Jon Katz is an experienced marketing executive with a demonstrated history of scaling businesses in the D2C, eCommerce industry. He is the Vice-President of Marketing at Billd, a simple payment and finance solution for the construction industry. Katz is also a licensed real estate agent and investor.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in Bridgewater, New Jersey. My whole childhood centered around athletics, specifically basketball. I was playing highly competitive basketball at age 12 and was always fighting for my keep on the teams I played for. This taught me to never expect anything, but to work for everything I earned. More importantly, it taught me that no matter how well I played today, tomorrow was a different day. If I failed to continue performing, I’d lose my spot in the starting lineup. This shaped my approach to work – I never rest on my laurels. I continue to strive for greatness and produce, no matter how strong the last day, month, or quarter was.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I could point to a lot of things I wished I knew earlier in life. But if I could pinpoint one, I’d say to follow my instincts, trust my heart, and not worry about what other people think. Happiness is critical to professional success. It’s extremely challenging to be successful at a career if you’re not happy in your personal life. Figure out what makes you happy, pursue it ferociously, and listen to your heart. You’ll end up successful in all aspects of your life when you do. And stop worrying about what other people think about you. Once you let go of that, incredible things happen.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I hear a lot of things and get tons of advice from both people I seek it from, as well as those I don’t. I wouldn’t say there’s one thing that stands out to me as the common theme of bad recommendations. Everyone has different experiences and comes from different perspectives, so I try to take advice for what it’s worth and see if it makes sense for my business, industry, and situation.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
In late 2019, I decided to get my real estate license as a side investing strategy and decided to invest in some real estate, pursuing both flips and long-term rentals. Unfortunately, I purchased 2 properties a few months before COVID hit, and everything blew up in my face. It was extremely stressful, but I came out of it… eventually. Mentally, I was able to get through it by focusing on what I could control. I couldn’t control the market or the fact that groups of contractors couldn’t collaboratively renovate the homes at the same time. I could control my attitude, as well as how I managed the contractors. I focused on the short-term wins I could celebrate. Lastly, I focused on learning and preparing myself for other challenges, such as finding tenants, listing the property, ensuring there was enough capital to complete the job, etc. Through this experience, I learned that.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
As an athlete growing up, I always knew people were gunning for my job. In a lot of ways, I have the same mentality in my career as I did as an athlete, where I always have a chip on their shoulder and never take anything for granted. I need to prove myself every single day, both to my colleagues, myself, and my investors. My past wins mean nothing tomorrow. This mentality has always kept me pushing to be great and that’s been a big contributor to my success.
What is your morning routine?
Every morning, I’m up at 6:15 am on the dot. No snooze button, ever. I have a gym downstairs in my building and am in the gym by 6:35 am. I work out for 45 minutes every morning, until about 7:20 am. I then go upstairs to enjoy a nice glass of iced coffee, green juice, and healthy breakfast. Peruse some news, emails, shower, and then I’m out the door by 8:10 am.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
There are a few habits I’ve pursued for a few years, both of which have had a big impact on my life. The first was working out in the morning. I started that when I was 27 and have done it ever since (7 years). It’s been game-changing for my professional career, personal life, and mental health. I’ve always worked out, but getting it done in the morning has allowed me to kickstart my day in a way I never did before. I’m sharper and more energized to hit crush my day. Additionally, working out in the morning allows me to be flexible with colleagues if a happy hour pops up in the evening, which has minimized any stress that came with knowing I still had to workout later. I’m able to join everything I need to, without guilt.
The second habit that’s had a big impact on me has been focusing on reading as often as possible. Every time I read, I feel sharper in my thought processes, and so many times I pick up new ideas on how to improve my business. Reading sparks so many ideas, and it’s certainly paid dividends for the companies I’ve been fortunate enough to work with.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
The most important thing for me to be productive is maintaining a sharp mind. That starts with waking up early every morning to work out (6 am) and getting my day off to a productive start. After working out, I enjoy a healthy breakfast, my morning cup of coffee, and a (very) green juice. From a work standpoint, I live in Evernote to manage my day-to-day tasks and notes on priorities for my marketing team. Lastly, I am a strong believer in zero inbox and do my best to maintain that day in and day out. If something can’t get done, I put it on my to-do list to tackle later on.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
From a business perspective, I really enjoyed Good to Great by Jim Collins. The hedgehog concept is such a simple, yet powerful message that centers around the idea that simplicity leads to greatness. This concept rears its head into every part of business, from communicating value to customers to inspiring your team and company to rally around a common goal. I’m a big believer that your people are the key to reaching greatness, but more specifically, the right people in the right seat. This was a great book, and one I reference often.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
The more experience you get, the more you realize how little you know. This quote reminds me to stay humble even when I feel like I’ve mastered my craft. There’s always so much more to learn and opportunities to grow.