[quote style=”boxed”]I’m up at 4 a.m., when I check emails and drink coffee. I hit the gym at 5 a.m. and come home to feed the kids breakfast and get them ready for school (this is where an amazing wife comes handy), drive my two oldest to school, and hit the office. Productivity is relative; some days are better than others, but consistency is what I measure my days by.[/quote]
A seasoned operations officer and agile entrepreneur, Sam Bahreini has had a variety of professional experiences. He took control of the operations of a dying MVNO and returned it to profitability within two months by rapidly increasing subscriptions and cutting out inefficiencies. While serving as VP of a mobile retail franchise, Sam oversaw six regional managers and 300 employees at 60 locations. His experience in telecoms and operations is reflected in VoloForce; the company’s name means “rapidly effecting change.” VoloForce simplifies and automates retail operations and frees people up to do what they’re good at, enabling brand managers to be more successful.
In his spare time, Sam loves spending time with his family; he lives with his wife, three daughters, and two Australian Shepherds.
Where did the idea for VoloForce come from?
My partner, Paul Zsebedics, was traveling a new path in life. He’d sold a few successful software businesses and decided to try his hand at retail. He found one of the biggest obstacles was keeping retail locations looking crisp, clean, and professional at all times. A lot of other retail operators didn’t seem to care, but Paul was convinced that a professional appearance inspired confidence and boosted sales. A sloppy storefront sends people the other direction.
I’d been managing logistics at larger companies. My path had meandered into the mobile device sector on a number of occasions, but that wasn’t really how I viewed myself — I made businesses more efficient. I did see that there were all sorts of inefficiencies in many retail operations — and that they weren’t necessary to the structure of a retail operation.
Thus, VoloForce was founded on two simple premises: 1) Monitoring your brand’s implementation increases performance and revenue, and 2) modern technology should make it possible to monitor your brand implementation without leaving your office. Our service can be rebranded to match a client’s brand, provide security features so the right people see the right information, trigger alerts to let users know when to look away from their other work, and compile reports to highlight hidden weak spots.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m up at 4 a.m., when I check emails and drink coffee. I hit the gym at 5 a.m. and come home to feed the kids breakfast and get them ready for school (this is where an amazing wife comes handy), drive my two oldest to school, and hit the office. Productivity is relative; some days are better than others, but consistency is what I measure my days by.
From 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m., I’m at the office — I put out any fires, check emails, and whiteboard my day out to give the proper attention to the necessary items. The day includes many things, including accounting, HR, and operations.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We always get excited about ideas, whether they come to us at inopportune times or in brainstorming sessions. Does that make every idea a good idea? Certainly not. We throw our ideas into a virtual pot called “Random Thoughts,” and from there, our brilliant team vets them and decides what to do with them. Not all ideas are executed; we shelve many of them for later dates or recognize they simply aren’t viable. Sometimes, we find an idea we had many months ago works well now with our product because of the stage we’re at. Never let an idea disappear.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Google Glass changes the way we do things and how people see us doing things.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I spend as many breakfasts and dinners as possible with my wife and three beautiful daughters. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to forget the important things in life, but my family reminds me why I’m an entrepreneur and makes me consistently productive.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I worked at a bagel shop, and I had to wake up early to go make bagels using a kettle and wooden spoon. I still don’t eat bagels to this day; that smell is forever ingrained in me. I learned the value of waking up early, being prepared for the day, and truly what retail is: controlled chaos.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
It may seem like a cliché, but I’d change nothing. I enjoy every day, as well as every success and failure, equally. Mistakes allow me to grow as a person and VoloForce to grow as a company.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Show up, be present, and stay consistent in your actions. This helps you as an entrepreneur as it provides a consistent vision and direction. Your employees soon mimic your dedication and develop into a solid team. It’s a “first in, last out” philosophy.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Hiring the right people for the right reasons — and getting rid of the wrong people for the right reasons — has been immensely helpful in growing our business. One bad employee can ruin a dozen good ones, so you have to be swift when the wrong people are on your team and trust that you can find the right people only when you get rid of the wrong. We create a healthier organization in the long run that’s productive at all levels.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
All failures are a success, a learning experience which is invaluable. We utilized a vendor for a key project and trusted in the scalability presented to meet the deadline. Unfortunately, it didn’t come to fruition, and we had to cut ties. I learned that a stronger agreement will hold vendors more accountable and keep projects on track. Needless to say, our process for picking vendors has changed and made us more productive in our rollouts.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’d love to see someone develop a device that attaches to toddlers and has locator capabilities. For example, if you’re at a playground, the playground is zoned; if your kid moves outside of the zone, you know immediately. Parents with multiple children know what I’m saying!
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I give awesome piggyback rides to my kids!
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
1) Linode: This is a cloud hosting platform with incredible ease of use, flexibility of billing, and scalability.
2) Rackspace: This platform is a great interface to Akamai’s Content Delivery Network (CDN).
3) DynDNS: This provides a unified interface, APIs, and a distributed DNS system that fits our global deployment models.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’d recommend “The Advantage” by Patrick Lencioni. He provides invaluable wisdom on organizational health and business management.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
• Eric Barker: @bakadesuyo and
• Mark Cuban: @mcuban
• Ilya Pozin: @ilyaneversleeps and ilyapozin.com
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.