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Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur

 
     Dec. 20 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek) -- The way entrepreneur
David Moyal tells it, he grew up as something of an Israeli
version of David Copperfield, with a sickly mother and a father
who put him to work as a small child. "My father was a baker and
chef at catering halls, so I did dishwashing with him," Moyal
recalls. His father used to warn him that people who went into
the military at 18 often did not come back and told him: "Live
now because you may not live later," he recalls. Moyal started
particularly early, in fact. By age 11, he had moved out of the
family's cramped one-bedroom apartment and was working in
construction. At 17, he got his mother's permission to join the
Israeli army early and ended up not only surviving it but
thriving afterward, when he moved to the U.S. and went into
business.
     Moyal, who lives in Manhattan and Newport, R.I., has had his
hand in restaurants, fitness centers, and real estate, among
other ventures over the last two decades. Today he owns three New
York-based businesses. There's Next, a lifestyle magazine for gay
readers; NYC Data Group, a data center storage company scheduled
to begin operating in 2011; and 1800 Postcards, a commercial
printer he acquired in 1999. Next had $2.5 million in gross
revenue in 2009, while 1800 Postcards took in $16.9 million. He's
getting ready to launch Postcard.com, which will allow consumers
to call in orders for physical post cards to be sent anywhere in
the world for 99¢ apiece.
     Businessweek.com staff writer Rebecca Reisner recently
interviewed Moyal about time management and the secrets of
successful serial entrepreneurship. Edited excerpts of their
conversation follow.
      How do you find the time to run three businesses?
     I work 25 hours a day. People tell me there are only 24—I
say I get up an hour early. I get to sleep around 1 a.m. and get
up around 5 [a.m.] or 5:30 a.m. I've been working since I was 6
years old, so I don't know anything else but work.
      How do you start your day?
     I can't be in a rush in the morning. Everything must flow
nicely. I have my breakfast delivered. I make my coffee and I
address all the e-mails that came during the night. And then I
connect with the development people in China who work on our
website for 1800 Postcards. Then I go into the office and the war
starts. My biggest job all day is to figure out how I can lower
prices. All day, I look at competitors and see what they're
offering. They may be offering 30 percent off today, so I have to
do something. We're on the competition's mailing list, so we
know. I have to lower prices without affecting product quality.
      What else goes on at the office?
     We have 150 employees. They all have issues, they want to
see me, they want to talk. I'm micromanaged. Still, out of the
150 minds I have working with me, I could not find a mind like my
own. I am sitting in my office at 7 p.m. and a supplier comes in
and says his box was shipped to the wrong place and he has to
catch a train in 15 minutes, and all the minds couldn't come up
with: "Hey, find this guy's box, then drive him to the train
station."
      I hope you eat lunch.
     I send someone to Subway. I get turkey and Swiss with
everything. I eat at my desk while I'm talking to people. I say:
"You don't mind if I eat while we talk?"
      How do you stay alert with four hours of sleep?
     Thank God for Starbucks (SBUX). I drink four or five Ventis
a day.
      How about your evenings?
     I stay in the office late and get home around 8:30 pm. I
take my shoes off and that reminds me I'm home. Then I get on my
computer. The clubs that advertise in my magazine want me to
visit, but I don't want to come. For me it's a total waste of
time. I'm not a social person at all. I don't drink, so why go to
a bar? At first, they took offense at that. I hire other people
to do the networking. We send the associate publisher. A
competitor of mine at a magazine used to go out and get drunk,
and after a while people lost respect for him. I say, put your
mind to what you do. Don't lose focus. Don't go to clubs and
socialize. Let other people fall into that trap.
      When you're a serial entrepreneur, should you always think
of new businesses related to current ones?
     Yes, but I'm also the kind of guy who will buy a cow when I
want a glass of milk. We bought our own printing company because
we needed to print and printing companies were charging too much.
But you make mistakes. I used to charter flights to Florida so I
bought a private jet—and that was a mistake: It was too expensive
to operate and I was not able to charter it out to others to make
money.
      How do you know when to move on to another business?
     My mind is always thinking. I'll get an idea and talk to my
developers and sometimes we end up just dropping it. We started
Fotobee to do photo albums online for consumers, and at some
point we just realized there was too much competition. But
technology doesn't go to waste; you can recycle it for a
different project.
      Then how do you know when to hold on to something and keep
the faith?
     We lost money at the magazine for 10 years but we saw how
hard our employees worked on it and we were proud. I had to buy
my competition [HX magazine] and close it. Our magazine is
profitable now. I close a business when I don't get pleasure out
of it. Everything you have to do, you have to enjoy.

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