Careers rarely go exactly to plan. In Job Hacks, we shake down people for the insights they cultivated on the way to the top of their field.
Name: Brad Weisberg
His start: When I turned 30, a switch went off in me and I thought, “I want to do something different with my life.” I was selling real estate at the time, but I wanted to work for a startup. I found one called whereivebeen.com, a social media app for Facebook. There were four or five people there at the time. I was their Senior Vice President of Sales. After three months, the company sold to Trip Advisor and I was out of a job.
How simply acting employed became an epiphany: The company [whereivebeen.com] had been working in a co-working venture capital space. Since I had been doing real estate before, this was the first time I had worked with other people in an office setting in a long time. I missed it. So after the company sold, I still had the key card to get into the co-working space. I would come into the office every single day and act like I was still doing this. What I was really doing was developing my idea for BodyShopBids [which later became Snapsheet].
I had made such good friends at the office that no one really questioned why I was still there. Occasionally someone would ask, and I'd brush it off with a joke. I did this for three months and put together a pitch for my idea. Because I had made friends with everyone there, some analysts were able to get me a meeting with Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell [of Groupon]. I pitched my idea, they liked it, and gave me funding.
The unexpected skills that helped: Everything in my life helped. For example, when I was 21, there was a six-month period where I was selling gourmet coffee machines door to door. I found the job on Craigslist. There was a crazy old engineer who made these machines and said, “go sell these.” I had to go into a bank and convince the manager to let me stand there and give coffee away for a week, and then entice the customers into buying it. You’ve got to have confidence and balls to do that, which are important skills — but what you’re really doing is getting leads. That alone prepared me for going to networking events and talking to people.
The bumps in the path: When I was getting it off the ground, we had four employees and ran out of money and we had to flip a coin to see who would get paid that month. Now we’ve raised over $16 million and I have over a hundred employees.
How to manage a turnaround: Just by being scrappy. I used LinkedIn, I would go to networking events, I’d meet other people trying to start companies and ask them if they could introduce me to just one person they know. Eighty percent of the time, all you’ve got to do is show up. Show up, start talking to people, put yourself out there. Put yourself in situations you wouldn’t normally be in.