“Start, and Work Out the Bugs as You Go”Rieva Lesonsky
While there are some universal tenets of success, entrepreneurs wouldn’t be entrepreneurs if they didn’t march to the beat of their own inner drummer. Many successful small business owners have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that help them achieve success.
Here some of today’s smartest, most innovative, highly successful business owners share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Chris Ponzillo, Managing Director / Cofounder of Bradford Watch Company, which is a brand under parent company Dastmalchi LLC. Chris has been a member of the team at Dastmalchi LLC since its formation. Before creating Bradford Watch Company, Dastmalchi LLC sold personal care and beauty products through several online brands, most notably vanityplanet.com.
Chris has a lot of experience in brand, product and strategic development in a variety of industries. He’s served as an operational, creative and marketing director for a variety of organizations. His passion for excellence and circumspect strategic planning have allowed him to excel personally and professionally and to produce significant value for the organizations and brands he has been a part of.
You can find him on Twitter @bradfordwatchco.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Chris Ponzillo: I wanted to be a professional basketball player—never happened.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Ponzillo: Bradford Watch Company is a subsidiary of Dastmalchi LLC, a company that builds products from the ground up with the customer in mind. I have been a part of the Dastmalchi team since the company was founded in 2010. After having success at the company on several other brands, I was afforded the opportunity to develop my own business line (enter Bradford!)
As a watch enthusiast, I began looking into the watch market to see what really made it tick. This exploration taught me a lot. I learned about movements, lugs, bezels, faces, straps, indexes, hands, accuracy, battery life, buckles, pins, crystals and glass. I learned about watches inside and out. I then began to analyze the market; the competition—their products, price points and audience; found out what our team liked and what we didn’t like; and saw that there was an opportunity for us to bring something to a highly competitive market that wasn’t already there.
I developed a proposal and presented to our executive team. There were questions, some pushback, some alternate ideas, the memorable phrase of, “I would never buy a $500 watch.” This phrase really set us on the path … and at the end of the meeting [we had] a clear direction to develop high quality, classic, minimalist timepieces that we can deliver to our customers at a reasonable price: $149.
Believe it or not, we also left that meeting with the name Bradford Watch Company.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Ponzillo: Yes. About six years ago I ended up in the hospital with a torn esophagus, combined with a series of stress-induced panic attacks. I had been working day and night, trying to do everything on my own.
This event helped me realize I couldn’t do everything on my own—that you have the people around you that you do for a reason. You have to trust and rely on these people and when you’re able to collaborate and come together, that’s when things can really go to a new level.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Ponzillo: It’s easier to steer a moving car. Start, and work out the bugs as you go.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Ponzillo: At Dastmalchi, a “best practice” has become setting measurable goals around the vital few areas that really impact the business, then working towards achieving those goals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?
Ponzillo: Small businesses are set up better than ever to succeed, especially on the web. That is why I wanted Bradford Watch Company to be an e-commerce player first, then think about retail second. With all the self-service platforms and tools available at our fingertips I see the number of successful small business increasing exponentially in the coming years.
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
Ponzillo: For business, my favorite book is Vital Factors, by Lee Froschheiser. For all-time favorite reads, though, it’s a toss-up between The Three Musketeers and Ivanhoe.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Ponzillo: “In order to succeed, you must dare to fail.” My father said this to me in high school at the start of a basketball season. It stuck, and I try to keep it in mind every day, especially when starting new projects.