3 Tips from John Milinovich to Grab Business Success
3 Tips from John Milinovich to Grab Business Success
John Milinovich co-founded Aesthetic, which he led as CEO. The company offers “creative automation software” for businesses who need help in building their brand.
Prior to Aesthetic, John Milinovich led the team developing “product strategy for Pinterest’s Taste Graph,” which is “their knowledge graph of the world’s interests.” He also co-founded URX, which was a “mobile search engine that raised $15M from top Silicon Valley investors, including Accel, First Round Capital, Google Ventures and Y Combinator.”
After Pinterest acquired URX in 2016, John Milinovich helped in the construction of the Taste Graph, before deciding to leave and start another company.
Thanks to his success at Aesthetic, John Milinovich has earned recognition as a “thought leader in the startup ecosystem.” He has also been featured in several publications, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and many others.
John Milinovich started his road toward Aesthetic during his time at Yahoo and Google. While working at those companies, he “helped build the developer ecosystem for Google Analytics.” He graduated with a major in Architectural Studies and a minor in Accounting from UCLA.
Other than running companies like Aesthetic, John Milinovich also writes thoughtful blogs where he dispenses advice for startup founders. His unique background, a “blend of deep design and technology,” is the perfect fit for Aesthetic.
Check out more interviews with leaders in design here.
Our company’s mission is to help every company become more valuable by using design. John Milinovich, Aesthetic
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
John Milinovich: Our company’s mission is to help every company become more valuable by using design, and the way we’re doing that is by automating all the manual design work that companies do today. Not only is this mission very wide in scope, but our vision for getting there is considered heretical by some.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say, “How can you have the gall to put ‘design’ and ‘automation’ in the same sentence? Design can’t and shouldn’t be automated!”…
The trick is, we spent 18 months researching the question, “what types of design can be automated, and what types of design should be automated” before we even started building software. For the first year and a half of our existence, we operated as a design agency specifically so we could better understand this question.
Then, once we felt we had a good answer, we sold the design agency business so we could 100% focus on building the automation platform that we have today.
Jerome Knyszewski: Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
John Milinovich: In the early days of Aesthetic while we were operating our agency, I caught up with one of my close friends who was also running a company at the time. I was expressing some of my angst at the time that we wanted to grow our revenue more, but were bottlenecked by the capacity our design team had for taking on new projects.
My friend made the reasonable suggestion that we simply hire some more people to help keep up with the demand, since it seemed like it would be profitable to do so.
In retrospect, I confused his advice as a suggestion on a tactic about how to grow with what was actually a change in strategy. The reason that we hadn’t hired more people at that point and weren’t planning to was because we wanted to keep the agency large enough to learn from, but not try and trick ourselves into thinking we were building an agency.
Unfortunately we did end up hiring a few more people based on this advice and then had to end up letting them go once our strategic perspective caught up to us and we realized the mistake that we had made.
At my core, I believe that there’s something to learn from every person and situation that I’m exposed to.
Jerome Knyszewski: You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
John Milinovich: Curiosity: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been deeply curious about the world and people around me. At my core, I believe that there’s something to learn from every person and situation that I’m exposed to. This fascination and curiosity has taught me how to, “go deep” on a subject area and learn things from first principles.
I didn’t study computer science in college, but at this point in my career I can write enough code to be dangerous. Over the last 10 years I have done everything I could to maintain a steep learning curve, and keep trying to expand my technical skills and knowledge by asking lots of questions and trying things that you could generously say are, “out of my depth”.
Enthusiasm: Startups are hard. The only thing that helps you get through the rough patches is a deep enthusiasm for what you’re working on. If you don’t love something so much that you’re willing to endure some pain in order to see it through, you might not be working on the right thing or have the right fortitude to deal with life in the trenches.
I’ve always been the type of person to lead with my enthusiasm, which has led me down some pretty funny paths. You’ve probably never met someone who’s as enthusiastic about task management as I am, but hey… if you’re going to do something, do it with everything you’ve got to give.
Determination: Startups are like rolling a boulder uphill. The moment you stop rolling it, it’ll fall back down on you and you have to start over. The only way to deal with the weight of this pressure is with extreme grit and determination.
In order to succeed in a startup, you need to be able to show up and work hard everyday, and then be able to turn it off to relax and recharge. You must have the discipline to do this day in and day out for months and years at a time.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
John Milinovich: Companies must reset their cultural norms and expectations to make it clear that not only is working too much not encouraged, it’s actually as bad as not working enough. One of Aesthetic’s principles is, “Something’s wrong if you feel like you’re working too much.”
This isn’t because we don’t like working hard, it’s because our natural predisposition is to work too much so it’s important for us to reiterate how important it is that we don’t do this.
The most common mistake I’ve seen founders make is not launching fast enough.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
John Milinovich: The most common mistake I’ve seen founders make is not launching fast enough. Startups by definitions are experiments. Once you’ve proven your core hypothesis and have a way to build a scalable and repeatable business model, you’re no longer a startup.
As such, it’s extremely important that companies orient themselves around shipping small tests very frequently that are in service of de risking their broader vision. If a company isn’t learning at an increasing rate, it is not doing something right.
The next most common mistake I’ve observed is founders not being user-centric enough. They think they already have all the answers, and don’t bother to talk to the people they expect to use their products.
When a company ignores their users’ voice in the development process, it takes nothing short of a miracle for things to work out correctly. You have to make a recurring and ongoing habit of talking to users and getting feedback from them to make sure you’re building the right thing to solve their problems.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
John Milinovich: The biggest misconception about building products is how long it takes to make something great. Everyone is familiar with the idea that, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and this is equally true for startups. You can’t expect things to be perfect out the gates — especially if you’re shipping fast enough — which means you need to take a longer view of how long it’s going to take to build something magical.
If you look at the V1 of many of the world’s most popular products, you might not even recognize them as they are such reduced versions of their current selves. You can’t expect your product to look and feel like it’s been worked on for 10 years when it’s coming out the gates- you have to have clear expectations and use this as motivation to move fast.
The biggest misconception about building products is how long it takes to make something great. John Milinovich
Jerome Knyszewski: You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
John Milinovich: I would bring back the Golden rule as something that we don’t just learn as kids, but have to practice as adults in our personal and professional lives. How much better would the world be if everyone, “treated others as they wish to be treated”?!
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
John Milinovich: Follow me on Twitter @jmilinovich!
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
The post 3 Tips from John Milinovich to Grab Business Success first appeared on Tekrati and is written by Jerome Knyszewski