Demand a return for what you do as you do it.”
Howard Wool is a successful entrepreneur in the industrial and commercial chemical industry. His company is named Environmental Safety and is headquartered in Baiting Hollow, Long Island. Howard was the subject of media coverage when the story about how an earlier startup, Shari Chemicals, grew massively successful and then crashed. They led Howard to reevaluate how he views success and adopt lean business principles and a highly disciplined approach to time management.
Howard’s approach to lean business helps him to compete in an era of low-cost providers but to maintain a high level of direct customer service and interaction. While Howard has integrated technology into his business, he resists using technology as a barrier between himself and his clients and suppliers. One of Howard’s top business principles is his 60/40 rule where he dedicates 60% of his time to new clients and 40% to maintaining exiting client relationships.
Howard is active, spending time with friends and family. He is a self-described car nut and loves to play music. Howard has a degree in biology from SUNY College at New Paltz and a lifelong passion for chemistry. Over 25 years later he became s student again and earned a degree in Law from Touro College in New York. Howard is active around his community in Baiting Hollow on Long Island.
Where did the idea for Environmental Safety come from?
I was educated as a scientist and was always interested in chemistry. My first industrial and commercial chemical distribution company grew very large. When times were good we did very well. But during a downturn I had too much overhead and fixed costs. That sunk the business and me along with it. I discovered lean startup/business principles and that led me to form Environmental Safety
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up early and believe in (1) focusing on one outcome at a time and (2) budgeting my time and sticking with it. So, for example I spend a fixed portion of every week on customer support and a fixed amount on sales. I have, what I call, my 60/40 rule, I dedicate 60% of my time to new clients and 40% to exiting clients. It is like saving money, dieting or exercise. If you save important things for when you are “not busy” they never get done.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I work out of my house primarily and I take dedicated time away to distract myself. Managing stress and clearing your head are valuable. They keep you from being burned out and increase productivity. I bought my dream car last year and cruising with the top down, playing music or playing with my grandkids are the best way to generate great ideas. Then I am methodical about implementation.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Lean business principles. You can outsource non-strategic things and minimize overhead. I make sure there are no payers between me and those who are most important – prospects, clients, suppliers and employees.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I never multi-task and that can be tough with small staff. Its about focus and discipline and requires you to be very proactive so you are not distracted putting out fires.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Demand a return for what you do as you do it. So, do not invest in overhead unless it cannot be avoided, and the business can consistently support it. People are the same way. Anyone who has had big difficulties can attest you have a much smaller group of friends on the way down. I nearly broke myself trying to shield people who worked from me from harsh economic realities and I often did not feel appreciated for it.
Tell us something that is true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
How busy you look is irrelevant. Business people always want to talk about how much email or meetings they do etc. So, do not do them! Brag about how much you accomplish not how much effort you put in.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I take stock and make sure I am spending my time and money only on things that really matter. Everything else is waste. Cut it and spend the extra time at the movies.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I differentiate myself with hands-on customer service and advice. My moment to shine is when a client cannot find a solution. I will do a ton of research to get them the answer. International companies will not have someone with my expertise put that level of time in. Companies focus on self-service and automation to keep costs low. The person you speak with is often the least experienced person in the company. I run my business upside down. When I solve a problem that a larger competitor would not help with then I know Ive won a client.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My first chemical supply company grew very fast and was wildly successful. I signed a big lease, added a ton of staff and overhead. I had several company cars. We were making big money but when we ran into lean times (there are always lean times) the fixed costs sunk me fast. It really hurt but I learned valuable lessons that steer all my decisions now.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Patent troll insurance.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
That’s tough. My grandkids are young so seemingly simple toys bring them the kind of joy that adults can only envy. Watching them is the best feeling.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I am not super technical. I use email and accounting software and I rely on my phone a lot. But I have people who are better at it than me take care of the other technology in my life.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation”. This is important because business people are taught that you can measure success in office space, staff, etc. My business is smaller, simpler more profitable and smoother running than my first one.
What is your favorite quote?
Andrew Carnegie said, “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.”
• Run a business as lean as possible
• Spend your time like money; don’t do something if there is no direct benefit for it
• Lean times always come so spend money in the good times like you are prepping for the lean ones
• Minimize layers and barriers between yourself (and your other key talent) and those most important to your success. This includes prospects, customers, critical business relationships and top employees
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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.