Bobby Valentine – Partner at Sociercise

[quote style=”boxed”]Make time for family. It is so easy with iPhones and wireless networking to spend all day on the computer and in the new workspace. Keeping dedicated time with family is important to remember why you work so hard and what really matters in life.[/quote]

Bobby Valentine was born in St. Petersburg, FL in 1978 to a bank VP and homemaker. He is an only child. In 1984 the Valentine family moved from St. Petersburgh, FL to Cleveland, GA where Bobby’s mother, Karla, opened her first retail store in a little cabin in a tourist area. Bobby’s first entrepreneurial experience was at that small store. Behind the store was a field where collard greens were grown and each weekend tourists would want to buy fresh collard greens. Bobby noticed that there wasn’t a way for people to get the fresh greens so he borrowed his dad’s truck and $50 and asked the owner of the field if he could purchase some collards. Bobby sold out of collard greens by Saturday morning and repaid his dad’s $50. The next several weekends he bought more greens and sold out again and again making several hundred dollars in a short Summer.

As the store’s business grew the family decided to find a new location closer to the main area of Cleveland. The new store and current location is in a turn of the century farmhouse and grist mill. Since Bobby was spending hours each day after school at the store he found another entrepreneurial activity…building birdhouses. Using free scrap lumber and expired license plates Bobby created his first true business “Home Tweet Home”, a birdhouse and garden accessories store in 1993. As his experience and creativity grew Bobby entered his more elaborate birdhouses into competitions and eventually won statewide honors through the 4-H program. As Bobby went to college “Home Tweet Home” was retired.

In 2000 Bobby earned a BBA from North Georgia College and State University and landed a job with Equifax, Inc. as a Production Project Manager. During his stint with Equifax he also completed graduate school from Georgia State University earning an MBA in Marketing. In 2004 Bobby left Equifax to rejoin the family business and help grow the company’s online presence and help his mom and ease the burden of his aging father.

In 2007, Bobby’s father passed away and Bobby took on more of the work at the family retail store, Hearts and Flowers Primitives, Inc. In 2008 Bobby married Emily Nunnery from Rock Hill, SC. They actually met through E-Harmony. Bobby’s son was born in 2010 and the couple is expecting another son in March 2013. In 2009 Bobby started his marketing consulting business and met current business partner Tom Vinkler during a project.

Bobby’s current project, Sociercise Real Time Running Races began in October of 2011 with an email from business partner Tom Vinkler. The two partners have yet to meet face to face, although they have spent countless hours on Skype and through email. Sociercise Real Time Running Races was launched on December 13th, 2012 in an early format with future formats on the near horizon that will enable users to schedule their own races and charities to host their fundraising races on the Sociercise platform.

What are you working on right now?

My current project is Sociercise Real Time Running Races. This application for iPhone was released on December 13th as an early version. The early version allows users to compete in real time peer vs peer races. It also serves as a goal setting and tracking system and running log. It lets users share their workout information with friends on Facebook and Twitter. A future version utilizes the real time racing feature to help charity organizations raise money. The fundraising races is the long term future of Sociercise, LLC and will enable organizations to raise money regardless of organization size or geographic location.

Where did the idea for Sociercise come from?

My business partner, Tom Vinkler, and I have always struggled with fitness and exercise, especially running. They found it boring and mind numbing and actually gave the treadmill the nickname “dreadmill”. The thought behind Sociercise was to harness the power and innate desire to compete to help motivate people to better performance and more enjoyment while running.

How do you make money?

The Sociercise business model includes several different revenue formats from app sales and in-app purchases to charity fundraising comissions the company has many different ways to sustain further development as well as increases in revenue.

What does your typical day look like?

