JOHN GADD // CEO @HOTCARDS
For our inaugural entrepreneur and lifestyle blog, we sat down with our friend, culture fanatic, and CEO of Hotcards, John Gadd.
Q: You're currently the CEO of HOTCARDS, tell us more about the company.
A: Hotcards exists to serve a two-part mission:
1) Help our customers BECOME KNOWN™ by providing access to incredibly gorgeous design – and affordable, commercial quality printed products with lighting fast delivery.
2) Nurture a culture that empowers our team to become better versions of themselves on a daily basis so they can create lasting impact in the lives of those they love. Basically… we printed 5 billion square inches of paper last year for over 50,000 customers – all while giving a sh*t about the people we love.
Q: When did you know you had to go into business for yourself? Once you knew that was the move, how did you begin to break away from your job at the time?
A: Well, I really went into business for myself the first time when I was 10 years old. I started mowing lawns in my neighborhood to buy a go kart. I finally bought and - then quickly sold it for my first computer - and now I’m in the tech business. I’ve never looked back! My buddies used to help with the lawns and I would pay them with my Mom’s cinnamon toast. She made a mean piece a toast and they loved it. Would work a whole day just to get a piece! Talk about expense management. Later in life, at 22, I started my first “real” business… one where Uncle Sam demanded hiS cut of the proceeds and my team members wanted REAL greenbacks. I was ready to make the move at 22 because I found a huge gap in the market and became obsessed with filling it. One thing I’m really proud of is that I never worked on launching my business on company time. I always kept hustling and performing for my employer while working all night long on the business. I took vacation days to meet with investors. It seems like morals and ethics are a thing of the past sometimes… and I refused to use my employer’s time/money/resources for my personal agenda.
Q: What are the most significant ways that you've changed your thinking or approach to business from the start of your first business to now?
A: In every way you could imagine. I’ve always viewed business as the greatest form of art, the greatest form of sport - and most importantly, the greatest education. I strive to take on each day with excessive curiosity. Always evolving my approach. Every aspect of business must be constantly improved. In fact, you can't stand still in business. You are literally moving forward, or moving backwards. To stand still IS to move backwards - because your competition is always working their a**es off to pass you by. So it’s like the saying: Good, better, best - never ever rest.
Q: For anyone that may not know, culture is a very serious thing at HOTCARDS, what does "culture" mean to you?
A: Culture means EVERYTHING. I believe every company has a culture… whether they know it or not. Some just choose to improve, grow and nurture it - while others disregard it. 100% of the time, if you disregard it - it sucks. It becomes a culture of negativity, lethargy, pessimism and in some cases - vengefulness. At Hotcards, we realize that if we can get the culture right (which is defined by 18 Core Behaviors), everything else will fall into place - including sales, profits, mission and happiness. So we hire and fire first and foremost on culture fit. We like to say, “Not a culture fit, not a fit.” We can teach people the industry, the processes and the technology - but you can’t teach character. We work really hard to find people that fit our culture - then do everything in the world to keep them.
Q: Advice for anyone thinking about or just starting their own business?
A: Business is RIDICULOUSLY tough. It’s the greatest challenge you will ever face. (Oh and by the way, “challenges” are really just “opportunities to grow.” Embrace them!) No matter how sexy business looks… that success required massive sacrifice over long periods of time - where 99% of people would give up. So, if you want to be successful - just be the 1% that doesn’t give up. There’s a lot of other things you need to get right… even if you mess a few things up along the way. But, 100% of the time, if you give up - you’re toast.
Q: 3 things you do on a daily basis that keep you productive and happy.
A: ) I keep a very strict morning routine: Every morning I devote the first 45 minutes of my day to prayer and meditation. It’s been a habit for more than a decade. My strength comes from God… He’s always had my back. Starting the day with Him helps me set the right priorities - and gain confidence that no matter what happens that day - WE can take it on. This, and through relationships is where I find my true happiness. Then, I head to the gym and grab an hour of exercise. There’s just something about pushing yourself to repeatedly pick up a really heavy pile of metal before 7AM that makes the whole day easier! Of course, following that up with a clean, healthy diet is everything. 2) Elaborating on my relationships comment above, I have a close circle of friends and guys that I mentor, who I speak with on a daily basis. Many of them call me - and several are on my call list. We check in with each other and provide quick advice, lend an ear - and run ideas past each other that sound good to us… until we share them with another person! These guys keep me accountable - and it’s important I show up and do my part for them. 3) In terms of productivity, I maintain a very strict To-Do system. It’s mostly based on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” - with several modifications. It’s served me well over the years - but like we discussed above - it’s always evolving.
Q: Favorite From REBoL
A: Paleo Cookie 🍪
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