Editor’s Note: “Day in the Life” is a series where we ask leaders in ecommerce about a single day in their professional lives. For this inaugural installment, we corresponded with Brian Horakh, founder and CEO of Zoovy, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based ecommerce platform provider.
Brian Horakh founded Zoovy in 2000 as chief technology officer and system architect. Although now CEO, he says his passion still lies in the technological products that his company provides to merchants. In fact, Horakh spends a fair amount of time daily doing development, fixing bugs, planning software architecture and working directly with customers on various issues.
“Zoovy runs pretty lean,” says Horakh, “and we’re always pushing the edge, so there really isn’t a ‘standard day.’”
The Beginning of the Day
“When we first started the company I had a futon and never left — I had one of the un-healthiest lifestyles of any person I knew. I made it a priority in 2010 to change a lot of things in my life and go find ‘happy’ again.
“Normally, my day starts at about 6:30 a.m. I like to get up and take my girlfriend’s dog for a run down on the beach. I shower and grab a PowerBar or a banana for breakfast. I might check my email and fire off a few questions and responses for employees. Then, I’ll hit CNN.com and jump in the car and head for the office.
“The drive into work is my chance to think about what I want to accomplish in the day. I usually listen to National Public Radio on the way into work or call family and friends. I’m usually in the office by around 8 a.m. Some mornings I’ll stop by the local gym and do something to get the blood flowing like spin, yoga or even Pilates. One morning a week I go out for a walk with the sales team, or we meet up at the local Starbucks.”
Hitting the Office in the Morning
“When I get in to the office in the morning, the first hour or so is ‘my time’ to do whatever I feel like will be best for the company. That might include responding to emails, reading blogs, news, current events. Sometimes I walk around and talk to employees about what they are working on, or follow up with customers. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I sneak out with a couple of other members of the management team to go to the gym. We usually do an aerobic fitness or weight lifting class and come back all sweaty.
“9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. every day is my time with Fred Kaufmann, who heads up technical support. We sit down and go over the ‘hot list,’ which is comprised of any issues with existing clients he has encountered or bugs we need to address before they become fires. Sometimes his meeting runs over, so whoever has time scheduled with me from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. knows the time might be usurped by support.”
Lunch and Mid-day
“My lunch is generally pretty healthy — I always prepare my meals the night before and have a weekly eating plan that involves trying to keep to 1,800 calorie per day. I eat at least 6 times a day and have a Google Calendar alert set up to send SMS reminders when to eat and which supplements to take to match up to my exercise routine. Sometimes we’ll do conference calls at lunch or an employee will bring in his or her lunch and we’ll sit down and go over initiatives while we eat.
“I take supplements that include a lot of caffeine; if I miss my pills I’m like the walking dead — but that’s easily corrected. I never finish everything I want to in a day. But that’s good because at least I know I’ll have something to do tomorrow.
“After lunch there are meetings are in the afternoon. My calendar is maintained by my administrative coordinator, who keeps everything on track. Back-to-back conference calls with partners, customers or prospective clients are not unusual. Sometimes I will lock myself in my office with a quality assurance person and do some actual development on our product. Depending on the day of week, I’ll do that until around 5 p.m., or as late as 7 p.m.
“I spend most of my day inside behind my desk. Whenever possible we try to take meetings outside. If we are just discussing strategy, or any type of activity that doesn’t require a computer, we’ll all go for a walk. The weather is almost always amazing here in San Diego.”
“I’m a very hands-on CEO, but I don’t micro-manage at all. As a company we try to hire the most talented and motivated individuals and then let them do the best they can. My role here is to support our employees the best I can. I listen to their ideas and decide which ones we’ll pursue or give them advice and assistance on how to accomplish what they want.
“What gives Zoovy its edge is that we have really amazing clients who demand the best from us — they keep us on our toes at all times. I try to encourage my employees not to work as much and to spend more time with their families so they don’t burn out. We let most people keep a flexible schedule and most employees work a “4/10,” which is four, ten-hour days. We keep a lot of health food in the office and the company buys healthy snacks, juice and milk, but no soda or chips. It’s a pretty fun and dynamic place to work.”
Wrapping Up the Day
“Around 5 p.m., the day becomes very different depending on which day of the week it is. Twice a week I go to the gym then come back to office and work with whoever was scheduled to work late on their product. Twice a week I just go the gym and then head home, and on Friday I have dinner with either my daughter or friends.
“I do all my shopping and cooking at night; I prepare and portion all my meals in advance. I’ll usually watch TV and do laundry while I’m cooking. I’m a big fan of The Daily Show. I keep saying I’d like to cancel the cable since I find myself ‘stuck’ in front of it. Sometimes my girlfriend and I just go out and walk the dog down by the beach late at night — it’s very relaxing.
“On gym nights, I will read or listen to audio books on the treadmill. Due to an injury, my recent workout schedule hasn’t incorporated the time for reading the way I’d like to. Right now I’m going through intensive interval training, so it’s really difficult to read. In a few months I’ll be switching to longer (slower) distances like 10 kilometer or 20 kilometer runs that take an hour or two. So I’m planning to catch up then.
“I can’t ‘make time for everything,’ there’s simply too much I want to do. So it’s a constant struggle. I try to avoid time burglars, both personally and professionally. There are lots of little tricks I’ve picked up over the years while reading organizational and self-help books that I now do unconsciously. Anything I sit down to do, I try to finish within the time frame I’ve established for completing that task. At the end of the day, I do the best I can, and I’m happy with that.”
“Two words: flexible calendars. I don’t try to be organized — I try for productive. I don’t really have enough control over a normal day (since ultimately I work for my own employees) to dictate when I’ll need to miss a meeting to put out a fire. So we have blocks of time set aside to shift meetings if they can’t happen for some reason. I don’t really try to be organized because that would be an exercise in futility. We try to plan enough for contingencies and that lets us keep balance. I’ve found both yoga and meditation are great times for me to gain perspective.
“I’ve been immersed in this business for 11 years now and have learned the trick is setting goals of what you want to accomplish, then getting through as much as you can, always doing your best and being happy with whatever you get done.”