Brandeis International Business School

009: Hustle, Radical Clarity and Optimism

The ingredients of a 21-year-old CEO

Robert Harary is the founder and CEO of OneH, an online platform that connects startups with a global pool of investors and partners based on their shared financial and strategic interests.

Robert is 21 and runs a tech startup, but refuses to wear a hoodie and jeans to work. He runs a platform that connects startups with investors and enables them with the tools they need to grow, but despises startup culture as we know it. He has a fundamentally different way of envisioning and mapping his company's growth and avoids thinking in buzz words. He believes in growing on a balance between hustle, radical clarity and grounded but intense optimism.

In the same way Mark Zuckerberg runs the most successful social network in history but may be the most socially awkward founder in the planet, Robert may be the least startup-y startup founder you have met in a long time.

From the Dorm Room

Robert started OneH while he was studying at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. He and a couple friends founded it out of a frat house. “I was literally making investor calls from my frat house, and if you're listening closely, in the back of those, you could hear kids playing Madden.”

So, in Robert’s case, his boardroom WAS his dorm room – and that actually ended up creating some problems.

GWU is a competitive school where students dedicate 100% of their time to succeeding, but Robert was hardly dedicating 50% of his time to trying to balance that and a business. Then, when he got to work, he was also competing with other founders who were dedicating 100% of their time to their companies, and not splitting that between their company and school. Both college and school demanded his full attention, and that became really frustrating for him.

“I wish I could say there was a secret balance that I was able to find between school and my job, but there wasn't. It was something that required too much of my attention on both sides... And, ultimately, I committed myself to OneH. I ended up moving to New York and taking night classes in New York at NYU. But I ultimately made that decision because I said I want to be able to dedicate myself in one city, in one place, to something that I'm passionate about.”

To the Boardroom

Robert identifies two big misconceptions he sees when people enter the workforce or start a new company.

First, people look at starting a company or getting an executive role as “making it” – but there’s no such thing. The leadership at companies that you think “made it” are, by design, constantly looking ahead. That's what makes them such incredible leaders. “But in doing that, and kind of a curse of doing that, is they are more aware than anyone that problems never really go away. They just evolve and change with your company.”

So when you enter the workforce, keep in mind that there is no finish line.

Second, and Robert says he see this a lot when people are starting companies, is that people like to strategize a lot. Strategizing is easy. It's rewarding. It makes you feel like you've achieved something just because you've announced a solution and a plan to get there.

But executing, getting it done, actually going forth with a plan – that's the frightening part. Because there is a chance that you're going to have to accept that the strategy you just patted yourself on the back for didn't work. Then, you're going to have to go back to the drawing board.

So, what Robert has learned is that the best leaders know how to marry execution and strategy. “My advice to people would be, again, whether you're starting a company, or gunning for a promotion, or working on whatever you need to for one of your clients, lean into negative feedback on your plan, lean into all those little failures that you've seen along the way. Understand it quickly before everything else falls apart. Understand it fast, fast enough to amend your strategy, and then continue executing. Create this feedback loop where you're constantly looking back at all the things that have happened and quantify success along the way.”

This is a process that Robert describes as radical clarity. Nothing ever goes according to plan, and the best leaders know how to marry strategy and execution.

In our conversation, Robert shares another characteristic he sees in great leaders: they listen. Great leaders know how to develop close enough relationships with the people that they work with directly to be able to understand what they need, then tailor their leadership style to that individual's needs.

And even if you’re not in a formal leadership role within your organization, you can and should still practice great leadership. Robert says the people who move and grow the fastest, the people who execute most effectively, the people who get noticed, are the people that take the time to listen, to understand, and to build a rapport.

“So, what I would say is the biggest lesson I've learned about entering the workforce is listen to what people need. Whether or not it's how to be the best leader or how to achieve the project that you've been assigned most effectively, listen to what people need and take each project and each situation as its own.”


Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

Listen on Stitcher


Follow @FromTheDormRoom
on Twitter  

Share Your Thoughts

Connect With Us