Business leader showcase
This East Coast gal is stuck on West Coast time, and once dreamed of being called the Honorable Abayomi-Paul. Tinu Abayomi-Paul is the Owner of Leveraged Promotions, established in 1998, and today spends time telling AG readers what her days look like, what keeps her up at night, and things that only people very close to her would know.
We often revere leaders, but often for their current work, without knowing where they came from, but by knowing what makes people tick, we can not only better connect with one another, but we stand to gain by being able to identify with traits shared with various leaders as a means of inspiring our own leadership paths.
Below is an unedited interview with Abayomi-Paul, in her own words:
Tell us about yourself and your work.
There arel all kinds of fancy words and phrases used to describe what I do but it boils down to this: I help businesses get more customers via the web, which includes mobile.
I’ve been doing this since 1998, at first working just with friends’ sites or organizations that weren’t pursuing a profit. At one point I owned the third most popular poetry site in the world, after poetry.com and Def Poetry Jam. It was called Fireseek, then later Urban Poetic. We had a partnership with About.com which included advertising. At the time I had a full time job, and that advertising got me the equivalent of an extra paycheck after I shared it with my partner.
Due to some health concerns and losing my job, I started thinking about how great it would be to help other people do what I did with the poetry site. At first it started out as helping other people get an extra paycheck a month. Then in 2004, I made more in one day than I did in a month at my temp job. The place I was working for went back on a promise to give me time off for my sister’s wedding. I quit and never looked back. I taught myself everything I could about promoting a business via the web – while promoting my business via the web. I tested things, then sold the knowledge or did the same for other companies.
Walk us through a typical day in your life.
My days living in Las Vegas, where I started my business, have spoiled me – my body won’t switch back from West coast time no matter what I do. I typically get up around 9 am East coast time unless I have something pressing to do. I start the day with research – what has happened with Google, social media, marketing, or PR since I went to bed? Have my colleagues written anything that would inspire me to debate or creation?
Then I share what I’ve discovered, do some commenting. Then I write. Articles, blog posts, work on books I’m writing, ghostwriting sometimes. About once a week I incorporate the creation of audio and video content – new habit I’m forming. By this time it’s midday.
At this point I check in with all my teams to make sure all the client projects are going well. Then I double-check my email, text, social media and phone messages to make sure I haven’t missed any fires that need to be put out.
After lunch is when I have the majority of my meetings. I find myself mentally sharper as the day goes on, even though I tend to get physically tired faster if I don’t pace myself.
I try to wrap it up by 6 pm, but I fail about 40% of the time, so my day often ends around 8, much as it pains me to admit.
What did you do before your current career?
I was in IT, mostly Help Desk. My last long-term job was with the MGM Mirage. They have this cool command center wall – you know how in the movies, NASA has this wall full of screens with lots of different information? It was like that. Before I moved to Vegas, I worked on the Help Desk at the IMF. I was working the swing shift with the Mission Travelers. People would go to remote areas where sometimes there was only dial-up access, so we couldn’t connect to a person’s computer like we could if they were in the building. Nor could we have come drop off their computers. So we would have to visualize the problem and give them oral instructions for how to fix things.
It was ideal for me because I have a kind of photographic memory. It’s not like on TV – it’s more like if I’ve seen something recently and enough times, I can remember something I’ve seen like I’m still looking at it. Like I can be in the supermarket, and look at the last time I saw the refrigerator to know if we have something.
What is something unique that you do to balance work and life?
I meditate and read affirmations. It reduces stress and helps me focus. I used to do it daily, and that what when I was most successful with the least effort. Working my way back to that.
What keeps you up at night?
I don’t have payroll, because I hire other companies instead of other people. It’s cleaner until I need permanent people. But making sure I have enough work to keep working with the same teams keeps me up at night. I am also almost at the point where I need a permanent assistant. So I worry about finding room for that in the budget on a consistent basis, someone trainable but who already has the basic skills I need. I was burned once by someone who was a sharp self-starter, but turned out to be untrustworthy.
