What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming A CEO

An Interview With CEO Vince Lefton

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Vince Lefton, CEO of Bulldog Adjustersand Bulldog Marketing.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us about your journey to becoming CEO?

My name is Vince Lefton. I’m an Orthodox Jew, an Instagram influencer and a business owner of 2 companies that operate all over the US. Come to me for blunt and direct advice. My biggest impact has been on entrepreneurs who need inspiration and advice on risk taking and growing their business. Sacrifice the good life for the grind. I’ve failed and I’ve succeeded. I love giving to charity and I love being the game changer in the CEO mindset. Be willing to sweat next to your team and put the money that isn’t buying you food, water, and shelter back into your company.

What is your definition of success?

Being known. My definition of success is being known for driving others to success. My goal is to be the go-to for aspiring entrepreneurs, social media influencers, novelists, and anyone with a passion for business to exceed their own expectations for themselves.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I went to do an inspection at a house in Port St Lucie. It was in the winter, so the sun went down early. My partner, Aaron, and I went together to an insurance claim at a vacant, empty house. The property owner wasn’t home so we’d been given a key code to get inside and inspect some water damage. This was about 3 years after we started the company. A little known fact about me is that I’m terrified of big dogs. While we looked around at the damage, Aaron opened the back door of the home and the biggest Rottweiler I’d ever seen in my life sauntered in. I immediately ran into the master bedroom and tried to wedge myself out the window. While shimmying out, Aaron was running to the outside of the window to yank me through, the whole time I was screaming bloody murder. I was certain the dog was squaring up to bite my bottom half that was stuck halfway through the window. I finally got out, slammed the window shut and ran to the front window of the home where I peered through the glass at my iPad, cell phone, and wallet sitting on the kitchen counter. After hyper-ventilating and trembling in Aaron’s arms, we finally sauntered back into the home, against my better judgement, grabbed my stuff on the counter and ran to the car and high tailed it out of there. Funniest story to tell but I’m still not at the point where I laugh….

What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?

When I started my first company, my partner, Aaron and I were struggling in our second year with generating revenue. A relative came in. He was a business consultant and agreed to help us- but some of the wacky things he said weren’t logical to me. Against my better judgement, I did what he told us to do. Revenue stopped. Income came to a halt. I had two kids, a wife, and mounting bills to pay that didn’t give a fuck about my business or our shitty business consultant.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Don’t expect anything out of anyone and you’ll never be let down.
  2. Be you and let every single person around you accept that. Don’t filter yourself.
  3. Choose a life/work balance. With work now and have a life later, or have a life now and work later.

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

We’re the anti-agency agency- meaning we market for tough industries as an extension of their team. We’ve been ripped off by marketing agencies. So we do it differently. I’m also going to finish my baby’s bedroom and watch my family grow together in the years to come.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

Yes, My new company Bulldog Marketing is taking over the digital content creation scene in Miami and our niche is creating awesome content for tough industries.

Is your company working to be more sustainable? If so, how?

My company was sustainable because we didn’t live the glitz and the glam once we started being profitable. We put all our revenue back into the company in order to sustain. And it worked. Now we opened up a second company where we’re offering up the core principles that make us successful.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Live as humbly as possible. You don’t need all the fancy things in the world- it doesn’t help you or your company or your employees. You need a car, but it doesn’t have to be a new one, or a nice one. Sacrifice the good life for the grind and the hustle so that your team can see that you’re working hard along side them. It fuels them, drives them, motivates them, and installs within your employees a part of that passion that drives you forward.

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

My dad impacted me with drive and will and just pushing forward. My mom gave me stupid amounts of confidence. I literally knew I was Superman at the age of 4. My mom was a school teacher and my dad worked at a deli. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, rather, I watched dad work his ass off every single day for my family. There were nights he’d come home at 2 o’clock in the morning, just to have to be at work at 4am, two hours later. My work ethic is solid because I watched my dad do anything to make sure his family had everything. My definition of work ethic was carved by my dad’s tireless drive, will, and self-reliance. When I see my dads hands, tears well up in my eyes. His hands are calloused, scarred and strong, still, after all these years. I owe him every breath, every furrowed brow at 2 in the morning while I’m up late working on my business, and every zero we add to the company’s bottom line. The values he instilled within me brought me my wife, who loves me for the ethics that make me an honest company founder.

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

I donate close to 6 figures each year towards giving to my Chabad and Jewish community centers. They’re places that support families with children who need resources to send there children through schools, pay household bills, medical bills, and sudden expenses that come up during criseses.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Most want the glory. Most don’t want the grind.” For the past 9 years, I’ve given 80% of my bottom line back to the company rather than purchasing that private jet that my friends urge me to get.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this.

Gary Vaynerchuk: If you’re out there, you’ve been a major inspiration for some of the risks I’ve taken! Gary’s a go-getter and always giving out usable, actionable tools for how to be better.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?

  1. Be willing to take risks: We leveraged the entire company when I risked implementing an in-house marketing team. We dumped our marketing agency and started our own in-house team. It was expensive but it worked. I took the risk because I had no other choice. I needed to expand my company quickly and I needed a team that I could see and speak with all day, every day in order to make it happen.
  2. Listen more than speak: Pay attention to people. I learned to listen to inflections in the voices of my employees and their facial expressions and how their vernacular changes with each different kind of person they to. I listen to my employees. One example is my former marketing manager. She left us for another company and came back after her next company manager didn’t listen to her or give her the respect of hearing her opinions. That, to me, is what sets our team and management style at Bulldog Adjusters apart.
  3. Patience: In our line of work, we get paid 6 months to a year after the service has been done. When Hurricane Irma hit, we knew it was going to be profitable. But not for about a year after it hit. During that time, we we’re spending about 400% more than we were making on a weekly basis. From marketing to hiring more staff, we leveraged the entire company on being patient. Now, we’re reaping the rewards. Always be patient.
  4. Be driven: In the first 2 years, we had 0 business coming in and 0 money in the account. It was easier to live with that than to quit and go back to the 9 to 5. I’d rather be broke and work for myself than work for a 9 to 5 and squeak by. I remember the pressure of growing my family on a business that was circling the drain. That’s when drive comes in. Keep doing everything you can to bring in more business and smile. Laugh. Pack more actions into your day. Now we’re the biggest company in our industry in our state. I always say, “You may be smarter than me, but I’ll outwork you.”
  5. Invest in yourself, not in your pocket: I could have a yacht, I could have a private jet. But I took all that cash and I put it back into my company. That’s how we’re at the top but I’m still driving a used SUV. I don’t care what I drive. I care about being the best and having every single family home know our name and what we do.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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.

The daily give is a campaign that I made up that allows us a chance to give more than you take. Every Sunday, I go get 45 McChickens and I give 2 a piece out to every homeless person I see in a tent city located near the downtown area. I never tell many people about this. My personal challenge is getting 10 more McChickens each Sunday than I did the last Sunday. I want everyone to do this, put it on Instagram and hashtag it with #dailygive. Also, it doesn’t have to be McChickens 😉

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