Every month, meet an inspiring ground-breaker and achiever, a leader who is changing the culture around age, work, and living a purposeful second act of life.
Ed Kushins is an ex-US Navy submarine officer, entrepreneur, startup investor, social innovator, sharing economy trail-blazer, people connector, avid traveler, and good life lover. Please join me for a fascinating conversation on a sunny Californian beach with my ex-boss, mentor, and friend, a man who makes his most strategic decisions barefoot in the sand.
How did your 50’s look professionally?
In my 50’s I was running two businesses in parallel. One was a family scrap metal recycling business, Fairway Salvage, that I subsequently built from 2 to 55 employees. I had a partner on board, which allowed me to run the company without spending too much time on it.
The other one started more as a hobby than a business but ended up becoming much larger. I had been on a home exchange vacation with my family and came back enthusiastic about the concept. The owner of that company declined my offer of some free marketing advice, so I started my own company in competition. The game-changer was taking the service from paper to digital, making HomeExchange one of the first online communities in the nascent sharing economy. In 2006, the romantic comedy “The Holiday” propelled home exchange into the spotlight. The success of the movie was a booster for the company, which started to become profitable. The same year, I sold Fairway Salvage to focus on HomeExchange.
From day one, I ran the company from my home near the beach in Southern California, never from an “office”. It was a conscious decision that when building the Team, I recruited Reps, Customer Service, and even my Partners exclusively from our community of Members. I figured they would be satisfied users who could relate personal experiences and would know everything about the home exchange process with almost no training.
To help our 60+ Team members (who all worked remotely around the world) bond together, I invited them every year with their families to a half-work, half-vacation retreat somewhere fun, usually on the beach… Evian, Croatia, Greece, Biarritz, Hermosa Beach, Myrtle Beach, Mt. Tremblant, Taormina, and more! With the input of my Team and partners, HomeExchange continued to grow until we sold it to a competitor in 2017.
When you sold HomeExchange you were hitting 70. What was next for you?
I was happily retired for 6 months, then a new idea kicked in. I am a networking guy, I’m always looking for ways to connect people. My new website, VacationPropertyPartners.com connects two families to partner to split the cost and enjoy the benefits of a vacation home. We “hold their hands” until they buy the vacation home together.
Besides VacationPropertyPartners, I make myself available to help business owners with their marketing strategies. I am an active member of the Rotary, where I contribute to 3 to 4 projects. As an ex-Navy officer, I am part of an initiative that helps veterans re-enter civilian life. I am also active in an investors’ group focusing on startups.
Do your professional engagements support other aspects of your life?
Totally. I’ve made a conscious effort to not only keep a balance between the time and energy devoted to the professional and personal areas of my life but to use each of them to enhance the other. Terry and I love to travel and I actually chose to concentrate on HomeExchange because it allowed me to create more opportunities to do so for business and pleasure. For me, learning, meeting people from around the world, building a successful business around a product, culture, team, and members that I believe in, have all been incredibly satisfying.
Along the way, I’ve developed some habits and rules I try to follow:
- Keep my work, personal life, and health in balance.
- Prioritize my tasks so I know what I want/need to do each day/week/month/year. Sometimes “Go to the beach” is on the list. It’s OK to get away from the computer for a while.
- Appreciate my customers and try to keep them happy.
I’ve got 5 long-term priorities… “The journey of 1000 miles” that I’m taking the first steps on:
- Appreciate my wife and always try to make her happy
- Do what I can to stay healthy
- Launch my new website, VacationPropertyPartners.com
- Write (or dictate) a memoir
- Finish my long-in-process (only 35 years) book about the personal decision-making process. Becoming aware of how you make personal and professional decisions, however big or small, is a super-power.
What is your definition of success and how would you evaluate your success on a scale from 1 to 5?
Definitely 5/5. My insight into how and why I’ve made the choices I’ve made allows me to accept and feel comfortable with what I’ve done. I accept the result of choices and actions that I’ve made along the way, given my expectations of the risks and rewards, as well as the work, time, effort, and sometimes money I’ve followed through with.
Life is good. Every night I go to bed grateful and excited for another day.