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The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you build a strong team?” is written by Hari Ravichandran, founder and CEO of Endurance International.
The concept of team-building isn’t always the easiest for entrepreneurs to grasp—at least not in the beginning days of startup life.
When you start a business from the ground up, invariably you will make mistakes. It’s a rite of passage that is just part of the process. I know I’ve made plenty of them. But they’re worth making so long as you learn from them. Here are some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made, and what I’ve learned:
Going after external investment
Write your own checks as long as you can to pay your expenses. Don’t seek to raise capital until it’s absolutely necessary. The best way to fund your business is by bootstrapping and scaling up the business as your customer base scales. You should focus first on building the product and then on being able to generate revenue from your product before you resort to raising outside funds, especially with the technology available today. Bet on yourself despite negativity by naysayers.
When I started BizLand, things were going well—until the dot-com bubble burst. Fueled by external capital, we had scaled the business too quickly without a sustainable business model. We learned the hard way that not focusing on top-line and bottom-line growth can have dire consequences. It took us the next 15 years to scale the business much more manageably. We still make mistakes, but learn continually from them.
Remember that as an entrepreneur, you are learning on the job. You have to make peace with the fact that there are a lot of things you don’t know. I’ve had to make investments, sacrifices, and tough decisions. But not always being right has helped me become more aware and more disciplined.
Whether you decide to actively build it or not, your company will have a culture. And if you are not actively working to create one, it may not be the culture you want. If you focus solely on building your business and product in the beginning and neglect shaping the culture of your company, it will form without you. Avoid this scenario by taking a more thoughtful approach.
We’ve acquired many companies throughout the years—each with a distinct culture. As Endurance EIGI -0.93% has evolved, we’ve realized the importance of creating a united set of values and guiding principles that inform how we operate.
When you define what’s important to your company and internalize those values, it will greatly help to onboard and attract employees as you grow and achieve a larger scale. Also avoid the opposite mistake of solely focusing on culture and not on business metrics. That is a sure-fire recipe to not have a business long term.
Stalling on making decisions
Time is money when it comes to business. Don’t wait to make important decisions or allow outside forces to put pressure on you. Use the knowledge and data that you have at the time and then choose a direction. If you are wrong and you know you are wrong, don’t wait. Be humble, admit your mistake, and course correct. It’s better to always be moving yourself and your business forward in the long term—even if you have to take a couple of steps back in the short term.
I have waited too long to hire the right talent, which forced me to later move forward with candidates who weren’t as skilled. I have missed many growth opportunities by waiting too long to invest in certain areas of my business. As a leader, your job is to make decisions. But it’s important to leave your baggage behind when you realize you have made a mistake—and adjust quickly. You need to trust your instincts and consider timing, but don’t be hindered by doubt.
Don’t ignore the importance of constant innovation in your company. If you embed innovation in your business, you’ll stay ahead of the curve. You want to make sure that you are constantly redefining how things are done and lead the charge instead of waiting for external factors to affect how your business operates.
Innovation takes many forms. It’s not just in the product or customer service. It can be how you get scale or how you decide to deploy dollars toward future growth. The great thing about being an entrepreneur is that you can dictate which dimension you want to innovate.
This article was originally posted in Fortune Insiders.
The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What qualities make an amazing entrepreneur?” is written by Hari Ravichandran, founder and CEO of Endurance International Group.
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. It can be a long, lonely, and stressful road to build a company from the ground up, but some business owners, including myself, thrive on it.
Based on my experiences, I believe there are some key traits and qualities that entrepreneurs should consider as they embark on their journey:
Have a vision
One of the most important qualities for an entrepreneur is to have a clear vision for the type of business and product they want to build and audience they want to serve. When you first start out, in order to put the work into making your vision a reality, you need to have the conviction that your product is a good one and that there’s a need for it. You are the architect of your vision. If you aren’t willing to defend and fight for your business, no one else will.
