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Ahead of the Game


A recent Babson grad runs a one-man, online sports retail business. Here's a typical day

In July 2004, after graduating from Babson College, I got the opportunity through a friend working in the music business to run the e-commerce portion of musician John Legend's fan site. I built it from scratch and the project laid the foundation for future e-commerce endeavors (see BusinessWeek.com, 9/05/06, "Secrets of Online Business Success").

I also worked a full-time job as an enterprise applications developer at Synapse Group. But I also connected my love of sports, technology, and business to create OpenYard, an online sports retail business that sells everything from soccer gear to bleachers.

At times, I would come home from Synapse and work on OpenYard until 3 a.m.

Once I realized that the money I was making at OpenYard equaled the amount of money I was making at Synapse, I decided to quit my job. Nowadays my business, based in Concord, N.H, is always running—even while I'm asleep. During the day, a lot of the work I do is maintenance and building stuff for the future while resolving customer issues.

Here's a look at my typical day:

5:15 a.m. I dig into a big bowl of plain Cheerios and drink a glass of orange juice. My breakfast doesn't take long, but as I eat, I focus on my day. Small adjustments keep me going in the right direction and I apply the same philosophy to my business.

5:30 a.m. Coffee Time! I brew up some freshly ground Green Mountain coffee in my coffee machine.

6:10 a.m. I go for a dip in the outdoor pool of my health club. I swam all though out my childhood and at Babson, so staying in good shape and playing sports is critical to my mental game. All those little extra efforts I give when I'm working out carry on through the rest of the day.

7:45 a.m. In the office, I have a big, wrap-around desk with two monitors for coding and development, so I don't have to flip through windows while I work. In one corner I have a futon because it's always good to have a place to think.

8:15 a.m. I like to go over e-mails I've marked as important and to take a little extra time to respond to them. I schedule all my meetings with my manufacturers during this time. I also get my accounting organized and review the previous 24 hours of business performance. Today there's a number mismatch in the accounting. We're off by $11,000—a lot for a small business where the average purchase is $60 to $70, and it takes me a few hours to resolve the discrepancy.

11:30 a.m. One drawback to working alone is not being around people. But I know I need to socialize. So I grab my miniature schnauzer, Luke, and walk over to the neighboring businesses in my industrial park, a swimming pool company and an oil company. I like to see how their work day is going and I like the short and fairly predictable distraction.

Noon I slice up a tomato, pull out some lettuce and Italian dressing and make a killer salami-ham-and-cheese Italian sandwich. It's so amazing! OpenYard Deli is open pretty much every day.

2:00 p.m. I'm lucky that there are no serious issues to manage from the morning because this is when I really get to work on the present business issues. I play catch-up on doing marketing, managing, and maintaining products. It takes time because my customers are tech savvy, even when my suppliers are not. But I understand that with a growing business you're not going to get the same people that supply Wal-Mart on the first day.

5:00 p.m. Dessert Time! Now I like to stop doing all the work that maintains the business and learn about things that will extend the business. This might mean delving into new technologies or experimenting with features. Currently I'm looking into new ways to complete transactions. In some ways this is the most profitable and exciting part of my day because this is where OpenYard.com extends itself into the future.

6:30 p.m. My fiancée has an ice cream shop two miles down the street, so I head over to the shop before it closes. This is my personal time slot and I always spend it with family and friends.

10:00 p.m. The night winds down pretty quickly and I'll take a shower and maybe crack open a book and read for 30 minutes or so.

Ever since I encountered the concept of entrepreneurship, I was all in. I loved the idea of doing everything, from marketing to finance to development, learning from my own mistakes and taking risks. I attended Babson College because it was the top-ranked school for entrepreneurship. But if I had the chance to return I would probably take some additional accounting classes. I completely underestimated the importance of accounting and I struggle to learn as much as possible about it, knowing now how critical good accounting is to business success (see BusinessWeek.com, 1/25/07, "Do You Need an Undergrad Business Degree?").

I didn't learn about computers in college either, in spite of the fact that they've been a lifelong hobby. My understanding of Web sites and my ability to manipulate them has proven to be one of the most productive, time-saving (and wasting), and profitable skill sets I think I could have. My company has been officially open for a year and a half. Even though it's a growing business, I don't pretend that I'm bigger than I am, and I celebrate my one-man show.

Pfister can be reached at undergrad247@openyard.com.

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