Monday Motivation from Alex Charnas and Laura Mishkin, Co-Founders at Zibbli
Mondays can be rough and, sometimes, we can all use some motivation. Our #MondayMotivation blog series brings you tips and life hacks from industry leaders and some of the most creative entrepreneurs out there.
We sat down with Alex Charnas and Laura Mishkin, Co-Founders at Zibbli, a platform that helps businesses retain their best talent by continuously monitoring and analyzing the needs of their people. They discuss the gap between employees and their leadership, learning about different groups and needs in workplaces, and the finding the “right time” to quit your day job once you’ve started your own business.
What inspired you to start your business?
Laura and I are childhood friends who took very different career paths, one in business strategy analytics for startups and the other in event planning and hospitality. Even from completely different ends of the workplace spectrum, we consistently experienced what we eventually called “a gap” between employees and their leadership teams. The gap was a lack of understanding caused by unsuccessful communication between the two groups and it led to both employee attrition as well as the dulling of once vibrant cultures. As innate problem-solvers, it was frustrating to watch and not be able to really affect any change within our disparate organizations. It only took a few conversations when Laura and I met up back home for us to set out to fix it!
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Staying focused remains a challenge. As an early startup, we are constantly in a state with a million more things to do than we have the resources (time, money, brain power) to successfully accomplish. We have learned to bring as much knowledge and data into each situation, prioritize the top most important things as best we can in that moment, execute, and re-assess. Having someone you trust to hold you accountable has been extremely helpful. We always ask each other: is that the most important thing for you to be working on right now.
What’s been the greatest reward?
Many times the day-to-day work as a founder is similar to working for a company. I mean, yeah, you started it and yeah, you get to go for a walk around the block whenever you want and nobody can stop you! But, you are working every day, probably harder than you would elsewhere. That said, one of the things that is different and so rewarding is being able to choose to spend time sharing what we’ve learned with others who are starting down the same path. We try to be as transparent as we can in the way of mistakes we’ve made and what we’ve learned in the hopes that we save the next person a few bumps in the road. We’ve met some amazing people, brilliant and generous people willing to help us so paying it forward is a great reward.
What is the biggest thing you’d like to see changed in your industry, and how are you working toward making that change happen?
When we got into this, we wanted to improve the work day for all employees. A year in, we’ve learned so much about what different groups of people go through within their workplaces. There is one group, in particular, a group we will both likely join in the near future and whose struggles boggle our minds: working mothers. In talking with them, it still shocks us to hear about the lack of knowledge and awareness from companies’ perspectives around basic things like maternity leave, accommodations for breastfeeding, and flexible child care options. Since this discovery, Zibbli is dedicating time to being a resource for women leaving and returning to the workplace. We are gathering information and hope to be at a place for working mothers to get answers to questions and meet like-minded friends.
Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
The ride to starting a business is incredible, but lows are inevitable. Lows lead to a terrible inner voice that we’ve heard many of our strong women idols reference; a voice that says “you can’t do this” or “you’re crazy for even trying”. At these moments, Laura and I ask ourselves: what’s the worst that can happen? In every situation there’s the worst outcome: you forget the words during your VC presentation or someone yells at you for selling you something. In each situation, we’ve found “the worst” is nothing compared to giving up. If we choose to pull ourselves up and push on, we get to continue to wake up every day to accomplish our goals, build solutions from scratch, and affect changes we are passionate about.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to another entrepreneur just starting out?
Be strategic about the “right time” to quit your day job. Having your own business may look and sounds glamorous to some, but it’s a lot more work than your 9-5 ever could be, so be prepared. There are so many things you should do to prove a viable problem/solution set before you actually need to have something to sell AND proving that should probably take a few months. These months should be used for researching the industry, finding and interviewing the right customers, and even putting out a proof of concept. Once you have a few customers in your paying beta queue, that’s when it’s time to think about committing full-time.
What do you do every Monday morning to prepare and motivate yourself for the coming week?
We mentioned earlier that keeping focused and on track is something we are consciously working to do. Every Monday we compose a summary for the week ahead that includes our long-term (5+ year) vision, our monthly and weekly goals, and action items to hit those goals. It has been really helpful both to keep us on track for the week, but also to look back on a regular cadence and see how far we’ve come, and to review unexpected diversions or accelerations.
For more #MondayMotivation, check out our interview with Karen Young, CEO and Founder at Oui Shave, a brand that pairs beautifully crafted safety razors, made by a centuries-old German manufacturer, with rich shave oils, and all natural products created for women, by women. Karen discusses creating her brand to fill a void in the market, the motivation customer validation provides and changing the idea of perfection in entrepreneurship.