How I Succeeded is a regular series on Lifehacker where we ask business owners for the secrets and tactics behind their success. Today: Drew Banks from Prezi.
Current gig: Head of International at Prezi
Location: San Francisco, California
Current mobile device: iPhone
Current computer: MacBook Air
One word that best describes how you work: Doggedly
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Email — I may be the last person on earth who believes that, if used correctly, email is the most productivity-enhancing tool there is. Close second: Google Docs.
What social network do you find the most useful?
What were the most important lessons you learned while growing your business?
You’re only as good as your team. Being an inspirational leader is critical, but so is being an effective hirer and manager. The art of people management is a highly underrated skill.
What has been the most surprising part of your business journey?
That I’m on it at all. I’m more of an artist/engineer than a biz guy. As an artist, I love creating something from nothing. As an engineering guy, I love problem solving. That’s why I became an entrepreneur. In business there is always something new to create and a morass of problems to solve.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Persevering in the face of ambiguity, though most successful entrepreneurs (and artists) are good at this. You have to be because, in the early process of creation nothing is clear.
For a more specific characteristic, I’m good at context. Particularly holistic, empathetic context. Such contextual framing is becoming a lost art and the resulting inefficiency is staggering. It’s as if the more information we have access to, the more myopic we become. Leaders therefore should spend more time communicating — not only the inspirational vision of the future but the pragmatic details of the present. Again, this is the balance between leadership and management.
What’s your sleep routine like?
Sleep? Seriously, I struggle with insomnia. Unfortunately a mind that thrives on creation and problem solving gets in the way of sleep.
What advice would you offer to other businesses on how to succeed?
Confront issues immediately and directly. If there is one characteristic that gets in the way of good business, it’s non-confrontationalism. There’s so much time wasted in head-in-the-sand avoidance and indirect critique. It leads to all sorts of problems. At some point in business, you realise that you’re working with adults, and as adults, you should be able to discuss tough issues and work through challenging problems together.