5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Launched My Startup

November 1, 2017

Before launching a company, you put a ton of thought into your business plan. But, as anyone who has been through this process before knows, most of the time, you learn as you go. Your company may pivot, mistakes may be made, and new ideas are always being brought to the table as the business grows.

As a founder of three previous companies (two of which went public and one we successfully sold), I’ve learned a lot along the way. So much so that I wish someone would have told me the following five pieces of advice before I launched any of my companies.

1. Don’t hire a CEO from outside your industry.

I learned this lesson the hard way. At my first company, we were growing extremely well right off the bat. We actually went from $1 million to $15 million in the first four years. Since we had such great success, we recruited the CEO of one of our Fortune 500 customers to come be our CEO and take the company public.

The problem was, he was from a totally different industry, and really didn’t understand the nuances of our business.

I wish someone had told me how important it is for your CEO to have industry experience in YOUR industry. When you are a first-time founder, you may not have business experience, so you decide to bring in someone super versed on that side of things. That’s a great tactic, but make sure their background aligns with your current industry.

2. Don’t underfund the sales team!

Investing in your sales team is one of the most important things you can do. Don’t underfund the money making side of your business!

At one of my companies, we didn’t grow our sales headcount in proportion to the sales growth we were hoping to have. Our sales team was understaffed and we didn’t have anyone to sell our amazing product.

Not investing in sales can really hurt your company. You want to be able to grow as fast as your market potential, and you can only do this by having a fully staffed sales department.

3. Pick your co-founders very carefully.

When you start a company, make sure the people you are founding it with are of high integrity and you know them really well.

I once worked with a guy who thought it was his way or no way, and he ended up alienating most of the team. A good business is built on good people. Start off on the right foot and only go into a business venture with great people.

My terrible coworker experience lead me to what I now call my “no jerks hiring policy” that I personally stick to with all my company hires. The bottom line is, you have to like the people you are working with, especially your co-founders.

4. It always takes longer than you think.

I learned this valuable lesson at my last company. We started the company with our fingers on the fast forward button. Our ambitious goal was to take the company public within four years.

Even though we were well staffed and confident, there are always going to be unseen factors that you just can’t control. Thirteen years later we did have a successful outcome for the business, but success takes patience – and often much longer than you think.

As someone starting a business, I’m sure you have big plans and practical steps to make things happen. But, building a business is going to take time. Don’t get frustrated and disheartened by obstacles. Be patient and see your company through for the long run.

5. Be sure to make it fun!

Fun stuff is just better. Period. When your company is in its infancy, you have to be prepared to dedicate all of your time and energy to it. Your startup is your life.

So why not enjoy the process as much as you can? At my current company Spiro, we believe that having some fun can make everything better. In fact, we believe in humor so strongly that we created our Proactive CRM to come with 7 different humorous personalities. We did this to not only make the process of creating our CRM fun, but also in the hopes that we add some fun into the daily lives of the salespeople using our product.