Leaders often tell they enjoy a Lunchbreak panel because they get to hear from several successful entrepreneurs at once.
This discussion took place at the Provider’s Expo, which was arranged by Chaim Einhorn, an occupational therapist, and his wife Rivky. It was a well-attended successful event designed to educate and guide people on how to get ahead in business, no matter the industry. Many people are unaware of what they need to do to advance their careers (Hint: Introduce yourself to the higher-ups).
Each panelist brought a unique perspective to the conversation.
David Wanounou, founder of The Trepper Plan, sold his successful energy business and became an “accidental business consultant.” After helping many individual entrepreneurs grow in their careers, David decided to dedicate himself to continue helping others succeed. Today, he is a sought-out consultant and speaker for businesses and entrepreneurs looking for a coach who has been there and done that.
Yossi Klein is the founder of Superior Piping & Heating, a successful commercial plumbing company that does large commercial jobs in the tri-state area. Starting from scratch, he managed to build up a mini-empire while maintaining that elusive healthy work-life balance.
Dovid Becker, LCSW, is an in-demand social worker (sorry, he isn’t accepting new clients) and the program director of the men’s program at Sara Schenirer (Wurzweiler School of Social Work). He is also an entrepreneur in his own right, having founded two successful summer camps in Lakewood with hundreds of employees. An ADHD expert, Dovid offers a unique clinical perspective.
Our conversation was energetic and lively with a healthy touch of debate. We covered topics ranging from how to advance one’s career, how to ask for a raise (or not), and how to balance working hard with family life. The advice given here will make you think about your current situation and help you recognize that, sometimes, just acknowledging the struggle is part of the solution. I found myself referencing this conversation several times since it took place, and I hope you will find it worth revisiting, as well.
Nesanel Gantz: When I interview an entrepreneur for Lunchbreak, a lot of our conversation is about his background. I want to know the person’s story so the readers and I can understand how this person got to where he is today. I want us to connect with the entrepreneur on a deep level and understand his journey and struggles. So let’s hear some background from each of our panelists.
David Wanounou: I learned in the Litvish yeshivah system—Denver, Mir, Tiferes Elimelech, Torah Vodaas. After yeshivah, I did a couple of different stints in a couple of different industries, including real estate and health care, before I opened my own business. Then I got married and dropped the business.
Nesanel Gantz: Not the marriage business, I hope?
David Wanounou: Ha. I landed at IDT, a publicly traded company. I started in the purchasing department and was promoted to become the COO of IDT energy. From there I started another two energy companies. I was fortunate to have a successful exit, and I’ve been working as a business coach for more than 15 years.
I became a coach by accident. People would come to me from time to time, asking for my opinion. Opinions turned into advice, which turned into phone calls, which turned into recommendations. Before I knew it, I was meeting with people and helping them decide what path they wanted to take. That led to businesses coming to me for advice on growth or challenges they were facing.
One time, someone I had helped thought it would be funny if he posted on social media that all of his success was due to me. My phone was ringing off the hook with people asking for help. At the end of these conversations, they asked what they owed me, which really took me by surprise. I had never charged for this. Well, I started doing it full-time, and that’s how I became a business consultant. Today I service people in virtually any industry you can think of. My theory is that for 85 percent of the businesses out there, the foundations are basically the same. When it comes to things like operations, hiring and dealing with employees, and work-life balance, there are a lot of similarities.
I love helping companies and individuals grow. I love helping people reach their goals.
Yossi Klein: I started working in the plumbing industry after I got married. I had to decide between delivering furniture, plumbing and voltage, and when I consulted my rebbe, he advised me to get into plumbing.
I tried to work on my own in Boro Park, where I was living at that time, but once we had two kids and were still living in a one-bedroom apartment, it was time to move. I figured Monsey was a better option, so we moved and I started my business there. I started with nothing. I advertised in the local shul, and when the first customer called me, I didn’t have a car or even basic tools. I borrowed some tools, took a taxi, and got out at the corner so the guy wouldn’t see that I didn’t have my own car. And off I went to fix his leaky sink.
