Work Hard Play Hard — The work hard piece goes without saying. As an entrepreneur, there’s no other way. It doesn’t have to mean putting in a lot of hours though, it’s more about being smart and strategic about your business. But the play part is incredibly important. Celebrate the wins because there will be losses as well. Go on vacations and take breaks. Enjoy your hobbies. You will be a better entrepreneur, generate more ideas and build your business in new ways.
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Spiegelglass.
Tim is the fourth-generation owner of Spiegelglass Construction Company. As a commercial general contractor, he works with chains and entrepreneurs on restaurant, retail, and specialized builds such as cannabis facilities, processing plants, event spaces, religious institutions, and more. Tim is an avid St. Louis Blues fan who was fortunate enough to be at Game 7 in Boston when his team clinched the Stanley Cup in 2019.
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?
Sure. As a kid, many of my memories revolve around playing hockey and helping in our family business. When I eventually realized that I wasn’t good enough to play for the St. Louis Blues, I started to explore various aspects of a business. My independent streak appeared early, and it didn’t take me long to recognize that I wouldn’t do well working for someone else. I liked to make my own rules.
I knew I loved learning about different business models, helping others grow their businesses and building. When I was in my twenties, I figured out that I could blend these interests together by joining my family’s commercial construction business.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Sure, it took working for several bosses throughout my teens and twenties and learning what I did and didn’t like. Over time I was able to narrow down what I believed a successful business should look like. I had several jobs where I just looked around and said, wow this is not how I would do things. People weren’t treated well, there were lots of inefficiencies, customers were unhappy. On top of that, I kept saying to myself, why am I working my tail off and making someone else money? I just knew I had to work for myself and create a business where employees wanted to stay, clients kept returning, and partners were valued.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I would call myself a natural-born opportunist. I developed my business sense over time just out of sheer curiosity. I liked to test the waters growing up — my mom would love to tell you all about that — and I liked trying out new ideas and figuring out what might work.
As a kid, I would take gumballs to school and see if I could sell them at a markup. When it succeeded, I knew I had something I could work with. When it didn’t, I knew I needed to change something up. So I would tinker with ideas all the time and test them on my classmates.
I started learning that if I listen to what people want, keep them happy, and hustle, they’ll come back the next time I had something to sell. Then, I could make money to buy the things my parents wouldn’t get for me.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
I hit the lottery when it came to a business mentor, and I’m even more lucky that he is my father. I simply would not be able to run a business today without the lessons I learned from him over the years. He took the time out of his crazy days as I was growing up to teach me, and I’m incredibly grateful that he was willing to do that.
I was never a good student, but my dad would explain real-world experiences to me little by little over the course of many years. After hockey practice on a Saturday morning, my dad would take me to a job site to check on something and walk me through what was going on. Those are the moments where things started to click for me… where I started truly learning about business.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
In the commercial construction industry, a large majority of your clientele comes from word of mouth. It’s pretty straightforward — you do what’s right, deliver outstanding work, and provide really amazing and memorable white-glove client service. It’s not complicated but a lot of companies miss the mark.
One day I got a phone call from a new client out of New York. They were expanding in the Midwest and looking for a general contractor to partner with, ideally for the next several years. They told me they called around to their real estate agent, architect, and peers from other companies and each one said to call us. Those are the phone calls that tell me that our approach is working.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Listening — If you aren’t truly paying attention to your employees, your clients, and your partners you will not be successful. It’s that simple. I hired someone from a chance meeting at a bar because I listened to what he was saying, what he stood for, and knew he was the right fit for my business. You need to listen — truly listen — to find success.
- Seeing the future — I joke with my family that I can see the future, but it’s really just about thinking two steps ahead. Before I hit send on a bid, I think about how that potential client might respond. And instead of making decisions on the fly, I take some time to think about how that decision will affect other things. As a business leader, you want to think about the implications of your choices before that domino effect unfolds.
- Levity — Laughing is undervalued in business. I’m a jokester (watch out — I take April Fool’s Day very seriously) and it’s helped me a lot over the years. I find that if you can lighten the mood, everyone feels more comfortable, you get more accomplished, and it’s a whole lot more fun.
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?
For a business owner, the way your internal systems are set up can make the difference between total chaos and a well-oiled machine. I had heard horror stories from other business owners about switching up office infrastructure, so for a long time, we stuck with what we had. The advice I kept getting equated to “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
At some point, I decided to see what else was out there, and after some research, I made some major changes at my office. It was a painful process, but now our office is humming in a way I never knew was possible. There are pearls of wisdom in the advice I received — turning over any internal system is intense and time-consuming — but my life would have been a lot easier if we had made the change years ago.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Burnout is typically associated with working extended hours overtime, even if you’re doing something you love. So the first tip would be to keep a close eye on that — everyone needs breaks and too many hours of work isn’t good for anyone. But what makes your team members tick is really different for everyone, so I’d say to take the time to ask your employees what matters to them.
