Sramana Mitra: It’s so hard to get that timing right, isn’t it?
Trevor Traina: It’s hard to get the timing perfect, but I find that if you really listen to your inner voice and talk to other people, you can pretty much figure out which spaces are important and growing and which spaces aren’t. I counsel friends and entrepreneurs who are looking to do new endeavors. I always say, “Let’s look at the space. Is this an area where there’s an opportunity?” I always tell people that if you pick the area of opportunity, you’ll have five times the result by working just as hard.
The other thing I learned is that one should always be honest about where their skills and desires lie. Being a CEO is a very specific skill set. Being a founder is a very specific skill set and it’s not for everyone. It doesn’t always translate. I thought being Chairman would be really fun because I would get to do a lot of the important decisions and work on the interesting and fun stuff, and avoid some of the detail-oriented things that I didn’t enjoy as much. It sounded like a great way to move forward, but in fact, it turned out to be unsatisfying for me. What I realized is I am a founder at heart. To really enjoy doing that, I have to have my finger on the pulse.
Sramana Mitra: I don’t think I’m interested very much in directing other people versus running my own thing. I prefer to run my own thing.
Trevor Traina: Yes, you know yourself.
Sramana Mitra: After doing these three ventures in a non-founder role, you switched back to being a founder again?
Trevor Traina: Yes. After Advance Auto Parts bought DriverSide, I thought the next thing I’m going to do needs to speak to my personal passions. I need to have the ultimate say. That’s when I founded, what became, IfOnly. So many founders or entrepreneurs get hung up on the name and getting it perfect. What I have found in my career is that moving forward—putting one foot in front of the other—is more important than anything. If you can’t figure something out immediately, choose a placeholder or improvise until you get it right. I didn’t pick the name IfOnly for months after founding the company, but it didn’t stop me from founding the company, I just called it something else.