Don’t waste time on being the perfect solution builder, focus on being the effective solution builder.
Roy is a serial entrepreneur and former executive in companies ranging in size from public corporations with thousands of employees to idea & seed stage startups, with a proven track record in building businesses and turning a problem or company around. His strong skills as a communicator and team builder has enabled him to successfully lead both mature corporations and new ventures in operations, business operations, corporate development, and revenue generation. With over 20 years’ experience leading, building, and operating business units and companies across different countries and spanning continents, he understands the nuances of global and local markets, product development, technology integration, partnership eco-systems and generating widespread adoption in the marketplace – while building multi-cultural / multi location teams. Roy currently serves as the CEO of BabelBark, a company he co-founded in 2015 with his long-time business partner Bill Rebozo, a successful highly unique software platform for the companion animal space. Prior to founding BabelBark, Roy held executive leadership roles and led business units in EnergyPoints (Co-Founder and COO, was acquired in 2014 by Lux Research), GridPoint Inc. (SVP Operations, acquired by TFC Utilities), Comverse Technologies Inc. (public company, VP Corp Dev) and Comverse Billing Systems Ltd (VP Operations, acquired by Amdocs).
Where did the idea for your company come from?
The idea for BabelBark came about when Roy and his business partner Bill Rebozo were planning an extended vacation—and worried about leaving their dogs with sitters. So, they created an app to help the sitters out and enable them to keep tabs on what’s happening with their dogs. Everyone loved it so much, they decided to make it available for the rest of the pet-loving world. That app became BabelBark. Since then, BabelBark has grown into a Pet Suite of products including the BabelBark app for pet owners, BabelVet software for veterinary hospitals + clinics and BizBark software for businesses + shelters—all designed to work together to redefine the connection between pets and everyone who cares for them.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As the CEO of a high growth start up you really work around the clock with a 24/7 mindset. You organize the day based on “urgent / important” issues and meetings with all the “regular” topics and meetings in between and pushed to the back of the line. Given that on any given day you will have at least one (or more….) unforeseen and unexpected crisis’s pop up, that means that on most days many of the “regular” items get pushed to the evening and even at night. It’s quite usual to be in the office and working late into the evening. The challenge is to stay productive in an environment that is both high paced & long and has a lot of unforeseen situations. The trick, at least for me, is to work in a very structured and calm way. You start the day dealing with and checking off all the urgent and / or important things and you keep disciplined at it. What that means is that even if a unforeseen crisis comes up, once its taken care of you go back to exactly the point you were prior – the topic you were taking care off and the “next one” that was planned. If you build the priority list in the right way, with really the important and urgent topics first, AND you stay disciplined dealing with those before first (even if you need to break for a unforeseen crisis in the middle), then you will be able to stay productive and get through the day with the important stuff you had planned done.
How do you bring ideas to life?
That’s a great question and it’s a simple answer but not so simple to implement. The answer is a typical strong team work, open mind, out of the box thinking and dedication. But, it’s harder to do…. Here’s the issue – not everyone has the same level of imagination or the same level of capability to visualize how a idea can be brought to life. Some people are great at operational work but need a defined task and target, others are more innovators and out of the box thinkers and designers. So the trick is to combine a team of both types… have the innovator come up with the idea, but then have a very operational “feet on the ground” team flush it out – everything from the market need through the build process and business case. Your job, as CEO / founder, is to pull everyone together and not let the innovators be held back by the “reality” folks, and on the flip side not to let the innovators overpower reality and drive ideas that aren’t really feasible. There are so many case studies out there of great companies that didn’t make it because great ideas & innovations were either killed by the challenges to build, or innovations that were so unrealistic to build and implement that they killed companies.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m always excited about how innovators create “new things”, by that I mean not specifically creating a company but a trend, a new market with a product that no one ever imagined before. Think for example about social media – created from a idea and its now a staple of society. This of hospitality platforms (Uber, Airbnb etc.) – created from really nothing before into a world changing “trend”. The same goes for the technology in the pet space, for IoT and many others – I think we live in remarkable times where people, innovators & entrepreneurs can literally create not only trends but whole markets and global changes by imagining & building new ideas into products.