Spend time in places where you are uncomfortable

imgres-2I have been making the rounds in Los Angeles meeting companies that I am invested in out here.  It is really nice to have an in-person meeting in their hood vs mine.  I am also going by the offices to meet with the team.  I admit that I do not do that often enough in NYC.  It is truly about time and I believe that I do know how I best serve the companies that I invest in and although it would be great to meet everyone it is not always that easy.

I was at an office this past week and we were talking about entering unfamiliar territories.  It reminded me of some incredible advice I got years ago.  Not sure who gave it to me but it has served me well over the years.

When I was an assistant store manager at Macys in New Rochelle I was responsible for a third of the store.  My territory was all of women’s apparel and cosmetics.  It was really the ultimate job.  I absolutely loved having six managers report to me.  I got to teach them the ropes and that included everything from analyzing their businesses, getting rid of dated inventory, turning their floors around daily, speaking with their buyers, doing scheduling, etc.  It might have been one of my favorite jobs ever.

I was a cosmetics manager and an assistant buyer in Young Collector which is essentially moderate priced women’s clothing.  I understood cosmetics from a management perspective in the store.  I understood Young Collector as a buyer.

The advice I was given was simple.  The person said that you will more than likely spend all your time in cosmetics because it is comfortable and you understand it.  Don’t do that.  Spend as little time as possible in cosmetics.  You can get done what you need in that area in very little time because you already know it.  Spend all your time in the areas that you nothing about.  Put yourself into places where it is uncomfortable.  You will learn from that and in the end you will come out on the other end more knowledgeable and seasoned about a lot more than you did walking in.

Great advice that can certainly be applied to start-up businesses.  Entrepreneurs who get product should push themselves to spend time in sales.  Entrepreneurs who get sales should push themselves to spend more time in product.  In the end they will be smarter about their business and the people who are working for them

Comments (Archived):

  1. Susan Rubinsky

    Thanks for sharing your story. The story behind the saying really illustrates the power of it. You know, your husband wrote a great post the other day about how he decided to become a VC (your Mom told him an Ivy League degree plus an MBA “was the ticket”). It, also, was a really great illustrative story. You two should think about writing a book of little stories that illustrate key philosophies. I bet it would be a page-turner.

    1. Gotham Gal

      in our spare time. :))

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        LOL 🙂

      2. LE

        I read what Fred wrote about your mom and you have no idea how well that resonated with me. God knows I never had a girlfriend or wife with a mother like that. I would have died for a mother in law like that.I actually went home and told my wife about your mother (she already knows about you).I think this is exactly the type of thing that people don’t really understand about success. It takes many things. Luck, guidance, intelligence, being in the right place (NYC in this case) getting pushed by others and so on. And you never really know how it all comes together. You just see the result.

  2. LE

    I have always found it extremely helpful to be able to do any and all parts of any business that I was ever involved in. In fact it’s (for lack of a better way to put it) lifesaving.Additionally if you don’t have a basic understanding of someone’s job you can’t as easily manage or hire for that position. And you have no empathy for what an employee goes through.In my first business I both ran various machines and worked a retail counter. Later on I hired a manager who had never done those things. As a result he could never understand what it was like to be helping someone and have a line of 3 people waiting to get helped and the phone ringing at the same time. And by not running machines and running into problems he didn’t know what it was like to deal with that type of frustration.Back in the day of course because there was no angel or VC funding like there is today this was something that you had to do to survive. You had to wear all hats and get involved in any and all things happening until you could afford to have specialized people to handle those tasks.That said I don’t think everyone is capable of getting out of (what you call) their comfort zone. I wear many hats because I can wear many hats and it’s fun for me to do that and is my comfort zone. But I’ve seen plenty of people that are more “single function machines” that are more big picture people that have done quite well and that’s obvious.

    1. Gotham Gal

      im a multiple hat wearer too.