George Otte founded his first company while still in college. Now, he’s chairman of Otte Polo Group, a diversified holding company with investments in technical support, fulfillment, real estate, and telephone answering service firms.
Recently, George Otte was kind enough to share his insights about life, business, and everything in between. These are the highlights.
Q: Do you have a typical day? How does it look?
A: Truthfully, I rarely have a typical day. Sure, I take calls, respond to emails, and attend meetings most days, but the schedule and content are so varied as to be impossible to categorize. My days are filled with such variety that I don’t have to worry about getting stuck in a day-to-day routine. I come to work every day ready to tackle new challenges.
Over longer time spans, I do have a professional development and networking routine. I regularly attend industry conferences, conventions, and meetups; I rarely turn down the opportunity to meet with anyone I believe I can learn from.
Q: What’s your most productive habit?
A: I’m a font of ideas. I’m a big believer in lists, which help me prioritize action items throughout my day and week. Any pressing matter that requires further exploration or development is written down and given a non-negotiable deadline. I hold myself to those deadlines because I find that productive momentum builds on itself, motivating me to complete the next project.
Q: What’s the one piece of advice you wish you’d received as a younger man?
A: No one told me that it’s best to be patient, that rushing usually leads to a suboptimal outcome. If I could go back, I’d tell my younger self to take my time and do things the proper way.
Q: What is the one thing you do regularly and recommend other entrepreneurs do as well?
A: Be a master at delegating. If there’s anything a team member or vendor can handle for you — do it. Time and focus is extremely valuable. When you’re first getting a business started or have limited resources you have to wear many hats. But as the organization grows it is important that your time is spent on strategic decision making, important meetings, and being face to face with management.
Q: To what business strategy do you credit your success? Why?
A: In a word: measurement. Across all our businesses, we relentlessly study every variable that can be measured and constantly update our processes to reflect data-driven best practices. This is especially effective in our marketing campaigns, where we use a wealth of available data to make evidence-driven decisions around targeting, messaging, and lead management. Our adherence to data has turned our marketing and advertising processes into core engines of company growth.
Q: What was your biggest failure in business? What did you learn from it?
A: I’m not sure if it’s my biggest failure, but I would say generally that my companies have had uneven results in hiring quality salespeople. I’ve learned over the years that it’s very important to put the best people in the right positions, and that you can’t really have one without the other.
Through a sequence of painful experiences, we’ve gotten to the point where we can have the utmost confidence in every hire. We’ve developed a clear understanding of the professional credentials, skills, and personal qualities that job candidates need to flourish in the roles for which we choose to hire them.