Don’t become paralyzed by over-analysis and do not wait until things are perfect before launching. Things will never be perfect, there will always be room for improvement, and that’s part of the process.
Chris Burdick is the Founder and Chief Lemur-Lover at Lemur Bags – a collection of eco-friendly casual canvas bags with one mission: to help save lemurs from becoming extinct. Lemur Bags donates 15% of profits to lemur conservation organizations in Madagascar and around the world that are doing great work helping these amazing but critically endangered animals.
Chris is also a self-proclaimed “car guy” and also founded Gearhead Media – a company providing automotive content, and Automoblog , a grassroots automotive industry, culture, and lifestyle publication, covering news, trends, and technology.
Prior to founding these companies, Chris worked in various positions in IT before realizing he was an entrepreneur at heart. Chris is also an avid world traveler and often works from cafes and coworking spaces around the world, usually spending winter in Thailand and surrounding countries due to what he calls “frostphobia”.
Where did the idea for Lemur Bags come from?
As a serial entrepreneur, I wanted to create a new business that gave back to a cause I cared about. Since I grew up in the Raleigh-Durham, NC area, where the great lemur conservation organization Duke Lemur Center operates, I was inspired by them to help the critically endangered lemurs. And if you’ve ever met a lemur before, you can’t help but fall in love with them. Knowing how critically endangered they are broke my heart, and I kept finding all the organizations who were trying to help them were under-funded, so I made the decision to help however I could.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
There isn’t really a “typical” day – it all depends on what the highest priority is at the time. However, many “normal” days consist of talking with my supplier about new ideas or changes, talking with and responding to customer feedback, thinking about how to better reach the potential customers who would love the bags, and many small logistical aspects of the job such as supply chain management, website changes, finances, and inventory management. I’m also regularly speaking with lemur conservation organizations on things we can do to work together and save the lemurs.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Good old fashioned hard work! When I get an idea and don’t know how to implement it (which is usually the case), I spend a lot of time doing research and asking others via online forums and groups or in person to find out the best ways to go about the process. Many people think starting from scratch and coming up with something from nothing is a scary and overwhelming process (which it often is), but it’s completely attainable with research and diligence.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Eco-fashion and environmentally-friendly products. I’m so happy to see people caring about where their stuff comes from and doing the extra work to make sure it’s sustainably and responsibly sourced. It’s so important as time goes on, instead of turning a blind eye to bad business practices in the name of saving a few bucks.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Keeping distractions away is probably the most important skill to being productive. I used to keep my Facebook and Gmail tabs open while I worked on other things but always found myself distracted at each new notification. I simply keep them closed (it’s harder than it sounds) until I’m finished with the task I’m working on, then I “reward” myself by responding to messages on Facebook or whatever, only after I’ve finished what I’m working on.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t become paralyzed by over-analysis and do not wait until things are perfect before launching. Things will never be perfect, there will always be room for improvement, and that’s part of the process. Too many people (including myself) never even started a project or business because they were afraid it just wasn’t the right time or didn’t know how to start it. None of us are born knowing how to start a business; it’s trial and error – lots of error – and reiteration that allows for success.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Working nearly 100% from cafes and coffee shops is perfectly OK! Seems like everyone I know is unproductive working from cafes most of the time due to the noise and chatter, but I find them to be incredibly comforting, and the noise helps me concentrate.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Meditate, or some sort of mindfulness practice. I often wake up with a million things running through my head, and at least 10 minutes nearly every morning helps me focus on the things that are relevant and identify those that aren’t. It’s easier said than done, but it’s helpful when you get into a regular practice.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or hire out. If you’re running into a problem area on part of your business and don’t know what to do, ask for help! Many other people have gone through similar things and are more than willing to hand out free advice on forums like reddit or Facebook groups. Also, if you suck at something, hire it out. I’m terrible at design; if I designed everything for my business, it’d look like crap. So that’s an area I’m willing to spend money on to get done properly. You don’t have to do everything by yourself.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Supply chain management and inventory projections. This is an area that I’m still working on (it’s super hard!) but making progress on. I got some predictive software to help, but there’s still a lot of human intuition that needs to go into it. So far, I’ve made the most progress by reading strategy on the subject, and good ol’ time-honored fail/iterate.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There are still so many opportunities in software that are yet unfulfilled. So many small to medium businesses are using old antiquated and cumbersome software to manage their business. If you can create a cloud-based all in one solution for them, it’d be easy to sell. One quick idea that comes to mind is a management solution for yoga studios – an all-in-one integrated calendar, appointment scheduling, billing, email and whatever else they need (ask them) would be loads better than the spreadsheet/Outlook/hacked-together mess I see many of them currently using.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Amazon Kindle. Reading articles on my computer tires my eyes and just extends the already excess amount of time I spend on the computer. I use a service called Instapaper that collects and sends web articles to my Kindle automatically, which lets me read it wherever I am and gives me time away from the screen.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Tomato Timer – it uses the Pomodoro Technique to help you be productive by integrating forced breaks into your day. It’s brilliant.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” – it’s not directly business related but helps in both personal and business mindsets about how to mentally and emotionally handle struggles in life. It’s a sort of anti-self-help book that actually makes sense and doesn’t repeat the same self-help nonsense you’ve read a million times and supposed “gurus” reword and sell courses and conferences on.
What is your favorite quote?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
We often find ourselves thinking “it’s just not the right time”, or “after I get this promotion”, or “I think next year it’ll be a better time”. There’s a popular idiom that says “tomorrow never comes”, and it’s true. There’s always a reason we could delay doing the things we really are curious about or that we have always dreamed of doing, and it usually comes down to fear. That’s not to say you should eschew important responsibilities or leave loved ones in a precarious position because of our decisions, but you should recognize yourself repeating these “maybe later” lines and realize that “later” will never come unless you have a specific plan laid out.
• Ditch the long list of to-dos. Grab a post-it note and pen and draw a line half-way through. Then separate the bottom part into three sections. Write your most important and urgent task for the day in the top, and three of the next most important tasks in the spaces below it. Work on that “one big thing” until it’s complete. If you complete that one main task that day, you’ve made a win. This helps prioritize and mentally win the day.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Nobody was born knowing how to do what you’re struggling with, and many people are out there who have done it before and are willing to give free advice. Ask away!
• Stop making excuses based on an underlying fear and realize that those “someday” ideas will never happen if you aren’t proactive about them.
• Get away from the computer – one of the most important things you can do is take regular breaks to let your subconscious process the tasks you’re working on. Tools like the Pomodoro Technique are easy ways of integrating this into your work day.
• Personal and professional mental thought processes are more interconnected than many people think, especially as an entrepreneur. It’s easy for an entrepreneur to not be able to separate their work and personal lives, so it’s extra important to make sure you have balance on both sides.