Frank Spano: 5 Things I wish I Knew Before I Became an Entrepreneur
By Space Coast Daily // May 2, 2023
Every month over 400,000 new business formation applications are filed in the United States. That’s a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs! As exciting as it may seem, starting a business can also be daunting and overwhelming, especially if you’re not prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.
To gain a better understanding on this, we’ve turned to Frank Spano, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at NewAge Products Inc, to share with us five lessons that he wished he knew before he became an entrepreneur and embarked on his business journey.
I: Thanks for joining us. What inspired you to start an online storage and organization company?
F: I knew I wanted to start a business that solved a problem for people and made their lives easier. To be honest, as a 23 year old university grad, I didn’t know much about furniture, or home organization, but my partners and I found a niche that was under-served in the home improvement industry and built a business around it.
I: So looking back, what do you wish you knew when you first started?
- It’s a marathon, so start now.
- Always ask if you’re adding value.
- Be patient in hiring the right people.
- Be passionate about building.
- Take care of yourself.
I: Thank you for sharing those points with us, Frank. Let’s dive into each of them in more detail.
F: Absolutely, let’s do it.
I: First, you mentioned that starting a business is a marathon. Can you expand on this?
F: Sure. When starting a business, you have to understand that everything is probably going to take twice as long as you’d originally estimated, so be patient and stay focused. Around 80% of businesses fail in the first 3-5 years, and that’s when most people give up- not only on a business, but maybe at a job as well. There’s value in sticking with a project/idea/job beyond when most people would give up, I think that’s when there’s the most learning. There’s value in nurturing ideas, and adapting with the failures, instead of quitting entirely. Also, the sooner you start, the longer you’ll have to make those mistakes, so give yourself plenty of time. So start now. And even if you fail, that’s fine. Just learn, iterate, and pivot.
I: Makes sense! What about always asking if you’re adding value. Can you tell us more about that?
F: When approaching a new opportunity or project, the first question I always ask myself is, “How can I add value to this equation?” If you can’t answer that question, it’s time to find a way to create it, or move on to the next idea. You don’t always have to build a better mousetrap, but you can deliver it faster and damage-free, help the customer use it properly, install it for them, make the buying experience simpler, you get the idea. Adding value isn’t always about providing a lower price, it could be about giving the consumer a better user experience, or taking the pain points out of purchasing.
I: Your third point was about taking time to hire the right people. Can you elaborate on that?
F: It’s easy to be tempted to fill a position quickly, but taking the time to find the right candidate is crucial. Hiring and training take a lot of time, so try to do it less by doing your due diligence on candidates before you bring them aboard. Remember that “A” players will help your company flourish, “B” players may stick around too long, and “C” players will drain your time. Firing people is one of the hardest things you’ll have to do, so it’s important to reward loyalty and hire people that fit with the culture and values of your company. And if it’s possible, do someone’s role before you hire them, or at least have a deep understanding of it.
I: Tell us more about being passionate about building processes and systems, not just the product.
F: It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of creating a new product or service, that’s where all the glamour is. But it’s crucial to remember that the process and systems behind the product are just as important. Remember, you’re building a company, not just a cool new product.
I’ve seen a lot of businesses built where the leaders are only passionate about the product or industry, but lose motivation after a few years and want to move on to another “passion project.” Instead, focus on building processes, solving problems, and creating a culture of growth and innovation with your team. Remember, discipline beats motivation every day of the week.
I: Finally, you mentioned taking care of yourself. Why is this so important?
F: Everyone’s “busy” and it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that you have to be working constantly to run a successful business. This is definitely important in the early stages of a business when you should be laser focused, but it’s crucial to find a balance between work and rest, mental health, time off, physical well-being, and social and family connections. I try to incorporate time outdoors, light physical activity and time away from screens everyday. The most efficient way I’ve found – get a dog! There’s tons of ways to treat yourself in a healthy way that will leave you feeling recharged and ready to come back to work with a fresh perspective and renewed energy.
I: Thank you, Frank, for sharing your insights with us. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you today.
F: Thank you for having me, hopefully this helps some entrepreneurs starting out or even those in their business for awhile.