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In the early days, part of my walking-around time would include grabbing someone and having a game of Ping-Pong while we talked about the new order-fetch algorithm. It was a great way to blow off steam. That's harder to do now, because I just don't seem to have 15 minutes to spare. But I still think it's important to have fun with the people you work with for 10 to 16 hours a day. At Kiva, people play basketball out back, do yoga on the mezzanine in the warehouse once a week, and have cookouts some Fridays during the summer.
I'm very hands on. If we have a new piece of hardware, I'll go down and review it with the product team on the floor. If it's new software, we'll whiteboard out any issues. In those conversations, I'm acting as a sounding board and challenging the team to think outside the box. Throughout the day, designers working on projects for various customers will sometimes pop into my office and say, "Hey, I'm working on this project, and I can't figure something out." I'll get on the whiteboard and coach them, or we'll go down to the floor to look at the pods or the robots.
My favorite part of the day is meeting with prospective clients. I'll take them through the whole demo system on the warehouse floor. They get to choose three different grocery items at random on our sample website and hit the Submit Order button. As three pods roll up to the station just a few seconds later, their eyes light up and they smile. It's that "aha" moment of realization that they would now have access to any product, anytime, anywhere in their facilities. Then I'll take them through a slide presentation, explaining how Kiva could solve their problems and answering their questions. When light bulbs start going off and they start explaining how we can help them, it's a fun moment.
If we have a client in during lunchtime, I may get a quick sandwich. But I usually skip lunch. I have a lot of caffeine during the day. I drink Mountain Dew because it's the most caffeine you can get in a soda. Caffeine is a stimulus for the mind. I tried going without it for a year, but I only lasted six months because I couldn't concentrate.
My schedule doesn't allow for physical fitness like it used to. When I lived on the West Coast, I did yoga and competed in triathlons. I still put workouts on my calendar, but they get stomped by meetings all the time. My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs would be to get in the best physical shape possible before starting a business.
I travel around the country to visit clients two or three days every other week. When I visit a customer site, I want to test the system. I visited Diapers.com recently and spent two hours filling orders for diapers and rattles. Some people might look at me and think, Gosh, I can't believe the CEO is picking orders in a factory. Doesn't he have people to do that? I believe good leadership is not only about delegating but also about getting down in the weeds. I also do it because it's a fun product, and I like using it.
I still put in long days, but I haven't been spending as much time at the office since my daughter, Katie Mae, was born a year ago. Instead of staying until 10 or 11 p.m., I try to peel out around 5:30 or 6, in the hopes of catching Katie Mae before she goes to bed. If it's after 6 and I know I'm going to miss her, that's not a good feeling. When I do get to see her, I get in a little bit of playtime, or maybe give her a bath. If she's still eating, I'll help feed her a bit.
After Katie Mae goes to bed at 7, my wife, Tiffany, and I sit down on the couch, watch the national news on TiVo, and eat dinner. We just moved into a new house, so sometimes after dinner I'll work with Tiff on a project, like hanging curtain rods in the living room. On Monday nights, we try to watch a really funny nerd show called The Big Bang Theory. It's about Caltech physicists. My wife likes to point out how their apartment looks like the place where I lived when we met in 2004, when I set up shop in Woburn. She'll say, "Hey, look! They have a whiteboard in their living room like you did!"
When you have your own business, your day is no longer your own. When I'm in my office, my time belongs to everyone else there. So every night until about midnight, I'm working on big-picture stuff. I may be looking at how our teams are lining up, thinking about an agenda for an off-site meeting, or working on our customer engagement process. Those are the kinds of things you need to do on your own time.
I can't just get in bed and fall asleep. I have to have something to distract my mind. So around midnight, I'll put my Mac on the nightstand and lie there and watch a documentary from my Netflix queue. It's usually something historical, about Alexander the Great or the lost pyramids of Egypt. I watched one about the history of the Dark Ages for, like, 10 nights in a row. What's funny is I only get to see five or 10 minutes before falling asleep. Then my Mac goes to sleep. The next night, I just rewind a little bit and pick up where I left off.
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