Nothing compares to bringing life into the world. But a close second might be building your new company. After all, there's a reason we coined the term business "life cycle."
Once the company is up and running, running it might be likened to raising a child. Instead of wooing your little one's way into elite preschools, you're pitching venture capitalists. Rather than sending your teen off to college, you're grooming your company for acquisition. If you make it through the "teething" stage of testing strategies and gaining market traction, you get to look forward (or not look forward) to . . . adolescence.
Brace yourself for flashbacks to those difficult years. At times, your brand will look just as ugly and awkward but still have those tender moments of confidence and poise. Some business relationships will flourish, and others will end unhappily ever after. No company achieves success without weathering growing pains, but as every parent knows, the years spanning high school and college are a grueling necessity in development.
So, how do you "raise" your company right? Here are some ways to navigate this tumultuous era so your business comes out smart and successful on the other side:
1. Unleash your inner rebel.
A lot of well-intentioned people will offer you advice on how to run your company, but you sometimes need to go against the grain. I haven't always followed traditional best practices because in my gut I knew what the right thing was for my organization: For instance, I drove my accountant crazy using personal credit cards to cover business expenses, which is pretty much universally frowned upon.
To succeed, I had to do whatever it took to keep my company alive, even if that meant exposing myself to some financial risk. You should, too.
2. Resist the urge to micromanage.
Unless you were the most well-adjusted kid on the planet, you probably had your share of coming-of-age power struggles with parents trying to run your life. If you felt suffocated as an angst-ridden teen, imagine how your grown-up employees feel when you dictate when they can have lunch, when their most productive hours should be and how much structure they need to do their jobs. The power of letting go is just as great as that of taking control when needed.
So, instead of setting one-size-fits-all policies, manage your team members in a way that brings out their best. Some might need rigid parameters, while others might think best after shooting a game of pool between coding sessions. Studies show that offering employees the opportunity to determine their own work-life balance leads to increased productivity.
So, give employees ownership over their work, allowing them to decide how to best complete their tasks. Ask yourself, "As long as deadlines and standards are met, must the work be done between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.?"
3. Don't fall in love too quickly.
High school is full of romantic encounters, and prospective business partnerships are a lot like your first crush. But, if you want those industry contacts to turn into long-term relationships, you have to ensure a record of integrity and success.
Remember that rushing into deals or making promises you can't keep are surefire ways to land your business on the receiving end of a breakup.
4. Accept failure.
From 1990 to 2011, 2.4 million businesses opened their doors -- and 2.2 million closed. Of those failed business leaders, 71 percent never tried again. Learning to cope with disappointment is a part of life and a reality of business. Successful entrepreneurs take knowledge and experience from their failures to perform better the next time around.
You should do the same, by accepting failure and trying again.
5. Focus on the future.
When you hit an obstacle, don’t dwell on the negatives. Find the solutions, learn from the situation and move on. My company once lost a significant amount of money because of one missed line of programming code. The loss was a significant blow, both financially and emotionally, for the team. But the whole instance reminded me that I was, and am, ultimately responsible for everything that happens in my business. I subsequently redoubled my efforts to produce top-of-the-line services while eliminating the possibility of costly mistakes.
Being a business owner means having the maturity to let your organization evolve naturally, even if -- as happens with parenting -- your "child," grown up, looks different from your original vision for the brand. Otherwise, your company's ability to grow and thrive will be constrained.
This should be every founder's worst nightmare, because no entrepreneur envisions his company ending up on life support.