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“Find people who will tell you when you’re wrong and understand that it’s OK to be wrong.” with Bob Wilkins and Chaya Weiner

I wish I had known how important it was to get the finance piece right. Have a really good accounting team. I wish I had taken a year of finance and business courses before I started my first business at age 20. Next, get good people around you. Don’t be afraid to hire people who […]


I wish I had known how important it was to get the finance piece right. Have a really good accounting team. I wish I had taken a year of finance and business courses before I started my first business at age 20. Next, get good people around you. Don’t be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you are. Watch out for ego. Confidence is great, but it should be separate from having a huge ego. Don’t let people tell you only what you want to hear. Find people who will tell you when you’re wrong and understand that it’s OK to be wrong.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Bob Wilkins, CEO of SoClean. Bob is an executive entrepreneur with a passion for people and emerging technology — and more than 33 years of experience marketing and selling products to businesses and consumers. Bob spent 11 years as president and executive vice president with PC Connection, a Fortune 1000 reseller of high-tech equipment. Bob was instrumental in turning an unprofitable private company with $250 million in annual sales into a profitable public company with $750 million in annual sales within four years. During his full tenure, the company grew to $1.6 billion and 1,700 employees. Over the years, Bob has founded more than nine companies, including: AirTank, a small startup that he transformed into a hybrid angel fund and sales/marketing agency, which creates growth for its clients via online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Walmart. ZiftrShop, the only platform where resellers can manage their e-commerce website’s sales and marketplaces all in one location. Zones (founder/CEO), where he grew sales to over $1 million per month in his first 90 days, ultimately peaking at $600 million in annual sales and a public offering. Mac’s Place (founder/CEO), where he raised $7.5 million in venture capital and successfully grew the company to an acquisition by Egghead Software in 1995. Bob holds two technology patents, two game patents and has several patents pending for software products. He now serves as CEO of SoClean and has been a board member since its inception. In late 2017, he led SoClean to a successful purchase by DWHP and continues to drive the company’s rapid global expansion.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was on the board of a company that sold products to clean scratches out of CDs and DVDs. In 2008, as streaming video was coming into play, I knew we had an issue. I told everyone we had only two years of life left in our company before it was obsolete and asked every employee to start thinking of new ideas. One of the concepts we looked at was a cleaner for CPAP machines. We did market research and discovered the need to clean the CPAP daily was a real issue. We found a great development team, got a patent and figured out how to sell our product. That’s how the journey began.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

The original SoClean device was a nondescript black box. It wasn’t selling well, and we strongly considered giving up on it, but the president of the company had hundreds of handwritten letters thanking him for making the device. It had changed people’s lives. We decided that the only problem was the design, so we raised capital, hired a design team and spent 18 months making the SoClean 2.0. With the help of a great marketing team, we increased sales by 20 times. Sometimes you have to fail before you can find success.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

The customers’ appreciation for the device is the motivation. People reach out to us daily to tell us how the SoClean changed their lives. We are succeeding at our mission, which is to get people over the fear of getting tested for sleep apnea and over the fear of wearing a mask at night. I had never been in the med-tech industry before, and everyone was telling me how expensive and difficult things would be. But when you feel good about what you’re doing, it’s just fun.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We’re a rare medical business in that customers can just call us up for help, and we develop relationships with people. I will call customers and keep in touch with them. We’re known for our remarkable customer relations. We don’t outsource our customer service, don’t put limits on phone time. It’s so important to listen to customers and find out what they’re asking for.

Which tips would you recommend to colleagues in your industry to help them thrive and not “burn out”?

Shortly after I took over as full-time CEO in 2018, we hired more than 100 new people, including nine new VPs. The key is to hire great people, trust them and let them go. I never micromanage. You have to give people the ability to take risks and learn from their mistakes.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful to, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I try to surround myself with people who are better than me and learn from them, so I don’t have just one mentor. I watch other people’s management styles to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and I also learn a lot from books.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We sponsor both national and local education programs, and we’re strong believers in giving our employees a great education, too. Employees are encouraged to expand their skill set by learning and exploring through the various departments of the company. We don’t like to have strict divisions between departments in the office; we’re a family here. And when employees are learning every day, it benefits the company, and it benefits them.

What are some things you wish someone had told you before you started leading your company?

I wish I had known how important it was to get the finance piece right. Have a really good accounting team. I wish I had taken a year of finance and business courses before I started my first business at age 20. Next, get good people around you. Don’t be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you are. Watch out for ego. Confidence is great, but it should be separate from having a huge ego. Don’t let people tell you only what you want to hear. Find people who will tell you when you’re wrong and understand that it’s OK to be wrong.

Thank you so much for all of these great insights!

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