Brandon Smith is a startup veteran with nearly a decade of experience in the information technology sector. He has headed up several IT groups across Arizona, and consulted on several startups over the years.
His knowledge of customer service and keen insight into technology trends has helped him develop an effective leadership style that puts users first. He currently lives in Phoenix, AZ and heads M33 Labs,a company focused on improving the workspace experience.
In this interview, Brandon shares his thoughts and philosophies on entrepreneurship and that he sees entrepreneurs more like creative people than business people. Get ready to grow - there are multiple gold nuggets in this interview. When you're done absorbing his advice, be sure to follow M33 LabsonTwitterfor a look at how successful products and company culture arebuilt.
What motivated you to start M33 Labs? Did you see a way to serve customers better than your competitors?
I have always been amazed at what products can do to enrich our lives. The ways in which they take something that can be complex or taxing and present it in an entirely different dynamic is something really special. This isn’t by accident either, it's by design. I have always thought of entrepreneurs more like artists than business people.
They craft this incredible piece of work that ends up becoming a company, and that company turns out products that are a reflection of that work. Customers then buy these products because those products reflect their own philosophies. One of my favorite examples of this is Braun, a company that has churned out some of the most iconic products of our time such as the SK 2 Radio. Their mastery of simplicity and function by removing things that were unnecessary are something I feel a lot of companies fail to capture.
Have you encountered troubles or mishaps when starting M33 Labs? How did you fix them?
As with all great things there are always challenges, and we have had our fair share. I would say the way we overcome them is quite simple, we remind ourselves of the end goal. We learn from our mistakes, and adapt. We have been in some tough situations, but somehow our dynamic and love for what we are doing makes those situations worth it.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? Is there something you are most proud of?
Being an entrepreneur is my life. I live it, I breath it, and what makes it most special is that feeling you get that you can really change the world. It kind of makes you feel like a super hero. I am probably most proud of the fact that no matter how many times I have failed, I keep getting back up and going forward.
What is the most exciting moment of your entrepreneurial journey?
This is a really hard one, because there has been so many! I would say the most exciting part of my journey has been seeing people grow. I have seen my team go from a rag tag group of college students to an efficient machine of people that refuse anything except for the best. We are constantly questioning and improving, never settling. You get to see some really great things happen when you get to that point.
What is the toughest decision you’ve ever made when starting a business? How did it make you better at the end of the day?
The toughest decision I have had to make I think is who to let in, and who to keep away. I have had lots of friends want to be a part of M33, and there have been some that I have had to let go because I knew they weren’t there for the right reasons. This made me allot better in the sense that I was able to create a dynamic, and that dynamic has defined everything we are working for.
What does your day-in, day-out look like? Is there any specific habit that has helped you become a better person?
My day in and day out is pretty hectic. In addition to my normal day job, I usually start my work day when most people are eating dinner, and so I am pretty used to working by candlelight. I think the most important habit I have developed is being able to manage my time extremely efficiently, because I have such limited amounts of it I have developed the ability to delegate what I know I cannot handle.
Who has been your greatest influencer along your entrepreneurial journey? How did they shape M33 Labs?
I would say the greatest influencer I have had has been Dieter Rams. Dieter Rams was a man who made design both functional, and yet aesthetic. Every aspect of this translated into the products that Braun created, and defined a culture. Our culture is very much built around the same philosophy.
How do you balance life and work to remain connected and available for your loved ones? Any advice for me?
This is one of the hardest challenges of being an entrepreneur, most of it comes through using what limited time we have with one another and making the most of it. The advice I would have is learn to respect each other’s work, because if you and your partner understand that each other is doing the best work of their lives, it makes it a lot easier.
Do you think being an entrepreneur has turned you into a better person? If so, how?
I probably wouldn’t say “better” person, I would definitely say more humble. You learn to accept the things you can’t change, and work your damn hardest to get other people to love your work as much as you do. You also learn to work hard for every penny, because no one is just going to give it to you.
What advice would you give to our readers who want to start a business in Arizona today? Where should they start?
I would say find your passion, own it, and don’t let anyone stop you from making it a reality. More importantly, listen to your customers, because they will never steer you in the wrong direction. You’re going to fail a lot before you even have a chance at making it, but don’t give up, because you’re better off failing now than when you’re dealing with thousands or millions of dollars.
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