Dave Carmany | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Dave Carmany

Background:  

Sanford, Fla.-based Online Labels Inc. is a privately held label manufacturer and internet retailer. The company offers one of the largest selections of custom-printed and blank labels for laser, inkjet, direct thermal and thermal transfer printers to customers all over the world for personal and professional labeling needs in a variety of applications.

The Mistake:

I lost focus on the big opportunities at my core business. Once I started to do well, I started to jump into things that I thought I’d do well in.

I started out in the business when I was very young, working with my dad, in middle school and high school. And then when I got out of school, the business started growing quite a bit.

I had decided that a great strategy was to go into a bunch of different businesses outside of the core business, which was label manufacturing. And then I [also] invested money in a bunch of other businesses that had pitched me. Because as soon as I was successful and had excess capital, everything that was coming to me – I started jumping into it. Whenever somebody would pitch me on something I would get involved.

I had a great business that was doing well but I had taken my eye off of it. I lost focus on the main business that had made me successful. It was exciting to do these other things, and it was fun. But at the end of the day – most of those other things – I couldn’t put enough energy or effort into, or I had somebody else that I was depending on to run them.

Some of the stuff I got pitched on was great, but in general, it’s a lot of work. And when you’re doing well on something, if you put even a small amount of money into something [else], it still takes energy and effort. And those little small things start to take a lot of your time. And that’s where I got to.

We definitely missed some opportunities [at the main company]. When you’re doing internet or e-commerce, you have opportunities to get into certain markets. And if you don’t get into it at the right time, your opportunity is lost. And to this day we’re still fighting an uphill battle to get where we could have been if I’d just kept my eye on the ball around ten years ago.

If you don’t get into it at the right time, your opportunity is lost.

The Lesson:

In 2007 or so, I realized I’d gotten to the point where I probably had seven or eight things going where I was a key person involved at a pretty high level. And honestly, I was doing a poor job on all of them. If you give 5 percent of yourself to 20 things, it’s probably not as good as giving 80 percent of yourself to something that really has a lot of potential.

I explained this to a group of peers who were mentoring me and realized I had to make a change. It was making my life chaotic and I was doing a poor job managing everything. And I just started to get rid of things and sold off positions at losses. I did whatever I needed to do to just get myself down to a few things that I was able to focus better on.

Follow Online Labels Inc. on Twitter at @onlinelabels.

Photo courtesy of Dave Carmany

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