An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Build a team, and a cadre of leaders. Your role will change rapidly, and you need to adjust both yourself and your organization to meet these changes as it grows.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lance Zaal.
Lance Zaal is an entrepreneur, investor, veteran, and business owner. Zaal owns and operates businesses in the tourism, hospitality, and software industries, including US Ghost Adventures, which includes the Lizzie Borden House and Brickhouse Inn Bed and Breakfast, and Junket.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
This can be found on my website at lancezaal.com
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t have a favorite quote.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Not really, but there were many books and a few films that I enjoyed and took something from.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
First, if it can’t be transformed into a sustainable enterprise, it’s probably not a great idea, and should be abandoned to pursue something that will work. The idea should be scalable, fairly inexpensive to get off the ground to gain some traction, and ideally covering its own expenses relatively quickly. All aspects of costs, risks, and revenues should be considered, while the business model and its assumptions should undergo heavy scrutiny. An experienced entrepreneur mentor is very important.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
It’s not relevant. Who cares who else thought of an idea? This is fear at first thinking. What matters is creating a sustainable, strong business. Just because there are others in your market, doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in it, or even redefine it. What is important is ensuring you don’t break the law, whether that be a trademark, patent, or whatever.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
Every journey, industry, and startup is different, so it’s not appropriate to make a generalization. Not every idea will be a physical product, and not every product or process may be patentable. But you need to have a solid business plan, understand your risks and costs, understand realistic opportunities to ensure sustainability, and execute your plan to achieve growth. Processes and people (your team) are the most important. You must understand your market: your competitors and the customers, and where and how things are changing. What value do you add? Why should people pay for your product or service instead of everything else they can do with their money? And how will you convince them?
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?
- GET A MENTOR
- You’re on your own. You have no friends. The market is god.
- Do things by the book, don’t cut corners. Payroll, legal.
- Design is critical.
- Focus and flexibility is the most important. Don’t waste your energy on things that don’t advance your vision and mission; be unrelenting and selfish with your time. Pivot quickly when it appears you’re spinning your wheels (and understand why).
- Build a team, and a cadre of leaders. Your role will change rapidly, and you need to adjust both yourself and your organization to meet these changes as it grows.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Speak to a patent attorney and an experienced entrepreneur who can help guide you.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
I’m a big fan of bootstrapping first. Show it has potential, then go for the money. You’re doing this for you and your vision, not for VCs. So first make it work for you. If it’s sustainable and has scalability, then you can approach VCs- if you need to. Every situation will be different based on needed startup costs.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I have hired many employees, and we touch many customers every year with our stories and experiences. Personally, this year I supported Ukraine during Russia’s invasion, which resulted in saving the lives of many Ukrainians, and helping to combat the Russian army. Read more on my website or here — https://www.linkedin.com/posts/imatveichenko_every-war-produces-heroes-as-they-say-light-activity-6995022295958220800–kSf?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_desktop
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Strengthening democracy, and humanitarian efforts to combat disease, and ensure access to clean water
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would love to do this with anyone really. I don’t have a network and grew my business on my own and without external funding. I’d like to make new connections, maybe friends, and possibly explore other opportunities to expand my business in the travel, tourism, and hospitality space.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Thank you as well. I appreciate you reaching out for an interview.
Making Something From Nothing: Lance Zaal On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.