5 Valuable Lessons I Learned Growing My Company from $0 to a $700 Million Valuation How to set your business up for success as painlessly as possible.
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Starting a business comes with many challenges, from funding and hiring to product development and marketing, making successfully growing, let alone surviving, extremely difficult. But it's not impossible.
My company, Maropost, is one of the fastest-growing companies in Canada — we are currently valued at more than a half-billion dollars. Like other success stories, this didn't come without challenges. There were certainly roadblocks and obstacles to overcome.
Many successful companies appear to cruise along without any bumps, but appearances can be deceiving. Here are five lessons I learned firsthand while growing my business.
1. Learning to solve problems is invaluable
A business, whether it's a startup or an existing Fortune 500 company, is going to run into problems that require immediate attention. The sooner you learn to solve problems, the smoother your journey will be throughout the years.
What are some potential problems for your business? As owner, you must identify possible issues before they arise and put a system in place to address them in the event they occur — and they will occur.
Some preventative measures to take: Create a seamless customer service channel. Institute a procedure for a direct-to-consumer e-commerce brand. Hold frequent roundtables with your managerial and C-level employees to keep all communication channels open. Always be proactive.
Open communication — with both customers and employees — is very important and can eliminate potential problems even before they occur.
2. Bootstrapping is worth the early struggle
I started my company using a bootstrapped marketing and growth strategy. To this day we have never taken a single dollar from a venture capital fund. While some companies are drawn to the glamour of funding, it's not always the best option.
Do you want to give up a large percentage of your business and potentially be further diluted when it comes time for a new round of funding — and then another? That is not something I was open to entertaining.
There are far too many founders that work for years only to become an employee and even pushed out entirely. Is bootstrapping difficult? Yes. As a founder do you have to make several sacrifices in terms of your time and finances? Yes. Do I feel it was worth it? Yes, greatly.
The early-day struggles of bootstrapping force you to build a great product or service because you need customers and sales to fund the company's growth. Without revenue, the company is dead in the water.
You learn a lot about your customers and what they want, allowing you to provide them with the best service or product. The sense of urgency forces founders to make smarter decisions for the company and it's an approach that I truly feel more startups should entertain.
3. Own your mistakes
We all make mistakes, even founders. It's important to own them, address them and fix them as quickly as possible. From making a poor hiring decision to introducing a product or service that wasn't up to par, the possibility of failure exists in every aspect of business.
If you make a mistake, be honest with yourself. Take full responsibility; then take action to correct it. I have seen business owners ignore mistakes because they let their pride get in the way. Failure to own them creates bigger problems in the end.
This is also why communication is important. Your team needs to feel comfortable confronting you with issues without fear of how you will take constructive criticism. Welcome their feedback and honesty — it will help you build a better business.
4. Perfection doesn't exist
Entrepreneurs are a funny breed, always demanding perfection — myself included. The truth is, your product or service will never be perfect and you should never assume it is. But to keep your customers happy you should always be striving for improvement.
This mentality forces you to constantly look for ways to enhance your offer. It leads to innovation, product or service improvements and ultimately business growth.
Look at Apple, for example. They are wildly successful and dominate their markets, but you don't see them satisfied and sitting idle. They are constantly improving their product lines and introducing innovative features that disrupt the tech industry.
5. Surround yourself with the best talent
A business is only as successful as its employees. Always hire the best talent, regardless of the position. The same desire to hire the best person for the job should apply to a customer service position the same way it would a C-level executive role.
Talent attracts talent, and I am a firm believer in this. Some of your best hires will come as referrals from current employees. They say to surround yourself with successful people that push you, and I can tell you firsthand that my team is constantly inspiring and motivating me.
Related: Unconventional Ways to Source Diverse Talent