Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur“ we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Victor Congionti.
Victor Congionti is the CEO and Co-Owner of Proven Data, a cyber incident response and data recovery company based out of New York.He is passionate about music and helping his clients get serious about cyber security. In his spare time, he enjoys being a father to his 6 year old son, Djing, and producing electronic music.
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?
Victor Congionti: Taking what I learned from my passion in technology and computers, I started my first business soon after graduating college in 2006 while I was working my corporate job. I spent every work break, and free time I had after work, building the company, reading books, and teaching myself everything there was to know about the business. I was wearing just about every hat you can think of. Eventually, I found a niche in the data recovery space. That is when my brother, Mark, joined the company full-time. The company grew to over 10 locations in around 3 years with 15 employees / subcontractors.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Victor Congionti: I did a competitive analysis on the cost for data recovery and saw the astronomical amount of money data recovery companies were charging. I saw an opportunity to be a low-cost leader in the space while maintaining quality customer service.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Victor Congionti: A combination of both natural characteristics and perspective-shaping
experiences played into my journey to becoming an entrepreneur. The
desire to start a business itself is not enough, but coupled with self
motivation, determination and drive produces a winning strategy.
My entrepreneurial mindset developed from my competitive drive that started at a very young age. When I experienced the 9-5 grind, I knew it wasn’t for me. Capitalizing on my quest for excellence and independence, I immersed myself in self-teaching to learn everything there was to know about starting and running a business.
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?
Victor Congionti: My parents inspired me the most in my journey to becoming an entrepreneur. The example of their work ethic from starting with nothing to see what they achieved fueled my own drive. A recent example of the strong work ethic and dedication to duty that my parents embodied came during the pandemic. Even though he wasn’t required to go to work and would have been given paid time off, my dad was adamant about continuing to show up every day. From my experience, if someone was given the option to take the time off, they would. Showing up anyway says a lot about how someone is built.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Victor Congionti: Our mission at Proven Data is to put our customers first and treat them like family. While any business can say that, as a family-owned and operated business, treating customers like a part of our family takes on a whole new meaning. Our ability to deliver top notch technical support and empathetically assist clients as they navigate through emotionally difficult and business-threatening data crises sets us apart. For example, one of our service offerings is to provide ransomware incident response services for clients. A client of ours took a second mortgage on their home and was ready to pay around a $700,000 ransom. With the clock ticking, our Malware Reverse Engineer was able to figure out a way to recover the client’s files without paying the ransom demand. Knowing the client was in a time crunch, we performed the service immediately and worked 24/7 until the client was up and running.
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?
Integrity – Be radically transparent with your clients. The more information you can give them to overcome any objections or questions the better.
Self-Awareness – Understanding and acknowledging my own
limitations is key. Improving on those areas or delegating to individuals
who excel has had a strong impact on my success.
Empathy – Whether it’s understanding a customer’s situation when they
are in a tough spot or an employee of our company, I think empathy is important.
One of our employees lost their roof during a typhoon in the Philippines, they were heartbroken and many of their belongings were lost. Understanding the precarious position they were in, we wanted to help the employee out by paying for their roof. It’s the little things like this that go a long 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?
Victor Congionti: When I’m faced with a difficult decision, I also seek the advice of people who have experienced similar decisions in the past or read books / do heavy research on the topic. There isn’t a single case that stands out that I wish I never followed someone’s advice. The way I look at it, if the advice is bad, I’ll learn from it and never repeat the mistake.
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?
Victor Congionti: Encourage regular breaks to get away from the computer screen / office. Find an outlet or activity that puts you into a “flow state;” The sense of fluidity between your body and mind, where you are totally immersed in something beyond the point of distraction. It’s a great way to change gears for a bit and do something you love.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Victor Congionti: Echoing my previous statements – be radically transparent with your customers to the point it is almost painful. Offer case studies and stories of success to prospects to build your credibility.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Victor Congionti: The more a customer knows about the product or service you are selling, the less barriers to build trust rapidly. Today’s buyer’s journey is saturated with options. Creating the clearest path to understanding what your product/services specifically offers is increasingly important. Conversely, don’t be afraid to tell the client that they may not be a good fit. Acquiring qualified clients creates a better customer experience and builds your business’s niche.
