Shari Dingle Costantini – Founder & CEO, Avant Healthcare Professionals

Shari Dingle (Sandifer) Costantini, RN, MBA, is a renowned expert in the healthcare industry, with 29 years of experience in strategic leadership, nursing, and international nurse staffing. As a registered nurse and accomplished business owner in healthcare staffing, she offers a unique perspective and keen insights into a wide range of issues affecting medical staff today, and is an authoritative source on issues concerning international workers.

Costantini is a strong advocate for creating supportive work environments in which healthcare workers will thrive and improve patient outcomes. Her company, Avant Healthcare Professionals, has placed more than 1,500 international nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists throughout the U.S. The company, which has grown 40 percent annually since inception, is recognized as an industry leader and innovator in healthcare staffing.

Avant was a founding member of the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment. Through AAIHR, Costantini actively lobbies Congress for immigration reform to allow a consistent flow of highly-skilled healthcare professionals. She belongs to numerous professional organizations and she has authored various articles and blogs. Costantini is on the Rollins College Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship and the Central Florida Foundation boards, Immediate Past-Chair of Orlando, Inc., and Chair of Regulatory Affairs for AAIHR.

Tell me about your early career.
I earned my bachelor’s degree and became an RN in 1988. I left bedside nursing in late-1989 to become an admission counselor in hospice. The hospice benefit had just expanded to include all end-stage illnesses. My role was to educate discharge planners and physicians on the expanded benefit in an effort to increase their use of hospice. I grew the most successful territory in Hospice, Inc., now known as Vitas, as measured by admissions. When the Chicago branch locations were impacted by negative press coverage, I was asked to relocate and rebuild the territory of the Chicago medical district in 1991. After I finished my MBA, I moved to Michigan where I began working in home healthcare. There, I grew the Flint agency location to be the largest location in the national home health organization, delivering over 6,000 visits per month. After a year, I managed an eight-agency region. At that time, Medicare was shifting from a cost-based reimbursement system to an interim-payment system and a perspective payment system, which proved to be a challenge. Through these challenges, I acquired knowledge on the potential regulatory issues faced by healthcare providers. While in home healthcare, I was introduced to the world of international recruitment. I moved to Boston to work for O’Grady Peyton (now owned by AMN Healthcare) where I gained an understanding of the complex recruiting process involved with international healthcare staffing. In early 2000, PPR Healthcare recruited me to start an international nurse recruitment division.

How did the concept for Avant Healthcare Professionals come about?
At PPR Healthcare, I saw the gap between clinical practice for nurses overseas and in the U.S. I had observed that clients and nurses on hospital units, in particular, did not appreciate the difference in clinical practices. As a result, there was mismatch in expectations and understanding. This was particularly difficult on the nurses transitioning cultural, socially, and clinically to the U.S. With Avant, I wanted to offer innovation clinical programs for both the international, educated nurses and the clients. For the nurses (and therapists at Avant), we offer comprehensive clinical and cultural transitions programs designed to close the gap on practices differences and prepare the nurses and his/her family, if applicable, for the cultural and social adjustment. Clients (primarily nursing leaders and nurse preceptors) receive educational seminars, webinars, and ongoing support designed to assist them to most effectively orient, transition, and retain the nurses.

How was the first year in business?
The process of recruiting internationally-educated healthcare professionals typically takes 18-22 months. I was able leverage my network from being in the business for 6+ years, and we placed our first nurse on assignment with a client hospital in 10 months. As with most startups, I was wearing multiple hats, including client sales. International healthcare staffing is very capital-intensive, so we were definitely bootstrapping it.

What was your marketing strategy?
We did not have a marketing strategy in the early years. Our sales efforts were based on lead generation from trade shows I attended, as well as cold calling hospitals that had nurse vacancies. I did all of the sales activity including in-person meetings.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
The company grew at an average annualized growth rate for the first three years of 275%. After year three, the company encountered a significant regulatory issue impacting its only service line: internationally-educated nurses. The company had to pivot and diversify. Over the years, there have been many immigration and healthcare regulatory changes that required the company to adjust its service offering, client base, and geographic footprint in both supply and demand markets. Despite all of these changes, the company has achieved an average annualized growth rate of 40% since 2004.

