Colton, Co-founder & COO, loves the opportunities that Neighbor.com provides it’s community members through either saving money or making money each month. Empowering others and strengthening communities has always been part of his life mantra.
Colton was born and raised in Utah, U.S.A. where Neighbor.com is based. When he realized that he wanted to work in business, Colton started participating in FBLA where he received the national Future Business Leader award. He went on to start his own web design company as well as worked with a South American startup that provided entrepreneurial education to small business owners. During college, Colton worked with his two co-founders, Preston Alder and Joseph Woodbury, to launch Neighbor.com. He later graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Finance from the University of Utah. After working at a local management consulting firm, Colton joined his co-founders as they turned Neighbor.com into a full-time venture.
Since its founding in late 2016, Neighbor.com has grown to provide peer-to-peer and traditional self storage units to users in nearly every state in the U.S.A. The company has been featured in TechCrunch, Inc. Magazine, Business Insider, and other national publications. It has also been named one of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas in addition to receiving the Utah Innovation Award, and BusinessQ Magazine’s Top Startups to Watch in 2018.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Preston, another founder of Neighbor, needed storage around his university. He ended up storing his stuff with a family friend two hours away because storage facilities felt too expensive. He thought it would have been so much more convenient to find someone’s garage only a few minutes away. That gave birth to the idea of a peer to peer storage company based on the Airbnb model.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I manage operations which at a small startup means I have to balance a lot of different responsibilities and tasks. I try to use a calendar to allocate time and book my day based on my highest priorities. I like a calendar because I can drag events and tasks into the future if I didn’t accomplish them the day they were planned. Quarterly planning also helps me decide what important initiatives to work on.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Just do it. Before you start a business, a lot of validation and research needs to be done. However, once you’re operating a startup, you have to have an attitude of testing every idea without trying to think through all the outcomes first. I’m a perfectionist by heart, so this is something I’ve had to learn, but this process allows you to create a feedback loop of trying new things and receiving customer response right away. You don’t waste any time and can rapidly improve your product.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Growth in the sharing economy. The sharing economy will be worth 1.3 trillion in 2020, and that’s just publicly traded companies. It’s a great way to make things more efficient, allowing people to focus on their core competencies. I’m also excited about the storage facility industry. We allow storage facilities to list on our site. So we’re not trying to eliminate them, but trying to help them develop more efficiently monetize their physical assets.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I love checklists. I use them in my personal life and professional life. When there’s a lot going on and your attention goes in a million different directions, it’s helpful to have a list of priorities and small digestible tasks that you can do one by one. It’s better than being overwhelmed and failing to accomplish anything.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be kind to everyone. I was a nice guy in high school, but I wish I would have gone out of my way to talk to more people. You never know what you can learn from others or what impact it will have.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A popular idea in society right now is the quick hack. I love efficiency, but there is no substitute for hard work. You have to put in the long hours when it’s required.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I always ask those I work with, what’s your recommendation? It increases efficiency and gives the person more responsibility. Plus, they’re the expert and they likely have the best solution.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Our strategy has always been to execute faster and better. There are so many people out there with great ideas. We’re not the first ones to have this peer-to-peer storage idea. However, we are the first ones to do it well. Executing quickly and efficiently is more important than a good idea.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As a young entrepreneur, it’s easy to listen to other experts and to take their opinion as gospel. However, that’s only one data point to take into consideration. We’ve made strategic decisions based on one person’s advice when we should have sourced more opinions or just have trusted in our own instincts and knowledge of our industry.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think a lot of businesses will be built around self driving cars, helping them interact with their surroundings, other cars, users, traffic signals etc. If you can be at the front end of innovation, I think there will a lot of opportunity to innovate and grow a business.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I like to buy accessories that make my life more efficient. I just bought a car phone mount so I can take calls and charge my phone while I drive. I also recently bought extra computer chargers, wireless mouses, and monitors so I can come and go from work and home easier.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I started using Trello to organize all my tasks. I like the interface because it shows the categories I’m focused on as well as a list of all the tasks under each category. Another cool feature on Trello is moving tasks through a process. It helps me know where I’m at on every priority.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton M. Christensen. It’s a great book to help you evaluate your personal goals in life and build your own work-life balance.
What is your favorite quote?
Make mistakes of boldness, not of timidity. Brandon Deuitt, Co-founder of MX.
- Productivity tools don’t have to be complicated. A calendar, checklist, or app like Trello can keep your work organized and your mind focused on the most important priorities.
- Success in life and entrepreneurship comes from both working smarter and harder. You should make your life as efficient as possible while also putting in the hard work it takes to succeed.
- Once you’ve validated your business idea, start testing features, new designs, and other ideas right away. If you stay open to customer feedback, you can innovate quickly and make your product even better.
- Learn how to trust your team and enable them to solve their own problems. At the same time, learn how to trust yourself and your own intuition. As you start a business, always test advice against your own assumptions.