John Rood

Co-Founder of Proceptual

John Rood is CEO and co-founder of Proceptual. Proceptual provides compliance solutions for emerging regulation of automated hiring systems and AI. Previously, Rood was founder at Next Step Test Preparation, which he grew from a two-person tutoring operation to a market leader in pre-health entrance exam test preparation before selling to private equity. He holds his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and his master’s from the University of Chicago.

What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?

I’m a big proponent that it’s more important to work on the right thing than it is to just be constantly working. Every day I identify 1-3 (but no more) activities that move my business forward, and I make sure I have room to work on them. Every quarter I run through an exercise called Delegate and Elevate; the idea is to identify the stuff that fills up your day but that you aren’t suited to be doing; then you figure out a way to delegate to your team, outsource, or just stop doing it. If you are focused on the right things you can get a ton done in a day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The entrepreneur’s job is to bring together ideas, people and capital. I think about bringing things to life through that lens. The first thing I do with a new idea is think through how I can quickly validate the idea and how quickly I can get to $1,000 of revenue. If I can’t figure out how to get the business going without pouring millions of capital in, it’s not the right fit for me.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The easy answer is AI, since I’m working in that space. But also, I’m really excited and hopeful to see more entrepreneurs, particularly young people, figuring out how to create sustainable, profitable businesses without relying on VC. I think having a robust community of small business owners is super important to the fabric of our society.

What is one habit that helps you be productive?

Honestly, I think it’s getting enough sleep. When I was younger I lived the life of giving up some sleep to work on businesses more. That’s ok for a while if the work that you’re doing is repetitive or doesn’t require deep thought, but now I try my best to focus my time on the most high-value activities and decisions. For those, I need sleep!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Here’s the advice I give young entrepreneurs; it’s advice I actually followed totally by accident as a young person, but now more thoughtfully recommend: hit a single instead of swinging for a home run. Life as an entrepreneur goes on as long as you stay in the game, and having modest success, often in a service business or agency, sets you up to take much bigger swings later.

Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.

Way more young people should become plumbers. (Going back to that main street thing). I think that owning a local professional services company is the #1 most reliable way to generate 7-8 figures of wealth, especially at a young age.

What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?

For the last 8 years I’ve been a member of a small group of entrepreneurs who meet monthly in a structured format to talk through our personal and professional lives. Having this point of reflection and accountability has been huge for me. I found my group originally through Entrepreneurs’ Organization, but there are a lot out there now. I highly recommend it.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

I take a break. I’ve been at this too long to be hard on myself when I don’t have the stamina to sit and do high-quality work for 10 hours.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?

I have tried to be very thoughtful about picking the right problem to work on. I like to find areas where the world is changing and the incumbent players (if there are any) are going to have challenges adjusting. That’s my opportunity to pounce. I love to read widely — not just business. That’s what helps me understand where the world is going and how to create a thesis around a business to meet new needs.

What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?

Once in my education company I ordered $25,000 of books without taking the time to review a physical proof first. They came covered with little boxes where my exponents should have been — a problem that did not appear on the digital proof! That was a measure twice, cut once moment and it reinforced the importance of structured process in operations.

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

I’m tempted to say what I always tell young people — start a local power washing business. But for those aiming for something bigger, I’d suggest looking into highly niche job boards in emerging industries like AI. I love this industry.

What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

It’s so simple, but I’ve been using for years to track responses to my emails. I use it for sales prospecting, internal accountability and personal reminders.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

Over the holiday I was buying legos for my kids and saw an awesome set, and bought it for myself. I had such a good time getting back into a flow state, and it was a great reminder to try to engineer life to have lots of activities that might be work but feel like play.

Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?

My all-time most read business book is Traction by Gino Wickman. It’s a simple system for running a small business. I’m a huge proponent of setting goals, creating clear accountability, and having a defined management cadence for my team.

What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?

My wife and I are devouring Shrinking on Apple TV. It’s full of characters who are flawed; there aren’t heroes. Just like real life.

Key learnings:

  • Having structure in business helps you prioritize the right things to work on
  • Keep alert for when the world changes; big companies often can’t keep up, and there will be niche opportunities
  • If you are early in your career, work on something with a high probability of success