How do you define success?
I define success by the lives we have had the opportunity to change and impact through Avant. Avant is a mission-driven company committed to our core values. A company with a strong foundation will be able to adapt to the inevitable challenges, twists, and turns we need to make to survive and thrive.

What is the key to success?
I believe it is different for each person. I believe my persistence and work ethic combined with compassion and integrity has driven my success. Building a business is more of a marathon than a sprint. The traits or attributes that I mentioned – persistence, strong work ethic, compassion, and integrity – have allowed me to create an environment that attracts likeminded people. It keeps them engaged because they feel valued and they have leadership by example.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned is to keep an open mind and never stop learning. In my opinion, the greatest CEOs are constantly learning and evolving.

What are some quotes that you live by?
Probably one of the most important, to me, is by Calvin Coolidge – “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan, ‘Press On!’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

What are some of your favorite books?
Business books are The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up by Verne Harnish. Personal books are Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
One of the toughest days I’ve had as an entrepreneur was the day that the national licensure exam testing was suspended for physical therapists from the Philippines, Egypt, Pakistan, and India. When immigration changes stopped the flow of registered nurses internationally, we pivoted to recruit in place internationally-educated occupational and physical therapists. After close to 18 months of gaining traction in this new service line, the national organization that administers the licensure exam suspended testing for therapists from the markets where we were recruiting. We have overcome this challenge and continue to grow. However, it was certainly one of the most challenging days I’ve experienced.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
The mission keeps me moving in the face of adversity. That may sound a bit cliché, however, it is more about keeping your eye on the big picture than the adverse situation in front of you.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
The advice I would give to a young entrepreneur is to always stay focused on the vision. The vision you have for your business is more than just a product or service. Those products or services will undoubtedly change and evolve over the life of the business. It is the vision or the bigger picture that you need to stay focused on to lead in the time of change and create sustainability.

David Lancashire – Chairman & CEO, projekt202

As chairman and CEO of projekt202, David Lancashire leads a company that sets the standard for experience-driven software development. With headquarters in Dallas and offices in Austin and Seattle, projekt202 has refined a methodology that reveals people’s true needs, providing insight that guides the firm’s design and development of software that delivers the best possible user experiences.

Under Mr. Lancashire’s leadership, projekt202 has made the Inc. 5000 list for seven consecutive years and the Dallas 100 list of fastest-growing privately-held companies for six consecutive years. Renowned industry analyst firm Gartner noted, “The perspectives and processes projekt202 is focusing on will, over time, become standard operating procedure for any application development project.”

Prior to joining projekt202, Mr. Lancashire was founder and CEO of Geniant, a technology management consulting firm. From its inception in 1998 to its acquisition of three business units by 2005, Geniant became the third fastest-growing tech company in the FastTech 50, and gained recognition as one of Microsoft’s top National Partners and a three-time Dallas 100 award winner. Geniant’s success led to its 2007 sale to EMC, a transaction valued at 181 times the original invested capital.

Mr. Lancashire has previously served in senior management roles for ObjectSpace, Uniplex and Amstrad PLC. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business, graduating from the CASS Business School in London. Mr. Lancashire and his family reside in Dallas.

Tell me about your early career.
Interestingly enough, my first official job out of university was with Lord Alan Sugar, who was on the UK version of The Apprentice. He started a company called Amstrad, which was essentially the PC-clone king of Europe. The Amstrad PCs were the dominant force across Western Europe. Our university’s business school had given the company’s founder, Alan Sugar, an honorary degree. As a result, he wanted to offer a job to what he called an apprentice, so he had this idea of having apprentices long before The Apprentice TV show came along.

