Interview with serial entrepreneurs Adam and Matthew Toren
Not sure if you know, but behind www.Entrepreneurship-interviews.com there is a company Energybyte and a spin off called inprogress. I’ve started Energybyte back in 2005, with 2 great partners: Simona and Tina – they are sisters. Starting a company “in the familly” brings it’s own set of challenges in respect of sharing tasks, authority and decisions.
So when I spoke to Adam Toren about him and his brother Matthew and their entrepreneurship story I couldn’t wait to have their interview and success story on board! Adam and Matthew are real serial entrepreneurs, having started and sold a number of businesses, since their teen years. They started by buying a struggling billiard hall, overhauling it’s business model and selling it later as a profitable business. Next was a printing company – same story – they build the business up and sell later. They are now in the publishing industry – another successful story.
Cristian: Adam, you started while in your teens. Have you (or your brother) ever been hired as an employee?
Adam: Yes, we both worked at a Casino as Black Jack and Poker dealers for a short time when I was 19 and my brother was 20. We were trying to grow our fashion business, so we worked on our entrepreneurial venture by day and dealt cards by night (you could say that this was our way of raising some extra ‘venture capital.’) The combination of the wage and tips were quite good and enabled us to grow our fashion accessory business by flying to Seoul, Korea to set up a winning relationship with a Korean factory and purchasing our first container load of fashion accessories. We created a full color catalogue and started doing the trade show circuit (our biggest success was in New York where we received over $75,000 in orders from one show).
Cristian: Your success stories are mostly based on spotting an under performing business, making it efficient and selling it later. I would be scared like hell buying a poor business, what ‘hidden’ skills do you have? What’s your strength in doing so?
Matthew: Well, that is a great question and we have been asked that by others as well. There isn’t really any ‘hidden skills’ it is more of an entrepreneurial instict with a twist of confidence, combined with proper due diligence prior to making our offer to purchase the struggling company. For instance, the billiard hall was in an up and coming area but was mis-managed and lacked any sort of ‘vibe’ or unique reason for someone to want to come back and visit again. So our suggestions are to evaluate the business venture by several hours of brainstorming, then itemizing the levels of importance of each idea (in the case of the billiard hall we applied for a liquor licence, added a cafe, built a stage for live jazz bands to play and overhauled the interior to make it warm and inviting.) Now, we didn’t just have a billiard hall, we quickly turned it into a hot spot that you could play pool/billiards while listening to live Jazz or enjoy some food at the cafe, relax and mingle in our lounge or have a drink in the bar, all of which fast tracked the establishment to becoming one of the top places to go in the city. The success of the establishment lead to several offers to purchase the biz, 12 months later we sold it. As entrepreneurs, we are always ready for the right sale price and the next venture.
Cristian: The businesses you have had so far are quite unrelated. Do you think that you could work and make a business run in any domain? Do you think entrepreneurs have the ability to work and run a business in any field?
Adam: Great question. The simple answer is Yes, I do think that many of the basic priniciples of running a business are similar in any business or industry. So far, Matthew and I have been successful in several business arenas while applying our same success strategies in each. The common denominator in all business ventures are dedication, working smart, identifying your strong points, delegating and always be aware of your surroundings.
I think entrepreneurs have the ability to work and run a business in any field but will most likey have a better chance at success if they find a business that they are passionate about. It is always better when work doesn’t feel so much like ‘work!’
Cristian: You started back in 1999 http://www.youngentrepreneur.com/ – a forum to help other entrepreneurs succeed. What would you feel is the most valuable thing you have learned from managing the forum or from the other entrepreneurs?
Matthew: We launched YoungEntrepreneur.com for the sole purpose of creating a portal where other like-minded individuals can come and network and assist each other with the trials and tribulations of being in business. We are continuing to grow the site while integrating some helful tools, support and solutions for assisting entrepreneurs in starting, managing and growing a successful business venture. With almost 30,000 members, we realize that there are a lot of people wanting to work for themselves!
Cristian: Matthew, I’ve noticed your comments about School vs Entrepreneurship: on your http://www.youngentrepreneur.com . So what do you think, after all, school is a must for any entrepreneur? Or how does school help the entrepreneur?
Matthew: I believe that some of us are very eager and confident to jump right in to the entrepreneurial world at a young age. My thoughts are that several people who go to College really benefit from the time they spend there which can definately assist with the development of your biz ideas and gives you some practical knowledge. When I am asked which College or University I attended, I either reply with the School of Hard Knocks or the University of Trial and Error. Adam & I have learned quite a bit as the entrepreneurial world is surely going to throw some curve balls your way, the key is knowing how to react and rebound from the entrepreneurial ‘bumps and bruises’. So, bottom line: School is good for some but not necessary for all.
Cristian: A question I’m dying to ask (since my own company has 2 sisters as partners). How do you manage to delegate authority? Who makes the final decisions and what happens if you disagree?
Adam: Well, we definately don’t decide on an arm wrestle (Matthew was arm wrestle champ in his weight class). Over the years, we have learned each others characteristics and strong points very well. We know who handles what based on those strong points. We have identified these and they are now automatic on who takes care of what. If we disagree, we can usually talk it out and get others opinions before agreeing on an outcome. Most of the time, we are on the same wave length.
Matthew: A good Arm Wrestle should be the entrepreneurs final decision making tool when disagreements arise (hahaha). Well, as Adam mentioned we think very similar but have identified each others strongest points and it almost automatic now on who handles what. We are not only brothers but best friends which truly helps as business partners. We have a circle of mentors that we can always turn to if we absolutely need another opinion.
Cristian: I’ve talked with several entrepreneurs lately, so what do you think, starting a business in the family is good or bad?
Adam: I think that starting a business within the family is great as long as you are all very aware of the committment and have identified each persons talents, strong points and have a solid working agreement even though you are family. In the world of business it is great to have some team players and its that much better when you can trust them!
Cristian: In the last 4 years you have run a media company that launched 3 affluent lifestyle magazines and recently sold one of them to another media company in California. The remaining 2 are full-color, full-gloss publications reaching over 250,000 readers per issue which provides content that celebrates the lifestyles of the area and communicating important and interesting content to the affluent readers. What’s the success story behind them?
Adam: Prior to selling our printing and graphics company, we decided to utilize our small but efficient team of designers to create a small lifestyle magazine. Once we sold the printing and graphics company we were ready to go full speed ahead on growing our little 16 page niche market magazine into what is now two 100+ page full color glossy magazines that are rapidy growing in each market. The success story is quite simply, hard work, passion and learning as we go along. It has been a great experience which has enabled us to meet some fantastic people!
Cristian: I’ve heard that you are also planing to launch a book “The Innovative Entrepreneur”. Can you unveil some subjects we are going to find in the book?
Adam: Sure. We are about 4 weeks from completion and the name ‘innovative entrepreneur’ is not the final title. Here are just a few topics that you will see in our upcoming book.
Finding your Passion, What does it take?, The power of action, Delegating and Delivering, Negotiation, Marketing, Capital and of course some personal stories that we will be sharing. We feel that this book will be a great guideline and motivator to those who are ready to get started in the biz world!
Cristian: So what’s next for you?
Adam: We have 3 online companies that are set to launch within the next few weeks, we will keep you updated on those! We are very excited about them. We also have a book for the Younger Kids on entrepreneurship which is almost complete. We will continue doing what we love as we are true Serial Entrepreneurs!
Anyone needing assistance with starting or growing their business venture? Feel free to visit YoungEntrepreneur.com and send me a private message to ‘bizguy’.
PS. Don’t forget to visit the blog at www.YoungEntrepreneur.com/blog