I admit it; I am not a fancy guy. People who know me actually say I am pretty down to earth. I rarely wear anything other than jeans and I don’t roll around town in a fancy car. In fact, I drive what you would call a junker. And my beloved truck has taught me a thing or two about being an entrepreneur, believe it or not.
My first (and to this day, only) car was my pride and joy when I got it back in high school. A 2002 Toyota Tacoma. Shiny and full of promise for adventures to come. It made me almost giddy to look at it and imagine the road ahead. Interestingly, this is the same way I felt about my company when I launched it with a friend in 2013. We dreamed of all the places it would take us, just like my trusty truck. It taught me my first important lesson–optimism and imagination. It taught me to let myself dream and to dream big.
Getting my first car was a big day in my life and fortunately, I made a good choice. My truck was reliable and I knew it would get me not just from home to school, but would keep taking me places for years to come. New and exciting places, challenging places, dreamed of places. And it has. One day, as the initial planning phases for the new company were underway, it dawned on me that I needed to be just as dependable as my truck when it came to starting and building a business; lesson number two. Without the promise of reliability, investors would not have felt confident that I could steer the new business in the right direction, making their investments worthwhile. And now as our growing enterprise numbers nearly 60, I know the team needs to know they can trust me. Trust that I will make the right choices and do the right things. I could never count on their commitment and expect their loyalty if I wasn’t dependable. They see and feel my devotion to the business and to them, and as a result they are reliable parts of the engine that is taking us places.
As the years and miles rolled on, I began to neglect the maintenance that my beloved vehicle so desperately needed to keep running smoothly. I was fortunate that I didn’t have any major mishaps but when I was not so gently reminded by my mechanic about what I was headed for if I continued to skimp, I renewed my commitment to ongoing care for my car. And that was lesson number three; take care of and nurture my baby, whether my vehicle or my business. It would be all too easy to look at the success we have achieved so far and hit cruise control, sit back, and enjoy the ride. But without tending to the little things that need attention, the machinery will break down and come to a grinding halt. And no one wants that. We all want to keep driving down this road. So routine maintenance is something I make a priority, in the garage and in the office. Our team feels appreciated and acknowledged, valued and validated through regular town hall style meetings, delicious Friday lunches, and annual summer outings and holiday parties.
Despite my renewed commitment to preventative maintenance, I found that breakdowns sometimes happen anyway. And that duct tape and sweat go a long way. When there is something amiss, I’ve learned to tackle it head on and think outside the box to get things back to working order, even if it looks a little ugly for a while. Duct taping the corner of my bumper wasn’t pretty but it solved the problem for the short term until I could take care of it permanently. There have been times I’ve pulled out the imaginary duct tape as a quick fix when a new and unexpected challenge arises. But it never becomes the permanent solution because who wants an ugly bumper forever?
But I think the most important lesson learned through my devotion to my now 14 year old truck with nearly 200,000 miles on it, is the importance of keeping overhead low. By not spending money on a fancy ride, I am able to spend on things that are more meaningful to me, like travel. For my business, this sense of not wasting money on flashy things helps me use money wisely to grow the business in the areas that are important, not on the superficial trappings of a startup tech company. The things of value that are worth the spend? Development and continued refinement of our technology that sets us apart. The resources the team needs to be effective in their jobs. Employee recognition for anniversaries and work well done. And last but certainly not least—snacks. Lots and lots of office snacks. After all, what’s a road trip without M&Ms and Diet Dr. Pepper?
Ethan Senturia is co-founder and CEO of Dealstruck an online direct lender that creates customized loans for business. Dealstruck is the first online lender to offer multiple products — including flexible term loans and multiple line of credit solutions — to small- and medium-sized business (SMB) owners. With a mission to provide growing SMBs with access to capital that is unique, appropriate and affordable with honesty and transparency, Dealstruck is committed to placing SMBs on a credible path to bankability. As CEO, Ethan leads all institutional and marketplace lending relationships and drives the company’s product strategy. Before founding Dealstruck, Ethan ran Internet marketing for lead generation startup Ampush Media, growing annual spend to $15M in less than two years. Prior to Ampush, he worked as a distressed credit analyst at Lehman Brothers, where he started his career. Ethan graduated Summa Cum Laude from The Wharton School.