Don’t partner or work with friends and family unless you know them really well and are ready for conflict.
Hiring the wrong person to fill a position will cost you more than having no one at all.
Never start work until the money is in the bank.
As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company” I had the pleasure of interviewing Reb Risty.
With her blue-silver hair, sometimes pink, and sassy attitude, Reb is the founder and Head REBL at REBL Marketing — a firm helping B2B businesses build and manage integrated marketing programs through strategy, branding and messaging, strong digital presence, and video content.
Reb has been an owner, partner, and investor in several businesses during her life.
She has an MBA in Marketing & Entrepreneurship and a BA in Communications with a minor in Biology. She was voted the 2019 Emerging Woman-Owned Business by the Connected Women of Influence Organization and finalist for the 2020 SDBJ Businesswoman of the Year and finalist for 2020 SDBJ CEO of the Year. When Reb’s not in the office you will find her alpine skiing or traveling internationally.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’m an Army-Brat and grew up traveling around the world. My father was German-American, and my mother is Korean, born and raised in Seoul. Needless to say, I grew up in a strict household and doing well in school was a must. Although strict, my parents always encouraged us to try things and be our own people. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit. We did not have a lot of money growing up. Both my parents worked 2 jobs at one point in their careers. Money to me means freedom, so was always thinking up ways to make money. As a kid, I did everything from lemon stands, babysitting, cleaning a neighbor’s yard, etc. I was a professional Polynesian dancer for several years and owned a Polynesian entertainment company. Those were fun days. I also had an online eCommerce gift business that I ran through eBay. I also invest in real estate. When I started REBL marketing I was laid off from a large marketing agency in San Diego. I did what most people do, I started consulting while I looked for a “real” job. I eventually took a full-time position with the World Trade Center San Diego and put REBL on hold. I would take consulting projects here and there but didn’t really take it seriously.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
It wasn’t until my father was diagnosed with cancer and passed in three short months, that I realized I needed to make a decision about starting my own business. He was only a year and a half into his retirement when he was diagnosed. He had worked hard his whole life and was so happy to finally retire. His death made me realize I didn’t have much time to take the leap and go for it. You think you have all the time in the world to do things, but you don’t. There is no perfect time, but right now, to seize the moment. I only wish I would have done it sooner. I’m sure that he would be proud of where I’m at today.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My third business was a partnership in a franchise pita shop. This is where I learned a lot of lessons on what NOT to do in business. We trusted a friend to invest in a restaurant. My husband and I were supposed to be silent partners. Little did we know that the manager had a criminal history. Our partner, who we thought was a good businessperson, wasn’t paying attention to anything at the restaurant. It wasn’t until the regional director let us know that there was a problem with the restaurant that we started to learn how bad things were going. The manager disappeared with all the cash and fired all the staff. He left a box of invoices and taxes unpaid in the freezer. We also found out he didn’t pay the staff and stole their tips. We tried for 2 months to save the business. I had to jump in and help by working 16 hour days behind the counter. My husband and I had to declare bankruptcy to save our home. My parents were hard workers. We didn’t have much when I was growing up, so my parents taught me you have to work hard for what you want. If you want something, put the effort in and don’t give up.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
REBL Marketing has grown through the pandemic. We pivoted quickly and adjusted our services to better fit the situation. For example, we were able to take our full production video service to a Zoom video editing service that allows us to create engaging content for a client, while they film safe at home or their private office. We lost a few clients in the beginning and I felt sad. But I’m not a quitter. The REBL team started to think of new ideas and opportunities right away. I have a good ability to see the positive side.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It’s our people first. My partner and I have such a good dynamic. Our energy is unstoppable and we are fun to work with! You should work with people that you like. Second, we’ve created some turnkey video and content programs that allow our clients to create engaging content with a video that we can turn into multiple pieces of content for them. It creates a lot of value for the client.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
When I first started, I would say yes to everything. Someone once told me to “Fake it Until You Make It.” That is a double-edged sword. What I learned is that if you fake it and don’t make it, it has consequences on your morale and reputation. I took on a client that I really wasn’t ready for and then he decided the work was good enough to pay for. I didn’t’ get paid for 3 months of work and it cost me a lot of money.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Positivity, humility, curiosity.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Don’t work with people or clients that aren’t good to you. Learn to say no.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
They don’t know how to say no. It’s better to take your time and tell people you’ll think about it or get back to them at a later time. Use that time to think and say no. People will respect you for it.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Time. Everyone thinks running a company is glamorous and that you can do whatever you want when you want. When you start a business, you have to put in double the time of a regular job, and you think about work 24/7. You don’t own your time anymore…your clients and employees do.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”?
- Don’t partner or work with friends and family unless you know them really well and are ready for conflict.
- Hiring the wrong person to fill a position will cost you more than having no one at all.
- Fake it until you make it is a double-edged sword.
- Never start work until the money is in the bank.
- When you’re the boss, everyone is scared of you and will rarely tell you the whole truth.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Sleep more campaign. As a society, especially in business, there seems to be an unwritten law that to be good, you need to multitask and be available 24/7/365. This is the worst way to approach business and life.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!