantly insulting some guy’s culture and language. As the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I don’t take that kind of thing lightly either.

“uhh…hi Vladimir.”

Now I was committed.

Before long we were talking about wild bulls, Russia, and some other arbitrary topics. The conversation got very uncomfortable, very fast, until I just broke my cover.

“Hey man, I’ve been kidding the whole time. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.” I felt better but still equally as guilty.

“My name is Dan and I’m really from New Jersey.”

He started to laugh. I couldn’t tell if he thought it was funny or was about to throw me off of the boat.

“Dude, it’s all good. My name is Steve and I’m a comedian from L.A.”

The next thing I knew he was telling me about his life, his career as an aspiring comedian, and the comedy show he was scheduled to perform later that night in front of the entire cruise ship. He was part of the ship’s entertainment and was supposed to do stand up in front of the 2,500 passengers.

“Dan, why don’t you do the show with me later?”

I thought about it for a moment.

Am I funny? Nope. Am I a good public speaker? Nope. Am I ever going to see these people again? Nope.

“Alright I’m in.”

Later that night my friends were showering up, changing, and getting ready to attend the ship’s 8pm evening activity in the main theater. A theater that seated all 2,500 passengers.

I was also getting ready to attend the show but also getting ready for the biggest public appearance of my life.

Behind the stage Steve conducted a pre-game ceremony with me. It was like we were about to head on to the soccer field and play for the state championship only we were two people, not eleven. He even said some prayers like many sports teams do when they huddle up.

Then the theater speakers came on and started to speak to the crowd.

“And now I’d like to welcome…”

The host for the night called our names and on we went.

The lights were extremely bright as I looked out into the crowd. And there they were. All 2,500 people from the boat. Staring at us, just waiting for us to be funny as comedians should be. I was in an anything-but funny mood once I saw all of those people.

The show went on…

He did some act that had to do with the Titanic and Leonardo Dicaprio. I did something related to Borris.

The audience applauded, we walked off and I remembered thinking about how horrible and awesome the experience was. It was both terrifying and exhilarating, but most of all it was uncomfortable.

At that moment I realized that the most interesting and opportunistic experiences come from situations that are both unexpected and uncomfortable. We find our best moments when we take the path less traveled and when we live life without conforming to the status quo. I could have sat in one of those 2,500 chairs and watched Steve with my friends. Instead, I joined Steve on stage for 20 minutes. A brutal but very exciting 20 minutes.

Steve gave me his card and told me to call him so we could develop a standup routine together. He wanted me to join him in Los Angeles full time. I put it in my pocket but had no intention of calling him. I didn’t think I was funny but at that moment I realized that life was.

The boat arrived back in California. We got off and I continued on with the strange Borris character.

Strange indeed. Just like this post.

Publish.