I had the pleasure of interviewing Harry Hedaya. He has been an Entrepreneur for over 20 years. He owns and operates a handful of businesses in the following industries; staffing, financial services, small business marketing and communications. In his most recent role, Harry serves as the CIO of Send it By Text, a company dedicated to helping businesses efficiently communicate with leads and clients.
He has been through several economic cycles and calamities from the 2000 dot com bomb to COVID-19. He is a firm believer that the only constant is change. Harry’s areas of expertise are vision, software design, marketing, business process efficiencies, hiring, and leadership.
Thank you for joining us Harry. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I was working in the wholesale mortgage banking industry in Los Angeles in 1991. Most of my clients were mortgage brokers. I noticed some were smaller than others and the big ones all had one thing in common. They advertised and created inbound leads for their sales reps. Their businesses were highly scalable and easy to replicate if you’re willing to take a chance on the outcome of spending up-front money on direct mail and sales people’s salary.
I took the plunge by putting everything on my credit cards and using what little I had saved up and never looked back. My first entrepreneurial venture was a company called Real Estate Mortgage Acceptance Company (RMAC) which at its peak, employed about 100 people and was one of the largest home improvement lenders in the country.
Since, I have started several retail financial services companies, a wireless telecom staffing company, a business productivity software company and a local business marketing company. I have had the opportunity to invest in many deals over the years, but only tend to invest into companies with which I am personally involved. I have found when I only invest money and don’t bring any additional value, the investments never work out for me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Initially, we had a tiny office above the kitchen of a Ruth Chris steak house on Beverly Drive. Around 6pm every day, we would start to smell the steaks that we could not afford cooking downstairs. In addition, wanting to save on cost, we controlled every element of our business including printing our mailers using a noisy dot-matrix printer in our tiny office shared with our initial sales reps. The printers were so noisy that when people would call in from the mailers, they could literally hear the printers printing more mailers in the background. Our sales reps had to come up with explanations for what the ‘noise’ was in the background! The combination of the printer noise and the smell of steaks on the grill made for a pretty interesting office environment!
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Every company needs a sales strategy. In order to develop an effective one, you can’t simply wing it and see what sticks. I have always been interested in sales psychology. One of my favorite books that moves the needle in business is Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini, a must read for any marketer! This book does a masterful job in breaking down the triggers that make people buy. I have used elements of it in every sales process my companies use. The principals are solid and time tested.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When I first started Real Estate Mortgage Acceptance Company, our customers were new homeowners. New homeowners always need money to spend on home improvements and customization after they purchase. Our vision was to make it easy for new homeowners to access capital for their projects.
In my most recent business venture, Send it By Text, I wanted to provide businesses with a software that did the things that their current software didn’t. The end result is a system that offers something to everyone who sees it. It’s impossible to compare us to any other product out there because the premise of our design was the work from the problems businesses face in communicating with their prospects and clients and creating text based solutions for them. While other companies only offer off the shelf, narrow items like two way business texting, our software offers solutions businesses didn’t even know existed in the marketplace. This gives us the advantage of not really having any competition in a very crowded and competitive field.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Treat your employees and customers with the same love and passion you have for your own friends and family. Employing this principal will never let you down and you will never be able to grow or scale a business without it.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The biggest challenge we faced was a sudden loss of freedom. With confusing (at best) guidance coming from leaders who have no playbook for a pandemic, trying to separate fact from fiction, and inconsistent rules applied to what we could and could not do, we had to formulate for ourselves what was the best path moving forward. Luckily, living in Florida our impact was fairly minimal.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The uncertainty of the viability of our client’s businesses is by far our biggest challenge. Will our clients have the resources to continue staying in business? How will it unravel later in the year when government funding for unemployment goes away? Will our team be able to effectively work remotely? To address these challenges, we took a very proactive approach. When clients call in worried about their business’s ability to continue during the pandemic, we empathize with their situation and because we are proactive, we offer ideas and suggestions to help them think out of the box solutions to their problems. We are so much more than a software company to our clients.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Build your ability to distill facts from hype and fiction. Don’t get sucked into the 24 hour news cycle.Their job is to sell advertising by keeping you hooked. Unfortunately, they play on our fears and insecurities to meet that end. Have a healthy respect for the situation and execute a plan that works for you!
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
In business, you always have to be willing to embrace change and use change to your benefit instead of your downfall. Now is not the time to bury your head in the sand and pretend things will work themselves out. It is likely that they won’t workout as expected anytime soon. There is a winner and loser for everything and your ability to create opportunity out of adversity will have a huge impact on your future success.
I anticipate we will see increased productivity by being able to work remotely and not waste time commuting. With more time available, due to less time wasted, we are able to use that to our advantage, as a catalyst to make a change in your life or business that perhaps you have been putting off.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
It’s going to create more awareness around basic hygiene for sure! It will create a greater awareness of one’s surroundings and new habits to deal with mitigating COVID, such as frequent hand washing, wearing face masks and keeping your distance from others will be formed. Many things we took for granted will now either not be possible or require more awareness to partake in.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We will plan on emerging leaner, stronger and more efficient than before. This will give us a solid foundation for current survival and future growth. We feel as a result of COVID, companies need our solutions more than ever before. With employees working from home, effective and efficient communications strategies and productivity using text is getting even more critical to them.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Not every business will survive. Have an honest dialogue with yourself and ask the question: Is my business still tenable post COVID? if the answer is no, cut your losses and devote your talents to something that is!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are reasons and results and reasons don’t count. This has always kept me focused on delivering results and all the success that comes with that.
How can our readers further follow your work?
My personal blog is harryhedaya.com where I have a collection of articles and thoughts for others to read and share.