I joined Amstrad out of business school in 1987. At the time, it was the most profitable company in Britain. He only had about 220 employees and, in U.S. dollar terms, if I recall, it was probably around $1.5 billion in revenue at that time, highly profitable. I had the chance very early on to see a computer company basically taking PCs to the masses, taking it out of the business channel and into retail, and making sure that people in homes and small offices across the country could afford to have a high-quality computer.

That was pretty pivotal. I was able to help them set up their German subsidiary and help them hire their managing director over there. One of the big takeaways from that early experience was that distribution of products, services, or ideas is very key to business success. To this day, I would say that has influenced how I think about packaging offerings to make sure they are distributable on a broader basis.

How did the concept for projekt202 come about?
I had been involved in building a company that built software applications for big business. Having sold that company in the summer of 2007, I was brainstorming with my business partner on ideas for the future.

We decided to set up a holding company to invest in different areas. We knew one of those areas would involve going back into the software development consulting services space. We had strong ideas that there needed to be key capabilities that would include heavy-lifting software development technology skills, but would absolutely include thinking about the customer and user experience. We had bought a company like that in 2005 and seen some of the early potential of putting a lot more focus on the customer and user, and the way solutions were being developed.

We also knew that we had to embrace digital in a bigger way, everything from the way search had changed what was going on in that era, and how more and more dollars were moving to online in terms of the way people were promoting and influencing brands. So, we invested in and hired a founder and CEO of that business in 2009, and started organically growing the business with those capabilities.

Projekt202 came about because we were introduced to the company out of Austin in 2010. After meeting with their team, we saw some really powerful and very well-packaged elements driving to the heart of understanding unmet needs, aspirations, and emotional connections in customers and users. We saw the possibility to push fast-forward on what our UX team was already doing and, in a way, to make it more distributable and more scalable into more places around the world.

Ultimately, we decided to merge those businesses in 2011. We took on the projekt202 name because of the amount of R&D and investment they had made in this programmatic approach, and we wanted to leverage that on a go-forward basis.

How was the first year in business?
That was a fantastically creative, exciting period of time. It was an extremely entrepreneurial environment of hustling for business opportunities and trying to effectively get into the conversation with potential customers. It’s hard work developing opportunities when you are not very well-known. People don’t totally understand your value proposition and you have to instill confidence that the team is capable of delivering, even when the size of business is only a million in revenue. It was very hard work and the team has to take an incredible amount of credit for the tenacity that was exhibited during that period.

What was your marketing strategy?
Our marketing strategy was to communicate that we could drive more empathy with the customer that, in turn, would drive better design and development. This was very consistent with what we do today. We would invite local leaders to events and talk about the key themes in business, coupled obviously with the practical and tactical business development push of getting one-to-one meetings. We were really pushing the fact that we knew how to drive more empathy with the customer or user of the system than had traditionally been done with the design and building of software, and that, by hiring our company, they would be in a far better position with the results and the delivered solution.

It was a message that was beginning to be listened to and received quite well during this time. Remember, the iPhone came out in 2007, and this was 2009, going into 2010. There’s been this jolt around the world in terms of the fact that experiences can be better than they traditionally had been in the past.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We went from around $500,000 in revenue in year one to around $6 million within a couple of years. We then merged with projekt202, which quickly put us above $12 million in revenue, picking up $4 million and $5.5 million revenue in business.

We have grown organically to $35 million in 2017. It seems like a long time ago. It’s been pretty fast growth, but it was manageable for us.

How do you define success?
Success is the appropriate combining of your passions, capabilities, and desired economic outcome.

When you think about success, looking through one lens is a mistake. It’s a multifaceted thing. As we go through life, I think we all realize that balance is very desirable. You could be very successful on financial metrics, but if you don’t have the other pieces of your life or business operating correctly, it can either be short-lived or unenjoyable.

I’ve come to learn that there needs to be a connection between the things you are passionate about, things that excite you, that you really want to get into the office to do or get out into the marketplace and do, coupled with a capability you believe you have that you need to deliver on. It doesn’t have to be contained in you, the individual, or you, the entrepreneur, but it needs to be contained in the business. You need to couple that with a method that delivers financial results that allow you to continue to invest and grow that business.

