I believe in making things happen and maintaining a level of flexibility so that if an idea is deemed to be “incorrect” we can quickly back out of it and focus on another direction.
Upon graduation from Franklin & Marshall College in 2006 (and a brief stint in New York City), Cole Zucker moved to Shanghai, China to work for a Chinese factory that specialized in various sustainable building materials.
In 2010, Cole saw a great opportunity for market disruption in the LED lighting market and started GREEN CREATIVE with his business partner, Guillaume Vidal. Given Guillaume’s background in manufacturing, it was decided that Guillaume would stay in China and manage the manufacturing side and that Cole would move back to the US (San Francisco) and build out the sales and distribution side.
The company has grown extensively and is now a major player in the LED lighting market, known for innovation, speed to market, and customer service.
Cole spends his free time training for triathlons. He is also active in philanthropy and participates in different roles across a number of nonprofits focused on at risk youth in California. In addition, Cole is an active member of his local YPO chapter.
Where did the idea for GREEN CREATIVE come from?
Guillaume Vidal and I were both working in lighting and recognized that LED technology would be a major market disrupter. Given the lack of pure LED lighting companies in the market, we felt that there was significant opportunity to build an LED lighting brand and go after the US market.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Every day is different but my most important responsibility is to ensure the customer experience is as good as possible. Whether its working with our VP of sales to better penetrate an existing or new customer, our VP of operations to work on improving our warehouse delivery time, or our Controller to improve specific accounting related metrics. Originally, my day was very much stuck in the weeds of the business as it was necessary to grow the business from the ground up. My day to day now is more focused on areas where I can drive value and build strategy with my business partner.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life through massive action. I believe in making things happen and maintaining a level of flexibility so that if an idea is deemed to be “incorrect” we can quickly back out of it and focus on another direction.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Lighting controls is an area that excites me as it is the next step in the technology curve for lighting. Right now, there are a number of manufacturers who focus on this but there is no standard technology platform at the moment so there is great opportunity.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Waking up every day to run, bike, or swim. It is a form of meditation for me and allows me to clear my mind before getting the day started.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Follow your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Many entrepreneurs give up significant equity as they perceive raising rounds throughout the life of the company is a necessary step for success. I believe that bootstrapping and focusing on reaching profitability at all costs is a great exercise that toughens the organization from the start and creates a culture of resiliency.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
This may not be something that I do over and over but one area that is super critical of any business is establishing the right accounting systems and processes from the beginning. This is an area that should be invested in right away. Without a focus on this critical backbone of the company, it will be very challenge to grow an organization out of mom and pop status.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
A willingness to get our hands dirty, no matter how much mud needs to get cleaned up. From the start, we were doing all the roles necessary to grow the business and there is no job or task that we would consider below us. If it means helping out to compute commissions at the end of the month because an accountant is not able to finish on time due to having a full plate, I am more than happy to pitch in anyway I can.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We hired a VP of sales who was not a good cultural fit and we kind of knew it even during the interview, but we were desperate to fill the position. Once it was evident that our sales team was not going to support this person, we had to quickly remove them (never a pleasant experience) and start searching for a new profile.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
All in one mens skincare products that contain toner, moisturizer, anti wrinkle cream, and spf. A consolidating product that suits the needs of many men. Most guys don’t focus on using products and they should as most guys don’t want to look older anymore than most women.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I recently spent was on an amazon echo. What a life simplifier!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Apple Notes, it connects to my phone and computer and allows me to generate reminders and ideas all throughout the day no matter where I am.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Mistakes Millionaires Make”. This book taught me the significance of focusing on risk mitigation and ensuring a plan B was properly in place, something that most entrepreneurs learn the hard way.
What is your favorite quote?
It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow. But of course, without the top you can’t have any sides. It’s the top that defines the sides.