If you could spend one day in the life of another industry leader, who would it be?
Toni Morrison. She was an editor for a long time, then started writing at 45. She later won a Pulitzer Price and a Nobel Peace Price. At heart, I’m a writer, I think what we read fuels who we are. So I’d love to see how her mind works from the inside.
What tools can you not live without?
I’d throw my phone in a lake if I could. I hate texting, and I want my phone to do less, not more. answer calls consistently and stfu. But my work and my life need to be mobile. Not to mention the fact that I’m addicted to mobile apps.
So I’d have to say my iPad. A very close second would be Jungle Disk – a product by Rackspace that, in conjunction with Amazon s3, gives my company network drives. I also adore LastPass. I kill PC laptops in six months on average, so instead of constantly losing everything, I just save it all to the cloud. I back stuff up to a brick too but with a network drive you don’t have to go through the restore process.
If you could start your current career over, what would you do differently?
I would have skipped directly to owning a company that builds useful or fun software, and focused on creating content for the people who liked the software my company built. I thought I had to be able to code and all that. And I had a serious problem, which I’m currently still getting over, with thinking I had to do everything 1- myself and 2- perfectly. Now i know it’s more important to be timely, and that I can correct as I go. The grammar police and the haters will find something wrong with what you’re doing no matter what.
I’d be making mobile apps and web apps for business now. I still will but it would have been nice to have been doing this from the beginning.
At age 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As my mother constantly reminds me, I wanted to get a PhD like my father, and also be a judge. I fantasized about being called the Honorable Dr. Abayomi-Paul. I will likely still get a doctorate, but I eventually realized that my dream was to go to law school, not to be a lawyer. And I decided I’d wait until I could afford to go without getting deeper into school loan debt, and if I still wanted to do it, I would.
Tell us something about you that people wouldn’t believe unless they knew you.
I’m much quieter in person than my long, rambly writing would have you believe. MUCH.
What inspirational quote has stuck with you the longest?
I’m paraphrasing what I was told is Emerson, but I can’t remember what essay this quote is in, nor have I had much luck Googling it.
“Your attitude towards a given situation is more important than the facts that actually prevail.”
I’ve found that to be universally true. Most of think our thoughts and emotions are just electrical impulses that happen to us, that we’re enslaved to them. In life I’ve learned that your thoughts are a choice that you can make conscious, and that we can control a great deal of our emotions. Some of my early close friends think it odd the way I often deal with conflict, because they grew up with me being confrontational, even when the situation didn’t necessarily call for it.
But around college, I began to realize that if my TRUE goal is to resolve a conflict, and not just to win an argument or stress myself, then what’s the point of arguing over stupid things? It’s not like your anger can Do anything. It’s not like worry makes things better. It’s not as if your tears have curative powers. I’m not dead inside or anything – I still have so-called negative emotions. But now, instead of something bothering me for weeks or months, I have learned to shift my focus so it only affects me for minutes or hours.
Most incredibly, it’s what frees up my energy for achieving what I want to in life. Drop as much of your baggage as you can – no one helps you carry it.
How to effectively share negative thoughts with your business partner
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You and your business partner(s) are in a close relationship, and just like a marriage, negative emotions may play a role in the relationship.
You and your business partner are in a relationship. Your business was born when you shared a common vision of the future and became giddy from the prospect of all you could do together that you couldn’t do alone. Now, you spend much of the day doing things together in collaboration. The stakes are high; there are obstacles to overcome, decisions to make together, deadlines to meet, and all the stresses of running a business.
It’s no wonder a business partnership can often be just as complicated and emotional as a romantic relationship. If you are struggling with your business partner, you might find helpful advice in resources originally targeted towards troubled couples.
Relationship expert Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein has explored how to share “toxic thoughts” with your partner. In a linked article, Bernstein describes toxic thoughts as distortions of the truth that cause us to overemphasize the negative attributes of our partner.
