Find joy in the little things – being an entrepreneur is not about the glory of massive success, it is about celebrating the many small successes that come on the way.
Lora Ivanova is Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of myLAB Box, the first online service empowering users to take control of their health by screening for infections at home. Her track record of success encompasses high-impact marketing, strategic planning, and customer acquisition channels for thought leading brands and innovators across industries. Former leadership roles include: a major technology e-retailer, Newegg.com, the first online wedding coordinator collective, Happily, XO Group, The Knot and more.
Where did the idea for myLAB Box come from?
myLAB Box was created in large part due to the unstable health climate in the US and what we saw as the need for alternatives to payer-based health systems. By selling direct to consumers we are able to offer exceptional service at half the cost of conventional lab tests. From affordable screening to complimentary physician consultations for positives, every aspect of the myLAB Box service is designed to be something a user can easily handle out-of-pocket.
The recent shake-up of our healthcare systems further deepens our resolve to grow our offering and develop a new hassle-free lab testing model. We believe this is not just great business, but a much-needed resource to curb a widespread epidemic in the US today.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As entrepreneurs, we tend to wear multiple hats and as such my days tend to be far from typical. From building a business, to managing its operations to fundraising, I have to keep an eye on many moving pieces at all times. Needless to say, this can easily get overwhelming so to stay productive I split my days into two parts – structured and unstructured. During the structured part of my day, I handle all items I need to maintain or monitor such as reviewing daily sales reports, getting through e-mail and scheduled meetings. During the unstructured part, I focus my attention on items requiring deeper and free thought – such as research, strategizing for the future and ideating new approaches for growth. It helps me stay both focused and creative so I can quickly adjust to the ever-changing demands of running a business.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The best entrepreneurs combine bold ideas with great execution. The myth about self-starters is that they tend to discover ideas and innovate but the truth is, they have to be so much more. We are all capable of coming up with fantastic ideas on any given day but only a small fraction of these ideas turn into successful companies. To bring my ideas to life I follow a simple formula which takes me from dreaming to doing:
Listen and learn – The first step is to learn as much as I can about the market, need and problem. Not only does it help me understand what might be involved in bringing my idea to life but it also ensures my idea is, in fact, a worthy pursuit and something that can make a difference
Experiment and validate -This is the early stage of taking action to bring an idea to life. Depending on the concept, it can involve launching a prototype, talking to potential customers or just thinking through how it will all work when live. This is the phase that tells me if what I am thinking of, can, in fact, be accomplished and what are some strategies around that that work
Pedal to the metal – This is where the real thrill begins. The product is launched, fundraising is in progress and what was once an idea is now a business. From this point on it is all about growth and constant improvement – making sure the product works and we have a good market fit. It feels very much like a race to the bright future. It’s what makes or breaks ideas and determines whether or not they will become a reality that lasts.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m really excited about the heightened focus that people are placing on healthcare, whether it be through discussions on healthcare policy in D.C. or new companies such as 23andMe providing health information in the hands of users. I’m particularly passionate about removing the hassle of healthcare visits for users through at-home healthcare services and want to make sure that the hassle of in-person appointments isn’t causing people to miss their appointments or prevent them from getting tested. For so many years healthcare became about taking care of people once their health deteriorated but by giving the individual more control and visibility over their own bodies’ performance, we are creating solutions that can prevent problems before they even occur, saving millions of people the stress of battling disease and billions of dollars cost for our economy.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
There is one simple thing that makes all the difference for me as an entrepreneur in making me more focused and productive. Strangely enough, it has nothing to do with work. It is when I take an hour to go for a hike, a run or nourish my imagination by going to a show or making some art. Those are the moments I get to clear my head from the noise of the busy work, step back and recharge my enthusiasm. When I return to my day, I have new found passion and often – fresh ideas on how to solve pesky problems.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Growing up I felt a lot of pressure to achieve and prepare for my future. I also had a lot of fear of failing, of not being good enough to do that project or get that job. Yet, my hope and creativity gave me the courage to take chances and venture into the unknown. If I could give one piece of advice to my younger self it would be to have more fun and worry less. Life and work are just better when there is joy in your heart so making time for friends and family is important no matter how big the pressures to succeed and achieve.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
This reminds me of a fun debate I would often have with my friends. The idea is this: as I see it, the chance of something happening is always 50:50 – it will either happen or it won’t. Yes, there is the mathematical probability that tells us our odds can be 1 in a million but even the most improbable things do happen– People win the lottery, they fall off roller coasters, they miraculously overcome disease. It can sometimes be scary thinking of the world in these terms but on the flipside, it also gives me much hope. I think that has made me more willing to take chances and go against the odds. It is perhaps why I chose to become an entrepreneur. From where I stand, no matter how challenging, my chances of success are just as big as those of my failure and I am willing to flip that coin anytime.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I’ve noticed that my productivity sharpens and decreases in a pattern – ie super productive for an hour or two, then I get distracted and slow down. When this happens I take a quick walk to clear my mind then reprioritize my to-do list on a new sticky note and focus on those 3-4 tasks during the next hour. After the next hour, I reassess my to-dos and ensure that I’m on track to accomplish all that needs to be handled for the day.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Learning to hire and empower people who are better than I am. Early stage startups can be a big challenge because the teams are small so founders often wear multiple hats. Being good at many things comes with the territory but what really helps you grow a business is when you begin bringing people to help – people who are better than you in a given task and give them the support they need to do excellent work.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Working with friends. As entrepreneurs, the first place we look when starting new projects is people we know. This is often what makes us successful but it can also be a challenge and even harmful to some relationships. Sometimes people we know expect different treatment so it is important to set clear boundaries at and off work. My solution here has been two-fold – being more careful about people I work with in general – making sure they are genuinely excited and qualified for the job. The next step is clarity – making sure we both are in agreement on what is needed from a professional perspective and put the terms on paper before we get started. It can feel a bit strange but it has helped me find a better balance so I can be both a better coworker and friend. My current business partner, Ursula is a great example. We were friends for many years before we started working together and then had to have many difficult conversations about our roles and expectations of each other at work. It was not easy but has made us strong partners and even better friends.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The at-home, on-demand movement is something that is only just beginning to manifest itself. The engine behind this growth is convenience. I would tell readers to see how they can make everyday tasks more efficient, whether through the at-home model or through solving a task online.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently got an at-home massage – it was wonderful. I had a busy day and I was able to book it from an app on my phone. The therapist arrived at my home and when the massage was done I went straight to bed and had one of the best nights of sleep I had in a long time. Another great example of how much better life can be by delivering goods and services to one’s home, I was invigorated.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I love “Why Smart People Hurt” which discusses the power of our minds and how we can learn to have more empathy for ourselves and others.
What is your favorite quote?
“The opposite of exhaustion is not rest, it’s fulfillment” and “People often wonder what happens when they die. But what happens when they truly live?”
- If you want to make a sale, you need to spend more time listening than talking.
- You learn more from trying things than you do from thinking.
- Being a good leader means being prepared to make difficult decisions but even more so, it is about being able to acknowledge and face your own shortcomings first.
- If you are going to do something, do something that matters.
- Find joy in the little things – being an entrepreneur is not about the glory of massive success, it is about celebrating the many small successes that come on the way.