The financial success is a byproduct of doing some of the things correctly, but you have to have evidence and clarity that the business model itself can produce the financial support for your success.

What is the key to success?
Goethe once said, “Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

We’ve heard many times that people have ideas or thoughts, or they dreamed up solutions to problems, but they never took them out into the world and engaged them, so nothing happened. You have to give life to these ideas.

The key to success is figuring out a way that you can begin. That’s not easy, because you’re trying to manage risk. If you have to invest your time and energy in something, by default you may have to stop your work or give up an income stream that’s relied upon by your family. You have to figure out how to manage risks in such a way that you can begin.

My key to success is careful risk management. For example, if you know you want to start a business, then don’t buy a really big house and have a huge mortgage. It might be better for you to have something that allows you to save money and have financial support, so you know that you have coverage for your personal burn rate for a number of months. That takes out the stress because you know you can afford to take this risk without it having dire ramifications for your family.

The entrepreneurs that I admire are those who did that careful risk management and were still able to move forward. Obviously, we have great entrepreneurs who did take extraordinary risks, but what I find interesting, particularly in Europe, where I come from, is that many entrepreneurs were people that arrived in England with very, very little. In a sense, their risk was lower because they had less to lose. In corporate America today, I feel like we have so much income to rely on that it can actually inhibit our ability to go out and start something. So, an alternative may be to ask, “Can you do something entrepreneurial within your business, within the company that you’re already working for, and find a way to get your ideas funded?” I’m very keen on that entrepreneurial thinking, finding ways to begin these ideas and support people who have them.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I read Richard Branson’s autobiography once and one thing that I picked up in that book was that when Branson was looking at moving into the airline business from the music business, that the profits of the music business were something like £22 million at the time. One of the smartest things that he did was, he signed contracts for pilots and an airplane from Boeing that would fly from New York to London and access points at the airports in London and New York. Those were all on a one-year basis; in the worst-case scenario, if he had to shut the business down, he calculated the total cost for required dollar investments to get through one year. Those investment costs were approximately equivalent to the amount of profit coming out of the music business.

That echoes my point about risk management. It’s a hugely underestimated aspect to being successful and finding creative solutions to problems. You don’t always have to take crazy undue risks to accomplish your goals. You need to find ways to manage risk and make smart bets with house money. For me, Branson’s example was pretty telling and crystallized that point for me of remaining committed to that type of approach.

What are some quotes that you live by? 
I love the Winston Churchill quote, “I’d rather be right than consistent.” People will criticize others for changing their positions on something, as if there’s something wrong with being inconsistent in some way. As I see it, we’re learning new things every single day. New information and data may lead us to different conclusions on things that yesterday appeared one way, and today could be very different. It’s important that leaders make decisions based on today’s reality, not yesterday’s, or some perception by their stakeholders that they should keep doing the thing they said they were going to do.

What are some of your favorite books?
As far as favorite books, Good to Great by Jim Collins has definitely been a powerful, pivotal book in helping me think about what we focus on as a business or what to focus on at an individual level. It’s that intersection between passion and what you’re good at, what you can be number one in or have unique views to share with the world, and then making sure that that’s connected to the desired economics.

The other book I’m keen on is The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. In that, it began to question the status quo of well-run companies and how, over time, they could actually end up being disrupted, even though they were pursuing best practices in the industry and doing things well. The blind spot was introduced as the machine of that company took over and didn’t allow them to access what was happening in smaller niches around the world where these disruptors were waiting to strike. I love that book as well.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
In our first business, we lived through the dot-com crash and 9/11. I cannot think of a worse time than 9/11 itself and the days following it, and the sense of gloom and the lack of clarity as to what the future might hold. It was terrifying in many ways, because we had never seen anything like it. As business leaders, we really did have to batten down the hatches and think about how we could manage the business to break even and keep our talented team together, and find ways to support and rally around each other. I drew inspiration from the fact that my grandfather had lived through the Great Depression. I had a picture of him and his team, and I knew just how difficult their world had been and that they made it through and survived. I used that as inspiration for getting through that year.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
There’s an instinct that we have as human beings to want to build and create and to move forward. I think there’s an innate element that we’re gifted with. I think some of it also is formed in your childhood in terms of identifying that you want to make sure that you can take care of your family, your community, and the people that rely on you.