Overall though, keep an eye on the bullshit factor — it’s emotionally draining for individual employees and for an overall culture. I hear a lot about office b.s. from friends at other companies — unnecessary meetings, mandatory happy hours, layers upon layers of approvals to make anything happen. That’s the kind of stuff that really wears people down. There are some things — like living by your company’s values– that should be non-negotiable. But throw the other junk out the window.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Authority comes from knowing your stuff. Study your trade and take the time to learn continuously so you can improve your business and the work you do for your clients.
Trust and credibility are the only ways companies like mine can stay in business. Without them, the clients just don’t come.
Define your company’s values and let those be your guide. Stick to them unapologetically. And anytime you’re unsure about what to do, read them again and then make the call. You’ll find trusted relationships and credibility will follow naturally.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
A simple Google search will give you plenty of examples of companies that say one thing and do another. Stay true to your word, do the right thing and know your craft. You will organically build trust over time.
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?
I’ve seen businesses fail when they are passionate about their craft but don’t know how to run a business. If you have one skill but not the other, find partners or excellent consultants who can complement your strengths and help you grow your business.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Every day I take risks. Some days they work out, some days they don’t. But at the end of the day, there’s no one to blame but myself so those hard-earned lessons come at a fast and furious pace.
But I don’t ride the roller coaster. I celebrate my wins and then get back to work. I learn from my mistakes and get right back up. Staying even-keeled and level-headed is a tremendous competitive advantage.
Those who work for someone else have a different growth experience — they have plenty of risks and rewards but they aren’t always as extreme. They aren’t always empowered to make the change they want to see in the company. I think entrepreneurs in general like to be in the driver’s seat. We understand that we reap what we sow, and if we do our research, work hard, and make smart moves we will be rewarded both personally and financially.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Every call I get from a repeat client is a win for me. We have several clients who we build for consistently, and every time they call us to award another project, we know we’ve done something right. We celebrate those wins, pat ourselves on the back for an approach that is working, and get to work so we keep getting those calls.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Like many other businesses, the beginning of the pandemic held so many unknowns that we just weren’t sure what to think. In a new world where people couldn’t gather, would there be a need for commercial construction? Would anyone want to build a restaurant? A clothing store? A preschool? We simply didn’t know. It was a confusing period.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
We’ve been in business since 1904 — we’ve seen the Great Depression, the Great Recession, and many more economic downturns over the course of our business. It’s hard to do in the midst of difficulty, but if you study history it’s easy to see that things will turn again. It’s about positioning yourself for that next upswing.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Work Hard Play Hard — The work hard piece goes without saying. As an entrepreneur, there’s no other way. It doesn’t have to mean putting in a lot of hours though, it’s more about being smart and strategic about your business. But the play part is incredibly important. Celebrate the wins because there will be losses as well. Go on vacations and take breaks. Enjoy your hobbies. You will be a better entrepreneur, generate more ideas and build your business in new ways.
- Get Up and Go — Sometimes the entrepreneurial spirit translates into consistently getting up and getting moving. Create a plan and a routine — and prepare for both to be thrown off daily. But know that you’re going to get back on track by getting up the next morning and going.
- Have a Life Outside of Work — Nurture your hobbies, notice how you decompress, spend time doing nothing. Whatever your interests are, promise yourself you won’t lose sight of them as you’re building your business. Recognize that those breaks will help you be a better business leader.
- Seek out Peers — Just because it’s your business, doesn’t mean others haven’t been down this path. Find founders and owners and entrepreneurs in different geographic regions, different industries, and in different stages of their business. Be generous with the pointers you offer and the help you can provide others. Let your curiosity shine and ask others how they’ve tackled problems as well. You never know when inspiration will strike and surrounding yourself with peers will be personally and professionally rewarding.
- Don’t give power to the ups and downs — It’s one thing to celebrate success and recognize a loss, but it’s something else entirely to allow the ups and downs to dictate your mood and stymie your growth.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is all about bouncing back- not letting the bad days get you down to a point where you can’t get back up. Resilient people always, always get back up.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
I’m an ice hockey player and learned early on that there’s always someone better than you, a loss behind you, and an injury to heal. It never helps to wallow and playing sports is an area that teaches you to dust yourself off and get back up… over and over again. Business is no different. Learn from failures, get over them, and move on.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Your attitude toward difficult situations is what will get you through it. Realistic but not blind positivity will change the course of your business. Better yet, prevent as many difficult situations as possible by strategizing and taking action accordingly.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Try to walk into situations with solutions instead of focusing on the problem. Spend time addressing what can happen versus what did happen.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
“Don’t allow yourself to wake up with yesterday’s issues troubling your mind. Refuse to live backward, see every day as a new chapter.” — Unknown
I love this quote because it really speaks to resiliency which is so necessary as an entrepreneur. Every day is a new day to start fresh, and you have the opportunity to make it even better than the day before. There is no one standing in your way, except maybe yourself. Get out of your own way. And get going.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thanks so much for having me.