“Know Your Why” The 5 Lessons I Learned Being a 20-Something Founder
I had the pleasure of interviewing John Vagueiro, President & Founder, Adapting Social.
Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?
Thank you for this opportunity! The “Backstory” is a long journey loaded with failures and challenges that lead me to becoming a founder but that’s part of the DNA in every Entrepreneur- enduring failure and making set-back propel you forward. What started me on my journey was in my education, since i was a kid, I was always in remedial classes and was never someone who thought I was smart because of where I was placed in the education system. A defining moment for me was when I was in 8th grade and one of the teacher’s aides came up to me and gave me a vocational packet and said I should look at that because I was not college material. It was one of the first moments that I faced a fork in the road where I could have felt bad for myself and keep going down the path of mediocrity or I could get my sh** together and prove this teacher wrong and prove to myself that with putting in time, effort, and passion I could turn my grades around.
The second defining moment for me was my family’s financial situation. Being the oldest of five in a family that had some financial challenges was not the greatest thing in the world but coming from humble beginnings made me question the system of getting the dream job and buying the house with a white picket fence and why I couldn’t put my life, my financial future, and my happiness into my own hands. So after graduating high school, I went to a county college that I soon dropped out of to pursue helping small businesses. Adapting Social was born in the basement of my parent’s house in Brick town, New Jersey with the hopes and dream of impacting small businesses, helping my family with any financial challenges that they had, and creating a place where people that are passionate and great artists can collaborate and do the best work of their life. From the days of being in my parents’ basement with zero dollars invested in the company, we now have a team of right under 50 creative people and clients in 5 countries around the world. So next time somebody tells you that you cannot do something, take this advice: You are the author of your life and can create an amazing life for yourself or you can listen to negativity and settle for mediocrity. I choose option A.
Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes Adapting Social stand out really lies in the level of passion that our team has when it comes to every project we touch and how much we really genuinely care about our clients, they become our family members- we call it becoming a member of the “Adapting Social family.” I spend hours every week with my team pouring in positive high energy and mental fitness to ensure that we are all in a great place both physically and emotionally. I have a big theory on if you are not happy with what you are doing career-wise you are literally wasting your life. We all start working when we are between 15–17 years old and we eventually retire, if we’re lucky, around 60. The average person will die between 60 and 80 which means for a gigantic bulk of your life you will either be spending it enjoying what you are doing or wasting your life. This plays into why we have such an amazing group of people because they are all insanely passionate, happy and love working with our clients.
A good story to showcase this is how every year our company takes on pro-bono projects to help failing businesses and help get their business get back on track and one year in particularly, we had a pro-bono project that we had a tight deadline on and took on the project because we really wanted to help the owner of the business get back on track and we found ourselves on the last day of the deadline up all night completing the project which we finished before the sun came up and when we showcased the project to the business owner he was beyond appreciative and we helped him get his e-commerce business back on track and the appreciation and joy that he had for us made it completely worth it, staying up all night, never once being upset about what we were doing, about not being paid for it, but about really caring about helping a small business owner, because that is why we are in business after-all.
Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We are blessed enough to be working on a multitude of exciting projects. One that I would particularly highlight is we just finished a project in which we were working with the Madrid government of Spain. This project was a ton of fun and was awesome because we helped them bring their culture and first ever Madrid Food Festival to New York City.
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I don’t read much, I get a lot of my motivation from YouTubing people such as Tony Robbins, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and a few other great entrepreneurs of our time, One book that I did read which had a big impact on me was “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. Specifically one of the chapters which was titled “3 Feet From Gold” showcased the story of how when we hit failure, if we stop pushing and give up a lot of times we are closer to success than we think and in the story this gold-miner was 3 feet from gold before he gave up, called it quits and sold his equipment to another gentleman where the other gentleman dug 3 feet and hit one of the largest gold mines. What this story shows is that when you quit and walk away a lot of times you will be kicking yourself in the a$$.
Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Know Your Why- I got out of bed every morning at 4:30am and have worked more 24 hours days than I can even list out and even on my toughest days the power of why i am doing what I am doing is what fuels me in the good times, but more importantly, in the rough times and those are the moments where entrepreneurs give up and quit. Because when the going gets tough, you need to resource back to why you are doing what you are doing and for me it was always my family, small businesses, and life on my terms.
2. Have Enthusiasm- You have to have the most high energy in every room you walk into when it comes to talking, showcasing, or any opportunity to talk about your business. Enthusiasm is something that grabs attention, that makes people want to buy into what you are selling. Enthusiasm will keep you working through the night without worrying about sleep. Enthusiasm will keep everybody interested in watching you.
3. Build Relationships Not Sales- Forget about the saying “It’s all about who you know.” Screw that! When I started my business, I was not even in my twenties yet and was a kid walking around going door-to-door and knew nobody. What I’ve learned is it’s not about who you know, it’s about who you meet and build relationships with. If you own a business, you need to get in front of as many people as you can and don’t worry about making sales, worry about making relationships. The more relationships you build, the more you will grow. Most people mess up sales situations because they’re so focused on the dollars and cents. When you focus on a relationship first, a sales pitch can never go wrong because you are there to meet the person and that person will go with you because they genuinely like you. People buy into people, not brands.
4. Do Not Settle When it Comes to Building Your Team- When I first started, I was hustling on my own for years to get the company where it is today. And one thing I always heard from other clients and business owners that I knew is that nobody will care about your business the way that you do. Most business owners subscribe to that. But when you find passionate, genuine hustlers and take time to vet them, and ensure when you look into their eyes that you are climbing the same mountain it will produce success. When assembling your team, always make sure that you understand as the owner of the company or even as a leader in the company, your job is to serve the people that work for you, not the other way around. It is my job to make sure my team is in a great place mentally and physically and also give them insane recognition for successful projects. Reward your team when they do amazing things and they will strive for greatness. I have sent people on my team on vacations that I paid for while they were being paid and away to Ice Land, Ireland, and it’s because when you give me 100% I will always give you 250% in return. To conclude, your people are everything. Invest wisely in the people you choose to bring into your family, make sure they are climbing the same mountain and recognize their accomplishments and reward them for it!
5. Enjoy Your Journey- Most people look at the peak of the mountain and where they want to be and they’re so focused on getting to that point that all of the little things along the way, both good and bad that get you to that point are the best part about the journey. As an entrepreneur, your life is moving by very quickly, you have a lot of decisions to make in a short amount of time, and you have a lot of places to be. You’re going to miss birthdays, you’re going to miss family functions- that’s a part of the game. But always try, at least once a month, to take time to reflect on how far you’ve come and appreciate the journey up until that point. Don’t be one of those entrepreneurs who have their head down and are working their a$$ off and one day look up and they have gray hair, children, a dad-bod, and are questioning where time went. Time is the only asset that we cannot get back, we cannot buy it, we cannot trade it, so the only thing we can do is enjoy the journey and appreciate every moment both good and bad. For anyone reading this, I hope you kick you industry’s a$$ and enjoy the journey while doing it.
Jean: 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 whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
If I could eat breakfast with anybody I would without question want to get breakfast with Tony Robbins. I am extremely motivated by his level of philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and just really giving a shi** about other humans.He is without question one of my biggest sources of motivation and inspiration. Tony, email me, breakfast on me!
— Published on June 27, 2018