And why his proudest moment was crucial to the company’s success.
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In this series called Member Showcase, we publish interviews with members of The Oracles. This interview is with Johnathan Ruggiero, founder and CEO of Manly Bands, which specializes in unique and affordable mens’ wedding bands. It was condensed by The Oracles.What was a defining moment early in your life? Johnathan Ruggiero: When I was about 10 years old, I was lucky enough to get an old IBM AT computer for Christmas. This was before Windows, so as I remember, there was no “start” menu. Instead, you had to type specific commands to get around — for example, “DIR” to open the directory of files. It was a used computer, so it didn’t come with a manual of the commands, but I had a little knowledge from using a Commodore 64, so I played around with it until I learned to get around the menus.It was a great deal of trial and error, which defined my learning process and taught me the benefits of really digging in and trying something out, even before the idea I’m pursuing is perfect. I discovered that when you’re learning something new, it never goes perfectly, and that’s okay. No one is an expert right away. To this day, I’m more of a hands-on guy and learn more from doing — and failing.What is one of your proudest moments?Johnathan Ruggiero: Getting married to my wife, Michelle, was the proudest moment of my life. I would not be where I am today without her. She is an ambitious, creative, and beautiful person and is incredibly supportive. Working side by side with her to build Manly Bands has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.We would never have started Manly Bands if we hadn’t gotten married. We had a horrible experience finding my wedding band, so we decided to start our own company that makes it enjoyable for men to find a ring that really excites them. Now, we get to help make other people’s wedding day as special as ours was.What are the core values that guide your business, and why did you pick them?Johnathan Ruggiero: Planning a wedding is a big undertaking, but finding a ring should be fun. Our mission is to make men feel special, just as they try so hard to make their significant others feel special. We don’t just serve men, though. We have rings for everyone, so couples can find something that resonates with them regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identification.For us, it’s all about the customer experience and trust, which is really simple: We take care of our customers the same way we want to be taken care of. Giving back is also important to us, so Manly Bands supports charities that we admire or that support special causes near and dear to our hearts.What did you learn from your favorite mentor? Johnathan Ruggiero: At my previous job, I was fortunate to have an incredible manager who became not only a great mentor but also a friend. He taught me many things, but the biggest was the importance of a solid team. He demonstrated what it’s like to care for your people, empower them to do anything, and support them in their endeavors, both inside and outside of work. With a good team, you can accomplish anything.What advice would you give to your younger self?Johnathan Ruggiero: I would tell my younger self not to lose the trial-and-error approach that I had at that age and to hold onto that sense of wonder. As I grew older and began my career, I became more cautious. I didn’t want to start something if it couldn’t be perfect, which gave me “analysis paralysis” and held me back from many opportunities. I’d get an idea, think about it for weeks, and then decide against it.Before Manly Bands, I started several other businesses that never took off. The funny thing is, once you’ve failed over and over, you begin to fear it a little less. So, I’d also tell my younger self: Don’t take everything so seriously because it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. “Failure” is just another word for “learning experience” — so try more things and learn to fail forward.What’s the biggest common leadership mistake?Johnathan Ruggiero: Not listening. Too many leaders think they know everything, which closes them off to opportunities. Besides, leaders can be wrong too.Good leaders listen to others’ thoughts and ideas, regardless of whether they agree or will take action on the information. Giving others credit for their ideas and learning how they operate builds a cohesive team. I believe that’s how you grow as a leader.How do you identify a good business partner?Johnathan Ruggiero: Find someone you share something in common with. When you have much to discuss, you can instantly connect and get to know each other better. That connection helps ensure that your goals align and builds trust and loyalty, which are important in a partnership.I have a great deal in common with my past business partners, from our love of the outdoors to computers. Finding a partner who is flexible and willing to learn like I am means that we can accomplish anything. For example, in my earlier endeavors with one business partner, he was the sales guy and I was the tech guy. Now, he’s the chief technology officer at Manly Bands. Regardless of our roles, we still work well together because we trust each other.Today, my business partner is my wife. That definitely comes with its own unique challenges, but we’ve been able to make it work really well because of the trust and common bonds we have together.How do you prevent burnout? Johnathan Ruggiero: I used to work until the wee hours every night, and I still struggle with this sometimes. But now I make a point to disconnect at night. I don’t look at email after dinner and do something else instead, even if it’s just watching TV or reading a good book.It’s important to disconnect to reduce stress. Otherwise, you’ll burn out over time because you have no more processing power. You’ll also become resentful because you won’t feel as fulfilled in life.What would you like to be doing in three years?Johnathan Ruggiero: I hope we’re still growing Manly Bands. I’d also like to be helping other entrepreneurs grow their businesses, either as an investor or adviser. I want to support important causes that make the world a better place and aren’t solely driven by profit.I’d also like to make inspiring documentaries that give others a different perspective on the world. That was my goal when I was in film school years ago and why I lived in Los Angeles, Calif., for several years afterward.What is the most exciting question that you spend time thinking about? Johnathan Ruggiero: What’s next? What else are we capable of doing? How do we ensure that we’re meeting our potential so we can fulfill our really big goals?I don’t want a mediocre life and I never want to slow down. I plan to use every minute that I have on Earth to make a difference, help others, and become a better person.Connect with Johnathan on LinkedIn or visit his website.