The May blog interview is with Rented.com CEO and Founder and Endeavor Entrepreneur, Andrew McConnell. Rented.com helps owners make the most of their vacation properties by combining guaranteed income with certified local property care. Andrew sat down with Alaysia from the Endeavor team to talk about why he participated in the Endeavor selection process, previous roles in his career that shaped the leader he is today, and philosophies that he lives by. Check out the conversation below.
You have an LLM from the University of Cambridge and a JD from Harvard Law School. What inspired your time at McKinsey & Company and Axiom as opposed to practicing traditional law?
Andrew McConnell I went to law school in order to get into Human and Civil Rights. As a summer intern, I was able to focus on exactly that. During my internship, I learned that I hate the work lawyer's do on a day-to-day on those issues. I didn't want to be miserable and so I tried something else. My first-year contracts professor would always reference McKinsey & Company and talked about how business savvy the people who worked there were. I didn't know exactly what McKinsey was, but I respected my professor so I thought let me go check this out. The more I learned the more it sounded like an opportunity to work on really high-impact interesting problems with other really smart people, so I did a summer internship. Even though the overall area I covered, Salesforce Effectiveness for a toilet paper company, was not exactly what I went to law school for, I found the day to day to be much more energizing. Interactive collaborative problem-solving inspires me and that’s ultimately what we did on a day-to-day.
At McKinsey, there was a partner who mentioned, “Everybody here is super smart and ninety-eight percent of what everybody does is great and right.” We spent ninety-eight percent of the time giving feedback on the other two percent. It felt incredibly demoralizing and a lot of people around me left more dejected than they came in. The culture wasn’t really one that built people up and I actually left with a lack of confidence.
At Axiom it was the exact opposite. The clients commented on how happy they were, and in short order I got two raises. I thought oh wait, I’m actually not an idiot, I actually am pretty good at stuff! So I think both influenced me in that McKinsey on your resume gives people confidence that you're smart and you know what you're doing. Axiom gave me confidence that I was smart and that I knew what I was doing. Seeing what inspired me and what uninspired me was also super helpful in informing how I work with my team.
Do you wish you wouldn't have gone to law school and that you would have gone the CEO/Founder route directly after undergrad, or are you grateful for your time working with other companies and then going the entrepreneurial route?
Andrew McConnell I don't think there’s a one size fits all answer. For example, Mikaila Ulmer, fourteen-year-old Founder at “Me & the Bees Lemonade” started her company at four years old. She certainly didn't have the work experience to start that and now she’s in over 300 Whole Foods Markets. She’s a 14-year-old and has been building a business for a decade. I think there are flavors for everyone and I can only speak to my own journey. I’m not the kind of person that wishes things differently or the same, things are what they are. I live in the present and focus on how I can make the future better. Also, because I went to law school I met my wife. Law school is a thing I did and now I’m doing Rented.com.
Why did you choose Atlanta to found and scale Rented.com?
Andrew McConnell I’m from the South. I've lived in North Carolina, Alabama, and Florida and knew that I eventually wanted to come back to the South. When I decided to go with McKinsey there were only so many offices in the South and I thought Atlanta would be the coolest of the options. My parents had also moved here after I went to college. Also, my wife is English. And because she moved here to Atlanta she took the GA Bar and did not want to take another bar exam.
Once you're here the cost of living is amazing. I walk to work, the weather’s incredible, the talent’s very good, and it's an overall healthy ecosystem. A lot of my classmates went to New York or San Francisco and they're just another person there. Then I have other friends who are much edgier and they went to China or Vietnam and absolutely killed it. They went on to create cool chains of restaurants and they’re super successful. To me Atlanta’s kind of that middle ground where there’s that cultural familiarity, but I’m also not just copying what everybody else is doing. Also, I think Atlanta in the past ten years is on this absurd trajectory in terms of investment and companies being started. I think I came here for some very practical reasons and got lucky that there are a lot of strategic reasons to be here.
It seems like you have this philosophy of doing whatever works for you.
Andrew McConnell I actually would rephrase it slightly and say make whatever you do, make sense for you. On the front end, you're not going to know that your answer is the perfect answer. All you can do is decide on an answer, then do everything that you can in order to make it the right answer for you. You can't go backward.
Why did you go through the Endeavor selection process?
Andrew McConnell When I first met with Adam we were very heads down, executing on a very specific plan. Then we started hitting this inflection point where we were bringing in new executive talent and it was our second year of 5x growth. Things were beginning to look very different and I had a lot of questions that I needed help with. After learning about the Endeavor ecosystem and the other types of companies who’d said Endeavor helped them it seemed incredibly appealing.
What do you feel you've gained from the Endeavor experience?
Andrew McConnell I’m not a person who multitasks well, I like to be incredibly focused on one thing. And so there were times going through the Endeavor selection process before we were even accepted, where I had specific questions I wanted to work on and Endeavor helped. Getting on those calls with specific questions in mind was incredibly helpful. For example, just after completing the Endeavor selection process we began fundraising. Endeavor has a dedicated team that helps with that. I think I met with eighty-something VCs and probably fifty-something of them came from intros from Endeavor. After fundraising, I expressed that we were having a few challenges with a specific product, Adam, Aaron and the rest of the Endeavor network suggested mentors from places around the world like Lebanon and Greece. Just by being incredibly focused and being asked by the Endeavor team, “Hey what's on your mind?” and then having the global network to help and leverage has been helpful.
We borrow this question from Tim Ferris. If you could have a billboard with one piece of advice to entrepreneurs what would it be?
Andrew McConnell It would be the advice that I have above my own desk “Other people aren’t the problem.” For example, let’s say I’ve put something in three emails, have told the team about it four times and something still isn’t being done properly, my natural inclination is to ask what’s wrong with them. Then I say, well if I’m communicating with twenty-five people and twenty of them are still not doing what I think I’m communicating there is something wrong with my communication. Other people here are not the problem. Other people are providing the symptom of the disease. The disease is how I’m communicating or not communicating. Another example, people saying oh the industry is too slow. NO! The industry is not too slow, it is what it is. An industry being "too slow" is not a problem, your perception is the problem.
What podcast or books are you reading?
Andrew McConnell I listen to The Economist podcast, I have their app and usually listen there. Also, there’s a podcast a friend from college does, it's called WorkLife by Adam Grant. I read about four to five books a week, fiction and nonfiction. I’m currently reading the nonfiction book, The Power Broker by Robert Caro.