Some examples of toxic thoughts include blaming your partner for larger problems that aren’t really their fault, inaccurately assuming your partners intentions, or resenting your partner for not intuiting your needs, even if you haven’t expressed them. The defining characteristic of these toxic thoughts is that, although they may be based in the truth, they are generally exaggerations of reality, reflecting our own stresses and insecurities.
Just as much as in a love relationship, these toxic thoughts could easily strain a business partnership. If you find yourself having toxic thoughts about your business partner, you will need to decide whether to hold your tongue, or have a potentially difficult conversation. Even when we remain quiet about our frustrations, they are easily felt in the awkward atmosphere of interpersonal tension and passive aggressive slights that results.
Dr. Bernstein points out that being honest about your toxic thoughts with your partner can help increase understanding and intimacy. It also gives your partner a chance to share their toxic thoughts with you, so you’d better be ready to take what you dish out. It might be hard to talk about our frustrations with each other so candidly, but it might also be the most straightforward way to resolve them.
Then again, Bernstein points out, some people prefer to work through their toxic thoughts alone. By his own definition, toxic thoughts are unfair exaggerations of and assumptions about our partner’s behavior. If you find yourself jumping to conclusions, assuming the worst, or blaming your partner for imagined catastrophes, perhaps you’d better take a few minutes to calm down and consider whether or not it’s worth picking a fight about. Then again, if you’re self-aware enough to realize that you are exaggerating the truth, you can probably also tease out the real roots of any tension you’ve been experiencing with your business partner.
If you are going to get personal, shoulder your own emotional baggage and try to approach your partner with equal parts honesty and diplomacy. Avoid insults, stay optimistic, and focus on solutions. State your own feelings and ask questions, rather than airing your assumptions about their intentions or behaviors. Keep your toxic thoughts to yourself, and work towards adjusting the behaviors that are making you feel negatively towards each other. Your business might depend on it.
This Uber for chefs will bring a home-cooked meal to your home
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Who doesn’t love a home-cooked meal? Now with this amazing startup service, you’ll soon be able to get one without having to cook it yourself.
Who doesn’t love a home-cooked meal that you didn’t have to cook?
And restaurants, UberEats, DoorDash, and their ilk have been banking on this desire for some time… Although whether restaurants can stay in the game remains to be seen.
Disrespect your essentials at your peril, but I digress.
Cofounders Heinin Zhang and Siddhi Mittal of London-based toddler-aged company, Yhangry, are bringing a solution to the problem that’s neither dragging into a restaurant during a gross
and grossly mishandled plague, nor struggling with how to perfectly word directions to your home for delivery drivers.
Essentially, you pay a certain amount per head in your dining party, which includes the chef’s time and expertise, groceries, booze if you want it, AND post-cooking cleanup. Then said chef
comes to your home, does their thing, and skedaddles.
If anything, it’s like a nice little splurge— okay, NO I can’t yet afford to keep a private chef on hand to make sure I’m not having Taco Bell sauce packets for lunch, but I COULD maybe do a
little splurge once every quarter and have some ‘Let’s pretend we’re rich’ time with a gaggle of friends.
It’s like a spa day, but for your tummy.
Now of course the idea of luxury house calls isn’t new, in and of itself, but you have to admit it is extremely cool that you can trust a centralized service to have vetted individuals who need to uphold certain standards on their books. Let’s face it, if your first thought upon inviting someone you don’t know into your house isn’t ‘What effed up ess are they gonna do in here’, you’re too well-adjusted to be reading this anyway.
I kind of love it! And I’m not the only one.
Yhangry’s raised $1.5 million USD (1,079,272.50 pounds sterling in redcoat money) through several angel investors after managing swift, and successful pivots during England’s lockdowns
last year! What started as a custom dinner party organization had to shift to virtual cooking classes! Now, as things open back up with the advent of the vaccines in Great Britain, Zhang and Mittal’s business savvy and quick thinking are being very aptly rewarded. They’ve got a ready team of 130 chefs in their rosters, Covid guidelines for all to follow, and a lot of big names
in their corner.
Nimbleness always pays is the takeaway here.
