What is your favourite thing about working (and owning and being president) at Gerry Lewis Inc.?
No two days are ever alike. Between the diverse clients, wide range of projects and problems to solve, and people we interact with, each day always has some element of surprise to it. I also love the pace of this job. There are seldom days where I do not have something on the go or that something needs to be done. Pace is what keep you focused on staying organized, and never becoming complacent. I think this brings out the best in me and my team as well.
If you had a vacation day in the middle of the week (a miracle!), how would you spend it?
I think that would be a miracle. But, it is also necessary to plan days off. Being an entrepreneur, you forget to take time off and often just keep working because you never know when it will slow down. It’s important to disconnect from the business – even though for me, it seems very difficult to do so. Back to your question – what would I do? I think I would spend the day with family, most likely my mom. Days are precious as parents get older. Time is well spent with her.
What made you decide to start your own company?
I started my business out of necessity. The job I had, and the company I worked with was going through some very difficult times. I could see the writing on the wall so I decided to take the plunge and go out on my own to see what I could do. Someone gave me a great piece of advice that allowed me to “jump.” They said, “Gerry, if you failed at running your own business, do you think you could land a decent job to pay your bills?” I said yes, of course I could. He then said, “Well, you have nothing to lose then, do you? Give it a shot.” And so I did. That was 12 years ago and I have never looked back – even when times were tough.
What’s a piece of advice you would give someone looking to start their own consulting company?
My best piece of advice for someone who is thinking about starting their own company: start small. Don’t spend a lot of money on office space, equipment or people. Start with only what you need, and then just go for it. Make sure you set goals. It’s amazing at what setting small goals can do for you. Momentum is built and confidence is created. You have to work hard, but don’t try to build an empire. Start with a small shop and build from there.
Tell me about your first job.
It was very typical. I worked at a Druxy’s Deli. My job was cleaning up tables, taking the trash out, restocking shelves, cleaning toilets and mopping floors. It was not glamourous. However, that job introduced me to ambition. One day after being there for about three months, my supervisor asked me to take a walk with her. She had to go to the drug store to pick up a few things and at the check out, she said, “Pick out whatever candies you want.” I was surprised. I asked, “Why?” “You deserve it. You’ve done a great job and you made Employee of the Month. Pick what you want.” The candies weren’t the prize. Being recognized was. And I remember from that day on, I liked being recognized for the work I did and I have never stopped trying to be the best at what I do. I try to instill this in my team as well. When you work hard and try different things, you learn and you grow. It seems obvious, but so many people have stopped trying to learn and in doing so, have also stopped growing.
If you weren’t the owner and president of Gerry Lewis Inc., what do you think you’d be.
That’s way too easy. A bartender. I would help solve everyones problem. Sort of what I do in my business now.