Over the weekend, I saw a request for an interview for an upcoming book. Not being one who turns down an opportunity to run my mouth, I jumped at the opportunity. The interview, conducted by Daintry Springer of Black Sharp & Company, was a lot of fun and some great questions were asked. To that end, I decided to post it. Enjoy!
1. Did you quit your job or get fired and then start ImagineDesign?
It depends on who you ask. Although my wife insists that my quitting was unprovoked, it was really the result of an ultimatum. Admittedly, I was slacking off from my day job as the number of clients and subsequent workload grew, so part of me saw it coming. One morning, I made it into the office about 30 minutes late, only to find my supervisor at my desk waiting for me. She told me, under no uncertain terms, that if I chose to continue this venture of mine, I would have to consider that day my last.
I distinctly remember walking down H Street in NW DC that afternoon, with my possessions in hand and a smile on my face, wondering what the hell I had just done.
2. Why did you choose to start ImagineDesign?
I spent my life, up to that point, hoping that an opportunity would come my way. I kept my eyes open and my commitments few, in hopes that my destiny would come and sweep me away. After running out of patience, and reflecting on what a stupid idea that was, I decided to go and make my own opportunity. I started out with no money, no credit, no business experience, no partners, no clue how I was going to build this idea in my head. I think I had $14 in the bank on the day I left my full-time job. Seriously, it was not a bright idea. Whenever I’m asked what it takes to start a business, the first thing out of my mouth is “a patient spouse”.
3. What do you most need in terms of business support?
I run a graphic design firm. With that said, it should be painfully obvious that, being the creative type, I know nothing about how to manage finances. I had to do it myself for the first few years and screwed it up, no matter how precise or organized I tried to be. The first person I hired was an office administrator. She takes care of my schedule, books, legal obligations, etc. It was probably the biggest single leap this company made so far.
4. What motivates you every day to work for yourself?
I’m not sure. Stubbornness? An insatiable curiosity to see exactly how far I can go? Or an all-too-clear reality of what my options really are? It could be all of those things, but I know one thing for sure: whatever pushed me to work 70 hours a week for the past five years isn’t slowing down!
5. What is the best tip you could share with people starting their own businesses?
In addition to the aforementioned spousal requirement, I urge those starting out to prepare for entrepreneurship with the same sober importance as adopting a child. When you’re in it, you’re in it. Allow yourself no excuses, no exceptions, no vacations and no alternatives.
6. Did you write a business plan?
I read somewhere, as I’m sure we all do, that the first thing you should do when starting a business is to write a business plan. I took that advice very seriously, and started on my masterpiece: a 34-page document that clearly outlines that I had no idea what I was talking about. I still have it and read it on occasion when I feel like I’m taking myself too seriously.
Honestly, I see the need for one, but running a business by the seat of my pants was far more exciting than doing things the right way, so I went without one until I was convinced to develop a barebones plan two years ago.
7. Who are your business mentors?
Really, there are too many to mention, and they’re not just business associates. My wife has an uncanny business sense, my daughter has a way of seeing through complex, trapezoidal issues with her unique perspective – or naiveté – whichever you choose to call it. I think that every relative, friend, client and colleague I’ve had has left an indelible mark on my career, and I hope that, one day, I’ll be able to pay it forward.
8. Where do you work from?
ImagineDesign started out as a desk in a second bedroom. From there I added a table and a bookcase and kept it that way for a few years. When business got to be too much for me to handle and I needed to hire a design staff, I shared office space with a friend of mine for a year. Two months ago, I signed a lease for a much bigger space in an office building and plan to stay here. I have a lot more furniture than a desk, table and bookcase now, and will not move unless I absolutely have to.
Or unless I need a bigger space. Then I may be tempted. 🙂