Born: Bridgeport, Conn.
Education: Boston University, sociology degree
First job: When I was a kid, I sold cutlery and frying pans door-to-door in Bridgeport. There is nothing like getting thrown out of a third-floor walk-up in Bridgeport. It’s a humbling experience. But they were good knives. I still have them.
What is the biggest business challenge you’ve faced?
It’s something I’m dealing with now. How do you grow a company once you’ve gone over a billion dollars in sales? How do you keep the culture intact, the line of communications open and solid?
How do you get capital and financing? How do you attract new manufacturers that fit well?
A billion dollars in our business means the stakes are getting pretty high. But the answers are no different. You build relationships, build a trust. Make them believers, and they give you money.
What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
Never take anything for granted because you really have to make your own luck. You don’t have to work hard. Well, in the beginning you do, but you have to work smart.
You have to utilize your time and take advantage of opportunities so that they become long-term business and long-term relationships.
Perlman on life: My dad had no home life. Everything revolved around business until the day he passed away. I don’t think that’s a healthy way to live.
Today’s world has too much stress. You have to breathe, relax. I never bring my business home with me. I live a completely different life at home.
Because, at the end of the day, no matter how successful I am, there will always be somebody more successful.
Perlman on self improvement: You need to stay educated. I’m a voracious reader. I read everything I can get my hands on.
As a kid, I realized that if you learn one new thing a day, you’ll be ahead of the game. You have created your business. You define your business. Your business doesn’t define who you are.
It’s up to you to broaden your horizons.