It’s almost hard to imagine Adam von Gootkin having time to kick back and enjoy a glass of whiskey and a cigar. The serial entrepreneur is Co-Founder of Onyx Spirits Company, CEO of Highclere Castle Cigar Company, and currently founding Highclere Castle Spirts, with plans for a global launch of Highclere Castle gin in late 2018.
Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price originally interviewed Adam in late 2015 (read the interview: Onyx Moonshine: Reviving the American Spirit In Connecticut). The two caught up to discuss Adam’s entrepreneurial journey and his latest startup venture.
NAN PRICE: You mentor, your run companies, you launch startups. How do you balance all these different facets of your business life?
ADAM VON GOOTKIN: Really good people. Good teams. That’s the answer. Because without people who are smarter than me, without people who are better organized than I am, and without people who are equally as passionate, none of this would be doable.
I do what I’m good at. My hope is to engage in projects with people who are good at what they do. When that happens, everything runs well.
And I often find very non-obvious, cross-collaboration opportunities with things. You never know where things will go. But all these opportunities are growing.
My forte is really in kind of setting these things up, building them, putting the life and energy into them, and helping put financing in place. Then it’s keeping everybody on track and with the vision.
NAN: Is that sort of your modus operandi—to help and then step away?
ADAM: Exactly! I like to help people where I can. I’m too busy engaging with everybody. I try to set things up, light a little fire, and hopefully it catches and goes.
NAN: You’re smart enough to know you can’t do it all.
ADAM: I’m not good at very much! But what I am good at seems to work!
NAN: It certainly does! But it’s important to know your strengths—and know when to delegate.
ADAM: In all startups or relatively small companies with less than 50 employees, you wear a lot of hats. So, I do have to do weird things sometimes because they must get done. And I love that kind of stuff too, because every day is fresh and exciting and invigorating for me.
Admittedly, I am weak when it comes to tedious repetition. I can be three times more effective if you’re throwing all sorts of different things at me. And again, it’s the team.
I have to block my day out very precisely now, so I can focus throughout the day. I may get four hours here, an hour here, 15 minutes on this, a whole day on that. If I didn’t focus that way—and if I didn’t have the team support—I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything.
We always look at these projects as huge mountains to climb. I always say: What’s the task at hand right now move us forward? What’s the one thing? Then, every day, we just do the one thing. That’s how you get somewhere. Otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed.
NAN: When we first met, I asked what being an entrepreneur meant to you. Now, with a little bit more time and a few more projects under your belt, I’ll ask again.
ADAM: I think entrepreneurship is the most amazing thing. You’re creating the blueprint for a reality. Every single thing we’re enjoying right now—from your glasses, to your phone, to that notebook, to that chair, to that car, to that house—every single reality in this virtual world is there because of an entrepreneur.
NAN: That’s almost exactly what you said when I first asked you. I have a feeling this is not the last startup you’ll be involved in. Any idea what’s next?
ADAM: I’ve got to focus! And I’m hyper focused right now. Sometimes I have to say no to opportunities, and it’s challenging for me to do that. That’s something I’m trying to improve upon.
Steve Jobs said: It’s more valuable to know what to say no to and what to say yes to.
Learn more about Adam von Gootkin
- Onyx Moonshine: Reviving the American Spirit In Connecticut
- Living Proof: Onyx Moonshine’s Journey to Revive The American Spirit
- Entrepreneurial Team Launches Connecticut-Based Cigar Company
FOLLOW: Twitter @AdamvonGootkin