Surround yourself with the right people, hire strategic risk takers and empower them to perform.
Eyal Gutentag is a a proven growth and performance marketing leader who has run $100M+ budgets for ZipRecruiter, Uber, and the NFL. He is also an experienced mentor and manager of talent, especially Millennials. Eyal’s preferred work challenge involves partnering with a team of smart, creative people while pushing rapid growth and solving hard problems using technology as a positive, disruptive force.
Eyal received his BA in Business from UC Berkeley and graduated with High Honors. He worked his way through college, tutoring math and teaching at summer school. For graduate school, Eyal decided to return to his roots in New York City and got an MA in Ed Tech from Columbia University. He was on the Dean’s List and received a James Woods Fellowship.
Currently, Eyal is on a “working sabbatical,” traveling and living with his wife, son, and daughter in Tel Aviv. Eyal is always on the lookout for the next entrepreneurial challenge that fulfills his triple bottom line: making money, doing good, and saving the planet.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Diane and I have always shared a desire to support our values with philanthropy. We launched our Charitable fund a while back to centralize our efforts and to provide a platform by which we could more effectively support select organizations. As the breadth of our charitable donations grew, it became clear that we could benefit from a more formalized funding vehicle. It was also important to us as parents, that we pass on this commitment to charity to our children – and the fund makes it even easier to convey this.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’ve never really implemented a “typical day”, but my most productive days begin with a workout – typically running or spinning, during which I try to pick 3 things I want to accomplish that day. I find the more I visualize them getting completed, the more likely I am to do so. I generally keep a calendar that is fairly full, some might argue over-scheduled; but I find this helps me better manage multiple priorities simultaneously and stay connected to more team members.
For lunch, as often as possible I try to schedule either a 1:1 meeting with someone on my team, a colleague or a vendor partner I want to sync up with. This could total 15-20+ lunches per month. I find taking some 1:1 meetings offsite over lunch changes the energy around and helps with brainstorming, learning more about people’s professional goals and makes you more approachable as a leader and manager. 3 pm is my dead zone. I find it’s very challenging for me to focus at that time – so I try to avoid scheduling anything requiring attention to detail between 3-3:30. 1:1 meetings seem to work best. I’ve found the best chance I have to make it home for dinner is to schedule phone calls during my commute home. It makes me feel less guilty about leaving the office and as an added benefit keeps me awake in traffic after a long day.
Once my children are asleep by 8:30 pm, I often return to check in on the 3 things I had set as priorities for the day. I try to make quick progress on any that weren’t completed, and then shift attention to spending time catching up with my wife and personal life. By 11 pm I’m often back to catching up on news, listening to an audiobook and planning to get to sleep. That’s when my brain will often start involuntarily generating all sorts of ideas and questions related to work that I will try to capture in emails to relevant colleagues, usually by scheduling them to send the following day to avoid sharing the late night stress with recipients. Rinse & try to repeat as often as possible. Business travel, kids, charitable responsibilities
How do you bring ideas to life?
1. Try to capture some notes as the ideas surface, often with pen and paper. I find my creativity is greater when writing vs typing
2. Schedule a meeting to discuss if relevant – ideally with a diverse audience
3. Assign someone to partner with you to move the idea forward, flesh it out, pull together an experiment, conduct research, whatever is relevant. Without this, most ideas never materialize
4. Schedule a check in, even if a couple of weeks ahead, to ensure there is a forced follow up. It helps ensure joint accountability
5. Let your colleague(s) know you may send reminder email — schedule a delayed send email asking about the status at an appropriate midpoint between kicking off the discussion and the scheduled check in. This will further ensure it stays top of mind, with minimal investment.
What’s one trend that excites you?
In Medicine: Use of advanced blood testing to gain earlier detection of disease or pre-disease risks in the body; enabling rapid and more effective treatments.
