The Lessons I’ve Learned as a Tech Company Founder
On February 13th, Silicon Halton invited me to speak at their meetup titled Lessons Learned from Tech Company Founders. Silicon Halton is a grassroots community and Social Enterprise dedicated to connecting and creating strong local relationships and business partnerships for hi-tech entrepreneurs and leaders. I was pleased to have the opportunity to share a few of the many lessons afforded by my 14-year role as Co-founder and Managing Partner of Indellient.
Here is some background on Indellient to get started
We were founded as a software design and development company serving a small number of select customers with whom the founders had established relationships.
Today, we are a full-service software product and services company serving companies across Canada and the United States, several of whom are members of the Fortune 500. We design, build and support solutions that improve the efficiency of our clients’ businesses through a combination of Business Process Management, DevOps, and Analytics.
In the rapidly evolving technology marketplace of today, every interaction with our clients, partners and fellow team members is a rich opportunity to obtain another “lesson” in operating a business.
Here are a few of those lessons
Lesson 1: Know what you do really well – and ensure that you leverage that asset.
From the time of our founding, our team had aspirations of becoming a product company. In pursuit of those aspirations, we made investments in our own software products, the most significant being our BlueRelay workflow automation platform and have seen proven success in the marketplace as a result. At the same time, we know that we have a great services culture, which continues to drive growth in our services offerings quarter after quarter. Our new strategic direction that embraces that success by combining product and service capabilities has seen incredible success and aligns extremely well with our culture and abilities.
Lesson 2: Be honest about what success means to you. Share it with your team and all stakeholders.
Approximately one year ago, our leadership team completed an exercise in which we shared our personal goals for the organization, including our team, our offerings and our position in the marketplace. As it turned out, our visions are aligned behind a focus on growth and development of long-term sustainable value. That shared recognition helped align our strategic decisions for the company and has been a major contributor to our increased rate of growth and success over the last twelve months.
Lesson 3: Teams adopt management’s behaviors – for good AND for bad.
One of the things that I am most proud of is the strong and pervasive culture of customer service within our team. A core belief that encouraged the founding of the company was that a team of professionals with a deep passion for helping customers achieve business results would inevitably be destined for success. Living by that belief in everything we do has created the culture we see exhibited in the actions of every team member each day. The real lesson here is that team members adopt the actual behaviors of management (not the stated direction if that is different) – for good and for bad.
Lesson 4: Build for sustainable growth as early as you can.
When asked to discuss one of our mistakes, I realized that one error stood head and shoulders above the rest. As a services company, our entire team has always had the tendency to get entrenched in the problems of our clients, often at the cost of our own team. In our early years, the challenges created by this focus were amplified by a lack of focus on non-technical capabilities within our company. As a result, we waited far too long to establish the roles and competencies within our organization which are core elements of our long-term sustainability. These capabilities include, but are not limited to, Marketing, Human Resources, Internal IT, and Operations. Our more recent investments in these areas have provided tremendous ability to scale our business quickly and efficiently.
I fully recognize that young entrepreneurial ventures often do not have the resources to scale out these capabilities; I have lived that journey multiple times. I am simply recommending that you make these investments as soon as resources allow.
Lesson 5: Team building represents the highest return on your time.
The Silicon Halton event organizers asked us to cover what we would do differently or the same if we were to start over again. The short answer would be to apply the four lessons I have just covered as consistently and early as possible. However, the common theme here which I would like to try to encapsulate in lesson 5 is that Team Building almost always represents the highest return on your time. There is absolutely no question that the time that my colleagues or I have spent developing our team and their skills across the entire spectrum of the business have generated enormous returns structurally, economically and culturally. Given the choice, a focus on strong team development and success is all but guaranteed.