Yaser Masoudnia brought together his extensive experience in the construction and real estate industries with his passion for innovation. Due to his roles in the startup world, and being a licensed contractor himself, Yaser is very familiar with the numerous financial challenges small construction companies face.
Yaser founded LinqPal to provide companies, especially small businesses, with an affordable, flexible solution to the unsolved payment management and financial issues within the construction industry.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I was the co-founder and CEO of NoPassword, where we built the next-gen IAM solution for SMBs. The company was then acquired by LogMeIn, where I led the product management team for LastPass; primarily focusing on building and fine-tuning our password manager and identity solution for SMBs with limited to no IT team. In addition, I’m a licensed general contractor in the DC metro area and California. I have built luxury properties in Northern Virginia and Northern California. This has made me extremely passionate about disrupting the construction supply chain, especially in order to help small family businesses, minority or women-owned businesses, and those founded by immigrants. I have always been passionate about technology. When I was 13 years old, I built two games on Commodore 64. When I was in my senior year of high school, I built software to help students decide what school and major they wanted to apply to when they were heading to college. One of my largest achievements was establishing a community within all of my projects. Having worked in the startup industry, I have come to recognize the importance of collaboration. As I began work on LinqPal, progress was only attained when I incorporated the skills, backgrounds, and visions of every member. This has allowed LinqPal to be geared towards aiding small businesses, as the team I have created at LinqPal understands the vitality of a strong foundation behind every project.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with
For me, there wasn’t necessarily an “aha moment,” rather there was more of a reflection on the challenges within the construction industry. I realized that the industry faces limited access to working capital and difficulties associated with payment management and invoices. Coming out of my previous startup, I began to think about how small businesses with no IT team face challenges adopting technology and software. As a result, I wanted to build a product for an industry that is very behind in terms of developing technology and had a lack of back offices to manage this: that is, the construction industry. I have designed LinqPal to combat these cash flow and payment challenges that I have noticed throughout all of my experiences.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I was born into a family where my parents started their own small business. From observing my parents, I have seen the ups and downs that result from both being an entrepreneur and running your own small business. I have always maintained an enthusiasm regarding how to make things easier for other entrepreneurs and other small businesses. I grew up in an environment that facilitated my development into an entrepreneur and helped me learn from my mistakes in order to achieve growth and get where I am today. What I have noticed is that there is always a factor of excitement and there is always a factor of risk. This all comes with uncertainty, so you have to focus on the opportunity and mitigating the extent of the risk using the data and resources to which you have access. Even as a teenager and adolescent, I had a natural desire and yearning to create more and learn more. I experienced failures, but these pushed me to continue to work hard.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
There have been so many people that inspired me along the way. Even those who gave me negative feedback rather than constructive criticism taught me valuable skills. I find that any form of feedback can become a point of motivation and inspiration as long as you see every moment as an opportunity for growth. One specific person who inspired me would be my father, who was always open to take risks in his life and start businesses on his own. I learned from his ability to deal with failure and understand that success isn’t always determined or promised. It’s okay to go through tough times because you will find your way out in the end. I’ve learned that success does not come instantly, it takes time and countless tries to achieve. Going into the construction industry is one way that I can connect to my father and the way that he dealt with success and failure.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What has truly helped LinqPal stand out is our emphasis and focus on our customers, rather than on our company. We are constantly trying to better understand how we can create something that can be used by our customers on a daily basis to solve a real problem that they have. I also take great pride in the team behind LinqPal. My team brings in extensive experience from the fields of construction, development, financial services, technology, and operations. I have gathered a diverse group of individuals who bridge different points of view and fields of knowledge. Bringing together this knowledge and expertise has facilitated the creation of an innovative and intuitive product that will benefit our customers significantly.
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?
One important character trait is being able to motivate people. You have to be able to reach an audience and attract the right people with the right set of skills. Tell them why your vision is important and why they should spend time and effort working for your company and working towards your vision. Building and motivating the right team is a crucial skill. I also believe an important trait is failing fast. This means that you tried something and understood the problems. You have to allow the team to make mistakes and figure them out on their own. By failing fast and being okay with failure, you and your team can grow and come closer to achieving your goal. Always remember to stay focused, as well. Don’t accept no as an answer or any negative feedback that you may hear from other people in regards to being told your idea or project will never work. Focus on the goal rather than being frustrated by the challenges along the way.
