1. Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
Ans: LuxGiftsnGoods.com is an e-commerce, luxury gift and home goods site featuring gifts for home, women, men and pets also featuring unique jewelry and gourmet, artisan foods and gift baskets. We are based in Nashville, Tennessee.
2. Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Ans: Attorney for 22 years, university professor for 15 years, realtor/broker for 5 years, former ebay power seller and former architect. University of Memphis Law School graduate and University of Tennessee – Knoxville School of Architecture Graduate See Linkedin profile at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeljmills1/ for further, detailed information.
3. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
Ans: I wanted to combine all of my learned skill sets from various professions into a career that I truly enjoy. After my second parent passed of prolonged illness, I essentially had NO CHOICE but to reinvent myself. I had helped many of my legal clients for several decades work on their dreams. It was time to work on one of my own. I wanted to create something that was a reflection of who I am that was different from what other competitors were doing or offering.
4. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Ans: 1. Take time to educate yourself on the various aspects of your business from marketing to accounting to I.T. in order to talk intelligently with those that you will no doubt need to retain to move your business forward. 2. Remember that a loan is not a gift. I chose to grow my business more slowly but stay largely free of debt. Debt creates stress, and stress can take all of the joy out of what you are doing. It can also zap your creative energy when having to worry about bills, bills and more bills. 3. Don’t necessarily expect friends and family to be on board with what you are doing. It may be outside their comfort zone or understanding. Seek others out who appreciate and can visualize your vision the same way that you can. The internet has been a gift in finding others to network or brainstorm with groups such as Meetup, SCORE and others providing much free information that you can actually use.
5. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: 1) Persistence 2) Emotional Intelligence 3) Actual Intelligence
6. How many hours do you work a day on average?
Ans: This varies depending on season and task. Orders are busiest from Valentine’s Day through Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and graduations. Then, there is the summer wedding season. The last 60 days of the year are busiest with the Christmas holidays and Hannukah gifts being ordered.
7. To what do you most attribute your success?
Ans: Both of my parents were educators who were very disciplined in their approach to business and life. This is reflected in how I have formed and grown my business and maintain what we have built while looking to the future.
8. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Ans: Marketing is a multi-pronged process through a variety of social media platforms such as Linkedin, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram; in combination such as with print advertisers in various markets including Angeleno, L.A. Confidential, Modern Luxury Beverly Hills and Jetset Magazine and word of mouth through our extensive network.
9. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
Ans: I have elected to self-fund to date although it has meant slower initial growth. I wanted to have creative and decision making control as I grew LuxGiftsnGoods.com into what I envisioned it could be vs. a committee. At some future point, I would hope that we would be acquired by someone who will continue my vision of gift and home goods offerings that are truly special.
10. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Ans: Persistence, tenacity and realizing that potentially bad times such as recessions are an opportunity to get ready for the next wave of prosperity. Always keep moving forward although some days that has to be steps vs. leaps.
11. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Ans: I hope to be at the helm as CEO and afterwards as Chairman Emeritus if we are acquired. Companies would do well to keep those who founded the company around even as consultants well into the future as long as that individual is bringing something of value to the table.
12. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Ans: I really admire American entrepreneur Harry Selfridge who went to London after having worked at Marshall Fields and founded Selfridges Department Store. He really reinvented the shopping experience for the average Londoner with the creation of the modern department store. Prior to that time, persons would often have to go to an individual type boutique to purchase individual items vs. them being in one place. Also, the concept of browsing was a Selfridges first for that era as persons were not normally welcome in a London retail establishment unless they had specific business there.
13. How important have good employees been to your success?
Ans: I believe that having good consultants around you are as or more important than employees. Consultants can often be more candid and bring specific skill sets to a situation on an as needed basis vs. an employee who may be afraid to speak their mind. With our ever changing world, particularly in the e-commerce business, seeking out those who have high level technology skill sets is essential to ongoing success.
14. How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Ans: As an entrepreneur, you have to stock with your BIG IDEA perpetually, although perhaps modifying it from your original vision over time. There will be plenty of those who are naysayers including friends and family. So, you have to be firmly grounded in your BIG IDEA from the onset.
15. What motivates you?
Ans: Post age 50, it is not money but joy and experience that motivate me. I really like seeing pieces of a puzzle or a project come together to fruition. I often use the phrase “taking it to the next level.” I am elated when I see that actually happening. Once I bask in the temporary state of satisfaction, it is then time again to “take it to the next level.”
16. What are your ideals?
Ans: I would like to leave the e-commerce world at some point better than I found it previously. I feel that I was able to do that in my other careers as an attorney and college professor, and I would like to create something that is a model for others to look to in the future as to how e-commerce retail should be done.
17. How do you generate new ideas?
Ans: Attending seasonal trade shows such as New York Now and the ones at Americas Mart in Atlanta aid me in targeting new LuxGiftsnGoods.com offerings. Americas Mart and New York now also publish paper publications that show new companies or feature interesting products that I may not have seen before. The large trade shows also have Apps that can really save time if you are only searching for a specific items.
