There is always more to educate ourselves on and I encourage the team to seek out ways to improve themselves, their team and the company at large.
Deoné Sulgatti is the founder and chief executive officer of Tengia, where she oversees the company’s vision and growth strategies. Previously, Deoné held marketing positions at several leading businesses including AMI Paperless, Employment Research Institute and The Dreslyn, where she developed and refined her digital marketing and design, content strategy and sales acumen. She also served as the director of business development for The Code Solution, a prestigious Los Angeles-based real estate development firm, where she elevated its national reputation with her talents in account management, acquisitions, entitlements, feasibility, land use, marketing and sales.
Where did the idea for Tengia come from?
It was very organic. While consulting for a real estate development firm, an older, semi-retired gentleman came to the firm and said he wanted to be our lead architect. We were having trouble finding someone who would be able to project manage. Everyone with experience was very expensive -or if very inexperienced, they were affordable. Once this gentleman came in for the interview, I realized that he was probably one of the thousands of individuals who wasn’t yet ready to retire and who held a plethora of knowledge.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up at 6:30 AM and check both my calendar and emails first thing. I answer the urgent emails in the morning and leave the non-urgent ones unopened to address later. I then set all my alerts in order to remember to call people about specific things for that day. After going to the gym for an hour, I’m in the office by around 9 AM. I optimize my productivity by making a to-do list with the most urgent things at the top of my list.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I research very thoroughly to see what the most recent studies are showing what industry trends are the most popular. These can be online articles or forums that help me make informed decisions before committing to anything.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The gig economy is supporting a larger portion of the workforce each day and gives so many people the ability to be their own boss. Making your own hours and charging your own rates allow you to never have to hold a traditional desk job again.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Waking up around the same time every day, whether it is a weekday or a weekend. This has changed my life significantly since I used to think about what I could have accomplished in the hours lost when I slept in. I used to complain that there weren’t enough hours in the day. Now, I make more time to get tasks done.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I was working for a CEO of a company that was promoted for having a startup environment where new ideas were welcome. Although not living up to its expectations of a positive working environment, I definitely learned a few good lessons from that job. Always pay attention to your tone when you delegate tasks and give exact instructions. You can get a lot further with people if you understand we all have different ways of learning. I also realized that it’s important to embrace the way in which others execute tasks. The saying, ‘If you want something done right, do it yourself” doesn’t always hold true. If the process isn’t executed exactly the way I would do it, it doesn’t matter as long as the outcome is the same.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would make sure we had a more planned out road map for the development process. This would have allowed us less stress and more time to perfect some of our features. This is definitely a very exciting and beneficial learning process for the entire team.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to exercise empathy and self-control. Even on the most stressful days, I muster up my composure to keep speaking like a docent while motivating my team. Euphemisms are key!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I constantly evaluate how each department is progressing. Technology is ever-changing and in order to keep up, everyone needs to keep learning and progressing. This goes for our legal team, development team, operations and customer service. There is always more to educate ourselves on and I encourage the team to seek out ways to improve themselves, their team and the company at large.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Needing to be first to market with our concept, we set a very expedited timeline. We were not as prepared for the launch of our landing page as we had anticipated and almost launched when there were still several formatting problems. We pulled an all-nighter working with the development team overseas to check our site every few minutes across various devices. This team effort allowed us to successfully launch our landing page as well as a private beta to the public.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I always thought it would be a cool idea to create a Yelp for office buildings to rate business’ experiences with their building managers and landlords. This can be very beneficial to understand the type of relationship you are about to enter before signing a lease. Knowing whether you will have their support for maintenance and similar issues, can keep your business running smoothly.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I think it’s important to keep a sound mind while running a company and therefore take an interest in personal health. I recently bought glass bottles for smoothies, workout gear and some accessories that make fitness more fun. I have to change things up occasionally in order to keep myself motivated and returning to work with a clear mind. If my workout regimen becomes too routine, I lose interest, which makes it more difficult for me to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Therefore I’ll occasionally buy something new to change up my workout or help me to continuously eating healthy to balance my workout and my work.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Depending on the size of the team, I use Basecamp for managing some of our larger teams and Trello for those smaller. Both project management tools allow me to see what everyone is working on which makes delegation of work more efficient.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’d recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. As a marketing professional or CEO, it can seem like a daunting task to convince people to adopt an idea. Gladwell applies a very methodical/analytical approach to the human psyche; what compels people to action, what starts an epidemic, what can make something go viral. There are some really great theories explained in the book using various case studies; The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, etc. There are key components needed for any trend to reach critical mass. Gladwell also explains how important it is as a business owner to properly identify people’s strengths when trying to grow any business. Utilizing employees the wrong way can really stunt the organic growth of any word-of-mouth campaign. Anyone who wants to create a startup today knows how important credibility and rapport are to the adoption of any concept. Testimonials and the user experience are everything. If you’re at all interested in growing your business, this book should be in your arsenal.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Tina Fey wrote a book called Bossypants that demonstrates a comedic approach to many life experiences and what it takes to get to the top in any industry. Female readers will find her analogies of mansplaining riotous, which I’ve come to appreciate as a female entrepreneur.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.