I'm really excited to share with you this week's Better Know a Young Entrepreneur. Why? This week is a completely unique story of rising from tragedy to success. As you know, I've been sitting down and talking with young entrepreneurs about what they've done, how they did it, and what lessons they learned that they can share with us. I find these people incredibly inspiring, and I hope that you do as well.
This week I'm chatting with Aron Susman, a young entrepreneur who actually inherited his wealth, and then has gone on to do big things with it. Aron is one of the co-founders of TheSquareFoot, an online platform that simplifies commercial real estate leasing by connecting prospective tenants with landlords, brokers, and other service and product providers. TheSquareFoot recently launched in New York to help tenants find New York city office space. Follow them on Twitter @TheSqFt and Like them on Facebook.
Aron began his career in the International Mergers & Acquisitions group at Deloitte in Houston. He graduated cum laude from the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a masters degree in accounting and holds a CPA license. Before TheSquareFoot, he was a Vice President with Medical Design Technologies, a healthcare technology company, where he oversaw the company’s financial, accounting, and business development efforts.
Let's get to know Aron a little better . . . .
First, how would you describe yourself and your company?
Aron: TheSquareFoot (http://www.thesquarefoot.com)
I know you received a lot of your money from an inheritance. That's something that many people have never experienced, and can't comprehend well. Can you shed a little insight into how you felt about it and what you felt you needed to do with the money?
Aron: It felt rather odd. Luckily, I have an older brother and sister, who act as parents to me and keep me well grounded. I was told not to make any big purchases for five years, so as to not make any rash emotional decisions. I felt I needed to be as responsible with the money as my father would have been, and make sure he would approve of how I used it. He earned it, I did not.
Investing and Money
Besides your business, where do you currently invest your money and why?
Aron: I generally invest in the broader equities and bond market as well as some hard real estate assets. I am not trying to time the market and am hoping that investing in the longer-term will play out well.
Has that changed over time or has it changed versus not having money?
Aron: Yes, I can now be more aggressive with certain investments — take different chances.
It seems many millionaires gravitate toward real estate. Your business is in real estate as well. Why do you think that is?
Aron: The stock market can fluctuate based on seemingly nothing and it's hard to have all your assets as numbers on a computer screen. Real estate is something that you can touch and feel and tends to follow a more logical (not always) supply and demand curve.
Inheritance or no inheritance — did you have the entrepreneurial spirit inside you?
Aron: I did have it in me. I started a small e-commerce company in college.
What would you have done differently without the inheritance?
Aron: Truthfully, I do not know if I would have had the guts to go at it on my own without my inheritance.
What's the biggest risk you ever took and do you regret it?
Aron: My biggest risk was leaving a corporate job for the startup world and it turned out great. No I don't regret it. I think the greatest risk is the risk not taken. (<- Click to tweet this!)
If you could make one change, what would it be?
Aron: I would speed up the time it takes to learn enough to make positive changes to your business model. Entrepreneurship is a giant scientific expirement and it takes time to learn enough to make valid changes to your model.
What are you currently working on and what insights have you learned?
Aron: I am currently working on TheSquareFoot. Biggest insight learned to date is to be passionate.
Investors and customers are really investing in you, not the product or the company. We knew we wanted to help people find commercial real estate in Houston (originally), but who knew what the final form of the product would be. The odds of the first iteration of the product being the final version are low and thus you want people who are passionate about solving the problem and will stick with it until they find the solution and align all the pieces properly.
What advice do you have for current college students or recent grads when it comes to money and entrepreneurship?
Aron: There are lots of ups and downs when it comes to both issues of money and entrepreneurship. Some days are the worst, the next might be the best. No way around it, so just make sure to enjoy the ride!
What I Learned from Aron Susman
Aron has a really interesting story because he inherited his money unlike many of the other millionaires we spoke to. As a result, Aron has a stewardship mentality, which I think serves him incredibly well in business. While he does think that he is able to take on more risk because of the amount of money he has, and think he is exaggerating a little when he says that. The impression I got from him was that he felt responsible to continue he father's legacy and build on that wealth, not blow it. As a result, I think that makes him an incredibly strong entrepreneur as well.
I do think that having wealth can be empowering to take risks that you normally wouldn't have taken, though. For example, Aron says the biggest risk is the risk not taken. However, having a good safety net to fall back on should you fail makes taking the risk much easier.
In the end, it seems like it doesn't really matter how you made your money, but rather what you're doing with it now. I think Aron's story is a prime example of what to do when you get a windfall. I've known countless other windfall stories of people who blow it on fancy cars and crap, and end up broke a couple years later. I'm really glad to see Aron doing something incredibly positive with his windfall.
What are your thoughts on Aron's story? Do you think he handled his inheritance appropriately?