In Transportation: Safety technology empowering semi-autonomous driving … a vehicle’s ability to detect and help avoid collisions, lane departures and other incidents are already saving countless lives and injuries, and those numbers will continue to grow. This is particularly critical as the number of distracted drivers climbs ever higher.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Ignoring or reducing my responsiveness to email or messaging apps like Slack. McKinsey shared a study showing that almost ⅓ of the time that knowledge workers spent at work, they spent on email. To me email often becomes about other people unintentionally attempting to guide how I spend my time as opposed to me making those decisions proactively based on my priorities.
I prefer to prioritize my own time – and not let addressing the needs of others stand in the way of that. Of course some messaging is important, and that must be addressed, but so much of mine is superfluous, or unwanted inquiries from 3rd parties, that it can often be a sizable distraction.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Invest even more than you already are in your people — in their personal development goals, in their desire to evolve their roles over time and in their inherent desire to feel included in the “why” of the work they are being asked to do. As a manager and a leader, compliments and authentic positive affirmation are among your greatest tools for success.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Some of the best marketing professionals have never held marketing roles before.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Every quarter choose 1-2 real innovations in your company that you want to test or advance and prioritize those for your team. After 12-18 months, you will look back and have feedback on 5-10 new ideas from which hopefully at least a couple of real needle-movers are already driving growth.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Continuously test new marketing channels, and when you find data showing something is working well, lean in aggressively and take outsized risks as needed. From a personnel strategy perspective, hire strategic risk-takers and empower them to test and learn continuously.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
During the 2008 global economic recession, I was the co-founder and CFO of a renewable fuels technology startup. One of my bigger entrepreneurial failures was underestimating the depth of the meltdown and the amount of time it would take for the US economy to recover. We had grown from 4 to 40 people and knew we had to make cuts to ensure Primafuel’s survival. My mistake was not pushing hard enough for more aggressive personnel and budget cuts, which ultimately made it even harder to survive the fallout. We ultimately overcame it by pivoting the business a bit, focusing on 1 core product, and finding a strategic acquirer who folded our company into their own suite of related products.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Western nutrition habits are shifting, and it is likely to create an earthquake of opportunity and disruption in our food and restaurant industries. In 10-15 years I believe we will have a significantly larger % of the population that are:
– Eating less meat & other animal products – eggs, dairy (flexitarians / vegans)
– Drinking far fewer sugary beverages
– Eating less processed food
New businesses that effectively capitalize on this trend and provide great options to consumers in the US & other parts of the world, will thrive.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It was less than $100, it was about $20, on a book called How Not to Die. It lays out an incredibly compelling case for the impact of our diets on overall health and the fascinating studies supporting this across virtually all types of disease. It really has opened my mind to the potential benefits of increasing plant-based elements in our diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains). I have never recommended a book this often, this quickly before.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
One very simple web service feature I really appreciate is the ability to schedule sending emails at specific times. It enables me to address ideas and questions in real time as I think of them, often late at night, during odd hours while traveling or on weekends. I can share them with my team without intruding on their time out of the office as much, and limiting the stress I was creating when I merely fired off emails at all hours of the day or night.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Alliance – Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, Chris Yeh — because it is perhaps the best analysis I’ve read on how to relate to employees in the digital age – and at fast-growing companies. Since I read it and incorporated their analogy of a military tour of duty, to a tour in your company has really helped me motivate and retain my talent effectively. It will allow you to bring a new perspective and authenticity to the quid pro quo bargain between employee and employer in today’s workplace.
What is your favorite quote?
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity
- Being a parent has a large impact on your perspective. You realize the need to be more forward thinking about the planet and the future of the people it will be left to.
- Invest in people and get to know their goals and aspirations. Learn how you can help positively impact them and create a collaborative experience.
- Surround yourself with the right people, hire strategic risk takers and empower them to perform.
- Pay attention to the shift in Western nutrition habits, read “How not to die” to give you some perspective. The opportunities for growth in this sector are plentiful.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.