[quote style=”boxed”]“Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise!” I actually can’t take credit for making that up. Ted Turner and I were sitting next to each other at a luncheon. I asked him for the secret to his success and that is what he said to me. He was correct.[/quote]
John Shegerian is Chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers International, the leading recycler of electronic waste in the US. He is also founder of 1-800-Recycling.com and urbanmining.org.
What are you working on right now?
Helping to guide Electronic Recyclers International (ERI) from being the leading electronic recycling brand in the US to becoming the number one electronics recycling company in the world.
Where did the idea for ERI come from?
My partner Aaron Blum had started the concept in 2002 in another city under a different brand name. My other partner Kevin Dillon and I joined in 2004 after Aaron’s angel investor ran out of patience and capital. We restructured the company financially, rebranded it and moved its headquarters to Fresno, California. In our first month of business we recycled 10,000 pounds of electronic waste — and wow, were we excited and proud! Fast forward to last month — we recycled approximately 15 million pounds of electronic waste and now we feel that we are just at the top of the second inning!
What does your typical day look like?
In my typical day — wherever my business travels take me — I wake up at 5:30 am and do my cardio (climb stairs or run), then I hit the office, have my meetings and lift weights later in the day. I always eat at my desk, unless I have an outside business lunch. Then it’s home at 7:30 and dinner with my wife of 28 years, Tammy. She is also ERI’s Chief Executive Officer.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I read voraciously, travel constantly and meet and speak with people who are thought leaders and tastemakers. When I find a concept or idea worth working on, I move toward structuring a new entity for success by raising enough capital and putting the right people in positions to succeed. From that point on, I stay focused, disciplined and pray for a little luck.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
We are becoming more interconnected. Information is becoming more democratized via the internet and the ever-increasing use of social media platforms (Facebook, twitter, etc.). This trend will continue and those who embrace it will have the best shot of success.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I was a first year law student doing a summer internhip at one of the biggest and most successful law firms in New York City. That summer I became the first law student intern at that firm to be offered a full time position. I was also the first intern to politely decline. I still am an advocate of my law school education (and so proud my daughter, Cortney, is finishing her law school career now and beginning her bar prep). But I realized then that being a lawyer at a huge law firm was not for me. Too any politics, jealousies, backstabbing and unhappy, broken people. No, thank you. Lesson learned.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Regrets, I have a few — but then again, too few to mention! I am not a person who looks back and thinks about the past and what could have, should have and would have been. I focus on the future and what can be and figure out how to get there.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
“Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise!” I actually can’t take credit for making that up. Ted Turner and I were sitting next to each other at a luncheon. I asked him for the secret to his success and that is what he said to me. He was correct.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have failed many times and still sometimes fail when trying new ideas, taking unique paths, or creating new paradigms. Failure should be embraced, not feared. If you never fail, it means you have decided not to enter the boxing ring of life — or maybe you aren’t throwing punches at all. I once created a wonderful restaurant concept but also had chosen the wrong financial partner to back me. From that venture onwards, I realized picking the right partners is as important as picking the right idea or business concept. Since then I have tried not to make that mistake again.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The sustainability and green revolution has only just begun. Fortunes are yet to be made in delivering clean water, to those in need, improving the energy efficiency grid in the world, and countless thousands of other sustainability-related ideas. There are concepts out there searching desperately for entrepreneurs to fill the many wide gaps in the sustainability world that still exist.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Cure cancer. I would get all the best scientific minds in the world on an open platform — exchanging ideas and collaborating until they break the cancer code and end the horrible suffering that millions of people and their families and friends endure each day of every year.
Tell us a secret.
I was a professional trainer and driver of standard bred racehorses in my youth. And I even became the youngest driver to ever set a world harness racing record when I was 17 years old.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
I find blogs by people I admire can be a terrific online resource. Checking in on these people’s blogs is an effective way to get up-to-the-minute personal insights from some of the great minds of our time. Three in particular that I find useful to follow are the blogs of:
Tim Ferriss – because every second counts.
Seth Godin – He is an unparalleled marketing genius who knows how to break through the massive information that exists, with ideas and strategies that always rise above the noise.
Brad Feld – As both an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Brad has a unique and honed perspective that merges the art and science behind great entrepreneurial ventures.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Heaven is For Real, by Lynn Vincent. In the end – whether you have exceeded your dreams or fallen a little short while on this planet…we are all going to the same place. It is great to know that this place really exists.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Richard Branson, Deepak Chopra and Chris Anderson (editor of WIRED) are three that come to mind. They are all brilliant guys, but in totally different ways – and each offers generous insights from within a place of great success.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Last week when my wife Tammy and I were talking about writing a book together.
Who is your hero?
I have so many heroes, but Muhammad Ali would be one I think about the most. He was the greatest boxer of his time, but his legacy outside the ring will be the enduring one. Watching him battle Parkinson’s disease with a smile, grace and gratitude are qualities we can all can appreciate and aspire to.
What makes a great entrepreneur?
Great entrepreneurs are the artists of the business world. The businesses they create are like wonderful pieces of art. The better the entrepreneur the more he or she comes back to the canvas to paint. The good ones (and the great ones) know that their entrepreneurial work can never truly be done.
How do you keep your energy level high and focus sharp?
I am a practicing vegan. This means putting no meat, dairy, sugar or any other poisons into my body. I climb stairs or run early in the day. I either lift weights, box or some other physical activity later in the day. Treat your body right and your mind responds!
John Shegerian’s Email: [email protected]
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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.