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Joel Milne: “Encourage others to take time to recharge”

The coronavirus crisis has essentially been a call to action for innovation around the world. The high stakes of our current circumstances have sparked innovation from all corners, setting a new precedent for both agility and collaboration. From tech giants like Apple and Google putting competition aside to partner on coronavirus tracking, to entrepreneurs and […]


The coronavirus crisis has essentially been a call to action for innovation around the world. The high stakes of our current circumstances have sparked innovation from all corners, setting a new precedent for both agility and collaboration. From tech giants like Apple and Google putting competition aside to partner on coronavirus tracking, to entrepreneurs and even grassroots organizations mobilizing to help those in need, we’re witnessing the true potential of our global community to address major challenges head on. When the pandemic is behind us, this groundwork can be put to use to help solve other significant challenges in the future. Can you imagine if this same level of innovation was focused on eliminating corruption or ending global hunger?


As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joel Milne.

Joel Milne is CEO of RepairSmith, a startup backed by Daimler AG, that delivers the safest and most convenient car repair. Joel is a serial technology entrepreneur who co/founded four venture-backed technology startups, raised over 100M dollars in venture financing and scaled multiple businesses nationally. Joel is an angel investor, advisor to numerous startups and active in the Southern California startup community.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I started my career path at eight years old in a public library computer programming class making a “turtle” move around an Apple III screen. I loved it and have been programming computers ever since. At 14, I started working at McDonald’s and saved up for my first new computer. I programmed as a hobby throughout high school and college, and then started my first company when I graduated from college as a professional computer programmer. I had always known that I loved the intellectual challenge of making computers do magic, but I quickly learned that I also loved the business side of things: working with clients, hiring employees, building a team and chasing an audacious goal. I’m fortunate to have found my sweet spot in my early twenties and have been following that path ever since. I’ve spent the last 20+ years at that intersection of technology and business, primarily (co)founding consumer-focused technology companies.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I’ve read about a book a week for decades, so asking for a single impactful or favorite book is like asking which of my children is my favorite; I don’t even know where to begin. For the sake of not dodging the question, “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert was a book I read around the time I had children and was thinking about my next company, and it set me down the path of thinking about happiness; what made me happy, what made the people I worked with happy and what I should spend my time doing. Being an engineer, I found the book’s scientific approach resonated with me over more general self-help books. As a teenager and young adult, I had been branded with the assumption that making money equals success and happiness. After reading that book, I began setting aside my adolescent suppositions and being introspective around what makes me happy. As I’ve grown in my experience and my career, I’ve tried to incorporate those lessons into my work environments and the culture of my companies.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

There’s opportunity in every crisis, if you know where look for it.

When I first immigrated to the United States in 2001, I had my first experience of having to take out my wallet at a doctor’s office. It was very strange to me — like having my house catch fire and paying a firefighter a copay to put it out. I’ve since, unfortunately, grown accustomed to it. However, I still believe that no one should be going bankrupt for getting sick or having a pre-existing condition. We all do better as a society, including businesses, when people have easy and affordable access to healthcare. Maybe, just maybe, this health crisis will create the momentum needed to fix the fundamental flaws in our health care system.

Communities are showing their true strength.

For the first time in a long time, what brings us together is stronger than what drives us apart. Following years of intensely polarizing politics, increasingly divisive attitudes and insular behavior, the severity of COVID-19 is redefining how we interact with one another on many levels, not just physically.

Neighbors are joining together in unity. They are reaching out to one another. They are ensuring each others’ basic needs are met. They are showing their appreciation for doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, delivery drivers and others working selflessly on the frontlines. The signs are everywhere. This shift provides hope that this kind of unity will continue after the crisis subsides and give way to a brighter, kinder future.

Companies are giving back like never before.

Nearly every company says it is committed to giving back. It’s in situations like this where the rubber meets the road.Fortunately, there are so many inspiring examples of how businesses are stepping in and stepping up to support the community. For example, at RepairSmith, we’re proud to be donating 110,000 dollars in free, ‘No-Contact Car Repair’ to people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and those on the frontlines helping others.

We haven’t seen this magnitude of corporate giving in quite some time. Examples include companies providing technology to ensure low-income students can participate in distance learning, apparel companies donating personal protective equipment for health care workers and distilleries shifting gears to give away hand sanitizer to name a few.

The comeback is always greater than the setback.

As an entrepreneur, setbacks come with the territory. But the saying, ‘The comeback is always greater than the setback,’ holds true time and again. Throughout my career, I’ve learned that adversity is not about how many challenges you face or far you may ‘fall’; it’s about using tough experiences to learn, grow and fuel your drive to do better.

