Starting a Company

Scott Francis
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A couple of posts that are really interesting reads, about starting, or not starting, a company.

First is David Lee’s post, “Why I never Started My Own Company“, which I found thanks to a tumblr post by John Lilly.

David Lee writes about what he learned from his dad about how gut-wrenching starting up can be.  He’s right, it can be.  There are really difficult choices to make.  And it isn’t a step in a career ladder.  People often ask me “what’s next?” after BP3.  I can’t even imagine “after BP3” and we’re 5 years into it.  BP3 is the culmination of everything we’ve learned as people, as consultants, as leaders, as entrepreneurs.  As BPM practitioners.

I feel compelled to share a few things that are different about starting a consulting company like BP3, than what the typical inventor/entrepreneur faces. John Lilly writes:

I’ve tried to say this in my own way, too. What I say is this: “Being a founder/CEO is a crappy job. It’s lonely. People tell you you’re a knucklehead. That what you’re doing won’t work — or worse, that it doesn’t matter. Everyone complains. Nothing is ever right. Everything needs improvement. It’s brutal, and a bad job.”

My experience with BP3 was different.  It wasn’t lonely – we started out with two of us and Lance and I could always commiserate when times were tough and celebrate when things were going well.  And “People” were constantly telling us we were geniuses for starting the company when we did (ignoring the fact that we started our company exactly 1 year before the financial meltdown started in earnest, and pretty much right at the beginning of the Great Recession).  They didn’t see how much we sacrificed financially to keep the company together, to maintain our team. But people assume starting consulting businesses are easy, and that there aren’t any challenges.  There are.

For one, you can’t raise money or borrow money.  Many entrepreneurs have this problem, but even if you have a successful services business, no one wants to fund you. You’re going to have to do it the hard way.

All I know is that at BP3 we have taken a contrarian position on virtually every major decision we’ve made about our company.  Virtually every outside opinion would have been contrary, but we stuck to our plan, our instincts, and it has paid off.  Things we didn’t do:

  1. We didn’t try to be experts in all kinds of software. We stayed focused on BPM.
  2. We didn’t become a body shop that just rents people to customers without any idea who they are or what they’re like.
  3. We didn’t try to become a product company just because we didn’t (don’t?) get the respect of VC-funded startups.
  4. We didn’t go offshore when everyone else did.  We hired where our customers and employees live, instead.
  5. We didn’t start college recruiting early. We waited.  Now we’re in a position to do it right.
  6. We didn’t limit our blog to being a marketing shill for our services. Instead, it is a window into how we think, as a company.
  7. We didn’t stay virtual.  We got office space.  When we were still just 4 people.  Everyone said we shouldn’t, but It was one of the best decisions we ever made.
  8. We didn’t stay on Windows.  Or Linux.
  9. We didn’t skimp on benefits just because we’re small.  We pay above-market benefits (full health insurance premiums for families, life insurance, etc.).

And the list goes on.  But while we’re being contrarian, we always make the decisions fully understanding how it relates to our business – good or bad – and think about how it will help.  This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re planning for a long road ahead.

 

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  • Interesting article in the statesman on local startup incubation efforts as well.
    http://www.statesman.com/business/austin-incubators-aiming-to-help-create-the-next-2465328.html?viewAsSinglePage=true
    The last paragraph aligns well with our own thoughts about office space:
    ‘”Everyone’s
    door is open. The guys down the hall do video production, and we work
    with them. There’s a lot of cross-collaboration, with people making
    introductions for each other,” said Goulet, whose team is developing its
    first 3-D game for the PlayStation and iPad. “After being in this
    environment, it’s hard to imagine working on your own in an office
    somewhere.”‘

    Couldn’t agree more. Its really interesting to see how the ecosystem is building up in Austin. I’m not sure if the incubators and office spaces will end up being a panacea, but they do give entrepreneurs a chance to learn from each other and potentially avoid some pitfalls.