Russ White | Crain's

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

Russ White

Background:  

Russ White was recently named executive director of the Lambda Business Association, the LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce for Southern Nevada. He is also co-founder and co-publisher of QLife Magazine, the local LGBTQ publication for Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, Ohio and Rhode Island, as well as an ever-growing number of additional titles through the LivePublisher platform he also co-founded.

The Mistake:

The biggest mistake was not settling in first and getting to know Las Vegas first [before] starting the business.

I moved to Las Vegas to start an iPhone software company and then ended up acquiring the magazine [QLife, previously QVegas]. I think the biggest mistake I made early on was not knowing the Las Vegas community as well as I do today, which is a hard thing to do when you uproot your life and move somewhere else, and to do it to start a business, especially Las Vegas. We're such a relationship-oriented town.

I bought a house here a year and a half before I moved here, so I commuted for a year and a half. In that time, I didn't get to know Vegas as well as I do today. My intention in moving here was not to own a gay magazine; it was to start my own software company. That was my background. Who leaves Apple to move to Las Vegas and run a gay magazine? You leave Apple to start a software company. (But after creating the app for the magazine and seeing how well it did, the owner asked if I wanted to buy it from her. It didn't take long to get me to yes.)

So I was looking at Vegas from an outsider's perspective looking in and coming from a completely different culture – from the Silicon Valley culture to the Las Vegas culture, and they're two very, very different cultures.

I was looking at Vegas from an outsider's perspective.

The Lesson:

My failure was taking my assumptions of what a Silicon Valley culture is and trying to apply that to a community that I didn't know very well. That was really one of the biggest stumbling blocks in building a business. We're seeing that in many areas in Las Vegas.

If you think about how we're trying to attract other businesses to this area, the problem is people don't understand Vegas. Vegas is a very different beast. Yes, we have a very different tax base – we don't have the state income tax – but we also are lower on the totem pole when it comes to education.

In trying to convince businesses to move here, we run into challenges because the lifestyle is so different here, and just getting to understand that was huge.

It's taken some time, but we've been able to establish relationships and rebuild some of the relationships that were fumbled in the beginning, and it's really starting to have a net positive impact on my business. Just my appointment as executive director to Lambda is a testament to that.

We've come full circle now, and because we took the magazine all-digital we're now in the process of launching a software company for publishing other magazines, LivePublisher. We've already launched two magazines on our platform that are not ours, and we're launching three more this month. So we're back to where we started as a software development company. We just happen to be focused on the publishing industry.

Follow Lambda on Twitter at @LambdaLasVegas.

Photo provided by Russ White

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