[quote style=”boxed”]Ask lots of questions, including dumb ones.[/quote]
Sam Prochazka co-founded Novosbed.com – the zero-risk memory foam mattress company – in 2009 to give consumers an alternative to the ubiquitously pushy, deceptive, and expensive mattress buying experience. As CEO, Sam Prochazka participates closely in product research and development, and has focused the company on expanding its national and international sales through its chief sales medium: the internet.
Prior to co-founding Novosbed.com with fellow engineer and identical twin brother, Andy Prochazka, he co-founded RealPageMaker, which develops software for the real estate industry under the RealPageMaker and ClickSold brands; he continues to serve as company President today. He is also a co-founder of medical devices company Rehabtronics, and high-end furniture retailer Bryght.com.
In his spare time, Sam can be found enhancing the urban landscape in his native Edmonton by restoring an historic old mansion one brick at a time.
Where did the idea for Novosbed come from?
In 2009, when shopping for a replacement to my 10-year-old mattress, I received the most high-pressure sales pitch of my life, complete with coffee breath, pseudoscience and ridiculous prices. I left the store in disgust and started Novosbed the next day.
What does your typical day look like?
There is no typical day: Novosbed grew 3 fold over the last 12 months, and 5 fold over the last 6 months. Keeping pace with that expansion requires rapid learning and execution from everyone on the team. Our biggest challenge is making sure we can continue improving our products and our already high customer service standards, while accommodating so many more customers.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’ve found the best approach is to turn every idea whether originating from a customer, investor, or colleague into a mini science project and pose it as a question. Prioritize which questions need answering the soonest and feed them into a structured experimentation process: design experiment, collect data, analyze, discuss, and optionally implement. We make sure to build our team from internally motivated people who are hungry to answer questions and recognize the value in this type of evolutionary idea execution.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I believe strongly that a country needs to “make stuff” in order to flourish, and the movement of manufacturing back to North America is very exciting.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Ask lots of questions, including dumb ones.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I worked at a large engineering company for one year immediately after graduating from university. My job was to install control systems for a big oil refinery project.
Being a new engineer at the time, I was given virtually no work nor responsibility, and my day to day amounted to occupying desk space for 8 hours so that my company could invoice their customer for a fulltime engineer. I resigned after 9 months. The worst part about the job was that I learned very little.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I am proud of all my successes and failures: each one has taught me something new and useful.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take every opportunity to stay in touch with people. I go out of my way to schedule longer flight layovers or stays in cities so I can grab a quick lunch with people I know. It takes effort, but it builds global connections that are much stronger than LinkedIn.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Create experiments that produce conclusive results quickly. Experiments with many variables require more data to generate these results, and therefore take longer to execute. Making small, incremental changes to operational strategies, software, and products ensures quicker turnaround times and keeps our companies nimble.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Every entrepreneur experiences failure, and having presided over countless instances where a golden idea or brilliant strategy has completely flopped, I’m no different. Rather than focusing on a single failure, I’ve found it useful to develop a mental a framework in which every failure is considered a lesson on how to do things better. Adopting this strategy means that value is created even when an idea doesn’t materialize.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Haircut machine that records and plays back hairstyles. Train it on a perfect cut, then play it back next time you need a trim.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I only buy a new wallet if it is thinner and lighter than my last one. It is the one piece of apparel that needs to become extinct.
What software and web services do you use?
We try to put everything into the cloud, and use connectivity between major cloud applications to reduce workload. Our most important applications are Google Drive, Atlassian wiki, Insightly, WordPress with WooCommerce on WPEngine.
What do you love about them?
Everything is in the cloud, and at the fingertips of our decision makers.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century Entrepreneurs need to spend their time obsessing over the little things to be successful in their niche. This book is a nice break from the day to day and gets you thinking about things from the broadest possible perspective.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Elon Musk: without a doubt one of the biggest thinkers of our time
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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.