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Hum, that’s a tough one…. But if I have to state one habit I would probably say its my aversion to leaving things “open”. I always try to close a issue at the end of the discussion and refrain from the “analysis to paralysis” type of process where you have endless meetings and discussions to try and get the solution 100% perfect. In a start up the rule is “good enough is best”, so if we have a solution that is good enough – we go with it and move to the next topic. This not only saves a lot of time but also keeps the machine very productive as it keeps moving at a fast pace.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t waste time on being the perfect solution builder, focus on being the effective solution builder.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Its only a business, not solving the world. The problem is that the vast majority of entrepreneurs and executives get so caught up in their own ideas and companies, think & act like it’s the most important thing in the world. Its not… its just a business. Some succeed and some don’t, but its only a business. So take moment, chill out and look at it accordingly. 90%+ of start ups fail – and the world doesn’t collapse, people go one to their next job – so calm down, take a breath and manage with a mind set for success but not panicking.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Check yourself, check yourself again and then check yourself once more. If you ever think that you have the right solution just because you are the boss – well, then that’s a recipe for failure. Always check yourself – against market trends, against competition, and against the thoughts and opinions of your employees. If you are really open to this – you will be surprised about how many corrections, you need to do and how it will benefit the overall success of the company
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The main strategy that I would say has had the most impact is listening to the market. We pay a lot of attention – from focus groups across different segments, through market analysis people to first hand feedback from users. And we don’t only listen to what people are telling us – we make changes and adapt very quickly with ad hoc feature changes and road-map adaptations.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest failure was in a start up I co-founded a 10 years ago. My partner and I were so fixated on the idea, we were so sure we had it “right” that we didn’t listen to the market – no attention was paid to market changes, to feedback or anything like that. We were so sure we had the right solution and that everyone else was wrong, we failed to see that we were building a solution no one wanted to a problem no one had. We lost over $10 Million investment over 3 years until the company closed. It was very painful, but I learned a lot from that experience, and I went on to found and build another company that is very successful – with the failure experience as a beacon to what not to do.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Here’s an idea I have been playing around with for some time but haven’t done anything with yet – and feel free to pick it up and go with it…. IoT – everyone knows what it is, everyone is fixated on building new IoT solutions. BUT… there are several Trillion dollars of old / older industrial machinery out there that was built pre IoT days and doesn’t have the internal built in technical capabilities for IoT. So what if you can develop a small, cheap HW/SW combination solution that you can attach to any machine and make it IoT capable? How much would that be worth to corporations with industrial conveyor belts, manufacturers, large scale mining operations, etc. etc. etc.….? Think of it – every industrial machine in the world, in every continent, can now be IoT enabled and transmit real time data to HQ. Go one – dig in, build a business case, see what you will find.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I recently spent were on upgrading our tele-conferencing system. We are a remote location company so working & connecting via tele conference is really important, so this new upgrade really works wonders.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I would say that Google docs and drive are the number 1 thing. The ability to collaborate on working documents, excels, presentations is huge, especially in a remote location company is huge as folks can physically open and share a doc in real time, see the work and changes that someone else is doing and collaborate almost like a whiteboard discussion.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The number one book I think everyone here should read is “the hard thing about hard things”. There is no better book that accurately explains what it means to co-found a company, slowly grow it and then have to transition to a “real” company with very painful decisions that have to be made. It’s a must read I think.
What is your favorite quote?
“The key is to embrace disruption and change early. Don’t react to it decades later. You can’t fight innovation.” — Ryan Kavanaugh
• Always be open to ideas and feedback from employees and from the users. Never be convinced that you have the solution to everything – listen, be open, learn and you will be able to really get the best solution and option done.
• Listen to market and adjust – don’t be too in love with your product to lose sight of what will work, a great idea and product is only great if people will buy it and use it, so don’t design and build while your blinded by love for your idea – design and build according to what is usable and people actually need.
• Be structured and diligent in your daily priorities, don’t work based on who shouts the most but based on what is really top priority. Be practical on the solutions and be careful not to fall into analysis to paralysis mode – remember, in a start up good enough is best!
• Read “The hard thing about hard things”, let it sink in and remember the lessons!