When you work side by side with someone for the better part of a decade, it’s not surprising that they will have a powerful influence on you. For me, that is the case with Sean Behr, CEO and Co-Founder of STRATIM.
I was first introduced to Sean at Shul (Yiddish for temple). At the time he was working for a video advertising technology company named Adap.tv, and was looking for more people to join the team in his New York office. I knew nothing about advertising or the technology that powered it, but that did not stop Sean from inviting me to his New York office for an interview.
From my first associate job as an ad trafficker (a nice way to say someone that copies information from one Excel spreadsheet to another) to 2018 when we sold STRATIM, the company we co-founded together in 2014, Sean has left me with great kernels of wisdom. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Organize your day so you are always moving forward.
At first, this might come off as a way to keep yourself busy during the day, but the wisdom of this motto is: be the captain of your own day. Try to ensure that your day is scheduled around what you have prioritized as most important and that you are the one that sets the start and end times for meetings. It’s easy to let other forces move around your calendar; it’s a skill to have your calendar be self-managed.
2. Learn as much about what not to do as what to do from leaders.
We all admire and look up to leaders around us and try and incorporate their best qualities into our own life. Just as important is learning what not to do. Leaders can make mistakes, handle matters poorly, say the wrong thing, or miscalculate a business decision. Pay just as close attention to the negatives as the positives when learning from the people around you.
3. No one cares about the sprinkles.
People select their favorite cake because of the cake itself – not the sprinkles on top. The same goes for building a company. Building a company is about getting the core product and financials working – not worrying about the company logo or what names to call the conference rooms. It’s tempting to focus on the “sprinkles” of a company because they are simpler to solve for. In truth, the sprinkles just don’t matter.
4. If you are amazing at your job you will be right 50% of the time.
You are going to get it wrong. Often. Having the humility to know, accept and work with that knowledge will make you a better leader. Understanding that wrong choices and mistakes happen often is also the key to understanding that work is a team sport. More people reviewing work and getting involved in the decision-making process means that your 50% chance of getting it wrong is reduced by everyone else’s 50% chance of getting it right.
5. Be willing to do it yourself first.
Understanding what is truly required to complete a task (even the tasks that computers can do for you) is not only essential for understanding how your business operates but sets a tone of empathy for the team members responsible. An example: If making phones calls to 100,000 small business and updating a database with the information is part of your company’s work, you should be prepared to do that manually yourself first before handing it off to a team that will be doing it full time.
6. Eat last.
This can apply to eating a meal, but the expression is a metaphor for looking out for your team. Make sure they have the tools, support, and environment to be successful before thinking about yourself. If your team has enough to “eat” then you will find that there will be more “food” for everyone, including you.
7. It’s raining money – grab a bucket, not a thimble.
Don’t undervalue your product. When clients get a benefit from the product you are selling them make sure to exact as much value in return as possible. There is nothing admirable, cool or shrewd about undercharging your clients and leaving money on the table. When you have the opportunity to make money from a product – get your bucket out and leave your thimble at home.
About Shmulik Fishman
Shmulik Fishman is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Argyle – an infrastructure-as-a-service company that makes workforce data (everything from UBER to Fiverr) accessible through a single API. Insurance providers, credit card issuers, and applicant tracking systems use Argyle to unlock the power of workforce data.
Before Argyle, Fishman was the Chief Operating officer of STRATIM, a company he co-founded in 2014. STRATIM raised over $40M in venture funding and sold in 2018 to KAR Auction Services, an $8B publicly traded company. STRATIM built software that automated the operations of large-scale vehicle fleets across the United States and Canada for clients such as General Motors, Enterprise Rental Car, and Zipcar.
Prior to STRATIM, Fishman worked at Adap.tv, an online video advertising marketplace now owned by Verizon Wireless. At Adap.tv, Fishman reported to the Chief Financial Officer and was responsible for order payment processing and actionable data insights on the company’s health.
Shmulik Fishman has held positions at World Financial Desk, a high-frequency trading firm and global market maker; Merrill Lynch, a global financial services company; and the Metropolitan Transit Authority, America’s largest transportation network serving a population of 15.3 million people across New York City, Long Island, southeastern New York State, and Connecticut.