I am a work at home dad and also have a retail store in a tourist area so a typical day starts at about 6:30 am to get dressed and ready followed by getting a toddler dressed and off to pre-school. Many days that is followed by a workout then a brief trip to the family retail store to ship orders and track inventory. Finally, after picking up the toddler from pre-school I spend the afternoon nap-time period working on development and marketing of Sociercise. When my wife returns from her job as a third grade teacher I sometimes retreat to my home office to continue work.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Since we live in different countries and have never actually met in person we use cloud based technologies to present new ideas and bring them to life. Thousands of hours were spent on Skype discussing various features and designs of Sociercise Real Time Running Races. The battle of ideas is difficult with two equal partners but it was amazing how with the development of Sociercise that we would alternate the role of the dreamer and the realistic entrepreneur.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

New technologies, especially in the mobile arena. The fact that the team can create an entire business in a virtual office without ever meeting is an amazing thing.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I have been blessed to have good jobs my whole career. I have been entrepreneurial all my life since my family has had a retail store since I was a kid and was able to learn and grow with the business. The most disappointing job I had was during my four years in Corporate America in which I learned a lot about corporate culture that necessarily doesn’t translate to positive employee relationships.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

For my current project I would have planned a little more in advance about the features and drawing out the user interface in a little more detail prior to beginning the actual development.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Make time for family. It is so easy with iPhones and wireless networking to spend all day on the computer and in the new workspace. Keeping dedicated time with family is important to remember why you work so hard and what really matters in life. Also, attending church on a regular basis and being with people of faith can strengthen resolve and bring focus back to what is important.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it? Just one?

Wow, as entrepreneurs we actually thrive on failure. It is what keeps us moving towards the next project, the next ambition. My biggest failure was probably in the early stages of Sociercise when the specifications were not fully fleshed out prior to sending to a development team. This led to serious cost overruns and time delays.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think that a cool new business idea would be to use fingerprint or retina scanning technologies to create a secure password system for websites. Basically just using the scanner in the webcam could secure an image of the retina or fingerprint and secure random passwords would automatically be generated for each website. Then a software program would remember the passwords and just require a fingerprint scan or retinal scan to secure the login credentials.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I would love to teach people fundamentals of economics. During my time with a credit reporting agency I saw thousands of reports of young people that ruined their credit with fleeting purchases. Teachers do not have time to go into economic training because of the other requirements they have to teach. Economic lessons need to be learned in a classroom not necessarily the real world.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I actually participated in a professional bowling tournament and finished next to last. But I do have a perfect game and several near perfect games on my bowling resume.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

Hootsuite –  It allows multiple twitter streams and an easy format to connect with people and respond to tweets and Facebook posts.

WordPress – Maybe not a tool but it is definitely one of the most useful systems out there.

PikToChart – Not used very frequently but it is a great tool for doing infographics and charting.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

As a person of faith I would say that reading scripture on a regular basis is a great way to center yourself and strengthen faith.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

@Fitfluential gives some great info on health and fitness. @Cnet gives info on technology. @FoxNews for up to date news and information.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Every day my toddler gives me something to laugh about. Yesterday it was him trying to take off his own pants and getting stuck.

Who is your hero, and why?

My wife inspires me everyday. She gets up early to go to the school where she teaches 20+ third graders. The responsibility she has for these kids is amazing and the fact that she tries her best to teach the students in spite of the rigid, and to a business person, remarkably inefficient standards and policies. Not only does she keep track of all of their different schedules but she also teaches them what they need to learn. I couldn’t take an hour of it. My wife and all teachers are what keep America going.

What is the best tool to improve my business?

Simply ask the right questions. During time as a marketing consultant I created a list of 101 questions that he asked all of his clients prior to working with them. If they didn’t know the answer they needed to know why. Knowing the right questions to ask about your business is the first step to improving it but sometimes we as entrepreneurs are too close to the business to even know what to ask. My advice…get someone to interview you about your business and be open and forthcoming with the answers. You’ll probably get the answers you need just from hearing the questions.

How do you combine work and family responsibilities?

Time management is the most important thing to remember when working at home and caring for a toddler. Scheduling telephone calls around nap times is often a good idea so long as the nap actually happens. Other things that have to be taken into consideration is that many business things can wait until after the kids are in bed when the house is quiet. Sometimes the most productive work is between 12 and 1 at night because then you have to focus on what needs to get done immediately.


Bobby Valentine on Facebook:
Bobby Valentine on Twitter: @ValentineStrat
Sociercise’s Website:
Bobby Valentine’s Email: [email protected]