John Shegerian is Chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), the nations leading recycler of electronic waste. John is also founder of 1800Recycling.com and UrbanMining.org.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working to help lead ERI from being not only the largest electronic recycler in the United States, but in the entire world. I’m also excited to be working with my brother, Carney Shegerian, on launching a new website to help consumers find lawyers in their area.
How did you come up with the idea of ERI?
In 2002, my partner Aaron Blum started to develop the concept while he was in another city under another brand name. When 2004 came along, I along with my other partner, Kevin Dillon decided to join after the angel investor for Aaron no longer had the patience or capital to fund the concept.
We first rejuvenated the financial aspect of the company, and moved the headquarters to Fresno, California after we rebranded it. We recycled 10,000 pounds of electronic waste in our first month and we were extremely proud and ecstatic! While we were excited, in comparison we recycled about 15 million pounds of electronic waste last month and we feel that we’re just at the top of the second inning with the whole game ahead of us!
What is your daily schedule?
Generally, every day I usually follow where my business travel takes me. I do my cardio, (climbing stairs or running) at 5:30 in the morning, I go to the office, attend my meetings and later on in the day, I lift weights. For lunch, I usually eat at my desk, unless I have an outside business lunch. To wrap up the day, I am usually at home for dinner with my wife of 28 years, Tammy, by 7:30pm. Tammy is also the Chief Executive Officer of ERI.
Is there a trend that you are excited about?
We are definitely looking for more ways to become interconnected. Information is now becoming more available via the internet. With the rise of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. it gives the opportunity to be successful for those who choose to embrace it.
Can you think of the worst job that you ever had? What did learn from it?
There was one summer where I had a summer internship with one of the biggest law firms in New York City when I was a first year law student. During that summer, I was the first law student intern at the firm to be offered a full time position. However, I politely declined, which was also the first for anyone to decline such a position at the firm. My daughter, Cortney is finishing law school and beginning her bar prep, so I am still an advocate of my law school education. However, I realized that being a lawyer at a large law firm was not something that I wanted to do. There were some people that were left unhappy and broken and there were also too many politics, jealousies, and backstabbing. No, thank you. I have learned my lesson.
What would you have done differently if you could start over again?
I only have a few regrets and they are too few too mention. I have never been a person who refers back to the past to ponder about the past and think what could have, should have and would have been done. I rather focus what is ahead of me and try to figure out how to get there.
Being an entrepreneur, what is the one thing that you do continuously and recommend everyone else to do?
My motto is, “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise!” I cannot take credit for making up that motto. At a luncheon, Ted Turner and I were sitting right next to each other. I asked him his secret in how he is successful and that is what he said to me and he was correct.
Can you think of a failure you had as an entrepreneur? How did you overcome it?
There were so many times that I have failed and still fail sometimes when I trying new ideas, taking different paths or creating new paradigms. However, we cannot be afraid of fear, but embrace it. Without failure, you have not entered into the boxing ring of life or thrown any punches at all.
For example, I once chose the wrong financial partner to back a wonderful restaurant concept that I had created. From then on, I realized that selecting the right partners is as vital as picking the right idea or business concept. I have tried not to make that mistake again, or make any mistake more than once for that matter.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
It is only the beginning for sustainability and for the green revolution. There are fortunes that are yet to be made through delivering clean water to those in need and also to deliver the improvement of an energy efficiency grid in the world and thousands of other sustainability-related ideas. These concepts are what entrepreneurs need to grasp in order to fill the wide gaps in the sustainability world that still exist.
What is one thing you would change in the world and how would you make that change?
One of the things that I would change is a way to cure cancer. In order to do this, I would gather a group of the best scientific minds in the world in order to provide an open platform. This platform would be used to exchange ideas and collaboration until the cancer code has been broken and we can put an end to the horrible suffering that millions of people and their families have to face each day of every year.
What is a secret that you want to tell?
When I was in my youth, I was a professional trainer and driver of standard bred racehorses. At 17 years old, I become the youngest driver to set a world harness racing record.
Name three of your favorite online resources or tools and what do you love about them?
Blogs by people that I admire is what I consider to be a terrific online resource. This is another effective way to get personal insights from some of the great minds of our time. There are three in particular that I find very useful to follow:
Tim Ferris: He is the author of the blog Because Every Second Counts
Seth Godin: He always have ideas and strategies that are always effective and he is an unparalleled marketing genius who knows how to break through massive information.
Brad Feld – Being an entrepreneur and a venture capitalist, he always has a unique and disciplined approach of how to merger the art and science behind great entrepreneurial ventures.
What is the one book that you recommend our community read and why?
Heaven is For Real The book that I would recommend is called; Heaven is For Real by Lynn Vincent. Whether you have surpassed your dreams or have fell a little short of them while on this earth, in the end, we are all going to the same place. It is comforting to know that such a place actually exists.
What are three people that we should follow on twitter and why?
The three people that you should follow are Richard Branson, Deepak Chopra and Chris Anderson (Editor of WIRED). They all have brilliance in different ways and each offers insights within a great place of success.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Tammy and I were talking about writing a book together last week; this made me laughed out loud.
Who do you consider to be your hero?
There are so many to mention but, I would have to say that Muhammad Ali is the one I think about the most. Though he was the greatest boxer of his time, he had a legacy that he established outside the ring that has endured until this day. To be able to see him battle against Parkinson’s disease and continues to smile, his grace and gratitude are the qualities that we can all appreciate and try to aspire to.
What makes a great entrepreneur?
I believe that great entrepreneurs are artists of the business world. The wonderful pieces of art are the businesses that they create. The better the entrepreneur can become, the more canvas he or she can paint. Both the good and great entrepreneurs realize that their work is never done.
How do you keep your energy level high and focus sharp?
I am currently a practicing vegan. This means that I do not eat meat, dairy, sugar, or any other types of poison. I usually try to exercise by climbing stairs or running early in the day. Later on in the day, I either lift weights, box, or some other physical activity. I believe if you treat your body right, your mind responds effectively!