Take the gut instinct that you feel and stick to it. When I usually have a gut feeling about something, there is also usually evidence or legitimate reasoning that supports my comprehension.
Brett Newman is the Co-Founder and COO of Study Abroad Apartments, an online rental marketplace that removes the hassle from finding furnished student accommodation worldwide. Study Abroad Apartments delivers a quality solution for international students to easily book student housing online. Prior to creating Study Abroad Apartments, Brett gained experience working in digital marketing specializing in search engine optimization and interactive investment management. Today, Brett specializes in product management and global real estate supply. During his time at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, Brett worked with Prime Social Group to create events for international students with an emphasis on travel and hospitality such as Abroadfest.com. Brett is an avid traveller, Chicago sports fan, music lover and part-time digital nomad.
Where did the idea for Study Abroad Apartments come from?
The idea presented itself during a semester abroad in Barcelona, Spain. My roommate (now business partner) Ryan Blum and I had a bad experience with housing. We took it upon ourselves to help other students and build SAA to ensure that other students have a better situation than we did.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
If I am in New York my day usually starts at the gym by 5:30am. I like to get a head start by getting in touch with my teams abroad who are anywhere from 6 to 11 hours ahead of me. I catch up quickly and try to answer any important questions by the time I get to the office between 8-8:30. I usually have meetings early between 8-9:30 and weekly chats with various teams to make sure we are keeping on track. After early meetings I take some time to gather myself and answer any important emails that are time sensitive in case people overseas need support. Somewhere after i respond to emails I typically put together a list of how I am going to divide up my day. I break down each day by the hour in my notebook. Even though I have a Google calendar with a schedule in front of me, it helps me to write out my day on paper so that I can optimize any down time with some small items on my to-do list. By breaking down my day into all tasks by the hour (or half-hour) I am better able to stay on pace with short-term goals. Lately, I spend a lot of time working with product. I organize responsibility for each engineer and follow up to make sure all tasks are clear for our dev team. I divide my time between product management and supply. Each week I establish agendas and goals for the supply team and we work as a tightly knit team to accomplish our objectives. Throughout the week I will also try to attend a networking event or meet with some advisors after work. I also try to spend a bit of time cooking at night. When you are first starting out with building your own business, especially in NYC, I recommend learning how to cook.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I think what it takes to bring ideas to life is passion most importantly. Someone can think of something brilliant that would revolutionize an industry, but if they do not feel a burning passion it will never become a reality. To bring ideas to life, I start with research to learn how others have done it before me. I then look toward execution and planning with an emphasis on establishing a time frame. If I have a new plan or idea, I will always give myself a time frame of when I should decide to continue or switch direction.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that excites me is the notion of globalization of technology products. I find all globalization fascinating however, I am very much intrigued by the notion of scaling a product that will work across many borders. Online marketplaces that have the ability and knowledge to cross into various markets is what has interested me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit that makes me more productive as an entrepreneur is understanding what I need to do on a micro level. Each day I spend 10-15 minutes laying out my general tasks for the day in a notebook. If at any point I am deciding where I need to focus my time, I can always look back to various days and find something that I could have missed in my notebook. In other cases, I use this part of my day to think critically on what area of the business I should focus on that will maximize my time with the great possible ROI.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The best advice I could give my younger self would be to take the gut instinct that you feel and stick to it. When I usually have a gut feeling about something, there is also usually evidence or legitimate reasoning that supports my comprehension.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I focus on three things in life that I do consistently. I look to focus on my work, my physical health and my relationships with those closest to me. I think as an entrepreneur, it is important to create a sound culture.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy that has helped grow my business has been working with an amazing team of dedicated professionals who all possess a founders mentality. The Study Abroad Apartments team works endlessly and we all believe in the same vision, purpose and ethics.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure I had as an entrepreneur was during one of the first years running Study Abroad Apartments. I was a senior in college managing the company full time while taking 20 credit hours. Needless to say, I had a lot on my plate but for some reason I decided to invest additional time in another side project that I really liked. While the project worked and we could have seen a sustainable business out of it, in the end it turned out to be a waste of time. It took me away from the core business that I was building. I was able to overcome the downfall of the side project as a moment of wakening. It made me realize early on the importance of keeping your head down and stay focused on the bigger purpose.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
This one is tough to give away and probably sounds a bit silly, but I think there is a huge market for a delivery service that helps people get their credit cards back from bars and restaurants. I even went so far as to call 50 popular bars in New York City to learn how the process works in giving back all left behind credit cards.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I spent recently was on a pair of Allbirds sneakers. They are the most versatile shoes I have ever owned. I forgot my running shoes at home on a recent trip and I was comfortable working out in Allbirds the entire time. I can even dress them up and wearing them to a business casual dinner party.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
One software that helps me be more productive is using a calendar invite tool. I have a crazy schedule and I am constantly in different time zones, so it’s easier for someone to book a time that works for both of us by using my calendar link. Best part is that is saves time often wasted on the back and forth that comes with scheduling.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Right now I am reading a book called “The Founder’s Mentality“. Although I have not finished, I think it does a good job of explaining the internal challenges of fast growth and success.
What is your favorite quote?
“Proud and unbending in defeat, humble and gentle in victory.”
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.