I remember another customer, also pretty early on, called me about a leak in his shower. I didn’t have the right tool for the job, so I went to the plumbing supply shop and told them I would be back in a few hours with the money to pay for the new tool if they could lend me $100 on credit. I didn’t have an account with them, but they trusted me. I only made $50 on that job, but now I owned that tool.
In those days, I took every job that was offered to me, no matter what. I never said no. I believe that was key to my growth.
Nesanel Gantz: But today you do turn down jobs.
Yossi Klein: Yes. Baruch Hashem, I now have 21 employees, and we do large commercial projects. For example, we just finished a 40,000-square-foot commercial kitchen, a 60-unit project in Monsey and a 100-unit project in Monroe, and we’re in the middle of dozens of other jobs.
Nesanel Gantz: Dovid Becker, let’s hear from you.
Dovid Becker: I grew up in Flatbush and went to traditional yeshivos: Tiferes Elimelech, Mir, Torah Vodaas, Mir Yerushalayim and BMG. After I got married, I started working in summer camps, and I opened two big day camps in Lakewood.
Then I decided to go to school for social work. I was really nervous before my first session with a client. When I showed up, I discovered it was one of the people who had been with me in the Mir in Eretz Yisrael. We had waited for chicken together every Tuesday for three years. So it was a good start.
I began treating anxiety, OCD and behavior issues, and I discovered that I seemed to know a lot about ADHD. I began to passionately focus on it.
I started to do a lot of work with ADHD, and baruch Hashem, it’s exciting work and I get to meet a lot of people. I also teach social work and run the men’s program at Sara Schenirer through the Wurzweiler School of Social Work.
Nesanel Gantz: The goal of today’s panel is to educate people on how to grow their business or develop their career. One of the first questions people have is: I know that if I want to build my business and my brand, I need to build my network. But I’m not the most social person and I’m not great at social media. How can I get people to know my name?
Yossi Klein: When you are starting out, the best branding and advertising is to build up a quality clientele. Go the extra mile and make sure to point out to the customer what you did extra. For example, let’s say someone calls me to fix his leaky shower, and while I’m there, I see that there’s another part that needs to be replaced. If I take care of it for him, he will become my best advertisement.
Nesanel Gantz: Many people feel that they need to network before they start. You’re saying to forget that and just start working.
Yossi Klein: Exactly. Your work becomes your network.
David Wanounou: I would say it really depends on the person. We all have different personalities. Some of us are more introverted, and some of us are extroverted. Some of us have a business mind, and some of us are just social butterflies.
Selling your own service only goes so far. When your network speaks on your behalf, you have far greater potential. The question is how to get in front of people who are one degree from your client base. If I’m an adolescent speech therapist and I’m only hanging out with parents of little kids, I’m moving myself further away from my potential client base.
Dovid Becker: Networking can be really difficult for people like me, who are shy by nature. You need to push yourself out of your comfort zone. In the therapy field, growing your network is a slow process and there aren’t a lot of shortcuts. It’s about staying in your lane and getting to know people, one person at a time.
David Wanounou: I want to add one more thing about networking, and specifically networking events. Everyone here, look around. The people here are all either in your industry or close to it. But meeting people isn’t enough. You have to follow up with them afterward. The follow-up is more important than the initial meeting.
Nesanel Gantz: I’d like the panel to address how a person can advance their career or business.
Dovid Becker: First of all, there are people who are perfectly happy with where they are. They have 20 or 30 clients a week, and they’re not looking to expand. If that’s you, then great. But if that’s not you, and you are looking to grow, then I would start right at home. Meaning, if you’re working at an agency or in a group practice, do what you can to grow within that space. It will evolve organically from there.
Nesanel Gantz: How would someone grow in his or her agency?
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