Welcome to another edition of Solo2CEO podcast. We’re here with our guest, Josh Mizrahi, the owner and operator of Miz Promos. From being an employee, he built a service enterprise that is essential to the promotional and advertising industry.
Let’s meet the man and get to know him, his work, and his passion.
What do you do? Who do you work for?
We generally work for the promotional and advertising industry. We print promotional content on t-shirts, whether it’s company logos or for events. We focus on the wholesale end-of-production part of the industry, mostly for companies and organizations. We find brokers or they find us, whichever comes first.
We focus on quality service and quality work, and we try to give them the best experience they could have.
How did this all start?
It was more of a dream. As teenagers, we thought that we could make a big business out of printing funny sayings on t-shirts.
And that’s how it started. We were in this business for about seven years. We did all kinds of self-promotions. Building the business was fun. But then, we made a lot of mistakes, and we learned a lot. We succeeded in many things, but eventually, we went our separate ways.
After that, in 2017, I took a position in another print shop, which was different from the previous job that I had. I was in a managerial position but I was a lot better working with the production team than sitting in a showroom and having walk-in customers. I liked bringing up the morale of workers and having them work in a nice setting.
In the years that I was in that company, its revenue increased considerably. The first year I was there, the revenue almost doubled, then a 30% increase in the second year, and another 20% in the third year. It was a good working experience I had for three years until COVID came.
With that, I decided to take my experience and use it on myself rather than for other people.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
There were a lot of obvious and gritty details, but what mainly led me to do it was that there is not much room to grow when somebody else is trying to grow themselves off of your back.
If you are running a company, whether big or small, and there is somebody else that is controlling or pushing the buttons behind you, there is not a lot of room to grow because you have already reached the top. You are not getting any higher unless you take over.
That is right. And to go anywhere, you had to be at the top rank. What are your thoughts on starting with a partner? What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a business in a partnership?
Having a partner is a stepping stone – a way for people to start where they normally would not be able to. I am not the biggest fan of partnership because things will go unfavorable eventually, whether in a short or long time.
If someone starting a business could do it without a partner, I would strongly advise against it. But if they can’t do it without a partner, then go for it.
What tips would you give to someone who wants to build a business without a partner?
Most people don’t go solo because they are scared. For me, anybody could go for it. It is just a matter of whether or not they are willing to put in the sweat and tears.
In a start-up, you have to do it all by yourself. Moreover, a start-up doesn’t necessarily have money.
If you have a partner, you can share the work, the risks, and the rewards that go with the business. Technically when you have a partner, you also have a free employee,
What happened when you left this company and started your own business?
My first step was to search for opportunities. COVID was the time when I was considering leaving. I came across a much smaller print shop that was not making income, having been closed for a year, and with a retiring owner. He was selling the equipment and the setup as is.
I jumped on that opportunity by gathering the funding. After three weeks I bought the equipment and we started our business. Two of its four former employees stayed with me.
I only bought his equipment and took over the lease of the building that he was in. It was starting from nothing. No books of account, no client list, no customer, no branding.
But being in the same industry had given me experience, contacts, and clients. As someone with over 10 years of experience, I had hopes and dreams and I knew the importance of a business plan.
I had a business wish list – that everybody would give me their work and pay me, but that was not the case. Though some people had known me for so long, they would not just trust my new business. This was a bigger challenge for me to get off the ground and get things moving.
How would you describe your first customers who you say do not fully trust you, as with your other customers who come to you for business?
To me, any job that came to me was exciting, even a single purchase order. By letting them experience the kind of customer service that I had been giving in my previous company, they realized that it is the same kind of service business that I was known for.
Once I had that first order, I know that my customers realized that this was the service that they were used to being given by me. I knew that I just have to be consistent and that my customers will keep coming back to me.
Every customer’s needs and wants are different from each other. We treat them differently from each other, in the way that they want to be treated.
When did you feel that there was a breakthrough in your business?
It was not necessarily a breakthrough, it was more of a gradual climb. At some point, maybe after six months into the business, I thought I could not do sales anymore because we had maximized our capacity. Because of that, I focused on the internal needs of the business rather than outside sales.
After that, we started to increase our production levels so we could take more clients. We were six people on the team when we started, and now we have ten, excluding me.
Tell me about the systems that you have set up in this business.
We have a production management system that organizes and tracks customers and order processes, among other things. We are paying monthly for the system which is customized according to our needs and wants.
Every order is unique and custom, so we follow through every order every step of the way. We have to babysit every order.
We used our experience to create systems. There is a lot of trial and error that we have to do, as well as new challenges that come. We built our systems with my ten years of experience in this business.
What challenges have you experienced in hiring? Have you had some bad hires?
I have a fantastic team. They work hard, they have good energy and the workplace atmosphere is always happy. It’s hard to get the right people, but once you get them, it is worth everything.
Every person is special, and every situation is unique. Sometimes, you have to filter out your applicants so you could keep the good ones. I don’t use vetting, I let them work and see how they perform.
Everyone works well if they are happy, so I have to keep them happy. What comes in is their work ethic. If they have a happy personality, then we can make it work. Happy employees make customers happy, and then I am happy.
Have you experienced challenges in production?
Although we are trying our best, we fail and make mistakes sometimes. But we learn from our mistakes, and I embrace and accept the mess because this is how we learn. We don’t learn if we don’t make mistakes.
How do you handle the mistakes of your employees?
