Neil Gallagher is an entrepreneur based out of Tampa Bay where he serves as the Vice President and Co-Founder of Brighterway Solar and is the Owner of Sprocket Roofing. He also runs the Nonprofit Preserving the Stories which focuses on preserving the legacies of America’s aging WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam Veterans. Since 2008 Neil Gallagher has interviewed over 150 veterans, preserving thousands of hours of history. Neil served as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and graduated from the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida. While a student at USF, Gallagher was selected as the USAA 2017 Student Veteran of the Year presented by the USF Office of Veteran Success. He was also selected as an honoree for the University of South Florida 25 Under 25 program. Neil is an active member of the Tampa community and has amassed over 2000 hours of community service since moving to Tampa Bay in 2015. His companies hold multiple philanthropic events throughout the year, aimed at helping Veterans and children in need. This holiday season will be Neil’s 9th year with the Toys for Tots Program.
What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?
As much as I wish there was, in these past few years there hasn’t been a typical day that I can remember. Every day is fluid, and you must be ready to face whatever challenges may present themselves. I am by no means a morning person, but in my industry, there are a lot of early mornings. I also find that if I start my day in the gym or with a run, I feel much more mental clarity throughout the day than had I not. I also find that if I’m in a fog, stepping away for a few minutes helps me refocus on the task at hand.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Anytime I have an idea I try to write it down. This can be either in the note app on my phone or in a physical notebook. I think about it for a day or two and then run it by friends and family. If they seem to respond positively, I will begin researching the topic. If after a week or two the passion fizzles out, I’ll move on to the next idea, if not I’ll act and see where it takes me. I’ve started many side projects this way and even a business.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I have seen more and more of my generation begin to start their entrepreneurial projects and businesses. I think this wonderful trend will have a positive impact on the health of our economy. It’s great to see so many young people taking their careers into their own hands. If you have an idea, you need to take a shot at it!
What is one habit that helps you be productive?
Each night I write down my goals for the next day. I write 5-10 things in order of importance and find that in doing so I can stay focused and on track throughout the day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If I could give my younger self any advice, it would be to enjoy the moment more. When I was younger, I was so focused on the next step, the next milestone that I lost sight of living in the moment. I wish I could go back and change that. I wish that I had more memories of being truly present in the moment.
Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.
I believe that you can learn at least one thing from everyone that you meet. No matter the situation or circumstance, there are people with life experiences that you never fathom.
By spending a few minutes of your day talking to someone new, you can significantly expand your outlook on the world.
What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?
I always encourage others to give their ideas a chance! A failure is much easier to deal with than regret. With failure, you will at least know you gave it your all. One of my biggest fears is looking back on my life and wondering “what if”.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
When I become overwhelmed, I try to take a step back and take a breather. I try to figure out what the biggest stressor is and come up with a new plan of attack. I will try to work out or even just go for a run. I find that after exercising I am re-charged. Both of these help me tackle my biggest challenges.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?
Putting our clients first has always been a top priority for us. Not only is this simply the right thing to do, but it also has immensely rewarded us with referrals and repeat business. If you treat people right, I firmly believe they will treat you right. I believe it’s because of this philosophy that most of our new business comes from clients we’ve worked with in the past. It’s a great feeling knowing that they will vouch for your business to their friends and family.
What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?
Early in my career, I was abruptly laid off from what I thought was my dream job. It crushed me. I had worked so hard to get this role and had gone through a lengthy interview process that took months to complete. Covid made my job search nearly impossible, and I found myself in an industry I not only had no experience in but also had no interest in the work. All I could think about was getting re-hired by my former company or a similar one within the financial services industry. I never would have imagined what the future held for me.
Had this layoff not happened, I don’t think I would ever have been pushed to start my own business. I believe this was a perfect example of “Bloom where you’re planted”. I didn’t believe my mother’s advice at the time, but things really will be okay in the end. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I believe Artificial Intelligence will forever change the way we do business. In particular, I believe the financial services industry will be significantly impacted by these disruptions. If you could find a way to get ahead of the coemption and set up some form of robo-advisory I believe you will be a very wealthy person in the near future.
What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
As the founder and co-founder of two separate construction companies in Tampa Bay, we would be dead in the water if it were not for our CRM. It’s the lifeblood of our business and the only way we can track all the details of our projects and ensure everything runs smoothly on time and within budget.
We are able to use our CRM to track leads, prospects, and current projects, and even monitor completed builds. It allows us to streamline our process and track all aspects of our business.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
The best $100 I spent recently was for my nonprofit Preserving the Stories. I started this project when I was 12 years old and the first few dozen interviews were done on cassette tape. As I’m going through the process of creating video content for these interviews, replaying these tapes was very burdensome and time-consuming. I came across a cassette-to-MP3 converter on Amazon and it has been a godsend.
Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?
One of the most influential books I’ve ever read called Angel Blue by Forrest Lang. Forrest has been through so much in his life and has been able to accomplish a great deal despite all the obstacles he faced. I am lucky to call Forrest a friend and I can safely say that he and his book changed my life.
I am not the biggest podcaster but I enjoy listening to “The Veteran (Semi) Professional” podcast. They have a great perspective for veteran entrepreneurs and provide high-quality content.
What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?
I recently rewatched the series “The Pacific” by HBO. As a huge history buff, I thoroughly enjoy the attention to detail that the producers maintained throughout the series. I feel they did their best to capture the life of a Marine Infantryman during WWII and it shows.
- Find what makes you productive and act on it. Understanding how you react to certain stimuli and operate efficiently will allow you much more productivity throughout your day.
- Run your ideas by your trusted circle and take note of their reactions. Those who know you best are more likely to give their honest feedback.
- Open your horizons. By going outside your comfort zone you can change your perspective not just on the world around you, but yourself as well.
- It will all work out in the end. The unexpected will always happen and life is constantly changing. Try to make the best out of the hand you’re dealt and don’t be afraid to bloom where you’re planted.
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.