Jimmy Chebat – CEO Interview
When did you know you wanted to start your own company?
It has been my dream since I was a kid, I always knew I didn’t want to work for someone else. I’ve been running my own businesses for the past 20 years.
What was your original idea for this company, and are you still doing that (or did you pivot, if so, what is the new focus and why)?
The short answer, is both. The idea for ZIZO was born out of my frustrations of managing a workforce. 10 years ago I created a software called eWhiteboard as a solution and it worked out great. However, I didn’t feel like it was a complete enough solution. So, I combined that software with my love and interest in gaming to create ZIZO, which is the result of 10 years of passionate evolution.
How long did it take you to finally take the leap, and what was it that pushed you over the fence?
It took about 10 years for me to finally take the chance and sell my previous business in order to focus on ZIZO. At a trade show last year, I was approached by multiple business owners interested in the eWhiteboard technology. I felt that it was no longer a complete solution which is what drove me to shift my focus back to the algorithm and take the software even further.
Who inspired you to pursue your dream, and why do you think they believed in you?
My primary inspiration to become an entrepreneur was my mom. She was a single mom of 6 kids and her confidence and encouragement really made me who I am today. My mom had this way of identifying each of her children’s strengths and encouraging us to use those strengths to play a role in our family. My role was to be the leader and the one who kept all of my siblings on track. The expectation to lead and be responsible eventually spilled into other aspects of my life and I feel like it is a major factor as to why I’ve always wanted to be a leader in my career.
Who is your favorite mentor and why?
When I was younger, I really wanted to have a mentor and I never seemed to find the right fit. After becoming a CEO, I realized that the saying that it’s lonely at the top was true. I joined a CEO peer program which was a collaborative group with other CEOs. These peers became individuals that I really admired, respected and learned from throughout the years.
What was the hardest thing about starting your company, and what did you do to make it through the first stage?
Financing has been by far the most difficult part of starting my company. Building the right team, on the right budget, and knowing when to stop investing my own money has been really tricky. I’m really still in the infancy of the company but I feel like every day the lesson is getting easier and easier.
What has been the hardest lesson to learn?
Determining when and how to decide that someone is in the wrong place. It can be really difficult when you’re trying to build a team and you realize someone who you counted on is not the right fit. I’m the type of person who doesn’t give up on a person easily, this has worked out both extremely well and extremely poorly in the past which makes determining when it’s time to part ways even harder. I have a staged process that I always go through in these situations which years of experience have helped me to hone.
What has been the most amazing thing you have experience while running this company?
While ZIZO is still in the early stages of becoming a reality, it has been incredibly rewarding to take my idea from my vision, to sharing it with a team that can help me achieve it, and now finally seeing my vision come to life.
What is the best decision you’ve ever made while running this company?
The best decision I’ve made while running ZIZO is the architecture of my team. It has been crucial for the business that I was able to expand my capabilities without compromising the quality of what ZIZO accomplishes.
What is the biggest mistake you made while running this company, and why do you think it happened?
In ZIZO’s infancy, I hired a colleague to write our business plan. I did this in attempt to save cost and be loyal to a relationship I had. Unfortunately, that person was not qualified to write a business plan and it has ended up costing a lot of time and money to fix the original plan.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your company?
When the coronavirus pandemic hit its height in early March, we were mere months into our existence at ZIZO. Luckily, I was able to use the skills and agility that comes with being a seasoned CEO to change direction and use this event to our advantage. The increase of remote workers lends itself incredibly well to ZIZO’s platform, which makes our impending release all the more exciting and timely. We’ve considered the lasting changes the pandemic will make on our society and we’re doing our best to find opportunities for ZIZO in the aftermath.
What keeps you passionate about your company?
I genuinely believe in this solution’s ability to revolutionize the workplace.
What daily routine have you developed to help you take care of your mind, body, and soul?
This is tough as an entrepreneur and CEO on any level, but with my current project being a start-up it is more difficult than ever to stop and ensure that I’m taking care of myself. I do my best to workout three times a week to maintain some time for myself.
What one thing would you like people to take away from this interview?
That I really mean the things I say. Often times in interviews, people assume that I’m talking up ZIZO because I’m the CEO; but I want people to know that I’m the CEO because I believe in the power of this technology. The ZIZO brand is built on authenticity and I truly believe in the potential of this company.
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On the podcast, Sean talks with entrepreneurs about the reality of their struggle to succeed, as well as answering questions from the community, and sharing nuggets of wisdom from his own life.
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Sean is an entrepreneur, investor, and advisor based in SE Asia for over 12 years. He is passionate about Psychology and helping others improve themselves.