Mistakes are very important because they give us lessons and we could learn from them. I take responsibility for it even though I am not the one making the mistake.
I teach my employees that they need to focus on how the mistake happened and we go through different scenarios. We discuss what we would have done differently and how it could not happen.
It is just a matter of neglect by an employee. Maybe they are tired, they need to pay more attention or they did something or left out something, leading to the mistake. Sometimes we adjust our systems and processes to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
So, how do you deal with a situation when an employee makes a mistake that cost you?
I tell them not to worry about it. I can’t hire somebody and be upset at them. I need to be happy with them so they could be happy with me, and with that attitude, they are going to work harder.
As employees, at the end of the day, they want to go home feeling accomplished and that they did a good job. And when they make mistakes, I don’t get upset at them.
How do you market yourself?
We recently got our website up a couple of months ago. I don’t do social media because it is very hard for me to advertise the jobs that I do since I do them wholesale.
We want to put ourselves in front of the industry, so we have a goal this year to get established in some specific trade shows.
What are some things that you wish you could tell yourself when you were starting the business?
For me, if I didn’t experience the things that I did, I would not know the things that I know now. So if I knew before what I know now, it would not necessarily help me grow because I would be skipping all the experiences and the failures, and you cannot succeed without failure.
If you do not know what it is like to fail, you don’t know what it is like to succeed. Failures are the biggest lessons. But I suppose one can succeed without failure.
What does success mean to you?
For me, success is something that every person looks at differently. It could be just getting through the day. It could be getting one new customer that I’ve been working on for the last couple of months. It’s the little successes that are what keep me going.
These are short-term successes and I like them because it keeps me moving. I don’t necessarily have plans for long-term success right now, but we do have a vision.
Do you believe that it is not important to have a whole plan written out as long as you know your vision?
It depends on the person and the business. For me, since I am the business, I follow my guts. The vision of the business could change over the years. So far, we have been following the path we have been on and our vision hasn’t changed since we started.
Do you see an advantage in writing up a business plan, but you don’t feel it is necessary?
It is necessary to write a business plan and I realize I am going the untraditional way, but it works for me. I know that this is what I am doing, regardless of what some business coaches will say.
I do see an advantage in doing it your way even though it is the unpopular route. You can’t write a plan unless you know which direction you are going. You have a vision, but you’re not exactly sure where you want to go with it. The very base of success is paying your salary and not losing money, and your business can sustain itself for the next years.
More than that, you have to sustain your growth, and growth is very expensive.
Thankfully, we have been able to finance our growth. We are looking forward to growing even more in the next years. I want to create an environment in the business where the employees come to work early and leave work happy.
I am continuing with the theory that if my employees are happy, they will give you as close to a hundred percent of their productivity as they can and the customers will see that, and they will keep providing you with the work to succeed.
A good business plan is ideal for most businesses, but from my experience, business plans rarely follow the same route that they are written out; and even if they do, there are a lot of variables in the future.
A business plan does not work for me. I just know what the business or the industry needs, and I try to provide it the best I can and everything else follows.
What are some tips that you would give someone that is starting in any service-based industry?
Just do it. Business plan or not, just go for it. If you love what you do, that’s all that should matter. You could build a business plan after you make money.
It is always a good idea to find another business owner who has been through what you are just doing and just to mentor you, or even just to give you the motivation to tell you that you could succeed. He doesn’t even need to be in the same industry as yours, since every business essentially is the same.
As someone being in the business for ten years now, what are some tips that you would tell people who are starting with theirs?
First, you should not be afraid to risk it. As long as you know that your heart is in it 100%, and you are willing to embrace failures, do not be afraid because that is the only way to success.
Another thing is you should be good to people. Treat each person equally, from the lowest employee to the highest-paid one, and treat them as equals. If they feel that you are treating them well, they will treat you well in return.
If you have the motivation to go out and do it on your own, go for it. Even with different personalities, it could work to your advantage in every industry.
What is something that you did not even know existed as a potential issue or stumbling block that hits you hard that you would want to save someone from experiencing it?
Ideally, you make money in the first year of business. Not everyone does. If their business doesn’t make money for the first year, most people cannot sustain living for more than a year without bringing in any income.
Most people coming from the workforce and receiving their paycheck every Friday, are used to the lifestyle of money coming in and paying bills. So it is important to be prepared for this.
How do you find your work-life balance?
In the beginning, there was no work-life balance, there was just work. I put work first because as a startup, nobody else would do the work for you, and I could not hire because I could not afford it.
It was difficult in the beginning, but as the business started to grow and I started to hire people and delegate more tasks to them. It is now easier to take a step back and focus on the things that I am good at and the things that I am motivated to do.
What are some mistakes that you see people making when they are starting a business?
They are not necessarily mistakes; it’s just that people are afraid to take risks. A lot of people would rather have somebody else risk it for them, and the majority of those end up losing.
The people who succeed are generally the people who take risks themselves. You will never get to where you want to be if you do not take that step that you should have taken.
If you have started a business, you have faith in yourself because you are the business, especially in the service industry. If you don’t go all in, then you will never get to where you want to be, because nobody else is going to do it for you.
You could hire all the best coaches in the world, but they would not get you to where you want to be because you are the one to do it. If you do it all the way, you will succeed.
It was indeed a very interesting conversation with Josh. If anyone needs the services of promo printing, how would they contact you?
We have a website, https://mizpromos.com/ where you can find our contact numbers and other links to contact us. Thank you very much.