This year at projekt202, we’re heading toward 200 people in the company. If you take the average size of a family or the community of people that work in the team, it’s not 200 people that you’re supporting, but it’s their families and their communities, so it expands pretty rapidly. It becomes something greater than simply looking after yourself and your family. It’s understanding that there are a lot of other people relying on the decision-making and outcomes of those trying times.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Don’t go into something that is not going to achieve the financial goals that you have for yourself. You need to be able to test whether the business that you’re interested in can sustain and deliver that outcome for you. Learn about business models and how they work exactly. This is step number one.

Number two, you have to think about your methods for managing the inherent risk in taking that entrepreneurial step. Define specifically how you’re going to satisfy that safety net. You don’t want to be so stressed out that you can’t do your best thinking. We’re all human and we don’t work best when we feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. Configure that very carefully and try to take the stress out of it.

Make sure you can defend the things you decide to invest your time in. If somebody is challenging your belief in them, or saying that the thing you’re doing is not right or silly, you have to know in your heart that you really believe in it. That core belief is really important.

Also, be open to learning things around the core belief that make your investment premise become real. You must be able to defend it, but, at the same time, you’re going to learn from all the conversations you have with potential clients.

For example, projekt202 can deliver far better experiences for people than the typical vendors out there delivering consulting services for software today. When you hire us, we’re going to deliver something better. I have to be able to believe that very strongly in order to defend that position. At the same time, as I learn that there is something we could add to that mix or improve, we embrace that. As entrepreneurs, we don’t want to stay static; we want to evolve and improve.

Ray Bixler – CEO, SkillSurvey

Ray brings over 20 years of leadership and management experience to his role as CEO of SkillSurvey. A seasoned executive, he sets the strategic direction of the company and manages relationships with clients. Previously, Ray served as vice president of Caliper, where he consulted with hundreds of small, mid-size and Fortune 500 businesses to develop better hiring, development, performance management, and succession planning strategies.

How did the concept for SkillSurvey come about?
The company was founded on the premise of dramatically improving four key areas of reference checking: improving the efficiency via an online SaaS solution, improving the quality of feedback from the references by offering them a confidential forum to share their thoughts, improving compliance by building a structured and consistent platform, and improving the opportunity to professionally source the references as future candidates. With regards to two of these areas, quality of feedback and compliance, we added the science of assessments to make the results more reliable and data-driven. Today, SkillSurvey is the only online reference checking solution that has been scientifically-proven to reduce turnover for cause and yield better hiring results.

What was your marketing strategy?
Core to our marketing strategy was focusing the bulk of our early outreach on industries that were already reference checking (some as a requirement) and would be receptive to automating and improving the task. In our case, this led to an early focus on the healthcare market which allowed us to build up a strong client base.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
I started in December of 2006, when the company was still very small. We grew by over 1,100% over the next four years.

How do you define success?
On a business level, we are successful if we’ve accomplished three things: 1) we’ve built a company and culture that our employees appreciate and enjoy and offers them the opportunity to develop and learn. Success has been achieved when we’ve become their “best job ever.” 2) We’ve built a company that offers solutions to our clients that revolutionize their work, provide tremendous value, and make their jobs easier. Success has been achieved when we’ve become their “best vendor ever.” 3) We’ve built a company that provides our investors with an excellent return on their investment.

