Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Truth About How to Run a Business: An Interview With My Dad

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By: Brittany G.

Have you ever been interested in running a business? Have you every wondered what it’s like? Well, maybe this can help. My father began his own business with my mother and a few of his friends about seventeen years ago, and he was the CEO of the business for fifteen years. From my point of view, it seemed like he worked all the time and barely had time for anything else. There was a time not too long ago that I started to wonder what exactly it took to run a business. So, I asked my dad. Here is the interview I did with him. Hopefully it gives you a good idea of what being an entrepreneur means and maybe even inspires you to think about running your own business one day.

What is it like to run your own business?

The first day feels like it was yesterday.  I bought a card table, the best laptop my credit card would approve, the chair I am sitting in now, and the poster which still hangs on my wall captioned: “You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”  Running a business is much like a taking a fantastic voyage into the unknown.

What are the advantages of starting a business?

Most entrepreneurs I know are driven by ingenuity and creativity.  A big advantage to starting a business is the ability to break free from convention and to build differently something superior. I was also tired of the politics, finger-pointing, and the “not my job” attitude of corporate life.  So personally, it was big advantage to have the opportunity to try to create a better workplace and culture. 

What are the disadvantages of starting a business?

Sure, setting your own course and charting your own destiny sounds appealing.  But the poster’s is also entitled ”RISK”.  Starting is a business is not easy, glamorous and without risk.  The saying is very true: If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.  The truth is that most small businesses fail in the first two years and the odds only get worse with each passing year.  So while many courageously attempt the voyage, few will successfully return to port.  And as captain of the ship, be prepared to perform every job at some point, including scrubbing the deck!

How did you make your business successful?

As a software company in a very competitive industry, our mission was to provide the most powerful, easiest to use suite of products and services.  This meant constantly trying to grow and improve what we offered.  We thrived on the opinion and feedback of our customers and we challenged ourselves to make enhancements that far exceeded their expectations.  With each new software release our customer base grew not only in size, but also in loyalty.  When your customers greet you with a hug and treat you as a team member, you definitely are on the right track.

Who do you look for to help you start your own business?

While many entrepreneurs look for capital, or someone else’s money to start a company, I took the road many others have taken: I roped in some of my best friends.  We all had worked and lived together at some point, so there was already a sense of familiarity and deep respect for each other.  And because we all put it on the line together, each of us was highly motivated to do whatever it would take to be a success.  If you decide to captain your own business, always remember that a captain is only as good as their crew. So while you may have confidence in yourself, surround yourself with the best and have confidence in them as well.

How do you balance home life and work life?

A question to be asked regardless of starting a business...in my case, one of my business partners was my wife. Many then ask, how are we still married?  But it helps when, in addition to being your best friend and business partner, your wife is also your soul mate. We tend to be on the same wavelength, so to speak.  While the lines between home and work were sometimes blurry, we were committed to being successful partners both at work and at home.  My advice is the same that was given to us by my grandfather at our wedding: end each day with a kiss and never go to bed angry.

What do you wish you had done differently?

This is similar to the questions we asked our customers and ourselves each year.  What did we do wrong?  What didn’t work quite right?  What could be done more easily and efficiently?  Every summer we would gather these answers and build a prioritized list of things to be done over the next year.  Certainly many items on the list related to fixing and improving our products and services, but and equal amount it seems were related to improving how the company operated.  Because I feel we were true to the process of continual quality improvement, there isn’t much of significance that I would have done differently.

What advice would you give others who might be interested in becoming an entrepreneur?

I believe the success of a business is directly linked to the qualities and character of its captain.  You don’t want to be alone and abandoned by your crew when the seas are rough, the winds are howling, and you are trying to stay afloat.  So as an Eagle Scout, I would advise any current or former Boy Scout to follow the lifelong principles of the Boy Scout Laws and lead by being Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.  But having only daughters and nieces, I simply say to your interested readers: remember the three Cs, Courage, Confidence and Character (It’s easier than TLHFCKOCTBCR)!



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