I fully wish these ladies every success, mostly because I reeeeeeeeeeeally want their home-cooked meal service to hurry up and be in my house already. What’s the English equivalent of fingers crossed… Something to do with tea? My teabags are plopped for them.
It only remains to sip and see what happens!
Why receiving big funding doesn’t guarantee startup success
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You finally got that big funding check that allows you to make your dreams come true, but most startups fail because they shoot for the moon.
The first thing every startup needs to get off the ground is funding. It’s crucial to have enough capital to cover equipment, inventory, and employee salaries, along with other basic expenses unique to the industry. Most startups cover these initial costs through business loans and capital from private investors.
Some business owners perceive getting funded as the first milestone toward success. While receiving capital is critical for success, being well-funded doesn’t guarantee success. Plenty of well-funded startups have failed, gone bankrupt, and all but disappeared.
How could so many well-funded startups possibly go under? The 90% failure rate for startups is due to a variety of factors including bad timing, no market, and most of all – mishandling of finances.
Here’s why receiving big capital doesn’t guarantee success.
Getting investment capital provides false hope
Getting funded can make you feel invincible and cause you to be too relaxed about spending money. It’s a powerful feeling to have plenty of money and know an investor believes in your business. Investors are smart; they wouldn’t throw money at a startup unless they had every reason to believe it will succeed, right? Not exactly.
Startups in big tech areas like Silicon Valley and San Francisco often have an easy time generating large amounts of capital from investors who can’t wait to throw money at the latest startup. Many investors ignore risk and throw their money at long-shot bets hoping to invest in the next Facebook or Instagram. The size of the pot is too mesmerizing not to take the risk.
These long-shot bets carry similar odds to winning a “Pick 6” bet in horse racing. The Pick 6 is one of the hardest bets to win because you have to pick the winning horses for six consecutive races. What if the top horse becomes injured before the sixth race? Investors who toss money at random startups have to pick a startup that will continue to meet all the right circumstances to become profitable long-term. Some of those circumstances are unpredictable.
No business owner wants to view their startup as a long-shot bet. However, the reality is that many startups are. You can’t gauge your potential for success based on how much funding you receive.
Having plenty of cash encourages premature scaling
When you’ve got the cash to scale your startup it seems like a waste not to dive in. Just one look around the internet reveals plenty of videos and articles encouraging entrepreneurs to scale their business. Advice online gives the impression that if you’re not scaling your business, you’re falling behind. However, scaling too soon can tank your startup.
Research conducted by Startup Genome found premature scaling to be the number one cause of startup failure. Nathan Furr from Forbes.com explains this finding and what it means for businesses. Premature scaling is defined as “spending money beyond the essentials on growing the business (e.g., hiring sales personnel, expensive marketing, perfecting the product, leasing offices, etc.) before nailing the product/market fit.” Furr says any business is susceptible to premature scaling – not just startups.
The problem is that premature scaling depletes your cash reserves more quickly. This leaves you with less cash to fix mistakes and readjust as you go along. Failure is what happens when you don’t have the necessary cash to fix mistakes and move toward success.
How to make the most of your funding and increase your odds of success
To increase the odds of developing a long-term successful startup, here’s what you can do:
• Save as much money as possible. For instance, you don’t need a giant office with expensive furniture right away. Work from home and hire a remote team until an office is absolutely necessary.
• Make sure the cost of acquiring each customer makes sense. Know how much money you’re spending to acquire each customer. Track all marketing efforts and eliminate the avenues that don’t generate paying, loyal customers. If the cost to acquire a customer is more than what they spend with your company, revisit your marketing strategy.
• Aim for an order-of-magnitude improvement with your innovation. Skip Prichard advises startups to strive for a 10x increase in the value of whatever innovation is being provided to the world. For example, if your company is offering a lower price for a greater value, aim to increase the value 10x. Attract the early adopters who want big improvements and they will validate you.
Money is a tool – use it wisely
Celebrate when you get your funding, but keep that money in the bank for necessary expenses. Money is a tool that doesn’t guarantee success, but if you budget wisely, you’ll have a better chance at beating the startup odds.
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