Eli Mechlovitz – Owner of Glass Tile Store

[quote style=”boxed”]I use actions, not words. A lot of people talk and think all day, but few actually take a project and make it happen until it’s done.[/quote]

Eli Mechlovitz is the owner of Glass Tile Store which revolutionized the way tiles are sold and bought online. The 30-year-old NYC native is happily married and blessed with three girls and a boy. He swears he ate tiles in milk as a kid instead of cereal because he was already running the family tile business as early as 17. Getting his hands wet in the family business early on proved to be useful in sharpening his business acumen, because he started an online mosaic business in 2005 upon seeing a niche in a creative space. He also built an enormous warehouse and operation for the tile distribution center and started importing and designing his own tile lines, which he sold online.

Glass Tile Store is the first ever online tile store to offer free shipping on any order, inexpensive extra large samples, and a 365 day return policy. Eli says he also only sells his own items in order to control the quality of the product and the speed of the shipping. He even offers design help to customers, something you’d be hard-pressed to get at other tile stores. Eli believes that this constant stream of new and totally original tile designs is what’s keeping his business a step ahead of the competition. Eli Mechlovitz’s motto, “Be kind. Be nice. Be trusting. Be sharp. Enjoy what you do and make your days full. Live for today, strive for tomorrow, and smile on the past.” reflects his success in business and in life.

Where did the idea for Glass Tile Store come from?

I was working in a tile store for many years and jumped into this new up-and-coming market I saw. I took what was barely known and redesigned the mosaics to fit the market’s need for fast-changing design demands.

What does your typical day look like?

From meeting with each department to helping our team leaders streamline the business, a typical day is busy, busy, busy! We have about 40 employees and our growth means that we have much to do in too little time to keep the business foundations growing.

Every day is an amazing learning experience. My typical day starts in bed answering emails to China at 4:30 a.m., then I get to the office at about 8 a.m. I leave the office anywhere from 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. and sometimes just stay in the office for two days straight when large changes demand more of my time.

How do you bring ideas to life?

With a lot of samples, drawing, and emails to factories for products. These days, however, my ideas are more about innovative business practices and creative ways to deal with company growth, warehousing, and shipping solutions. I have a huge board that I use to highlight all my to-dos with fiscal removable stickers, and I knock them out one at a time.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

New items. I get excited each time I get to work on one. I look at all my competitors and make sure we look nothing like them. The more unique but simple our new items are, the more excited I get. There is nothing like reinventing bread and butter!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I use actions, not words. A lot of people talk and think all day, but few actually take a project and make it happen until it’s done. I will do every part of it if I have to. I delegate a lot of tasks, but if someone holds my train back then I will run them over and do it myself. Time is money.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

My worst job was packing batteries in a dark basement. It gave me the inspiration to never be a small-minded businessman and make sure I always think bigger than a basement battery repacking person.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Wow, that is a loaded question! I have learned thousands of things along my business journey, but I must say that learning from your mistakes is just part of the fun. Mistakes help you grow as long as you learn from them. That said, with the knowledge that I have now, I would make very clearly defined job descriptions and system procedures for all of my employees, and nip things in the bud right away with clear communications. A company’s employees are the most critical part of a business. Making needed changes later on as you grow along the way is more challenging than anything else, so I would run a fun-loving but firm place with straightforward job accountability from the get-go.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Never step too far away from any part of the business. Always have one eye on everything, but never have two eyes on anything. Focus on growth. Nothing will be perfect, but always strive for perfection; if you keep growing at a 90% rate that is 90% correct, you will get a lot farther than someone who makes sure everything is 100% perfect. Accept risk but moderate it to the least risk possible versus the fastest growth possible. In short: don’t get stuck! Keep on moving.

Trust people but don’t trust anyone, as your intuition is what you need to go by. If you don’t have good intuition, you wont make it as an entrepreneur. It’s not something you can force; some people are workers and some people are bosses. Do what you do best; it’s a good thing.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Aim high, write down your goals and to-do tasks, move fast on the goal, make a solid game plan for each goal, have the end results very clearly defined, and implement. NEVER be a BTLD (big talker little doer), as actions and full implementation are key. Also, always accept the 95% rule: it will never be perfect, so move on and then circle back at a later time.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My sock business Kidssocks.com. I built a website with 7000 stocked SKUs of kids socks and tights, and I lost a million dollars in it. However, the thing I lost more than money was time, because I could have been focusing on tiles the whole time. So I made the decision to move on, put it on life support, and never looked back. I do not focus on that business and took what I learned from it with a smile. It was a big loss but a great college. You learn a lot when you start something from scratch and fail.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

PiggyBacks, which is an app that taps into all phone and online games via an API that collects the points you get. The points get converted into piggybucks, a virtual dollar, and retailers such as Kidssocks could give gift cards for free items to customers to bring in fresh traffic to their websites. It can work for local food places, such as a free pizza slice or arcade tokens. Customer acquisition costs about $40-80 for pay-per-clicks. As a retailer, I would rather give someone a $5 or $10 gift card to try my site out and prove myself to them so they can come back again as a paying customer.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I have my fears just like everyone else. Having a large business is just a jacket to cloak your fears in; the bigger it gets, the more bulletproof it is, but it is still just a jacket. I work on myself every day and always try to be true with myself.”

It is hard for me to accept that as a boss, not everyone will like me. I need to learn to say ‘it is what it is’ and that it’s okay if they don’t like me for it.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We use Magento and Quickbooks. Quickbooks is great because it is simple and robust. Magento is a love-hate relationship; a lot of people develop on it but it is buggy and way overpriced for a company that really does not give much support. Softros is what we use as a company IM; it is good. We use 5PM as our company project management. It has some great features, but it is also missing some. However, you can’t get everything from one place. Using a project management is key.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I have 2 for you:

1: One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard. It is a great, simple read with powerful messages and techniques for any managing people

2: Zappos’ book Delivering Happiness is very inspirational on the entrepreneurial concept and it really teaches you how to treat customers, employees, and vendors. It is a great way to build for success.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I have read hundreds of books that help inspire, but it is important to know that books don’t help you take action. One person who influenced my thinking is my father, as he has a hardworking, take-action, move-fast philosophy. He is a successful businessman who always treats people with respect.

Another great influencer is my company business coach Miryam Werdyger from Darco Coaching. A great business coach can take you a long way, but you need to be ready for one. First, you need to do a lot on your own and then be ready to learn and make changes.

Join real good but small business network groups and make sure you come out with something, like excellent contacts. I don’t blog, Tweet, or manage a Facebook. I just work and live an old-school life of work hard, sell a product, innovate, stay in the office, and hang out with real friends and have real conversations.


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