What is the key to success?
Very simply, by whether we’ve delivered on the value propositions we promised to our clients. Those being improving the efficiency via an online SaaS solution, improving the quality of feedback from the references by offering them a confidential forum to share their thoughts, improving compliance by building a structured and consistent platform, and improving the opportunity to professionally source the references as future candidates. With regards to science and taking the reference checking process to a level it’s never been, we have invested in a team of I/O psychologists, product and engineering experts, and others with deep experience in hiring and talent management. The team aligns technological innovations with market demands and applies psychometric research principles to maintain the integrity of SkillSurvey’s reference methodology and we remain laser-focused on maintaining its rigorous standards for data privacy and compliance. We continually validate that our solution delivers results, and are the only solution to have published peer-reviewed research and have several patents.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
In my role as CEO of a company that has a solution that can be sold to every business, the opportunity looks enormous and very appealing, so staying focused and finding niche markets that are more responsive to our solution was very important to ultimately scale our company.

What are some of your favorite books?
Some of my favorites are Doris Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, Bill Bishop’s The Big Sort, and Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat. The book that taught me to really enjoy reading was Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Q4 of 2008. Due to the severe economic downturn that year, and that we sell a hiring solution to companies when most companies were going to slow down or freeze their hiring decisions for a while, we had to lay off some of our employees to reduce our cash burn. We did it all in one day. This was very painful, letting go of some people who had helped us grow up to that point. Apparently, we explained our situation well enough and handled the circumstances with the right amount of empathy and courtesy, because several of these employees came back to us two years later to continue to help us grow.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
The will to win and be successful.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Learn to be resilient and learn from your mistakes. Embrace your mistakes as great opportunities to learn and grow. Be kind to others and create a company culture where people care about each other and have the common good in mind.

Jake Fackrell – Founder & CEO, Domega

Jake Fackrell is an accomplished businessman, entrepreneur, father of six, volunteer, and community leader. He graduated with a Bachelor’s in Business Management from Utah Valley University and received a Master of Business Administration from Brigham Young University in 2004. Jake is experienced in founding and leading businesses from inception to multi-million dollars in revenue and profitability. He excels at finding needs and creating solutions to meet those needs.

Jake follows his personal motto: “Work hard, coach and be coachable, and help people achieve abundance.” By following these principles, Jake has helped thousands of professionals succeed and he has been instrumental in helping many businesses grow. Jake founded and financed Real Estate Data X-Change (RedX) and helped it grow to six-figure monthly revenue. He was also instrumental in putting Marketecture on the map by securing multi-million dollar strategic partnerships. Currently, Jake is the founder and CEO of Domega, a successful international high-tech lead generation and data acquisition and filtering company. Domega currently has over 45 employees and has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. by Inc. 5000.

Jake has received several awards, including runner up in the BYU business plan competition. He is also actively involved in his community and church. Jake currently mentors budding entrepreneurs.

Jake and his wife, Tamara, are the parents of six children. Jake recently finished an endurance cycling ride from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas. He also competes in races and triathlons including Ironman 70.3. He enjoys studying history, reading, wake boarding, paintballing and traveling.

Tell me about your early career.
I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life. I started mowing lawns with my brother when I was eight, sold doughnuts to businesses when I was eleven, and started a collection agency with my cousin when I was sixteen. It’s in my blood. In college, I started a coupon card business that I sold to my competitor, and in 1999, just as the Internet was beginning, I started an online portal to sell homes. In 2005, I started Domega and have steadily grown it into what it is today.

How did the concept for Domega come about?
In 2005, I started a company called FSBO Leader. I developed technology to aggregate raw, unstructured, non-normalized information from the Internet and then the technology would structure, normalize, and augment the information. At first, the technology was used in real estate. We would find every For Sale By Owner and run the data through our tool to extract the important details about the property, fill in the missing information, and then deliver the valuable data to our customers.

How was the first year in business?
The first year in business was filled with hope and optimism coupled with risk and uncertainty. To fund my new venture, I took out a second mortgage on my house and borrowed from credit cards. I soon ran out of money just when sales began coming in. There’s nothing quite like building a product from scratch and then getting your first paying customer. That’s when some of the risk goes away and you know the product will sell.