We can all use this opportunity to consciously shape a better, more sustainable new normal and enrich how we live and work.

Innovation to address COVID-19 today can help us tackle challenges tomorrow.

The coronavirus crisis has essentially been a call to action for innovation around the world. The high stakes of our current circumstances have sparked innovation from all corners, setting a new precedent for both agility and collaboration. From tech giants like Apple and Google putting competition aside to partner on coronavirus tracking, to entrepreneurs and even grassroots organizations mobilizing to help those in need, we’re witnessing the true potential of our global community to address major challenges head on. When the pandemic is behind us, this groundwork can be put to use to help solve other significant challenges in the future. Can you imagine if this same level of innovation was focused on eliminating corruption or ending global hunger?

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

From an executive standpoint, I recommend a few strategies for leading a team.

Check-in and offer to help.

Set up one-on-one meetings to connect with your team. Ask them how they are doing and where they may be struggling. I believe in building workplace cultures with flexibilities so people can meet their personal needs. Often times schedule adjustments, added resources or other accommodations can help people tremendously.

Keep an open door. Let others know that you’re accessible if and when they need you. This is something I tell everyone who joins my team. It’s not a matter of title, role or relationship. It’s about showing them they are valued and that they have a solid support system, especially when they need help. Plus, sometimes knowing help is there if they need it is just as powerful as the tangible support itself.

Help set priorities. Anxiety can be overwhelming and make decision-making excruciatingly hard. In these cases, it’s useful to have someone else to help set priorities and focus your mind. This might include breaking down projects or to-dos into smaller, more manageable tasks and making a plan to tackle one thing at time.

Identify areas for delegation. Delegation goes hand in hand with prioritization. It allows you to help someone concentrate on what’s most important and in the process identifies areas where they can, and likely should, enlist help. While it’s true that some people actually get anxiety about delegation itself, it is a skill that can be learned. When mastered, it allows people to lighten their mental load and offload added anxiety.

Encourage others to take time to recharge. Burnout, whether it’s related to work, being a caregiver or both, is a common cause of chronic anxiety. Taking time away from the stressors of everyday life is much easier said than done, especially for entrepreneurs like me, but it’s no less important. Encourage others to take time to relax and recharge as an investment in themselves that will serve them in the near term and over the long haul. Set a good example for you team by practicing this yourself.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

While I’m not an anxious person myself, I know the value of having a trusted advisor, as well as serving as an advisor to other entrepreneurs. Along these lines, when it comes to mental health, I believe the best resource is having someone in your corner who you can trust and talk through challenges with. It could be a spouse, family member, friend, therapist — anyone you can rely on to help you navigate what you’re experiencing and guide you toward the tools and resources that will help you most effectively manage your anxiety.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My father was a textile factory manager in Mexico. I asked him once if it was difficult working with labor unions in Mexico and he said to me, “It was never an issue. We have this expression in Spanish that says you can grab people by the balls or grab them by the heart. People work hard for me and are loyal because I treat them with respect and empathy. Treating my employees harshly or as replaceable is lazy and never works out well long term.”

I’ve tried to carry that lesson forward in my business endeavors, and it makes me very happy that many people I currently work with have worked with me for over 10 years at multiple companies. And I certainly hope to work with my current team for many years to come.

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. 🙂

I tend to think about topics in health, social justice and early education when it comes to affecting good, but if I step back and think outside our first world bubble, and I could wave a magic wand and pick one issue to maximize impact, it would have to be eradicating corruption. Having lived in countries with high levels of corruption, I’ve come to believe that it supersedes all else. No political or economic system can function when the foundation of society is corrupt. With pervasive corruption, from the local cop taking a cash bribe to the heads of government with secret offshore bank accounts, all other movements to affect good are band-aid solutions. It’s no coincidence that there is a high correlation between global corruption index lists and global happiness index lists; the least corrupt countries are the happiest. Although we often think of this as a third world issue, the US ranks surprisingly poorly on this topic. I admire Lawrence Lessig’s attempts to create the Mayday PAC movement around campaign finance reform (although ultimately unsuccessful) and Katie Fahey’s grassroots The People movement to end gerrymandering (successful in Michigan) as both truly visionary. So my movement would be to eradicate corruption and let goodness flourish from there.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

I try not to spend too much time on social media, but you can follow our work at RepairSmith by following us at

Twitter: twitter.com/repairsmith

Facebook: www.facebook.com/RepairSmith/

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/repairsmith/

Instagram: www.instagram.com/repairsmith/

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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