7 things I have learned starting a company

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7 years…..My LinkedIn profile popped up that it’s Sphere3®’s 7 year Anniversary.  I spent some time reflecting on this over the weekend….a young lady asked me what it was like to start and own a company.  I told her – It’s kind of like having your first child.  You are excited, planning, and trying to make sure you know what to do – then once the child arrives you realize that everything you read, every ounce of coveted experience you think you have could not have prepared you for this experience.  It is the most incredible and excruciating journey you will ever chose to be on….and one of the most rewarding.

So in honor of our 7 years as a company, here are 7 things I have learned:

#1 Being able to tell your story is crucial. As a founder your story is your “Why” it’s the driving force behind the birth of the invention.   For me it was an event – a moment in time when my life was impacted and I wanted a change.  The “Why” is what drives you when you are frustrated and feel like giving up (and you will)…..it’s what drives you when others tell you to give up (and they will)…..it’s what drives you when you’re out of money (and you will be)….it’s what drives you when you sacrifice time with family and friends (and it will happen)……The “Why” makes the Victory sweeter, the loss harder, and the win better.  Always know your Why.

#2 Customers are King….you can have the coolest product, the greatest people, and even funding but without customers, (aka people actually buying your product)….you aren’t really a business. Covet the ones who take a risk on you when no one else will and fight to gain the confidence of the ones who tell you no….because a no is just a yes waiting to happen.

My Dad taught me that….he was our first investor and made the guys on Shark Tank look like pansies.   Get a board member who pushes you hard to be the best….don’t resent the truth.

#3 Once you get a customer, don’t ever become complacent. Put your customer’s names on a list and hang it on the wall in front of your computer….look at it every day…..put their stories on your walls and memorize their victories.  We are a subscription based company so our customers are not only the initial life blood they are on-going lifeblood.

 Your main focus is to be focused every day on how do you help them win – how do you make them better.  Then deliver.

One of my favorite piece of business advice came from the incredible Michael Hester – he said “Our customers love us….that’s what makes us special.”   I live for that – strive for it.   It’s my passion and the team knows it.   They must love us.

 #4 There are times when you need to check your pride and ego at the door and get some advice. Seek it – Don’t be afraid to ask for it.  Be humble and transparent.   Covet it when it’s free but don’t be afraid to pay for really good advice either.   Ask your customers for feedback and don’t be afraid to ask them for perspective.

Here is the caveat….You don’t have to take everyone’s advice – even if you pay for it.  At the end of the day, you have to live with every decision.  You can’t blame someone else for a mistake – you have to own it…..because if it’s wrong it’s still your problem.   The flip side is when you make the right decision….it feels pretty darn good.

 #5 Be yourself – God only made one you and you created this company. For a while, I tried really hard to be what everyone else told me I should be as a business person.  Here is the deal on what everyone else thinks you should be – people put you in the box that they are most comfortable for you to be in.   Just be you – unless you are lazy – then be someone who isn’t ;-).

 #6 Failure happens (if it hasn’t happened for you yet just wait if you are still breathing it will come eventually).

Accept the fact that you are not perfect and no matter how “experienced” or “educated” you are there will be times you make mistakes (so will your team) offer grace, accept grace then move on and take the hill. Remember you aren’t defined by your failures – you are defined by how you react to it and how you recover.

The scripture says “Count it all Joy when you go thru trials….It doesn’t say “enjoy the trials” it says consider the trial a blessing because the end of that passage tells us that it creates something new within us – perseverance and endurance…it just makes us better.

#7 Hire Great People….the best you can afford who share your vision and are committed to greatness.  I have the most incredible people on my team.  The most heart and dedication to improving things for care givers and patients – they are not afraid to call me on the carpet when I am about to make a bad decision, but don’t rub it in my face when I do.    There are days when I pray for them and am simply overwhelmed with how blessed I am to have THIS team.  Hire for attitude – train for skills – and be dedicated to those who are dedicated to you.

I will leave you with this – so I guess you actually get 8 tips as we are always looking forward to the next anniversary.  It’s never “just business” when it becomes that it’s time to move on.  I hate when people say that as if it’s a way to soften the blow of defeat or their wrong doing.  If it was “just business” it wouldn’t be worth doing.  If it was “just business” – just about making money and not about making real positive change then it’s not worth doing.   Do something worth doing every day.

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