Seth Lewandowski is the co-founder of Periwinkle, a company that provides professional garage cleaning and organization services.
Where and when do you get your best ideas? My best ideas come from the times I find flow. Entering into a state of flow can come from the energy of a new experience, city or event. It can come from having a great workout and feeling refreshed and alive. Or it can come from listening to books, podcasts or music that challenge the norm. My best ideas come during the "in-between" spaces - the gaps between work and dinner, waking up and the morning commute, etc.
What’s a work tool or ritual that you couldn’t live without? Exercise. I truly believe that exercising makes me perform better cognitively. Also, any time I feel like my day is flying by with little thought to the bigger picture of what I am working on, I go meditate for 10 minutes (loving kindness is my favorite). This is like a superpower that gives me the ability to pause and check in every hour or so and ask myself, "Is what I am doing right now productive or just being busy?" Exercise increases the cognitive performance and meditation gives me the capability to stop and make sure I am doing things that move the needle.
What skill would you like to master? I am working on my kitesurfing, which I've been particularly pumped about lately. I like this skill because it has multiple applications - you can kiteboard on a lake, kitesurf in an ocean, or snow-kite (I think) on a snowboard during the winter.
What advice would you give to someone seeking to launch or grow a business? Advice to the pre-launchers: Follow your curiosity and start now. Every minute that you let go by once you decide you want to start a business makes it harder for you to eventually get going. Think of it like cliff jumping at the lake. The longer you stand there overlooking the cliff, the more time you have to talk yourself out of it. "Oh this is stupid." "This won't work." "Someone has already done this." The list goes on and on. Just go out there and get your first customer. Talk to everyone about what you want to do and get feedback. Try everything.
Advice to the business-growers: I've recently had a big "Uh-oh" moment. Over the past year I have been so obsessed with growing Periwinkle and getting into multiple cities as fast as possible, that I have encouraged our team to cut out the customization that our customers ask for and to only focus on doing the things that are "scalable". This was until I received the advice from a mentor that told me the reason he was able to scale his business so quickly and effectively, was because he did things that didn't scale.
"In order to scale, you must do things that don't scale." (the advice)
... Oh ****. (me)
I've now had a few weeks to think about this sentence, and the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me.
So my advice to people that want to scale their business is to stop thinking about scaling their business and keep focusing on your customers and bringing them tremendous amounts of value. Word of mouth really is so incredibly powerful for growing your business. We've experienced this firsthand with Periwinkle. We spend so little on marketing compared to our peers in the consumer services sector, yet we are having trouble handling the volume of business we are getting. This is because we are winning the battles with each customer experience we have, and once we win that customer experience battle enough times, we will end up winning the war. (Pardon the lame analogy.)
What’s a big “win” you experienced in the past year? We've had a series of big win's this year. First, we were featured on the cover of the Tulsa World Legal and Business News. Second, we purchased and wrapped our first commercial vehicle, which was the step that took us from a cool side hustle to a respectable business. Third, we raised a $10K zero-interest loan through Kiva, which has given us the working capital to make some big investments in our team and cushion to take some risks. And finally, we were selected to air this fall on an episode of START UP, a TV show that features entrepreneurs all over the United States. We've had some massive wins this year and are expecting some even bigger ones coming soon.
What are you most looking forward to in the year to come? This sounds weird, but the thing I am looking forward to most in the year to come is the uncertainty of it. I love the uncertainty of where I will be living, where my business will be in its growth and operations, what new relationships and friendships I will develop, what new ideas or hobbies I will be wrapped up in, and what side projects I will be working on. For whatever reason, I seem to crave change and uncertainty. There's a certain freedom in it that just puts me in a good place.
Why 36 Degrees North? This one is hard to put my finger on. The beautiful, modern space, the likeminded individuals, the hustlers, the dreamers, the connections, the community. It's a place where I can work a 10 hour day and not feel like I've been wasting away my life indoors. This place is inspiring and filled with inspiring people - what's not to like?
Do you want to give any shout-outs? Yes, who can turn down a chance to give some shoutouts!? Shoutout to Daniel McIntosh for having a smile on his face every single morning and saying, "Good morning, Seth!" Shoutout to Alan Faulk for being just a great guy and truly taking an interest in peoples' lives. Shoutout to the entire 36 staff for always being friendly and making me feel like a king. Shoutout to Kourtney Brooks for not being afraid to dream huge. Shoutout to Seth Erkenbeck for making me proud to share his first name. Shoutout to Troy for quite possibly being the friendliest person I have ever met. Shoutout to Aussie Josh for getting me on the loose leaf tea game. Shoutout to Lauren for giving killer 36 tours and not being fazed about my jokes about new member commissions. Shoutout to Betsy for always being calm, cool, and collected and inspiring me to do the same. Shoutout to Dustin for making community events fun and funny. Shoutout to Stephanie Forrest for helping put the Tulsa Performance Arts on the map (at least my map). Shoutout to Victoria McArtor for proving to me that people in Tulsa actually do work on Saturdays. Shoutout to Mike Basch for leading the charge in an inspiring mission to show the world all that Tulsa has to offer. Shoutout to Josh Juarez for being a killer mentor. Shoutout to Kirby Andersen for truly setting the standard for creating a networking mentality out in the "commoner" area of 36 (front lobby cafeteria style tables). Shoutout to Tom for just being arguably the coolest person in the building at all times. Shoutout to Jamie for always making me laugh. Shoutout to Maye Jones for bringing unmatched kindness and professionalism to her work. Shoutout to Sarah Stephenson for her War on Flies efforts and extensive research on alternative solutions (salt guns?). Shoutout to Daniel Sperle for knowing the ins and outs of the downtown Tulsa apartment scene and for bringing our city it's first bike sharing solution. Shoutout to Jon Grogan for finding a way to make anything funny. Shoutout to every other 36 member for being a part of the best community in Tulsa and making this city and state a little bit better. Over and out.