Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Carl: As a New York guy I didn’t drive a car until I was well into my 30s, most people find that surprising. Also, in the context of our pillow business, I never planned to run a pillow company! My career thus far has been in marketing for museums and tourist attractions in NYC and it wasn’t until my Dad had this idea that I considered doing anything else.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Carl: Well, we started the pillow company slowly, only 200 pillows in the initial run. Once it started to sell, I had to learn a lot very quickly. I had zero ecommerce experience and definitely made some missteps out of the gate, underestimating shipping costs, becoming too reliant on Amazon, where we have little control and no relationship with our customer. There are many things you only realize once the business is in motion. What has been most instrumental is understanding you cannot fix everything in a day, but you can address today’s issues and fine tune as you go and over time things improve.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Carl: Effective leaders establish a vision, a shared purpose for the larger team to buy in on and be a part of. Along with this vision a leader must demonstrate how far they will go to achieve this goal. An effective leader isn’t too important to get in the grunt work. He or she must lead by example and demonstrate what their expectations are. Be what they want from others and the larger team will be right there with them.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Carl: Define your goal. What are you measuring success against? What are you working towards? This allows you to have something to reference throughout, especially when there are tough decisions to be made.
Always be learning. Whether it’s product improvements, customer service, or marketing, there are always improvements to be made.
Lead by example. As a leader you are always setting a standard and establishing expectations.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Carl: Understand what you don’t have control over and focus on the things you do.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Carl: What’s the famous Woody Allen quote, “Eighty percent of life is showing up”? Show up for people. Take time to support the people in your life.
Adam: That’s one of my favorite quotes. I use it all the time, and according to Woody, it’s 90%. What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Carl: Growing up in NYC I’ve always followed street art and graffiti culture and as a rebellious youth dabbled in the renegade art form. I still pay attention to it and it definitely helped shape me as a marketer. Whether it’s the repetition of someone’s work all over the city or a large-scale mural, it speaks to how best to get one’s attention.