What was your marketing strategy?
My marketing strategy was to work with industry-specific coaches and trainers and have them refer clients to us. We also attended trade shows and events.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
The company grew at a snail’s pace the first few years. We began building the product at the end of 2005, released our first product at the end of Q1 2006, began getting some traction in 2007, then in 2008, the economy crashed and the real estate industry was hit particularly hard. Necessity is the mother of invention, only we had already invented a powerful tool, but we just didn’t realize it. One day, I was speaking with a colleague and we began to brainstorm other industries who could use our tool. We came up with several, and within a few months, we landed a large customer in a different industry! It wasn’t until 2010 when we started to see exponential growth and we’ve had some nice growth years ever since.

How do you define success?
Success is determined by persistent and consistent diligent effort. When we are able to empower achievers to create abundance, we have succeeded.

What is the key to success?
Never give up. Innovate. Think outside the box. We live by the mantra, “If there is a will, there is a way.” Be passionate about what you are doing. Take good care of customers and they will take care of you.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
When circumstances in life knock you down, you haven’t failed if you get back up and keep trying. You only fail when you give up. Help others succeed, and in the process, you’ll succeed.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“I am never bored at any time or any place, for being bored is an insult to oneself.” – Unknown

“Success is determined by persistent and consistent diligent effort.” -Jake Fackrell

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

What are some of your favorite books?
Anything by Jim Collins, including Beyond Entrepreneurship and Good to Great, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Multipliers by Liz Wiseman, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, Rocket Fuel by Gino Wickman, Start with Why by Simon Sinek, Scaling Up by Verne Harnish, Winning by Jack Welch, and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (and anything else he writes).

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
The absolute toughest day was when I started a company, invested hundreds of thousands of dollars of my own money to get it off the ground, gave my first two employees equity, and far too much trust and control only to find that one day I was locked out of my own office and my business bank accounts had been changed. My partners had successfully done a hostile take-over of a company that neither one had invested any money into. I was forced to walk away from a company I had started and I had to start over from scratch and with no money. I did, however, learn some valuable lessons.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My family is my number one priority. Everything I do, I do for them. I consider my team members family. So, when things get tough, I think of my family and extended Domega family and keep pushing because Domega doesn’t just support my family, but it supports nearly 50 other families as well.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Find a need and fill it. Think of creative solutions for problems. Be passionate for what you are doing. Work hard and work smart. Working hard doesn’t mean neglecting your family. Set boundaries. You’ll find you can get the same amount of work done in less time by setting boundaries. You’re young, don’t be afraid to take some calculated risks. Always be learning. Your end goal should have a higher purpose than making money. The money will come if you focus on a greater cause like helping people.

Jennifer Pinck – Founder & President, Pinck & Co.

Jennifer Pinck is founder and president of Pinck & Co., Inc., 98 Magazine Street, Boston, and Pinck-co.com.

Jennifer Pinck was one of the first women to break into the construction industry, working in the building trades in the late 1970s and as a construction superintendent for a major Boston construction firm in the 80s. She earned an MBA from Simmons Graduate School of Management in 1986, the same year she received an ABC Boston Building License – becoming the first woman in Massachusetts to do so. Jennifer was among the few women in leadership positions for the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority’s Boston Harbor Project, a $4 billion court-ordered sewage treatment plant, and the Big Dig, two of the country’s largest, most complex, and heavily scrutinized public works projects.

In 1998 she founded Pinck & Co., Inc., an independently-owned building industry consultant providing comprehensive project management services to owners and developers. The firm primarily focuses on providing multi-family housing, education, and health care clients with planning, design coordination, project management, and comprehensive real estate development consulting services during all phases of capital projects.

