Nick Jordan strongly believes that entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial minded teams can change companies and change the world for the better.
As founder and CEO of Smashing Boxes, a design and development digital agency, Nick focuses on growing a culture of empowered entrepreneurial minded team members and strengthening partnerships with existing and potential clients. Outside of Smashing Boxes, Nick helps cultivate the next wave of successful entrepreneurs through mentorship roles with programs like RiOT, Groundwork Labs, Startup Health, and the Adams Apprenticeship; board service on the Council for Entrepreneurial Development; and investor/advisor roles in various local startups.
Nick enjoys speaking and presenting on the value of culture and the entrepreneurial spirit on organizations, and how they impact the creation and management of technology, strategy, and innovation.
Nick graduated with Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also was a member of the men’s varsity soccer team that won the 2001 NCAA National Championship.
The following interview was conducted by Brooks Malone for the February 19, 2019 edition of The Download: A weekly look into the lives of Triangle tech leaders published by GrepBeat. We wanted to re-share, with their permission!
What is in your pockets?
Phone, keys and wallet. If I forgot either one of those three the first thing I’d go back for is my phone, more so than my wallet or my keys because the phone has become a driver, a connector and a hub for much of our information and then how we connect with the world and to our business. That’s been a reality for more than a number of years and it’s definitely more of a reality than ever these days.
What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
In 2018 we moved into a building that we own. We went from being a growing company and tenant to, now, a downtown Durham property owner and business owner. It’s nice to know that 10 years from now when this community is booming even more, and we’ve got mass transit and all kinds of great things happening, that we’re not going to be at risk for being priced out of being a downtown resident.
We are more invested than ever into making downtown Durham a successful community as it relates to business economics and citizen housing. All those things are more amplified now that we’re also property owners. We think about tech’s role and our company’s role in the community, and we are making sure we’re part of not just the tech community but the actual community, working to improve access to education, sponsoring women and veterans in tech scholarships, code schools, etc. Being a permanent member of the community helps us feel better about what we are doing, and it makes it more front and center.
What is your favorite coffee spot?
I think it’s split. I love the coffee at our office that we get from Larry’s Beans. I’m a straight black-coffee drinker and it’s nice to have good coffee while relaxing in the morning in my workspace, which is where I’m the most comfortable. But it’s split because I also love going to the restaurant in The Durham Hotel. They have fresh brewed coffee, do an awesome cold brew and everyone is friendly. It’s hard to beat because it’s a modern, well-thought-out design and layout. I appreciate the spaciousness, the natural light, and the ability, pretty much always, to find someplace to sit. You can meet and talk and not be crammed next to somebody and/or spread your stuff out and work on your laptop.
What keeps you up at night?
Two things. One is building a sustainable and scalable business. We’re in the professional services industry and one of the hardest challenges we face is building a repeatable sales model. We do a good job on projects and have happy clients but we generate a lot of our business through referrals. For this to be something that I could one day step away from, even if it’s for an extended vacation, I really want to make sure we have the right kind of sales and marketing processes in place.
The other one is personal well-being. I was born in 1981, so I’m on the fringe of being a millennial. One thing that’s very well-documented about millennials is things that they care about at work are impact and work-life balance. I’m very mindful and conscientious of the fact that I don’t want to be just racing towards something that you never get to, and then you look up and have no idea where the last 10 years have gone. So figuring out how to make sure we’re enjoying the journey and being ok with wherever that journey leads, is important.
My work is really important and I value my teammates, the universe we impact, the clients we impact, and I want us to be successful. At the same time, if you don’t enjoy the relationships you have, and you don’t take care of yourself, it’s all for nothing. So that keeps me up at night, equally to the growth and success of the business.
What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
I like Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub. It is a consistently good experience, and it’s been around for well before downtown was cool. They are just doing their thing as an American Irish pub so I like that it’s authentic. I also love The Viceroy Durham. It is a British Indian gastro pub. It has a lot of spices, a lot of flavor, and can be heavy at times. But I just love the experience there, it’s delicious food and it’s definitely a special treat.
What is next for you or your organization?
The blocking and tackling tactical next steps are to continue to improve our processes and our systems for doing great work, attracting and retaining clients, building out leadership, improving diversity amongst our staff and leadership, and being a good community member.
An opportunity that we want to pursue for future growth is figure out how to look and act more like a venture studio. We want to take really good ideas and put the skills and experiences of the company, and my personal skills as an entrepreneur, to scale businesses and capture some of the upside too. There are a lot of smart people in our area, and a lot of great ideas, and not tons of VC money pouring in just yet, so it seems like there’s an opportunistic window for us to step in and provide a lot more than what we’re doing now.
I think that’s one or two plans for the future. Keep doing what we’re doing, really take a look at growth, process, diversity and then longer range really try to figure out how we can fit-in on more of a venture studio model.