18. How do you define success?
Ans: Success is being able to be the captain of your own ship and call your own shots. Money comes and goes, but being self-actualized and knowing in your heart that you have reached your full potential as a human being is priceless.
19. How do you build a successful customer base?
Ans: Excellent customer service and communication are necessary to build a loyal customer based. Customers often don’t mind waiting for an item if that is communicated on the front end. It is not knowing what is happening or somehow feeling that a customer has been wronged that will doom a business. Showing a customer or client that you actually care and are vested in their experience can aid in making a successful business.
20. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Ans: I can state with 110 percent certainty that being the CEO and Founder of LuxGiftsnGoods.com has opened so very many doors for me that being an attorney, educator or realtor never did. Other entrepreneurs who have reached a certain point treat you as if you are member of a club so to speak where you have paid a special kind of dues.
21. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Ans: While I believe the most satisfying moments are yet to come, I had a very rewarding experience selling some art items to a buyer when I was an ebay power seller. Her favorite aunt in Santa Barbara had died, and she was not given any of the estate items by the family. I was able to sell some small water colors to her so that she could have a remembrance of her aunt. I also get a lot of joy in discovering smaller vendors that are on the way up the ladder of success and putting their items on to LuxGiftsnGoods.com.
22. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Ans: Entrepreneurs are willing to make some self sacrifice for a goal that is often much larger than they are. It is a test in delayed gratification. Employees are often being paid compensation to defer or give up their dream and work on someone else’s in the process. It often takes a life shake up of some sort to let people know where their own priorities lie and what is important to them.
23. What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Ans: I clearly set expectations on the front end with my consultants and vendors and even clients with various written policies that I also refer to orally at appropriate increments or milestones in a project.
24. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
25. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Ans: I would have allocated my time differently. There was a period when I was in a lot of Chambers of Commerce and networking groups. In order to succeed in business, you have to put yourself in front of the decision maker vs. other sellers.
26. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Ans: Fortunately, I am at a point where I only have to be concerned with myself and my company. This has not always been the case, but I believe that family does have to come first. At the end of the day, that is what is important. Customers and clients have to understand this, and it has to be made clear with some sort of accommodation when a problem arises.
27. What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
Ans: I don’t mind working well into my 70s, but I want it be be because I want to and not because I have to. With increasing healthcare costs and a number of unknowns, I have decided to try to travel as much as I can now in my earlier years vs. delay until retirement.
28. How did you decide on the location for your business?
Ans: Tennessee, which is my home state, does not have a state income tax. Nashville has a very pro-business environment. However, I learned in the last decade that having an internet audience can provide a lot of traction and success for a business.
29. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: Being a successful entrepreneur involves having actual intelligence, emotional intelligence combined with a bit of luck and sometimes accident.
30. If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
Ans: Thomas Jefferson is my favorite historical figure. Like myself, he was a lawyer and architect but also entrepreneurial and creative.
31. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Ans: I really like New York advertising mogul Donny Deutsch. He has invented and reinvented himself, as I have also done, during various parts of his career and has stood the test of time remaining relevant at 60 the same way as he was 25 years ago. His stature continues to grow vs. decline.
32. What book has inspired you the most? (OR what is your favorite book?)
Ans: The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss because it emphasizes the importance of time, which more so than money, has always been my most important resource.
33. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Ans: I have let professionals, vendors, and clients stay in my life or business perhaps longer than I should have that needed to go. Everyone personally is maybe deserving of a second chance, but in business that is not an absolute as it can kill a business and its reputation.
34. How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
Ans: Life and business happen. When a mistake happens or an issue arises, OWN IT! Then, offer to correct it if possible or make some sort of accommodation. EX. Someone orders an item that is out of stock or discontinued. I offer a discount on another item of their choosing if they will reorder with us.
35. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Ans: Travel and photography are too of my greatest passions. I have exhibited my photos in shows and a gallery in the past, and that creative process gives me joy. I also went to Japan for my 50th birthday this year. That was an amazing adventure as I was the only white, English speaker in a few places in southern Japan having to communicate as best I can with a foreign language and alphabet. I also took golf lessons last year for my 49th birthday and hope to develop that skill set as I become a “gentleman of a certain age.”
36. What makes you happy?
Ans: The milestones in life as you mature get further and further apart typically. I enjoy the day to day operations of LuxGiftsnGoods.com, getting positive feedback from customers
37. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: I don’t have as many close relationships as I once did in contrast to having approximately 40,000 persons reach through social media outlets. A Facebook friend is not an actual friend, and entrepreneurs are hard pressed given the hours worked and focus required to have many close relationships. Depending on the time of year, my work/ life balance can be very skewed, and I have to work to put it back in balance when opportunity permits.