Justin Cohen | Crain's Las Vegas

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Justin Cohen

Background:  

Internet Marketing Inc., known as IMI, is a medium- to large-sized digital advertising agency headquartered in San Diego. The company, which has a second office in Las Vegas, offers a wide range of digital marketing services in travel and entertainment, education, healthcare, and e-commerce.

The Mistake:

I decided to go back to school and work on an M.S./Ph.D. because I thought I wanted to teach later on.

We started IMI just after we hit the bottom of the Great Recession. That was the first quarter of 2009. Within a few months – because of what was going on in the world and with lots of people out of work and back in school – I decided to go back to school.

Eventually, a chunk of time and my talent went to spending three semesters studying economics. I realized the opportunity cost of ... doing that. I could start putting a value on the hours in my mind and it would get pretty big pretty quickly.

My advice is to gut-check your path often.

The Lesson:

If I had put all the hours I spent studying and put that time into the company from day one, it would have led to stronger returns for the company sooner. Those hours could have theoretically been spent focused on eyeing some prospects for the agency.

It was probably a good decision when I decided to stop putting time into that because come 2011-13 there was a lot more ramp to grow the business. We had somewhere between 10 and 20 employees then and now we have about 90.

My advice is to gut-check your path often. I teach at UNLV. I'm involved in countless boards and organizations around town that impact kids and schools. But I don't know that my time learning to teach economics could have as much value as my time in and around education.

Follow IMI on Twitter at @iMarketingInc.

Photo courtesy of IMI

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