Be Grateful For The Freedom To Succeed
Scout is the sourcing and supplier engagement platform trusted by procurement teams across to globe to streamline their processes, manage a unified pipeline of projects, and collaborate with stakeholders and suppliers to achieve greater business impact.
CEO Alex Yakubovich and President Stan Garber have channeled their unique experiences to make commerce faster, safer and more transparent, while also living out journeys that inspire their team and other entrepreneurs. Previously, they co-founded ONOSYS, which was acquired by LivingSocial in 2012.
I had the opportunity to interview them about their journey to success recently. Here are the highlights from that interview:
Jill Griffin: Where did you grow up? Describe your early childhood and its significance on your life.
Alex Yakubovich: I was born in Moscow, Russia while it was still the Soviet Union. My family moved to America when I was six. Though I was young, I remember how it felt living in a country where your religious or racial background automatically limited your prospects for advancement. It made me appreciate how great America’s meritocratic and capitalistic culture truly is. Also, as with many immigrants who saw their parents risk everything to move to a far away country with little knowledge of the language and no jobs, it influenced my risk tolerance in a way that really benefits me now as an entrepreneur.
Stan Garber: I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio as a first-generation immigrant. Both my parents had to hit reset on our lives when we got to America and had to build everything from the ground up. As I watched my father work 12-hour days in the upholstery studio he opened, I learned a lot about the hard work and time it takes to become successful.
Griffin: When did you first get the whisper you belonged in business?
Yakubovich: Growing up in Ohio where it could snow pretty hard, my brother and I would go door to door seeing if the neighbors needed their cars cleaned for a small fee. It was thrilling to see hard work and customer happiness translate directly to how much we were paid. It was the embodiment of the “American Dream” and the only way to truly control your future.
Garber: When I think about my first encounters with entrepreneurship, I always go back to my father. He taught me everything I know about hard work and gave me a passion to start a company of my own. In fact, he opened up my first stock trading account for me in high school!
Griffin: Was there an early teacher that inspired you? Who and how?
Yakubovich: I got my first real job at McDonald’s when I was 14. I fell in love with how every single process was thoughtfully designed to benefit the customer experience. The person who owned that franchise, Tony Philiou, was a great role model. He is a Greek immigrant who started as a cheese slicer at McDonald’s and worked his way up to own eight locations. He was a strong leader who led from the front. No job was ever beneath him. He was strict and had high standards, but never yelled or shamed anyone if they made an honest mistake — which I often did. He showed everyone that you can be tough and compassionate at the same time.
Garber: My high school business teacher, Mrs. Six, was an individual who helped propel my love of business forward. She helped me start the Future Business Leaders of America chapter at our high school and gave me the freedom to build the organization on my own.
Griffin: What’s a great piece of business or life advice you received, who gave it to you, and how has it enhanced your life?
Yakubovich: My mom always told me to be myself and have fun. If you’re genuine and go about life with a sense of optimism and humor, you’ll be happy and people will notice. I recently read about numerous scientific studies showing that happiness correlates to everything from higher IQ to better earning potential. My mom didn’t need fancy studies to know choosing happiness was important, and I’m grateful she passed that wisdom on to me from an early age.
Garber: Someone once told me that, if you aren’t a little afraid, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. You have to truly get outside of your comfort zone to succeed. You should constantly be challenging yourself to do something new or to push continued growth in an existing area.
Griffin: Please give me the top three bullet points in your Personal Leadership Credo.
- Leaders lead from the front.
- Culture is everything. Never settle for less than A players, even when you’re strapped for resources.
- The harder I work, the luckier I get. There are no shortcuts or silver bullets to success.
- Invest where it counts. Be frugal where it doesn’t.
- Build meaningful relationships that will last you a lifetime.
- Don’t expect someone to do something you won’t do yourself.
Griffin: Describe a painful setback in your life and what it taught you.
Yakubovich: When we first set out to raise capital, many investors passed — sometimes not so nicely. Adding to the difficulty of the rejection was that I really admired some of the VCs who ended up passing on us. Getting so much rejection early on felt like a big failure on my part as a leader and a reflection on our fledgling company. It taught me to take it one day and one meeting at a time. I didn’t understand it then, but it was a good precursor to the rest of the journey where the path to meaningful success is nearly always through a lot of failure. Today, when we hit setbacks, I think back to those days and remember to breathe and just keep going.
Garber: There was a point in my life where I realized I wasn’t the right person for a specific job. This can be a tough pill to swallow, and it’s definitely hard to think through that idea on your own. As I did this, though, it helped me focus on my strengths that would push me forward in the right way.
Griffin: What advice do you have for young, talented, ambitious entrepreneurs who want to rise?
1. Obsess over your customers.
2. Read as much as you can.
3. Always do the right thing, especially when it’s hard and/or no one is watching.
To start off, you have to get out there and not be afraid of rejection. As you build your company, you must also build a network of trusted advisors that can guide you along the way. It’s amazing how much support you can get if you simply ask.Nearly every entrepreneur has experienced a helping hand along their journey, so they always understand the position you’re in as an entrepreneur reaching out for support. The only reason this doesn’t happen is because people are too afraid to ask for help.