According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only a third of new businesses survive 10 years or more. As an entrepreneur beginning to pave your path, how do you effectively grow your business, manage your finances, and stand out among the opposition? You’ve got to have a clear vision and a relentless commitment to deliver on it. A ‘let’s get it done’ attitude helps, but at the heart of it all is the ability to engage your team, to adapt to market dynamics, and an ability to understand shifts in your target customers’ demands. These three tips may shed some light on how to best focus your energies in these directions:
PEOPLE FIRST – MAKE FINDING THE RIGHT TALENT A TOP PRIORITY
This is one of the most important elements for any entrepreneur, and particularly for me, where I bet on a new industry that is dominated by technology and automation, but I wanted to stand out with a more human approach. Your success only goes as far as the people standing behind and with you, and their belief in your vision and culture. When it comes to choosing your employees, select those who believe in where the company is going.
The first few hires can make—or break—your fledgling company, so these early decisions are very important to the company’s trajectory. In the IT industry there’s been a shortage of engineers, leading to a significant retooling of the workforce. Recognizing this trend, we’ve spent a significant amount of time building human capital, that is, in the training of staff to create an environment where we encourage people to take on new challenges. It’s really about ensuring employees understand the culture, because that translates into teamwork and commitment. We’ve always encouraged our employees to not stand by and watch; if you see something you can do to help, get on the team and help. It doesn’t matter what your role is, because when you look at the big picture, it’s all interconnected.
TAKE CALCULATED RISKS
Deciding how and where to spend your dollar is another challenge when starting a new venture. When building your company, don’t be intimidated by growth. As ideas evolve for your business, you may reach a point where you realize that you can’t manage all of the business practices and you need outside capital to achieve your goals—and that’s fine. But make sure you’ve mapped out what the important strategic initiatives are up front before looking at private investment.
The last thing you want to do is court a new investor without a solid vision, which leaves you rebuilding the jet engine in mid-flight. Look at larger deals by assessing markets and inventory, and match that inventory to your venture’s specific needs. I’ve often learned that the best capital dollar you spend is in the market where you are, but always be looking at new markets and acquisitions as vehicles for successful growth and don’t let money hold you back. When you have a vision, over-communicate it and live it. Be strategic and smart, walk the talk.
Figure out what your core market is and focus on customer loyalty and quality products within that segment. A premium jean designer doesn’t target audiences looking for an economical product. When everything is new and exciting, you might want to sell to everyone, but sometimes you have to aim a rifle, not a shot gun. When I started out and the industry was truly in its infancy, we used to say: “If they fog a mirror, then we want them as a customer.” But as the industry evolved, we’ve become much more specific about the audience we’re attracting in order to provide the best possible experience for our customers. Cloud, like many industries, is not one-size-fits-all and is not simple. What you don’t want to do in any business is to attract an audience or customer that you can’t serve well. Focus on what you are the best at, and do it exceptionally well.
There is no single solution or methodology to creating a legacy startup or brand—there never will be. You’ve got to be grounded in your business plan and armed with the right culture, people, capital and mindset to grow your venture into something great.
I often equate entrepreneurship to rowing. There’s a lot that goes into this seemingly simple sport—the mechanics of boat building, the selection of a team, the hours of practice. It takes stamina, technique and teamwork. And when those elements align, it’s a symphony of motion. That’s the difference between being committed to your work and invested in your career. Which one will you choose?