Maurice Harary is the co-founder and CEO of The Bid Lab, a consulting company dedicated to helping small and medium-sized businesses find, manage and build their RFPs and proposals. His experience building a company that started with just $1,500 into a company that has grown tremendously is a great way to help with stories and pitches outside of just procurement and the RFP process. Furthermore, he has helped countless small and medium-sized businesses win their first multi-million-dollar deals, and helping smaller businesses drives The Bid Lab's mission!
For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?
As a middle child in a family of six children, I draw parallels between my upbringing and my love of the bidding process: both require being an expert navigator of complex situations and contrasting personalities.
I attribute this ability to the experiences I had growing up. Born and raised in New York City, I attended New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business and graduated with a degree in Business and Political Economy. I knew, however, that I wanted to see, learn and experience more than what one city had to offer. So I committed to spending semesters in both London and Shanghai. Living in foreign cities taught me about the intertwining nature of business, politics, economics, and culture, which has been invaluable in my career thus far.
Was any one person who was instrumental in helping you get from where you started out, to where you are now?
Did you know that the vast majority of married couples choose not to work together? My wife and I are the exception. Jordan is my partner in every sense of the word. Back in 2017, she was climbing the ladder in the automotive industry while I was working at IHS Markit. Jordan was tasked with completing an RFP for her business and hired an outside consultant for assistance. When we saw the final work product, we were shocked by the subpar quality that seemed to be accepted by the industry at large. The formatting was off, the writing was shoddy and the information was not even compliant. She called me and we worked through the night putting together a proposal she could stand behind. It was then that we realized combining her writing talent with my RFP knowledge was a winning formula for success.
Since then, we’ve created the world’s leading RFP company, had two daughters and recently launched our own RFP search engine, Bid Banana.
Is there a particular piece of advice you were given in the early days of your business journey that you still benefit from today?
There is an old Japanese proverb: “Fall seven times and stand up eight.” Throughout the years as we have continued to expand and grow, there have been inevitable hiccups along the way. The key to overcoming these hiccups is that we EXPECTED them to happen. You have to be prepared for and accept bumps in the road when you are trying to do something great. What’s great is that we always get back up, even if the fall was so hard it sometimes takes a second to heal.
What is the most important lesson you've learned about leadership in your business journey so far?
Don’t just hear what you want to hear. Listen to the people who have constructive criticism, whether in your professional or personal life. Really take the time to get out of your own way and absorb what someone else is saying. Even if it’s difficult to hear, there is always a benefit to taking that constructive criticism and using it to hone in on enhancing yourself or your company. This feedback is valuable and if you really take the time to learn from it, you will avoid hearing this same criticism again.
What are the top three things you wish you'd known when you were just starting out?
Maurice has unique experience starting a company that was remote by design. Remote startups are increasing and Maurice has valuable advice for people wanting to grow a company outside of a traditional in-person environment. Additionally, Maurice helps small- and medium-sized businesses expand as part of his day-to-day job. Maurice also has a beneficial perspective on maintaining a work/life balance while striving for ever higher goals both personally and professionally.
Excellent First Hires
Support from Family and Friends
In your experience, what is the most effective way to build a strong network of mentors and advisors to guide you in your business endeavors?
Focus on your marketing strategy. And if you cannot pay attention to your marketing strategy, hire people who can. Marketing is all in the details. This isn’t something that can merely run on autopilot. Set aside specific time to focus and refine your marketing on a regular basis and ensure you have a team in place that shares your vision and can help you expand.
How do you determine when it's time to pivot, and what factors should you consider in making that decision?
Fear is the number one aspect that holds people back from getting out of their comfort zone. And for good reason. Being vulnerable and authentic takes work and it is scary. It’s been said many times because it is so very true, you can’t let fear win. Often, we are afraid to be who we are in the world because we fear rejection, but it’s far better to be rejected for yourself than for someone you’re pretending to be. And every failure, every rejection just gets you one step closer to success.
How do you stay motivated and inspired during the business cycle of ups and downs?
Utilizing failure to create resilience: In life, and especially in business, we are destined to fail. So many of us when we fall are simply too stunned to get back up again. We remember the pain and we strive to avoid it again at all costs. But we shouldn’t be surprised by failure, we should accept and plan for it. Failing teaches us so much about ourselves, when we risk failure we learn resilience. Remembering those times you got back up again, even when it was painful, creates a repository of positive memories reminding us of when and how we turned a setback into a success. This resiliency is the key to building the belief in yourself to know, no matter the obstacle, you will keep going and you will eventually succeed.
Looking back, what one thing would you do differently if you could start your journey over again?
I, too, used to go into a 52-story skyscraper in New York City in a full suit every day. But, when I founded The Bid Lab, I remembered that the people I worked most closely with on my previous team worked out of the UK and India. Why couldn’t I work closely with people who weren’t located geographically nearby to me? The Bid Lab is, and always has been a remote company. While there are myriad reasons why remote work is worth championing (environmental impact, productivity, work/life balance, etc.) one of the reasons why I think it works best for The Bid Lab is because it allows us to hire from a unique pool of individuals. I’m looking at you, an amazing writer, living 3 hours outside of Albuquerque who needs to be available to her elderly mother in the afternoons. And I’m also looking at you, a sales superstar who wants to homeschool her kids, but can also sell ice to an Eskimo. I’m proud of the fact that The Bid Lab is made up of a team of individuals who have individual needs but also a common ability to log into work wherever they may be.