Iterate. Never be satisfied with the status quo.
Lee Schwartz, CEO of EnSight+, is an experienced chief executive officer with a demonstrated history of working in the financial and utility industries. Throughout his career, Lee has worked toward helping his companies achieve better efficiency, productivity, and automation.
He has worked as CEO at Utility Partners of America, COO at ThinkEco Inc., and COO at Affinity Direct LLC. Lee is skilled in marketing, accounting, finance, budgeting, operations management, sales, smart grid, and energy efficiency, and he has an accounting degree from Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
EnSight+ was born out of necessity when my team and I were consulting for a large corporate client. During the investigatory phase, it became clear that the client lacked sophisticated business process software that could capture and report on real-time field events. The client’s primary business was field service management, but the business lacked a fully customizable solution it could rely on and grow with.
After presenting our findings to ownership, my team and I were given the green light to research, procure, and implement a solution. We then spent the next two months researching and vetting more than 25 of the top software providers in the space. In the end, not one of them resolved all of our issues, so we made the call to develop a ground-up solution. We started writing the first line of code that week and have been enhancing ever since.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m up early and typically out the door by 7:15 a.m. Then, I head over to a local coffee shop to plan my day. While there (or the night before), I’ll block out time on my calendar to accomplish my three most important tasks. Then, during the day:
– I check email only a few times and use David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” method to get through it (do it, delegate it, delay it, or delete it).
– I schedule any non-critical meetings for the afternoon, the later the better.
– I process my inbox to zero by end of day or during my morning coffee session. I forward any delayed items to Asana so they get tracked and scheduled and do the same thing with delegated emails and tasks.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’ve always been a techie and have frequent check-ins (daily or multiple per day) with my lead developer and ops team lead. Most of my ideas are brought to life during these conversations. I’ll explain my concept and the logic behind it (or listen to their ideas), where the data needs to flow to or from, what the interfaces should look like, etc. We’ll go back and forth on the feasibility of the idea and eventually all agree on a go/no-go decision. Then, it’s handed off to my ops team, and team members will prepare the software specification documents and timelines. Finally, we’ll prioritize it and get it in the queue.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Hands down, it’s business process outsourcing and automation. This plays right into our wheelhouse. Large organizations on platforms like SAP, Oracle, etc., simply don’t have the tools or technical resources to be as efficient with their human capital as smaller, more nimble companies. Their software doesn’t do what their ops and field teams need it to do, and customizations can take forever, let alone the fees to get it done. As a result, more and more critical processes and repetitive or recurring tasks are being outsourced so these firms can keep up with their backlog.
Companies using sophisticated field service software will have a significant advantage in winning these outsourcing contracts. They’ll be able to complete more work orders per field tech than their competition, especially those still using paper to dispatch and collect field data.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Getting up early. Nothing beats that two-hour productivity window before anyone arrives at my office. I get more done during those hours than I do the rest of the day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’ll keep this to three items, but it could easily be 103.
– Buy as much real estate as possible.
– Move to Manhattan earlier (I moved to New York from Miami when I was 36).
– Only pursue things you’re passionate about. My few business failures were definitely more about acquiring wealth than about having a purpose or following a passion.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Any singular business process can be automated in 30 days or less.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Iterate. Never be satisfied with the status quo. More specifically, always ask yourself: What doesn’t your product or service do? It looks great on a desktop, but does it look good on mobile? It’s fast, but could it be faster? Are users having any performance issues? What sales objections has your team received? Have you received any neutral or negative feedback from clients? What are your competitors doing better than you?
Ask the right question, and I guarantee you’ll find the right area to focus on and improve.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
For me, it’s all about the product. So I’d have to say product development strategy. The base of any product development stems from things like define-build-test or learn-build-measure. But in all cases, the operative word is build. Without a world-class product, your clients are destined to find something better.
The key part of any product development strategy is listening to your clients. It’s a giant waste of time and resources to build something you think clients want only to find out that you’re flat-out wrong — it’s a great product that has no real-world use.
Ask yourself, “What is it that my target market really wants?” Our clients said that they want to bill their clients faster, have better visibility into their operations, and reduce operating costs. Some said they simply want to do more with what they have (or more with less). What I heard was “I need customizable software to run and automate my business.” So we set out to build a dynamic, customizable solution for all of these needs.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Taking a page out of the question above, I built something that nobody wanted. It was an amazing piece of software using the latest and greatest technology in the email/inbox space, dockerized containers, dynamically expanding infrastructure — the whole thing. It was essentially a combination of productivity and marketing. But it was not received well, so we had to pivot.
We spoke to several potential clients about the product and eventually found a variation that could be developed rather quickly. Long story short, that business is still alive and well today because we found a way to shift gears and morph the product to fill a need in the marketplace.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I haven’t fully vetted the concept yet, but there’s definitely an opportunity in the jobs space. You see all these reports about unemployment rates being at an all-time low, yet there’s a huge universe of unemployed people out there.
So my idea is free workforce training. You don’t want unemployed people paying to learn a new skill or get some accelerated diploma only to find out they can’t get a job and are now even further in debt. Train them for free, place them in higher-paying jobs, and then charge the hiring firm a placement fee. Everyone wins.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I subscribed to a monthly service that ships science-related DIY projects for my 4-year-old son. We get to build these cool things together, and he just loves it!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Asana. I have it partitioned by Workspace, one for business and one for personal. Each one has a unique email address that allows me to create tasks by sending an email. I’ll check my inbox sporadically throughout the day and forward any actionable item to Asana.
Then, either at the end of the day or during my morning routine, I’ll go through Asana and prioritize these items, put due dates on them, and/or delegate them to team members who also have access to the software.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
For productivity, David Allen’s “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.” Getting out of your inbox will change your life.
What is your favorite quote?
Two come to mind:
“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.” — Ernest Hemingway
“It’s not the lack of resources, it’s your lack of resourcefulness that stops you.” — Tony Robbins.
Both are about being resourceful, and I believe that is the ultimate difference maker.
- Stay out of your inbox! By closing your inbox and turning off email and social media notifications, you’ll not only stay on task all day, but your productivity will also skyrocket.
- Iterate, iterate, iterate. Never stop improving and learning. Improve your product, learn new skills, and learn what your clients truly want and deliver!
- Spend more time planning and less time scrambling. By breaking down large projects into small, actionable tasks, you’ll see progress simply by taking small, daily actions. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, so keep the ball moving.
- Ask the right questions. If you don’t know what to do or which way to go, ask a better question. Questions should encourage breakthrough thinking. The right questions will empower everyone to think about a problem in a new way.
- Read Eric Ries’ “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.” Test your ideas before you bet the bank on them. Don’t listen to what focus groups say; watch what your customers do.