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?
I was once advised to be careful with my ideas and not discuss them with many people because they may steal them. Especially in the early days, there was a large emphasis on the value of ideas, but, to me, ideas are cheap. Ideas are just the written and spoken form of an action yet taken, a motion yet put into place. It matters what actions you take and the people with whom you take these actions. Don’t be afraid that your idea will be taken because it will only hold you back from getting feedback and getting started on your idea. Being paranoid about the fear of others robbing you is not conducive to success or positive growth. Find people and ask about how they have failed and succeeded, and find solace and opportunity in the sheer ability to learn from rather than fear others.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
As much as it is important to motivate and rally the team and encourage them to follow the company’s vision and do their best, it is also critical to understand that everyone is different and possesses different needs. I, myself, had to realize how crucial it is to be able to open an honest communication channel and exercise active listening skills. Allow your team to communicate with you without any fear of consequences. When you begin to ameliorate you and your team’s communication, you will only reap more benefit. This communication enables you to solve issues faster and make remarkable progress without dealing with excessive uncertainty.
Empower the team to be bold and make decisions that they believe they need to do without any consequences if things go wrong. If you have the right people with the right skills and experience, then they should be in power to make the right decisions and take action. It may seem easy to micromanage all of your team members, but showing them that they have their own individual capabilities and prowess will allow your team to grow stronger.
Understand that the world has changed and that the traditional boundaries of the workforce have changed, as a result. With labor becoming easily remote, the needs and abilities of your employees will change. Even if everything is still result-oriented, you have to check up on your employees and ensure that the environment in which they work is conducive to their success, as well.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Building trust is a two-way street: the leader has to be honest and share information and shows they are trustworthy, and then their team members will reciprocate this. When a communication channel is open, without fear of consequences, trust and credibility can be built, and it cycles back. If you have the right people and the right knowledge, you should not be afraid of these people having the authority to get the work done. As a leader, you can not afford to be involved in all of these decisions and constantly micromanage. Rather, you have to distribute the authority to those that work with you so that tasks can be completed and progress can be made. If things go wrong, you will have the trust and credibility already built so that they can communicate with you and ask for help and guidance. Also, remember to always be ethical and transparent by building a clean work ethic. This culminates in positive word-of-mouth that helps build trust and credibility within your customers and other stakeholders.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Today, due to the pandemic, we are distant from everyone, so building trust and authority is essential. There is a large need for being able to communicate clearly, honestly, and promptly. If you have built trust and credibility and you have solid communication channels in place, then you can communicate more openly with all of your stakeholders, including customers, team members, and partners. But, if you are missing this, you will face more difficult because it will be more arduous for people to trust you and your company. You can never guarantee that people will trust you, but being honest is the most useful tool that will help you to achieve trust.
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?
Building a product in a vacuum, trying to perfect everything before hitting the market. You always need feedback in the early stages, so it’s always good to put it in front of potential customers to figure out why things don’t work/make sense. If you isolate your product from the market to which it attends, then you will never have any substantial feedback. Hearing from your target market and the group is critical for rebuilding and improving your product. When you fail fast in this sense, you’ll have more time to go back and fix it. If you spend too much time blindly working to fix it, or not fixing it at all, you will burn through all of your resources with no valuable feedback.
Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
It all traces back to responsibility. The more successful you are, the more responsible you will be: your business grows, your staff grows, the volume of customers increases, you will have more partners, and you might even have more shareholders. As a CEO, or a leader, you are first responsible to your team, and then your customers and the rest of your stakeholders. When your team has highs, you also feel the high of this success. When your team has lows, you also feel the low of this challenge. Your highs and your lows will be multiplied by the number of your team members. When your customers are content, you will be able to focus on expanding your company. If they are unhappy, you will be focused on rendering them content before you can begin to expand your company further. For this reason, it is different from a “regular job”: you have to find ways to build upon the connections you have in each and every type of relationship that exists within your company.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
I experienced an incredible high when I got my first client. When I was at my previous startup company, we had onboarded our first client and felt very excited. But, what was most exciting to me was that, as a leader, I saw how happy this made every single team member. I was able to observe how clients used what my company and I had built to improve their work. Overall, being able to share this level of excitement and joy with not only myself and my team, but also my customers truly exponentiated and amplified this “high”.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
I experience the worst lows anytime one of my team members feels low. When someone is not fully motivated and happy where they are, I feel low. Often it’s not under my control to fix this, and as a leader, you cannot control 100% of the events that are happening around you. However, I always prioritize the well-being of everyone I work with, and never want those individuals to feel these negative feelings. It is these unexpected events when it comes to the team’s wellbeing that is the lows.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
I learned the importance of resilience. I did whatever I could and whatever it took in order to get my team back on track and back into a healthy mindset. Always make sure to support your team members during difficult times because having that shoulder to lean on allows you to develop genuine and strong relationships. I realized that things are bound to go wrong, no matter how fixated you are on succeeding. But, the faster you can accept these realities and see them as opportunities for growth, the faster you and your team can succeed. You can and must learn from every experience.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- All the feelings are temporary. They are not permanent and there will always be an improvement in the end. Remind yourself that you can overcome adversity with a healthy, positive mindset.
- Determination. You know what your goal is, you know you can achieve your goal. It is a matter of being persistent and pushing yourself to attain your goals.
- Patience. Patience is truly a virtue. No matter how bad we want things to come to fruition, the process will be long and have its challenges. In the end, your efforts and patience will be rewarded.
- Stay humble and down to earth. When it comes to the highs, you will feel as though you are on top of the world and invincible. Remember that every high has a low. You are here to benefit your customers, and it is important to constantly remind yourself of your mission rather than of the prestige or status you have acquired.
- Share the success of the highs with the team and people around you, and show empathy to other people around you who are in their lows.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I consider resilience to be the ability to overcome challenges and keep moving forward, withstanding the challenges presented by obstacles. People who are resilient see failure as a way to improve and grow rather than as a setback. They possess an opportunistic outlook, which is fundamental in helping them to find the opportunity to outgrow difficult situations and make the most of them. To become resilient, try to think about what you can do differently. Innovation is one way to get out of a negative or bad situation. Learn from these situations and understand why you got there, if you are vulnerable to being in a similar situation in the future, and plan ahead to avoid or at least deal with the situation. Resilient people see these instances in the long-term perspective and are able to assess situations by understanding how they can continue to better themselves.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
As an adolescent, I grew up in Iran. My country was encapsulated by political instability and uncertainty, which forced me into a position of maturity and responsibility very early on in life. Although this was a very difficult context, I am grateful to have acquired the plethora of skills that it gave me. I learned how to persevere through arduous situations and use my resilience in adaptable ways. Iran had many of its own issues that I inevitably endured, but I realize now that these challenges showed me how any difficulty can be overcome. I learned to have the mindset of seeing each challenging part of life as an opportunity for growth.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Yes, I try my best to maintain a positive attitude during difficult situations. However, this does not mean that I am always an optimist amidst adversity. In many incidences, I try to be pragmatic before anything, analyzing challenges and creating new ways to overcome these difficulties to avoid them in the future. I take it as an opportunity to find ways to learn to prepare for unexpected challenges, knowing that it is crucial to always be prepared for the worst-case scenario. When you are faced with the worst-case scenario, you don’t have time to have a negative attitude or be pessimistic. People may consider my way of thinking pessimistic, but it is a constructive way to deal with challenges while knowing and understanding the bounds and capacities of your team and company.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
A leader’s style is strongly impregnated to a company’s culture, so staying positive and focused on overcoming challenges will motivate the team in the same direction. A positive mindset allows for the work environment to become more productive and facilitates better collaboration between team members. As my team and I have developed our product, we have tried our best to keep a positive attitude amongst all the ups and downs. Albeit sharing memes or expressing positive reinforcement, we have found ways to continually motivate each other.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
“It doesn’t matter where you start, it matters most where you finish.” Every entrepreneur will start with one clear idea that they are set on and end up with a completely new concept of their product and company. The process of creating a startup involves trial and error: you have to constantly test whatever you work on and grow from every single failure. Keep failing fast and grow even faster from your errors or shortcomings. The more you can become comfortable with the idea of failure, the faster you can reach your finalized product.
How can our readers further follow you online?
They can visit our website and sign-up, or follow us on social media and reach out. We are reading everyone on all our channels. To contact me directly, you can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!
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