Building a business is fun and exhilarating, but the life of an entrepreneur forces you out of your comfort zone more times than one would care to count. It’s an adventure and no two days are the same, which means any expectations you may have had must be left at the door. For those starting out, filled with excitement, determination and loads of expectations, there are a number of things you need to know about building a business for success.
Before founding my current company, Verifi, I had the opportunity to partner in several businesses, including my first successful business in college. In 2005, I started Verifi out of my apartment, and we were turning a profit after just two weeks. The better part of that success can be attributed to the lessons I learned along the way through my other ventures, and by listening to those who inspired me.
3 things to keep top of mind
Bear the brunt, prepare for the unexpected
First, one very important thing to realise is that it’s going to be a bumpy but fulfilling journey. Understand that things will never be what you expected, and that there is no such thing as a typical day. As a founder and CEO in my earlier days, there were things I took care of that I had no idea I’d be dealing with when I woke up that morning.
When I ran smaller operations, it was up to me to run telephone wires around the office, assemble desks and troubleshoot computer issues in our small team. As an entrepreneur, you often roll up your sleeves to do what it takes to continue moving forward.
Take the risk, correct as you go
In starting out, dare to take prudent risks, and be open to making ongoing course corrections along the way. It’s easy to develop an attitude of pride or stubbornness as an entrepreneur, but it’s important to remember to listen to your customers, as well as market and industry needs. Almost no-one will get it right the first time, but an entrepreneur as a true leader must be open to making constant improvements – even if that means changing the status quo.
For example, when I founded Verifi, we enabled merchants to recover any losses they accrued from the credit card dispute process. We were good at it, but we felt that we could do better. So, we consulted with merchants and issuing banks, and found that they wanted better collaboration with each other earlier in the dispute process. To address this issue, we pivoted to enable them to connect and mediate disputes before they became chargebacks in the first place.
Check your ego, cultivate your culture
Perhaps the best advice I can provide is to surround yourself with a passionate group of talented people who aren’t afraid to argue their opinions. By checking your ego at the front door and fostering that collaborative, inclusive mentality in your work culture, you will ultimately make better and more informed decisions.
As an entrepreneur, you are largely responsible for driving the business and broadcasting its vision, but you are not the business, your people are. Cultivating a culture that’s agile, collaborative and driven by a hunger for growth and, consequently, change, is vital to building your business.
Change is fundamental to the growth and longevity of any business. You need to be forward thinking in building solutions that address not only today’s challenges, but tomorrow’s opportunities for the customers you serve. Otherwise, you run the risk of being just another ‘field of dreams’, hoping customers will emerge. Ultimately, wise entrepreneurs listen and learn every day – even when the unexpected happens.