I was fortunate enough to escape many hardships that often plague startups and small businesses. However, my journey was not a smooth sailing course; I’ve encountered my fair share of “bumps” along the road. Looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything differently but there are a few things I wish I knew when I started my business. For those of you at the onset of your entrepreneurial adventure, I would like to share those tips that might help you better manage your business.
- Delegate Early On
One of the hardest things I had to do for my company was to let go of certain things and delegate authority with responsibility. It was a tough habit to learn, especially because I grew attached to my work after creating the flagship product in my garage. When I received positive reviews on our software product, I felt very proud and even protective of it and the company. I had this desire to control every aspect of my business and was not ready to “let go” any of the work. I was so used to doing everything myself–from designing the screen layout to programming and troubleshooting the product. Even though I hired many qualified people who were experts in their field, I would still be involved in trivial tasks such as figuring out which insurance policy to buy for the company and so on. That desire to control or lack of delegation kept me from working on the bigger tasks that truly matter. So delegate early on. You need to give more responsibilities and ownership of projects and tasks to your employees so that you don’t have to spend time on small matters anymore. Let them control the day-to-day operations as you focus on making big decisions that affect the future of the company.
- Invest Generously in Marketing
For a while, I didn’t understand the true value of marketing for the success of a business. I hesitated to borrow money and invest in marketing at first because I felt there wasn’t a need for it. Instead, I waited for profits and earnings to come in. For the first few years, we spent less than 5 % of total revenue in marketing. We could’ve accelerated the company’s growth significantly if I had invested more in marketing and captured our potential customers’ interests. My recommendation to startup business owners is to put at least 20 % of gross revenue into marketing because nobody will know about your product or company unless you effectively advertise and promote your brand. No matter how great your product is, if you’re not marketing well, your business will not do well.
- Automate Processes by Embracing Technology
For the first few years, we used Microsoft Excel for almost everything. Instead of a specialized CRM solution, we used Outlook. These workarounds are directly responsible for adding friction to your growth. So my advice is to empower your team with the right technology and software, and the investment will pay for itself in no time.
- Invest in Your Team
Even though my schedule today is quite loaded, I still find time to personally interview potential BQE employees. My advice is to invest in your team and get personally involved in hiring the right people that will blend with the culture of your company as well as share your passion. It is so important to have the right team in addition to a great product.
- Communicate Your Vision
Hold two meetings per year that are dedicated to sharing your vision with the entire staff. The first meeting should occur in January so that you can set strategies and goals for the coming year. It’s similar to making a New Year’s resolution, in which you state where you want your company to be by December 31st. Then, hold another meeting in December and share what was achieved for the year. Your company’s vision should be clear and concise; else your employees won’t understand them nor care about working towards those goals.
- Meet with Key Managers Once a Week
The problem with many companies is that the left arm doesn’t know what the right arm is doing. I learned how important it is to meet with key managers once a week and get an update from each department. They have to be group meetings and not one-on-one. Every manager needs to know what the other managers are doing to determine how their actions may affect the company. At BQE, we typically hold this 2-hour managers meeting on Friday afternoons. It is a relaxed, no specific-agenda meeting where every manager gets 10-15 minutes to talk about what’s happening and what’s going to happen in their department.
- Have an Open Book Policy
Companies that keep their revenues and financials under wraps usually end up creating a wall between their employees and the company. Start by sharing the monthly revenue goals with your team and provide incentives for them to meet the goal. By doing so, you are more likely to hit your goals than not.
Starting your own business is not an easy task; trust me, I would know. However, the benefits and satisfaction is much greater than the risks involved. So follow my tips and try to remain patient during these stressful, yet rewarding times.