“Running A Company Is Isolating.” With CEO Dan Sines
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Sines, CEO of Traitify — a company that’s developed 90-second image-based personality assessments to help business attract, hire and retain the best people.
Yitzi: What is your “backstory”?
Martial arts has played a huge part in my life since childhood and it shapes my entrepreneurial identity. I am currently a second degree black belt in ninjutsu and goju-ryu and have been teaching since 9/11, when I was compelled to find a way to give back to my community. While martial arts was a bigger part of my life prior to starting Traitify, it taught me value and led to my interest in business.
The concepts — specifically, the mental concepts — behind martial arts are crucial when tackling business objectives. It gives me the self-confidence and discipline to walk into investor and business meetings and be prepared for whatever comes my way. The common misconception about martial arts is that it’s all about being physical, when actually more of it is mental — the state of being and aligning the body, mind, and spirit. I use this alignment every day in my business practices, and it keeps me motivated, excited, and realistic about what’s taking place.
My parents also heavily influenced my decision to go the business route, because they ran businesses my whole childhood. My dad was a huge inspiration for creating Traitify because he would always say, “You should never have a J-O-B. You should find your passion — find the thing you actually want to get up and do each day.” I found that my passion was actually helping other people find their passion, which is a lot of what Traitify’s technology does.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
On our way from Paris to an event in Berlin, Traitify’s co-founder Josh Spears and I had some time to kill before our flight, so we decided to explore the “city of lights.” We trekked to every major landmark by foot, finally arriving at the gate with holes in our shoes, proving our dedication to experiencing Parisian culture. When we landed in Berlin on Sunday, we learned our bags were lost in Paris and all we had were the clothes on our back: sweatpants, tee shirts, and our shabby, broken flip flops — not exactly conference-friendly attire. Our mission to find new clothes in Berlin was foiled from the start for two reasons. One: stores in Berlin are closed on Sundays, and two: a stop hold had been put on our credit cards, leaving us flat broke and out of luck. Our only option was to head to a local flea market and literally barter whatever we had for the clothing we’d wear for the next three days — which is when, miraculously, our luggage was returned, just one hour before our presentation. The presentation actually went really well and no one could have guessed the series of events that had taken place beforehand, but it was an experience neither of us will ever forget.
Yitzi: So what does your company do?
We are a personality science company that allows people learn more about their personality and helps them make smarter decisions. Right now, that means finding their passion for work and where their career is heading. From a business perspective, we’re helping businesses find better employees and helping them attract and retain them. Internally, we also help them better understand each other so they can work more cooperatively.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We started by helping kids find direction in college and now we’re helping jobless people find jobs and achieve economic and financial stability. Our partnership with Military.com is really the most exciting to me because we’re helping connect veterans to employers — they served our country so now it’s our turn to serve them.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Manage the rollercoaster. Managing the highs and lows of the startup journey is the most important thing I’ve learned in the last two years of running a company. You can’t get too upset when things go wrong and, equally, you can’t get too excited when things go right. Otherwise, the drop-off will be so much more dramatic. If you can get everyone on a more even keel, your team will be much more productive and nothing will catch you by surprise.
It takes more time than you think. It’s easy to believe your colleague when he says the product will be ready to launch by a certain date, but timelines take longer than most people expect. If you plan for your company to have longevity and success, you really need to plan beyond that to make it happen.
Know everyone, not just your POC. This was a hard lesson for us as a company with many corporate partners. We learned to create good relationships with the people at every company we partner with (the champions), but here’s the reality shock: for one reason or another, those people leave their jobs. No matter how good your relationship is with your point of contact, you need to be prepared for changes. Spread your reach, make sure you know lots of people, build strong relationships with everyone and make sure you’re not working just for the champions, but for your company as a whole.
Running a company is isolating. As an entrepreneur, you’re always surrounded by people whether you’re talking to leads, working events, etc. But when it comes to your core friends, it gets lonely. You’re at a very different place in your life and it’s hard for people working 9-to-5 jobs to understand why you have to work overnight or travel from one place to another.
Make sure you appreciate every moment. Entrepreneurs are so goal-oriented that we have to be a bit process-oriented to appreciate the business and reflect on where we’ve gone, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. I’m at a phase when I look back just a couple of months ago and it feels like it was just a blink of an eye. Take the time to absorb it all and enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
Yitzi: 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, or I might be able to introduce you.
I would love to have breakfast with Jeff Weiner since both LinkedIn and Traitify share a mission to enhance the future of work. I’d love to hear his thoughts on the growing trend in the power shift from employer to candidate and the importance of personalization in the job search and hiring process.
Intro: Dan Sines is co-founder & CEO of Traitify, the company behind image-based personality assessments for employers and personal career growth. He’s an avid Star Wars fan, adventurer and aspiring Renaissance Man. His Traitify personality blend is Inventor & Visionary.