Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur’s “20 Questions” series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.
There is nothing quite as exhausting as moving. You need to find the place, pack and then unpack all of your belongings, and finally, turn the new space into a home. Even though you want to put your stamp on things, it’s something of an unenviable task when you factor in the sheer amount of time and money spent, especially if you’re a bit clueless about design.
This is a problem that Beatrice Fischel-Bock, the CEO and co-founder of interior design ecommerce company Hutch deeply understands. “Furniture is really an intimidating thing to buy; it’s a big decision, you’re living with it.”
Fischel-Bock launched the business in 2012 during her senior year of college. When a user comes to Hutch, the company builds virtual rendering of their new spaces. They can then see their apartment overlaid with shoppable images of curated pieces selected by Fischel-Bock and her team, which they can then purchase through the platform.
Since its launch five years, the company has raised $17.14 million from investors like Tinder co-founder Sean Rad. The most recent funding round was $10 million led by real estate database Zillow.
We caught up with Fischel-Bock to ask her 20 questions and find out what makes her tick.
1. How do you start your day?
I start my day with my dog. We go for a walk without my phone to take a moment to be present and peaceful before the craziness begins. I’ve learned that if I don’t keep myself centered, then I don’t do a good job at work. Once I get home I’m on email before meditating or going to a workout class.
2. How do you end your day?
I end my day reading the world news outside of my startup world. It’s a good way for me to transition out of my day and get informed about other things.
3. What’s a book that changed your mind and why?
10% Happier by Dan Harris. I’m not a very touchy feely type of person, so I kept ignoring the meditation craze, but reading the book made me a convert. It was a very rational and funny way to understand the incredible merits of mediating. It’s transformed how I feel and how I deal with stress.
4. What’s a book you always recommend and why?
The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. I’ve read it a few times and find more insights with each read. I first read it when I was starting my business and my take aways were so different from my latest read with a company much further along.
It’s timeless and applicable to entrepreneurs at every stage. Every level of entrepreneurship is hard. You get past one hurdle and then you have another one to climb. The book says that’s the point. It will continue to get harder, because the problems get bigger and more serious. But there is this crazy drive we have. We just keep going. It’s so normal to feel how we feel.
5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
Take care of myself. I’m of no use to anyone or myself if I’m burnt out. The days that I don’t get enough sleep or have one too many glasses of wine at dinner, make focusing so much more difficult. I end up being less efficient and productive.
6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’m pretty much obsessed with animals, so I thought I was going to be a vet until I saw my dog after surgery and realized there was blood involved. Once I got clarity on the fact that being a vet didn’t just mean meeting cute dogs and cats, I shifted my attention to my passion for design.
7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
I haven’t had any really bad bosses. When I was a waitress and a hostess, I realized that I was always helping manage things behind the scenes even if it wasn’t my role. I learned that I’m good at making things happen and getting people behind things.
8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
My mentor Sean Rad, the founder of Tinder, and my co-founder Ben Broca. They have more experience than me and approach things very differently. Working so closely with them I’ve found a lot of common themes that have shaped who I am as an entrepreneur.
Sean always tells me to ask questions of everyone. A lot of times, you can get someone to their own conclusion, one that comes from them rather than what’s told to them. That makes the the person you’re talking to part of the conversation and they think through it themselves.
Ben has a crazy ability to figure out what needs to be prioritized. We have so many directions we can go in. I feel like a lot of startups struggle with doing too many things and only doing them half way. I’ve learned from him about how to prioritize.
9. What’s a trip that changed you?
A trip to India with my family. It was so eye opening to see how the rest of the world lives. It makes you appreciative what you have but more importantly makes you a concerned citizen of the world. As we become more globalized, you realize your reality is distorted, and you can’t stay ignorant to that.
10. What inspires you?
My co-workers. I know how lucky I am to go into work every day working on a mission and a solution that we all feel so passionately about. I can’t think of better inspiration than that.
11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
My first business idea was an iteration of my company now. It was called ZOOM interiors and had the same mission to bring good design to everyone, no matter their budget or schedule. We met a lot of inspiring people through the process of being on Shark Tank, one of them being Sean Rad. He introduced us to our other co-founders, and we’ve been working together ever since.
12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
I was a hostess in high school at a restaurant that turned over 1,500 tables a day. I learned the value of a dollar and what hard work means physically.
13. What’s the best advice you ever took?
Do things that scare you. I am a very shy person so most things scare me, especially in my position leading teams and publicly speaking. Although it’s uncomfortable at the time, you learn that you can do anything and that everything gets easier once you try it.
14. What’s the worst piece of advice you ever got?
In the early days, a VC advised me to stay underground while building out our product, even if it took a year. Luckily, I didn’t take that advice. I attribute our success to a mantra we have at the office: “Fail fast, fix fast, learn fast.” That means you put pieces of what you have into users hands as soon as possible and iterate from there. If I had listened to that advice we would have wasted a year building the wrong product.
15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
Don’t procrastinate. It can feel overwhelming when you have so many things to do, but the only thing to do is plow through. Trying to push something aside for a better time just moves the problem along.
16. Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
I’m pretty old school in that I always have a paper notebook with me where I write notes and to-do lists with little boxes. Nothing beats the feeling of checking off that little box. And Slack is a huge part of how I stay on top of everything going on.
17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
This is incredibly important to me and something woven into the culture at Hutch. We believe you produce the best work when you give yourself time to decompress and step away. We are firm believers in quality over quantity.
18. How do you prevent burnout?
This is exactly why work-life balance is so important. Burnout can be so detrimental to a person and the team. All the work you gained through over-working disappears when someone burns out. It’s counter productive in the long run. If I have to work on the weekends, instead of dragging it out and “working” all day, I just set aside a couple of hours and bang through it all. Even if something comes up later, at least now my day is open to me.
19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
Get outside. It’s so easy to get in your head and go in circles. You need to talk to other people, see other things. Get inspired by what everyone else is up to.
20. What are you learning now?
I’m understanding the importance of individual members of our team. The people behind a company and brand are what make and break it. A good idea is easy. Executing and seeing it through is the hard part. I’m learning that my job as CEO means finding the best of the best to work on our problems and make sure they have all the tools they need emotionally and literally.