Starting a business is often a long and arduous process. It’s not for the faint of heart. You will face an endless array of challenges and will need tenacity in order to succeed. You need to have the belief that you’re following the right path, even when things go wrong and you need to course correct. It’s what has gotten us through some of our toughest times, which is why we make sure to hire those who embody the entrepreneurial spirit and understand the hardships of our customers.
You need to be greedy for your business and make sure it has the best resources to help it succeed. This means that you need to make sure all elements of your business (i.e., talent, culture, etc.) are set up for long-term success. Being greedy isn’t a negative attribute; it’s about having the conviction to fight for the best things to make your business successful. There is a big difference between being greedy for personal gain vs. being greedy for your business.
Entrepreneurs need to be able to evolve as factors change that may impact their business. It’s about aligning your vision and stretching your comfort zone. Many entrepreneurs find that as they achieve more scale and growth, they may need to start thinking about their business differently, which can lead to even greater success. During the dot-com bubble, I experienced firsthand the need to pivot or become irrelevant. Industries evolve and you need to stay ahead of the curve in order to succeed.
Be humble enough to ask for help
Although starting a business may have been your brainchild, you need to know when it’s time to ask for help. The starting points you originally plotted for your business may change as you go along, so you need to be humble enough to acknowledge when you need to ask questions and learn from others. Even though entrepreneurs often like to have things done their own way, getting external feedback can help you get a different perspective and increase your odds of success. If you’re thinking about starting a business, I would encourage you to review these qualities and think about whether you’re up for the challenges that being an entrepreneur entails.
This article was originally posted on Fortune Insiders.
The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you stay inspired to run a business?” is written by Hari Ravichandran, founder and CEO of Endurance International Group.
The thing that inspires me to run my business is finding ways to overcome challenges and move the business forward — during every phase. When you start a business, you’re faced with very different challenges than when you begin to grow and achieve more scale.
Initially, the key things you need to keep in mind are developing a sustainable business model that can get traction with customers, securing enough revenue to pay your bills, and building a foundation for long-term success.
As you grow, you’ll have to look more closely at how your company should evolve to stay competitive, how you should define and create the culture of the company, and how to keep everyone in the company — including employees, partners, investors, and customers — moving in the same direction.
In 1997, I started a company called BizLand.com with my own seed money. Our goal was to help businesses get online. We had three offerings: web hosting, an e-commerce plug-in tool, and a shopping cart. What started as a small consulting business quickly grew much larger after we raised $20 million in venture capital and hired around 100 people.
However, in 2000, things started to take a turn. Our business model was based on ad-supported revenue, so when the dot-com bust hit that year, our revenue declined as the advertising market went down. Suddenly, our plan for a sustainable business dried up along with the ad-based business model.
With declining revenue and no way to pay employees or our business expenses, we were faced with a tough choice: reinvent the business or shut down for good. Because I believed that there was a market for our product and services, I was inspired to find a way to save the business rather than closing up shop. In late 2001, we reduced the team to 14 employees and were able to convert about 2% of our customers to a subscription-based model. We broke even in 2002 and renamed the company Endurance International Group in 2003.
Although this reset was a challenging experience, it ultimately set us up to achieve more scale and allowed us to ramp up to what Endurance has become today: a publicly traded company that employs more than 3,800 people in 15 offices globally.
These experiences have taught me to take one day at a time and focus on the big picture. Have a strategy in place that you believe in, and one that your team can embrace. Don’t let anything deter you from reaching your goal, even if you have to adapt the strategy along the way. Pushing myself to tackle problems and embrace risks is what continually keeps me motivated to grow the business.
This article was originally published on Fortune Insiders.
Hari Ravichandran appears on Bloomberg “In the Loop” with Betty Liu to discuss how small businesses handle cybersecurity risks.
Hari Ravichandran appears on CNBC “Squawk Box” to explain how small businesses manage their digital presence.