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5 Lessons Learned in my 4th Year as an Entrepreneur

February 3, 2016

After four years, I have become a seasoned entrepreneur. I have an office, not a living room, coffee shop, or shared desk. There are four salaries to support. I’m helping build robots, collect bacteria, protect farm animals, find a new use for flies & worms, and fight aging. A Virtual Lab Manager has helped labs in 11 cities and 2 countries. I know that myself and HappiLabs are catalysts in a biotech revolution. It’s a great feeling.

Over the past year I have had several people tell me that I’m a good planner. I get a head of projects, think about potential obstacles, and plan for the best and worst case scenarios. I have timelines, ToDo Lists, and well-formatted Word documents. The map I’ve created is easy-to-read, and sometimes I feel like Captain Robert FitzRoy. As a result, my company grew 4x.

Thinking back to lessons in 2012, websites are still expensive, and from my lessons in 2013…communication is still the king. Without effective communication, your life as an entrepreneur will fall apart. The lesson you should know from 2014: Eat breakfast.


In 2015, I became a real CEO (except I don’t wear suits). Hiring, managing, deciding, projecting, and planning. Growing pains. There were 12 round trips to San Francisco with 7 visits to Half Moon Bay. Our SF customer base has grown outside the city limits, therefore I’ve also slept in San Jose, Mountain View, Redwood City, Menlo Park and Brisbane.

I am very grateful for the friends who offered a free couch, air matress, or guest room: Nina, Sangeetha, Jun, Stacey, Aras, Daiva, Tom, Elina, and Kinkead. Combined, you probably saved me/HappiLabs $2000.

After much debate with my brain and family, I did not move to San Francisco. Rent is ridiculous! It’s waaaaay cheaper to fly back and forth.

Valuable lessons have been learned on my journey.

5 lessons learned in my 4th year as an entrepreneur

More gets done when you clear the inbox.

clear inboxI read advice from successful entrepreneurs and this is a split decision. Some say you need to turn it off for extended periods of time during the day so you can focus on specific tasks. But I disagree, at least for now. Quick email responses help other people move quicker. So don’t respond later, respond now. As one CEO told me: “Every morning the first thing I do is respond to all the emails that require 3 words or less. Then I head to the office for longer emails.”

You should take the first meeting offered to you.

When someone offers you >1 option for a phone call or meeting, and they are a useful person, take the earliest option. Like the emails, help everyone move quicker. And leave the second option as a backup.

Turning off email or phone improves work-life balance.

The goal here is happiness at home and avoiding burnout at work. I have a time every night (usually) that I turn my phone off, and all day Sunday.

One of my friends said, “But there’s so much to do!” I bet at least 15% of what you “need” to do can wait. No one wants you to respond to their emails on a Saturday afternoon. So don’t!

There’s plenty to get done without the need for technology. Live where you are.

Misspending $1000’s is normal.

I will try my best to spend wisely, but certain expenses just don’t work out.

Some consultants are very useful and some are very useless. Sometimes a business trip was a complete waste of time. I spent $2000 on a conference that turned into nothing but some free meals. As @eperstle likes to say, “It’s the cost of doing business.”

Karma plays a role.

If you are nice to people, honest, and fair, it will come back to you. Build this into your customer service and people will buy what you sell.


If you want help or advice about starting your own business or how to be happier, please reach out. Twitter is the easiest place to find me: @letUbeU, or LinkedIn (Tom Ruginis).


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