The gap between a fledging startup and a publicly-traded company seems great. I certainly felt this way prior to serving as CEO of Intelispan.
However, despite the differences in market cap size, I have found that many of the lessons I learned running a publicly-traded company can be leveraged by startup entrepreneurs.
I wrote this article to discuss three lessons learned in marketing and management during my tenure at Intelispan. The aim is to provide insight for each of your own companies.
Concentrating Resources in Marketing
Many a seasoned entrepreneur has talked about the importance of focus. Although this is true in all areas of business, I believe that this is arguably never more true than when marketing a company — be it a startup or publicly-traded company.
For new companies, the reality is that most startups will not find a scalable way to market themselves (eg. Google AdWords). These startups, without a way to promote themselves, are limited in how quickly they can grow. Unfortunately, this lack of marketing is one of the reasons the failure rate for new businesses is so high.
For the businesses that are able to find a way to market themselves, many will also find limited growth. Even after a company has found an effective marketing channel, many of these entrepreneurs continue to over-invest in other areas and to divert their attention. By doing this, their most precious commodity – attention — is diluted. In the end, because of this lack of focus, their performance does not meet its potential.
One of the most important lessons I found from experience with Intelispan is that focus with marketing is critical. Once you have found a recipe that works for your company’s marketing, concentrate your resources. This growth and excess profit should be leveraged and used for defense against future competition.
The concentration of resources into a profitable marketing initiative is how your company will develop into a multi-million dollar enterprise. The great entrepreneurs of our generations were able to capitalize on this. This is just as important for startups as it is for publicly-traded companies.
A Mandate for Transparency
In general, many entrepreneurs I speak with share the same worry about making mistakes. Unfortunately, this is part of doing business. The stakes only increase as one’s company grows. As difficult as it is for a startup entrepreneur, imagine how it must have felt for me and other public company CEOs to admit mistakes to not only employees, but also to public stakeholders!
Regardless of the stage a company is in, I always stress that the following principle remains the same: A Founder/CEO should always be completely honest and transparent.
This should never be optional. If a mistake is made, it is important to admit this and make amends as soon as possible. One thing I found during my time at Intelispan is that individuals are surprisingly forgiving as long as you are transparent and honest.
Never Relegating Family
Managing a business, regardless of whether it is new or a publicly-traded company, is challenging. There are many sacrifices that need to be made.
The burden of running a company should not be taken lightly and, unfortunately, this burden does not only fall upon an entrepreneur’s own shoulders, but also his or her family.
The stress of a business can take its toll. From my years of working, I have found that, from this stress, it is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to alienate the very people that matter most in their lives – their families.
An important lesson is that as difficult as times can become, you should never forget that your family is your rock. These are the people you can always turn to, even when times are difficult in your business (and these times will occur).
An important step I personally took was to set time every week to spend with my family. This wasn’t always easy, but I had to make this a priority. You can’t turn back the clock.
This time that I spent with my family was important, and it was during this time that my relationship with my children blossomed. In many ways, it is because of this time that my next venture, the design-software suite ToolMonks, will be a family business.
There are a number of lessons that business owners can learn from running a company. To begin, when you identify a successful channel for distribution, allocate your resources to this. Transparency, regardless of the size of your company, is important. Lastly, don’t forget the people that matter the most in your life – your family.