Pinck & Co. has grown every year for the past 20 years, has managed more than $5 billion in construction value, and has won numerous awards, including being named one of the fastest-growing private companies by Inc. Magazine, earning a place on the Inc. 5000 list for 2016 and 2017. Since 2013, Pinck & Co. has also been recognized as one of the fastest-growing inner city businesses, a distinction given by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC). For the second year in a row, Pinck & Co. was named to the ICIC Inner City Hall of Fame, which honors firms that have received the award, five times or more.

Tell me about your early career.
I worked in the building trades as a commercial painter during the late 1970s when there were no other women in the industry, as far as I knew. It was a strange and hostile environment, and at times, I was totally ostracized. During that difficult time, I knew I had to prove myself, so I grew “thick skin and round shoulders,” stayed focused, and was persistent. I used my time in the trades to learn not just about how buildings happen, but also how to survive a hostile environment and harsh conditions.

I discovered I really liked the environment of a construction site and working with the tradesmen. My persistence paid off. I was recruited by a major Boston construction firm as a field engineer and was later promoted to construction superintendent in 1986 – a first for that firm.

In the 90s, I worked on two of the country’s largest, most complex, and heavily scrutinized public works projects. I was construction manager for the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority’s Boston Harbor Project, a $4 billion court-ordered sewage treatment plant. Then, as mitigation manager for Boston’s Big Dig, I directed staff responsible for designing, implementing, and monitoring programs to help reduce construction impacts on the city’s neighborhoods. I was among the few women leaders who had oversight for meeting important project milestones.

How did the concept for Pinck & Co. come about?
In 1998, I saw a growing need to provide owners and developers with project management oversight for their development projects. I knew of many executive directors and others in leadership positions who were busy running their organizations and did not have the time or expertise to manage their projects. I was in a unique position to offer clients a broad perspective from the building trades to the board room, a diverse skill set, and what I refer to as “twice-in-a-lifetime experiences” – working on two major public works projects. I had gained deep knowledge about the complexities of design and construction, as well as a wealth of management insight.

I wanted the focus of my firm to be mission-driven – to provide exceptional, client-focused services and to build better communities. We started out working primarily on affordable and senior housing projects, and over the years, diversified our portfolio to include the educational, health care, and institutional sectors. We’ve also expanded geographically. While most of our business is throughout Greater Boston, we are working on projects in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut.

How was the first year in business?
It was exciting! I knew I had identified a niche in the industry. I had a lot of contacts throughout the region and continued to get involved in the community and build my network. I already knew many business leaders, public officials, and neighborhood activists who were happy to be references and make connections on my behalf. They knew I was mission-driven and that I supported their vision for building better communities. It took off from there.

What was your marketing strategy?
My marketing strategy was me – I started out on my own, networked constantly, and focused on building relationships. Many of those relationships are still going strong. Most of our business has been through word of mouth and repeat clients.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Very quickly – we doubled our business every year for the first three or four years. Pinck & Co. has grown every year for the past 20 years, even during the recession.

I started out with a small staff and have built my team over the years. I hire staff with great attitudes and diverse credentials including architects, engineers, construction managers, and financial development specialists who use their expertise to oversee a wide range of projects.

How do you define success?
Being happy. Enjoying your life and enjoying what you do. I look forward to going into the office and I enjoy and appreciate my staff. We work hard and we also have fun.

I’m proud that I can drive through Greater Boston and point to many landmark buildings in which my company has played a key role in bringing to fruition. After 40 years in the business, it’s exciting to count the tangible achievements but it’s more exciting to know that our efforts have had a positive impact on the people and the communities behind each project. It’s important for me and my team to also work with nonprofits and small start-ups with great ambitions.

What is the key to success?
A mastery of skills and attitude.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Count on yourself – it’s up to you.

What are some quotes that you live by?
1. Worry doesn’t solve problems.
2. Work hard, play hard.
3. Embrace change.

What are some of your favorite books?
The Path between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 and The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough. Also, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Not being selected by my alma mater to be their project manager for an upcoming project.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I hate to fail and I’m good in a crisis.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Get involved in the community and build relationships. Think big and keep your eyes on the details.