We had a chance to talk to Sam Natur, President and CEO of Bullfrog Insurance about his Founder journey. Here were some of the highlights from his conversation with Rajah Lehal, Founder of Clausehound.com.
Rajah: Sam, how did you prepare to be a Founder?
Sam: As a former management consultant with 20 years of experience working in technology, business transformations and launching start-ups, I‘ve seen a fair amount and would like to believe I’ve learned a fair amount along the way which helps me in my current role as the CEO of Bullfrog Insurance.
Rajah: I spent many years in the corporate world before starting on my Founder journey. I think perhaps, Sam, your experience was a little different than mine, as management consulting has an intense start and stop nature, similar to startup, with frequent back-to-back deliveries. I didn’t find that corporate world had major deliveries in the same way. Perhaps tenacity and perseverance are therefore key skills that would help a Founder to succeed.
Rajah: So then why did you want to found a company? Maybe you could just work in a startup? I was talking about founders at a startup services organization just yesterday and there seemed to be a common comment “I don’t how they do it” about the tough and non-stop nature of being a Founder. There is a lot of money being invested in innovation these days, and many links of the value chain, so for someone wanting to work in startup the possibilities are endless. But taking on the Founder role?
Sam: I feel like I never work a day. If you don’t love what you do, make a change. There is no secret or complexity to this. When you love what you do, you will always work at it longer and harder than most. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard “You’re still working on that? Wow – I would have given up by now!” When you are excited about an initiative, the possibilities are limitless because your energy and attention to the endeavor will be endless – and that is the advantage you will have over all others. That is the advantage only you have.
Rajah: I have to agree, when I get up, I check my emails first thing and it’s always with a sense of curiosity and never dread. I’m excited to get “crack-in” on my work, so I guess it’s not really work? But to think about why someone would be crazy enough to wear the ship captain’s hat, as a Founder. still requires a healthy amount of masochism. I’ve figured out that for me that’s because I’m creative and impatient – a bad combination.
Rajah: Sam, once you have an idea how hard is it to start?
Sam: Impossible? Haha – everything is impossible until someone does it. If you don’t try, it is a certainty that you will not succeed. You will always find people who will tell you why you can’t do this or can’t achieve that. In fact most of my career has been based upon achieving what most tell me is unachievable. I work at a company I launched while consistently being told it could not be launched. I have the attention span of a goldfish anyway, but when I hear discouraging advice, I pretty much tune out the discourse.
Rajah: If you tell Elon (Mr. Musk to me) that something is impossible to make, he’ll probably just stare at you. And then pull it (whatever it is) out of his desk and hand it to you. But you bring up a good point. It’s important to block out the naysayers and surround yourself with a support structure. (I mention that in another article actually – see Step Six: Build a Support Structure).
Sam: And learn how to take a punch. Constructive criticism fosters the development of unimaginable things. Steve Jobs was known for being obsessive in his software and hardware design demands. Being a part of his design team was not for the faint of heart but the result was elegant simple industry changing devices like the iPod, iPhone and iMac. Whether its an app, service or product, whatever you produce is going to be subject to some criticism. Learn to obtain insights from the comments that merit attention and have a thick skin for the ones that do not – but never get discouraged.
Rajah: “Let me make a note.” “I’ll talk about that with our team.” “I’ll think about that and test it with our members.” I say those things every day, and they are accurate. We certainly don’t have it right the first time we launch a new page or product and it will need a lot of careful testing to get it right.
Sam: And then just put one foot ahead of the other. You don’t get a reputation for what you’re going to do. Talking is always easier than doing. Plan your work, then actually work your plan. It sounds cliché, but far too often you can be distracted or entirely derailed from a plan by the latest shiny object or from those who constantly rethink and have “a better idea” while you’re in the midst of executing. There are no shortcuts to success and often the boring task of actually executing on a plan is the route to success. To use a military analogy, once fighter jets drop bombs a general can’t say “I’ve changed my mind, here’s a better target.” Establish a plan and then actually commit to executing it.
Rajah: Sam, anything else you think we should touch upon?
Sam: I genuinely believe there are countless examples of successful organizations lead by people with similar persistence, commitment and plain ingenuity. If you choose to be an entrepreneur, many situations will test your fortitude and intelligence. Having these principles in mind will ensure you always reject the status quo, take the prudent path and push through challenges. Most of all remember to smile – you’re doing something amazing that you enjoy!
Sam Natur is CEO and President of Bullfrog Insurance, a member of Founder’s Only, and occasionally guest-posts here.