Alex Iceman is founder and CEO of Genium, a software development and agile consulting firm that connects innovative companies with world-class software engineers worlwide. A serial entrepreneur, Alex is a passionate leader, coach and culture creator, inspiring people to follow their personal and professional dreams.
After attending one of Eastern Europe’s most prestigious technical schools, Alex emigrated to the U.S. from Russia and landed his first software gig at a Silicon Valley company, where he developed and designed complex multi-tier applications.
Today, Alex leads more than 100 engineers, developers, and other tech experts, to help companies create secure, cutting-edge mobile and web applications building scalable, talented teams tailored to project needs.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Alex Iceman: I’m the founder and CEO of Genium, a software development and agile consulting firm, and I collaborate with more than 100 engineers, developers, and other tech experts to help companies create secure, cutting-edge mobile and web apps building scalable, talented teams tailored to project needs.
I emigrated to the U.S. from Russia and landed my first software job in Silicon Valley, where I developed and designed large complex multi-tier applications.
I am also a professional ice hockey referee for the American Hockey League, a licensed pilot and a music composer.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your view point, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Alex Iceman: Everyone can become an entrepreneur. Some people certainly have a greater predisposition to behave “entrepreneurially” whether they be more extroverted, or naturally operating with a sales mindset. However, those traits can be honed and developed.
The bigger question is how do you define success? To some, it is to be a multi-millionaire; to others, it is billions. I have set my bar very high with an aim to make a billion dollars.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Alex Iceman: I am an ambitious engineering investor. I like to take on challenging problems to make the world a better place.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Alex Iceman: Genium is a software consultancy that solves the problem of global tech hiring. We offer premium talent to help companies build software teams all around the world. These teams help innovative U.S. companies to grow and build the product pipeline faster, all around software, from mobile to cyber.
We started Genium about seven years ago when my first consultancy company, here in San Francisco, was doing really well, but my clients started to ask for more affordable rates because engineering rates were going up … and clients were having a hard time paying the rates. That’s when they started asking me, ‘Hey Alex, is there anything else that we can do to lower the rates or find an alternative?’”
And I started looking elsewhere. I did quite a few trial projects. I did a project in China. I did projects in Mexico, the Philippines, Eastern Europe, and I tested all those locations and Argentina was last on my list, and I sent out two projects to Argentina, and they came out a success, a total success, a total match for the values I have, which is effective communication, responsibility, accountability, forgiveness.
It was a really good match for what I was looking for in engineers and people, and the way you work, and I started expanding there. I started hiring more and more engineers and administrative staff in Argentina, and then we grew into a greater Latin America [presence] since then. In a sense I’ve listened to my clients, and I’ve listened to what they wanted and adapted to their needs, and that’s how Genium came about.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Alex Iceman: I have come very close to losing everything, so staying in business should always be a priority. The most difficult part is to land your first major contract. Once you accomplish that, it typically goes up from there.
Accept the fact that as CEO you’re mostly dealing with complicated problems. I used to get stressed every time I received a difficult email from a client or a team member. Then I accepted the fact that dealing with this is my main role. I started waiting for these emails and even looking forward to using all my skills to resolve them. You should have a Post-it note that reminds you that your job is to make the tough decisions on behalf of the business.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Alex Iceman: I have definitely made mistakes in one of the most important areas – invoicing. I made the assumptions that large companies have endless cash flow. Not true. Make sure you have payment terms clearly outlined so you don’t get burned on the back end.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Alex Iceman: I struggled with getting the right hires onboard quickly. I would focus on finding the right people to support you in your journey. Hire the best people. You spend so much time working, you might as well hire people you absolutely love working with and would have no problem inviting over to a family dinner.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Alex Iceman: I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve received bad advice – it just may not be advice that works for my particular circumstances. People often say, “follow your passion.” Yet, there are so many aspects of running a business that you may not actually enjoy. I personally don’t love dealing with contracts, which is why I have a legal department.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Alex Iceman: We have seen people value work/life balance and how remote work has supported that balance. For Genium, we have created an all-remote company model that is very successful. However, it’s not a one-size-fits all approach.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Alex Iceman: Glamorizing being the boss and being an entrepreneur. It’s an incredibly difficult role that comes with a grueling schedule. When it’s your own business, it’s incredibly difficult to disconnect and turn the phone off.
I am very guilty of that – and we all know how unhealthy and unsustainable that is. That’s why I have personal passions I am unrelenting about making time for. When I am playing hockey, or flying my plane, that’s when I am forced to disconnect and find my “downtime.”
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Alex Iceman: You need to assume that it’s going to be very tough. Being your own boss doesn’t equal stability either. You need to recognize stability is a myth – whether you work for someone else or own your own business.
As far as traits, you absolutely need to have good people skills and put the time in building your network. Your network is your number-one asset.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Alex Iceman: The number-one piece of advice I would give is to find who inspires you. Find the person who is already in the position you hope to be in and talk to them about their experience and journey. Surround yourself with the people who you aspire to be or in the position you aspire to be in.
One of my favorite movies to learn from is “The Pursuit of Happyness”. That’s a real-life example of what it means to grind, and it personally resonates with me and my life story really closely.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Alex Iceman: I have a number of jobs other than my role as a founder and CEO. I have a lot of personal passions that I make the time to continue to pursue and cultivate.
I’m a professional referee with the American Hockey League, which I do part-time. I put in the hours in addition to my day job. I train extensively and get on the ice with NHL players and referees.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Alex Iceman: Leonardo da Vinci.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Alex Iceman for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Alex Iceman or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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