Edited By Nicholas Olds
Adam Fridman is one of the most respected members of Chicago's entrepreneurial community, and certainly a great influence on me. I have been an entrepreneur now for 3 years, and in that time, Adam has founded two companies, in addition to a company he still runs today. Adam is a virtuoso of sorts in the entrepreneurial community because he has the Midas touch, and success seems to come to him instantly.
Since we first met, I have been on a long road to get where I am today, and he has provided me with guidance and support throughout the journey. However, the two most important bits of wisdom he imparted on me were that when you are in business for yourself, there are no little people. And if you do not have a plan, you are screwed.
Adam's true genius lies in his ability to seek out and surround himself with people much smarter and better than he is in all areas. "I was lucky enough to know several entrepreneurs by the time I graduated from DePaul University. So I learned from many of their mistakes right out of the gate. And I knew the type of people I needed to help."
With this understanding, Adam had enormous respect for anyone he met, whether they were an administrative assistant or a CEO. "The most important thing I learned from my mentors was that you never know who will wind up being a president. I can't tell you how many times I've seen this happen." This is particularly important for entrepreneurs because things change quickly in today's world of economic uncertainty.
"Having started Idea2Result in 2003, I never saw the economy crashing the way it did. But I had a planned for disaster." Adam always made a point to plan for success and failure equally because they help you to see the big picture. "I'm a big picture person, and I got into this business knowing that. So I don't get bogged down in the minute details of the daily aspects of business. I delegate those tasks to my employees so that I can focus on creating and implementing new ideas or solutions for the structural aspects of the company. Because anyone can have vision, but it takes meticulous planning to launch it and sustain it."
With this approach, Adam has built off the success of Idea2Result, his appointment-setting staffing company, to develop MeetAdvisors and GoBumper. "I researched the business model of a recruiting firm, and eventually found my niche in placing telemarketers with companies. The advantage of launching a recruiting company designed to place telemarketers is that I could hire agents in the Philippines for a fraction of the cost. And since they could work from home, I was able to profit shortly after launching the company because I had no overhead or office costs. So the big thing I focused on was having an automated system that worked on its own without me having to tend to every detail." He employed this "automated system" approach to GoBumpers, which develops on-vehicle expressions of loyalty for companies, while enabling customers to receive VIP rewards and other exclusive perks. This business model ran itself, and all he had to do was order and distribute bumper stickers when clients signed up.
The same approach went in to MeetAdvisors, a social networking website for entrepreneurs. The site was developed for entrepreneurs seeking advice to be connected with industry experts. Again, an automated system with little to no costs once the business was up and running. Meanwhile, he collects subscription fees and advertising revenue.
Perhaps what gives Adam the most credibility is his experience in keeping all of these companies competitive. He has the luxury of being able to tend to customer service and communicating directly with customers, despite running 3 separate companies. This is particularly important for him because these companies are founded on one vital aspect of customer experience: "The customer can use the service casually or long-term. It's whatever they want it to be."
Above all, Adam has been an inspiration to me because he has one mantra that he repeats in our conversations over and over again: "A company is only as good as the relationships it builds."
You can read the excerpts from Adam Fridman's interview below. His insights on his favorite start-up, the value of having real-world experience, and the importance of planning and executing a strategy resonated with me because of how easy he makes it sound to run a business when everything is planned ahead of time.
IG: How does MeetAdvisors make money?
Fridman: MeetAdvisors generates revenue from Google Ads; the vision is to create events in main cities across the U.S. When we go to a networking event, it is common to despise going up to a stranger and ask, "What do you do?" Advisers at networking events will wear an "A" that stands for "adviser," with their expertise listed below. If you are an entrepreneur looking for advice from a lawyer, look for "A" with a lawyer expertise. These events will be a place where digital meets the real world. The first event will be held in Chicago, and there will be a guest speaker.
While LinkedIn does a great job connecting business professionals, MeetAdvisors identifies a subset of a subset. LinkedIn doesn't allow you to connect with someone you don't know unless you pay. It is also awkward to approach 20 advisers and ask for free advice.
IG: What is your favorite start-up?Fridman: As cliche as it sounds, Facebook. Facebook answered a need we didn't know was there -- being connected. A debate can be made that we are now too plugged in, but my admiration for the concept is the simplicity of an idea with remarkable global impact.
IG: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Fridman: Never underestimate the importance of planning and executing a strategy after launch. "Build it and they will come" is a dream, mostly, and companies flooded with users and media are an exception to the rule. A rigorous and disciplined launch is required to understand the audience and pivot until finding the right approach.
IG: What is the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make?
Fridman: Marginalizing the value of advice from the right professional at every milestone from idea incubation. We -- I am including myself on purpose -- get excited about an idea and we fire. Pausing to listen to advice seems a waste of time. We only want to hear what supports our often euphoric feeling that only allows praise through, and we push forward.
IG: You had experience in the real world. How has that helped you? Should all entrepreneurs have real-world experience?Fridman: Hard question. On one hand, I believe my experience in corporate finance provided lessons in structure and discipline as well as a very strong toolkit in analytics. On the other hand, it can get hard to see the forest for the trees. Corporate structure can hinder creativity and innovation. In my case, I am happy to have had corporate experience to help me move forward with my entrepreneurial career.
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