Small Business Leaders Share Advice

First Republic
November 24, 2014

This week marks Small Business Saturday, a shopping holiday held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to support businesses that are small and local. To show our support for Small Business Saturday, we spoke with three of our clients who are small business leaders and shared what drives them, lessons they have learned, and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

LYDIA CHAN – Owner, Lydia’s Flowers
JACK GONZALEZ – Co-Founder and Co-CEO, MapJam
KEITH KITANI – CEO, GuideSpark, Inc.

What are some of the lessons you've learned as a business owner?

LYDIA: The biggest lesson I've learned is not to let other people's comments intimidate or offend me. Being a business owner is a large responsibility; you have to keep your customers, your employees, and yourself in mind whenever you make a decision. Sometimes those decisions can lead to negative feedback, but you just have to take it in stride and handle it better the next time around.

JACK: Run your business lean and mean, never overspend, stay focused, learn to say no, and most of all, listen to what your customers want from your product.

KEITH: Stay positive.  Small businesses go through many ups and downs, and managing my psychology for both me and our employees is critical to getting through the tough times.

What drives you to do what you do everyday? 

LYDIA: I love being able to interact with customers on a daily basis, talking with them and getting to know them. It really helps me show that I care about what they think about the services we provide. And at the same time, we build that relationship with the customer so they feel that they're getting the best possible service.

JACK: I like knowing where I’m going – being in control of my future and influencing the way the world ticks. Solving other people’s problems and seeing our mapping platform on other businesses websites and promoted everywhere on social media by users.

KEITH: The direct impact I can have on our customers, employees and the entire business.  I’ve worked for some great large companies, but for me nothing beats the hands-on experience I’ve had at GuideSpark. Building a business from the beginning requires so many more disciplines beyond building a product and servicing customers – things I didn’t have to worry about at a bigger company, from accounting and finance to legal and HR. There are so many new skills to learn.

What piece of advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to start a business? 

LYDIA: My best advice would be to treat your employees right. Happy employees equal happy customers. Your staff should always be priority number one, before yourself. They're the ones who will be on the front lines interacting with customers and if you have an unhappy employee, it will show and that negative attitude will be passed onto the customer.

JACK: Start a business that you really have a passion for, so you enjoy what you’re doing and it never feels like you’re working!

KEITH: The hardest part is taking that plunge and getting started. Once you’ve done that, be prepared for a lot of hard work and listen to what the market is telling you, i.e. don’t be afraid to adjust your initial concept in order to get it right.  And it goes without saying, but I’ll say it: a supportive family is invaluable!

For more insights from these business leaders, please see their individual interviews included in Related Articles on this page.

The views of the authors of these articles do not necessarily represent the views of First Republic Bank.