Growing up, as most kids do, my life was primarily focused around sports, basketball in particular and like a lot of stories out there, I broke my hand the second week of practice my freshman year at New York University (NYU). No longer physically capable of participating in workouts, I became bored and frustrated. It was winter break, no students around, just my teammates and an overwhelming amount of free time.
Being at NYU, but more importantly in New York City, I was inspired seeing my peers developing startup companies. I had written my college essays about how I was a “problem solver” and based on my experience with standardized testing, I wanted to eventually develop a watch that was designed to help students pace on the SAT and ACT.
While that day I broke my hand was depressing and disheartening, it was ultimately going to change my life forever. From that point on, I focused every free minute I had to starting Testing Timers and developing this SAT/ACT watch. My family was fully aware of my dream, and when I asked my father for some guidance, he directed me to a California-based, third party manufacturer that our family company had been using for years. By third party I essentially mean the middleman between domestic companies and foreign factories. For the next 2 weeks, I worked constantly, until obscene hours, on developing a 30-page functionality manual.
From there, time flew. We found our reputable factory. Began developing our first prototype. Summer break began. I began researching how I was going to launch the product. Bought preexisting patents. Filed for my own provisional patent. All of this while still devoting 4-5 hours to train for my upcoming collegiate basketball season. I was just turning 19, leaving my house by 5:30 AM, coming home around 8:30 PM.
Towards the end of July, I attended my first tradeshow in Miami. Just me, some new business cards and brochures, a Testing Timers banner, and 13 prototypes of a product that I truly believed in. Once again, I was completely oblivious to the fact that my life would change forever. When I was in my booth, I was in my element. I was networking, introducing people to my creation, but most importantly learning and asking questions. The feedback was extraordinary with people even trying to outbid each other for the prototypes. I left Miami with no watches and with my interests quickly changing. As being a collegiate athlete was becoming progressively less appealing, the thought of developing this company excited me.
Fast-forward about a year later and we’re in the present. The success thus far has been tremendous. We have partnered with over 20 highly-recognized tutoring centers nationwide, had both ACT and College Board recognize our watches for meeting all criteria in an ABC News article, been featured in the New York Times, Gizmodo, and the Examiner, but above all I am most proud of staying true to myself and building the company around the fundamental business ethics by beloved grandfather taught me months before he passed.
My grandfather was the most incredible businessman, but more importantly was the most incredible person and family man. Before he passed away, I had told him my dream and about this future company I one day aspired to build. Even though he told me wanted to be my “number one investor,” he was truly my “number one role model and teacher.” Everything he said always had a common theme: doing things the right way.
My philosophy of business and the way I have built and currently run Testing Timers comes from the values my grandfather stressed.
The importance of staying true to yourself
The importance of customer service and treating every customer and person with equal and unconditional respect
The importance of slow and steady growth
The importance in understanding what you can and cannot handle
The importance of hard work
The importance of learning
The importance of doing things the right way
There were times where I could have taken short cuts, but I never did. And that’s why I can ultimately go to sleep at night proud of what I have accomplished. Had I been focused on making the most amount of money, in the quickest amount of time, I would have taken literally the exact opposite route I did.
Now I write my first blog for Steve Kirshenbaum with the ideal framework I need to begin the next stage of the company: growth.
Steve asked me to talk about why I thought my philosophy was important. My simple response is because I am 100% confident in the watches and extremely passionate about continuing this journey and growing Testing Timers. It’s an incredible feeling to not necessarily have to go “cold-call” new customers, but rather share my creation and let the product speak and sell itself. The reason why I can do that is because I listened to my grandfather and took the long, slow, conscious, detail-oriented route. Had I not, I would bet everything I have that I would not be where I am today.
When Steve asked me to talk about my advice, I questioned my advice to who? In the end my interpretation of that was simply anyone. You don’t have to be a young, aspiring entrepreneur like myself; you honestly don’t have to have anything in common with me. Besides for doing everything the “right” way with an ethical manner, I have five pieces of advice:
- Be passionate and love what you do. I love what I do. I developed the watches in a way that corresponded to my test prep and would have helped me. Now I see my creation at work, helping student after student, company after company.
- Learn, and when you’re done learning, learn some more. Obviously being 19, turning 20, I know very little, but every day I am trying to understand concepts and ideas I didn’t previously know. Even my grandfather, until the day he passed away, tried to learn something new every day.
- Take risks and don’t be afraid to fail. Being a 19 year old kid with just some prototypes at a professional tradeshow, there was a good chance I was going to fail. But I took that risk, jumped on that plane, and it truly changed my life.
- Failure or not, meet all challenges head-on and fight with hard work. No matter what you do, no matter if you fail or not, hard work and fearlessly meeting your obstacles head-on are essential to conquering challenges and growing as a person.
- The most important: turn negatives into positive. There have been countless days and situations where I think I have lost everything. There have been so many sleepless nights, but if you care enough, and work hard enough, in the end it all works out itself. The best example I have was the preexisting patent I bought. It was initially a negative circumstance where I thought I was done, but ultimately became one of the most crucial aspects of the company once I was able to purchase it.
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We are happy to have Jordan Liss as a Guest Blogger here at www.SATPrepGroup.com. Jordan Liss is the Founder of TestingTimers.com. Additional information regarding Testing Timers can be found on their website.
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