Robert Grajewski is President of Edison Nation Medical, a healthcare product and medical device incubator and online community for people who are passionate about healthcare innovation. Grajewski, a serial entrepreneur, co-founded two online companies (Heritage Handcrafted and eCollectors) and spent five years in venture capital and private equity. He holds an MBA from Wharton, an MPA from Harvard Kennedy School, and a BA from Harvard University. Follow Edison Nation Medical at @enmedical.
Who is your hero?
My grandfather, Sigmund Grajewski. A Polish immigrant to the United States, he was the first in his family to go to college, on scholarship no less. He left NYU early to volunteer for the Army to fight the Nazis in WWII. Ambushed and left for dead, he miraculously survived his numerous gunshot and shrapnel wounds. After two years in a military hospital, he returned to the United States. Refusing to give up or feel sorry for himself, my grandfather returned to school and became a lawyer so that he could provide the same levels of freedom for other Polish Americans that he risked his life fighting for. Despite the constant pain he endured every day from his wounds, which never fully healed, he raised five successful children, including my father, and sacrificed much so that they could have many of the opportunities he didn't. He is a true American hero.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Find great mentors! Through your educational, professional and personal networks, look for people you admire and perhaps even aspire to be like and do not be afraid to reach out to them for advice and guidance. It is completely acceptable not to have all the answers, but don't be shy about reaching out to others for help and opinions when you need them.
These people are like life rafts in a sea of startup uncertainty. Use them to buoy you up through the hard times and ask them to make introductions to help you catapult your business from a startup into a well-functioning operation.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
The biggest mistake I have made is underestimating the time, energy and capital necessary to make a startup a functional success. In my zeal to get an opportunity up and running, I jumped in without proper planning. I hoped everything would just fall into place.
A key way to avoid this same mistake is to have a comprehensive and thoughtful business plan that goes into all the key details of a venture (including revenue model, competition, proprietary technology, key customers and venture objectives) prior to implementing it. Though these will likely shift as the venture evolves, it is always good to have a strong foundation from which to pivot. This allows for better planning and coordination, which leads to better execution.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
In the first hour of my business day, I do a quick scan of all my phone messages and emails that came in the prior evening and respond to any urgent needs or requests. I then look at my calendar for all my upcoming meetings and take a mental note of what I need to complete for each. From there, I make a list of all action items and triage them according to time sensitivity, level of work needed for completion, and outside input required. Third, I take a break and scan all relevant news websites (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Google News, Yahoo News, and Drudge Report) to see if there are any macro or micro events that may affect our business in the short/medium term. Once completed, I proceed with my action items.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Cash is king. Though you may be busy day-to-day with all the fires that need to be put out to keep your business running, you should never take your eye off of your profit and loss statement or balance sheet. In that regard, keep a close eye on your debits and credits and make sure that any deal-making that you are doing is not putting you into a corner from a cash-flow perspective. When you become cash-strapped, you start making poor business decisions.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Rome was not built in a day. In the effort to pursue success, make sure that you are building the right team, culture and business structure to achieve your long-term goals. Do not let haste and short-sightedness derail your long-term success.
What's your definition of success? How will you know when you've finally "succeeded" in your business?
Apart from being cash-flow positive, I see success as a moving target. There are always opportunities to improve your business, acquire more customers, and take your business to the next level. With time and growth come opportunities. As your company matures, it is incumbent upon you, the entrepreneur, to keep the company hungry and nimble. When you spend too much time relishing your successes or start to think that you can rest on your laurels, you are vulnerable to your competition. Not only will they likely be able to catch up to you, they may well be able to surpass you. You need to be a lion constantly on the hunt.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.