What I’ve Learned: My Journey as an Entrepreneur One Month Before My 30th Birthday

by / ⠀Startup Advice / May 21, 2012

All my life I have been an entrepreneur. It’s something that runs in my family. It’s a mentality. A drive. It’s wanting the most out of life and creating something.

I have always said that I wanted to be a millionaire by age 30. I don’t know…it’s just one of those things I’ve always talked about with my two older brothers who have always challenged me in the healthiest of ways. I think everyone needs that push…but it has to come from a good place. You will encounter enough people in your life that, although they might say they want the best for you and wish you the best of luck, there’s an underlying sentiment there that they really don’t…that’s just the truth. Hopefully, you have more positive than negative people surrounding you in your life. This will likely play a major role in your life–both business and personal.

Five months ago I lost one of the most important people in my life. You might say the most important person in my life. The person that brought me into this world, my mother. I think most of my hard work and steadfast dedication came from her, in fact, I’m sure it did. Don’t get me wrong, my father is extremely hard working and if I had to choose a father, I’d surely always pick him. But my mother, throughout her years, led by example.

I can’t put 29 years of my whole journey into an article but I will list the most important lessons I have learned as an entrepreneur that can hopefully help those of you who are trying to start a business and be ‘successful.’ As you read some of these reflections you may say to yourself, “Oh, yeah, I knew that.” And that’s great. I’m not pretending to be the voice of any new secrets to success or anything you haven’t heard of before. This is just my personal experience and lessons learned. While many of us entrepreneurs face similar experiences on our journeys, we can also say the same for how different some of our journeys are in building our businesses.

My name is Pablo Palatnik and I am the CEO of ShadesDaddy.com, currently one of the largest internet retailers of sunglasses in the world.

For the past 12 years or so I have been obsessed with selling things online. I remember being pretty broke in college working in a thrift store. I remember sorting through the incoming merchandise and thinking, “Hmmm…why are these Diesel jeans selling here for $7? I bet I can sell them for more.” So what did I do? I started buying them myself and selling them on eBay. Within a month I had a nice little business. I had that eBay account set up with my parents’ address in Miami and remember getting a call from my father asking me what I was doing because I had so many checks in the mail. I told him what I was doing…they were so proud. My parents thought it was a great idea.

I have many stories like that but that’s not what I’m here to write. I have started so many businesses…I couldn’t name them all. SOMETIMES, FAILURE WILL TEACH YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE. It’s 1am on a Monday and I just got back from what I deem a real successful day. Not because of anything regarding my business (in a monetary sense,) but because of what I actually did today, which is what most entrepreneurs dream of when they start their business. FREEDOM TO DO WHAT YOU WANT, WHEN YOU WANT.

Do What You Love – Love What You Do

Cliche, right? It’s true. This may be THE cardinal rule of true success. For one, it should never feel like ‘work.’ I can’t remember the last time I woke up and said, “I don’t want to ‘work’ today.” I’m addicted to what I do. While some may call it being a ‘workaholic’, then I think if those people enjoyed what they do as much as I enjoy building my business, they would better understand.

You Don’t Know Everything

While you may start to build a business and it actually begins to work, don’t think that you’ve become a superstar and mr. know it all (or mrs.) Some may say I’m a stubborn person, and maybe I am…I have a strong mindset about how I feel about certain things and how they should be done. But guess what? I’m not Mr. know it all. I don’t have all the answers my business needs. Feedback is crucial to building a business, which leads to my next lesson.

Build a Good Team Around You

If you think one person builds a company, you’re wrong…oh boy are you wrong. A company is built by a team of people. If you want to build a good strong organization, then you need strong players. Think of your company as a sports team. Who wins? Those who have the best players that PLAY AS A TEAM (OK, scratch tennis from your mind though.) While that team needs a game plan to win, they are the people that will execute, and depending on who you have on your team, the outcome of the execution will be determined.

Plan and Strategize

Every company needs a game plan to keep moving forward. It must analyze data and really put a plan together so that you, as an entrepreneur can map out and guide yourself with. I currently plan what I will do tomorrow, the rest of the week, the rest of the year and the next two years or so to keep focused and have my own game plan. While of course things change, it creates a picture in your mind and gets you ready for what you need to do.

Let the Numbers Guide You – But It’s Not All About Numbers

I can’t begin to tell you how many times ‘they’ve’ (a number of people,) have sat me down to analyze our numbers, our bottom line. Profits, profits, profits, right? This is a business. At the end of the day, the numbers have to make sense in order for the company to keep moving forward. YOU WANT A HEALTHY BOTTOM LINE. This is what can determine if you can sell your company, if you can get investors interested in your company or frankly, the numbers can and most likely will determine if you stay in business. I’m not a numbers guy. I never was and may never be, although in my current position, you have to understand balance sheets & profit and loss statements. You have to understand a lot more than that.

My concern however, and mentality, has never been about what the numbers look like in terms of profits. They have always been about understanding the value of building a brand. How many people are visiting our website compared to last month? What about compared to 6 months ago? What about one year ago? How do our sales compared to last month? To a year ago? you get the point…IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT GROWTH. Are we growing in some core key metrics (that I consider to be core key metrics)? If we are…then we’re in good shape. It’s not just about numbers, but a number of different things that determine if you’re building a successful company.

Establish Good Relationships / Partnerships

You’ll learn and understand that without good partners, providers, whatever you want to call them, your business won’t reach its full potential. Working with companies (or individuals) who really like working with you, for you, etc, can make all the difference in the world.

There’s a saying that goes it’s not what you know but who you know. That may be true, and I think many times it is. But I also think it’s not just about who you know, but who you meet and what type of relationship you build with them.

Find a Mentor

This is something I’ve recently learned from one of my best friends who is also an entrepreneur. I have spent the past few months talking to him everyday about business, life, etc. I’ve learned a lot from talking to him about basic business principles to advances business principles.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Jerry Maguire. I think I have watched that movie over 30 times already? No joke. I think that movie hits on all aspects of life (I guess not death.)

For some odd reason the character ‘Dickey Fox’ really stuck with me. Sometimes I even say my mentor is the LATE GREAT DICKEY FOX as a joke. But I can’t tell you how many times I went to YouTube to found the short clips of what Jerry Maguire (the character) thought about in times of needs. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about.

In Conclusion

For privacy reasons, I can’t disclose the financials of my company nor will I disclose my personal finances.

I can tell you I’ve never been happier in my life and it’s not just about money, but success and the freedom that comes with it that is the most satisfying. I wake up every morning and I love what I do. I love going to my office, drinking my morning coffee and starting the day ready to kick ass, ready to think about ways to beat our competitors. The sense of accomplishment fulfills in incredible ways. Although the past few months of my life have been the hardest (dealing with a sick parent with Cancer,) they’ve taught me some of the most important lessons in life. Enjoy life. It’s short. Give everything to your work and it can give everything back to you.

Bio: Pablo Palatnik is the CEO of ShadesDaddy.com, one of the largest internet retailers of name brand sunglasses online which started in 2007. Follow on twitter @PabloPalatnik

About The Author

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.

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