After speaking at the most recent Inc. 5000 conference, Jessica Mah, an EO San Francisco member and CEO of InDinero, and Dan Price, an EO Seattle member and CEO of Gravity Payments, became fast friends. They recently sat down to interview one another and dive deeper into a few of their latest lessons learned in business and life.
DP: When did you know you were going to be on the cover of the magazine?
JM: “I didn’t fully understand that I was going to be on it until I saw the real copy in the Inc. office. They said, ‘You’ll be on the cover,’ but I thought it would be a tiny, half-inch photo. You’re thinking since it is the Inc. 500 list, they’re going to have 500 tiny photos of everyone on the cover, right?”
DP: What was your reaction when you saw yourself?
JM: “My reaction was: holy $%!&! This is pretty wild. And I definitely had the imposter syndrome. I thought, ‘Am I really deserving of this?’ I’m not even number one on the list. I’m high up on the list, but not number one, so I was definitely a little surprised and shocked, but also really thankful. Being on the cover has changed some areas of my personal psychology. For example, I’ve thought, ‘Wow, there’s just so much potential … I should think bigger and bolder than I ever have before.’”
DP: Awesome. And you’re a pilot. You’ve flown me before. It was an incredibly smooth ride— I was very impressed! What could entrepreneurs out there learn from pilots? And, from your experience, what did you learn about entrepreneurship from becoming a pilot?
JM: “Being a pilot has taught me how to best learn something that’s technically challenging. When we’re teaching things in my company, InDinero, it gets pretty complicated. Accounting and taxes aren’t easy, but there are a lot of best practices for how to teach complicated material that the pilot community knows well. I’m applying all of those best practices to InDinero, so I think I’ve gotten some tangible business value from it. But I think the point is, if you take on a hobby that’s challenging and difficult to learn, then you’re going to uncover ideas on how you should apply those principles in your business, no matter what it is.”
DP: That’s really cool. I’m down to my last question. Tell me about one of your unsung heroes in your company; somebody who really changes the lives of everybody that works there, but maybe doesn’t always get the recognition?
JM: “Someone who really stands out to me is our head of talent, Sarah. She has recruited more than 50 employees in the past six months she’s been working for us. She’s absolutely incredible, and she cares so much. She came from Nike, where she did diversity recruiting, so she’s passionate about diversity and making sure employees are happy. She makes sure they’re getting a great experience. No one really talks about her because she’s not customer-facing or bringing in revenue, but she’s bringing in the people who do all of the work, so I really think highly of her. It’s crazy to think how impactful internal recruiters are.”
DP: That is so cool. Great answer! OK, your turn.
JM: You’ve received a lot of media attention regarding the US$70,000 minimum wage you implemented in your business. What was your biggest surprise stemming from this decision? What would you have done differently knowing what you know now?
DP: “The way I normally try to approach change is with a lot of one-on-one conversations and then a lot of engagement. I try to have the whole group decide together. That’s 100% my playbook for change. This time I did it differently with a top-down mandate. When I think back to that moment of announcing the minimum wage to the whole company, it was so fun to celebrate that together. It’s helpful to have well-thought-out conversations and do things more by the book, but doing something that was somewhat spontaneous—an action some critics even called reckless—was one of those ‘wow’ moments in my life. I got to do something that made me really happy and excited. It just felt so right and so good.”
JM: That’s awesome to hear! What’s your biggest fear personally and in business?
DP: “My biggest fear is death. I was raised in a conservative Christian home, so I grew up cherishing two things: I have an eternal Creator who loves me unconditionally, and I’m going to literally live forever. Not in some figurative or metaphysical sense, but the way I am now in my own consciousness, I believe I’m going to live forever. I was so connected to those things as a kid that I don’t want to lose them as an adult. I want to be able to endure, but our lives are so short and fleeting. I’m still young, so I hopefully have a lot of years left, but even then it’ll seem too short. I just hope there’s more to it than this time physically on earth. So, death is probably the thing that I fear most.
“In business, my biggest fear is not living up to the opportunities presented to me or the responsibilities given to me. At times, I’m asked to stand up in front of an audience, and I view that as a responsibility to be a spokesperson for a new way of doing business. It’s a responsibility to ask people to question how they are framing humanity and business, and what they see as their purpose in life. If I have an opportunity to help people connect with themselves and ask themselves those questions, and I don’t do a great job with it, then I would feel really bad. My fear is that I won’t live up to what the potential of the opportunities in front of me demand.”
JM: We should talk about the life extension and cryogenic stuff sometime. I’m pretty fascinated by the thought of not having to die … let’s save that one for drinks next time. Last question for you: What are you most thankful for and appreciative?
DP: “I’m so thankful for my physical health. To me, everything else I do in life is predicated on being physically healthy. Each of us can look at our lives and the problems we’re facing, and wish they weren’t there. I’m no different. As you know, I’m in litigation with our only other shareholder besides myself. He’s also my brother, so on a personal level that’s really tough for me. There are so many things you could look at and feel bad for yourself about. The fact that I’m physically healthy and able to function, and my direct family—including my brother—is healthy, means so much to me. It gives us the potential to improve every day in the hopes that we’ll be better tomorrow. This is especially true for all my partners and colleagues in my business who have the physical health to live another day. To me, that’s probably the thing I’m most thankful for and appreciate most.”
JM: That’s great. I think people out there will appreciate reading that since they may feel like they’re on the grind.
DP: “I know. It’s the simple things in life that are the best. Being healthy is way better than being on the cover of a magazine. I mean, being on the cover of a magazine is awesome, but being healthy is way more awesome.”
This article originally appeared in slightly different form on the Gravity Payments blog and is republished with permission. Gravity Payments reduces the cost and headache of accepting credit card payments by providing low-cost solutions, transparent pricing and 24/7 customer service.
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