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?
Victor Congionti: Admittedly, one of my biggest mistakes was to try and wear every hat by taking on tasks that were outside of my expertise. Don’t spread yourself too thin and sacrifice your relationships and personal life for the sake of your business; it will affect all aspects of your life and eventually your professional success. Find good people that you can trust to fill the necessary business roles.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. 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”?
Victor Congionti: When you build something to call your own, you have an emotional connection to it. Anytime something gets escalated or there is a problem in the business, you are sure to know about it. Someone with a 9-5 may not have a vested interest in all these issues and if things get tough they can leave the job and go somewhere else. When you pour your soul into something you create, you don’t want to see it fail.
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.
Victor Congionti: My whole life I wanted to move to New York City given the energy and competitive drive embodied by successful entrepreneurs who run businesses here. It wasn’t until 2015 this dream became a reality. It was the first year I would attempt to earn a living off the business full time without the need of working for a regular job. At the end of the year I was able to grow the business substantially and become fully dependent on the income of the business to survive.
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.
Victor Congionti: There was a time when we had a client who wasn’t sure how we were performing a service and felt like they purchased something they didn’t know they were getting. In a moment, the reputation we spent years growing was ruined. It was hands down the lowest time in my life.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Victor Congionti: We became radically transparent with all our service offerings by spelling everything out in client interactions and writing about the details of our processes and practices on our blog. Providing informational content to our clients that proactively addresses and counters objections they may have helps fight negative perceptions of our service based on misunderstandings.
During my personal time, I pursued my passion for music by enrolling in music courses where I learned how to produce electronic music. Finding a healthy work/life balance definitely helped me get through this rough patch.
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.
Find something that will get you into a flow state – The process of being completely immersed in something with no distraction. For me, it was producing electronic music and DJing. Whenever I do these things, the lows are erased from my memory. Anyone can experience the state of flow by doing what they love. It’s important not to lose sight of the things that fuel you when you have your head buried in the day-to-day activities of running a business.
Take Breaks – Give yourself permission to get out of your workspace
whether it is the office or your home and take a break! You will notice
increased levels of productivity and it will improve your mood.
Health – Self care, sleep, and exercise. If your body and mind are not functioning at optimal capacity, you will undoubtedly burn out faster and your business will suffer.
Mentors – Whether it be friends, family, or business leaders, having reliable people to turn to who you respect when things go south, can help you overcome a difficult scenario. Connecting with someone who’s already been in the same or similar position you have, is priceless.
Balance – This goes hand in hand with all the previous responses. If you
are grinding day to day running the business and not making time for other things, you’re going to get burned out eventually. Early on in my career, I worked myself into exhaustion, often experiencing burnout. Running a business is no small task. We’re all human and operate at limited capacities. It’s important that we take a step back and realize this from time to time.
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?
Victor Congionti: Resilience to me is the ability to weather the storm and adapt to challenging situations. Resilient people are adaptable and have high levels of emotional intelligence.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Victor Congionti: Coming from a strict immigrant family, things were not always easy but you can say that the years of conditioning have helped me to build resiliency. I would always be given a fair share of chores and the bar would constantly be raised to perform well in sports and school.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Victor Congionti: Admittedly, I didn’t always keep a positive attitude in the early stages of my career and would fall into the thought pattern that the world was ending in difficult scenarios. I have gotten better from each new hardship as I’ve gained new experiences. In short, experience has been the best teacher and overcoming challenging situations has taught me the value of positivity. Additionally, being conscious of the fact that challenges are inevitable is helpful in not allowing them to overwhelm you and affect your success.
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.
Victor Congionti: Positivity is often contagious. Having a leader to look up to that maintains a positive outlook will trickle down to the staff and to your clients.
A client of ours was in the position to lose their business due to a cyber attack. Empathizing with the client and maintaining a positive outlook while reassuring the client how much success we’ve had before put the client at ease. It’s important to manage expectations while staying positive. It can be easy in this business to focus on doom and gloom but remaining positive will surely have the best results.
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?
Victor Congionti: “The knowledge of all things is possible.” -Leonardo DaVinci
If you want to learn something, anything, it’s achievable if you have the desire to take that first step. Constantly learning and adapting to new challenges inspires me every day.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!