Archive for January, 2011

You got the love for building businesses?

January 26, 2011

Watching Morten Lund at Geek’n’Rolla it occurred to me that our entrepreneurial future lies in our past. This video is a must see – he’s a very excitable and wacky character. Morten exudes life and Zen. He said ‘I’m an entrepreneur’holic’. He can’t stop building businesses!

I’ve not been doing it myself for 18 years. Looking back into my career, family background, I’ve been building businesses up for about the same time. Of course,  in my career this was for other people’s companies. However, I believe that we can still be entrepreneurial working for someone else.

Please bear with me as I use my past employments to demonstrate the point:

  • NetCare (part of ComputerLand UK Plc) – I took on the job of turning this fledgling IT managed service into something big. At the time I was offered a much more stable alternative position with a higher salary. It seems strange to take a more difficult position for less money but I saw the potential and wanted to build something of value.
  • Novell – I had always dreamt of working for a successful global software company and when Novell offered me the chance I was extremely excited.  At the time Novell had suffered some serious set backs. When Eric Schmidt   (now Charmian of Google) joined and the share price was on the up, I could see this could be a turnaround. It was the chance to help re-build Novell. Unfortunately I was proved wrong. Eric left and the company continued it’s slide downwards.
  • NetMan – This was a niche boutique consultancy. They specialised in Novell and Intel LANDesk. Only eight people were employed when I started. At the time I was offered a job at a much, much larger  systems integrator but felt NetMan had more exciting potential. We did well. The business grow significantly and was acquired by ComputerLand UK Plc. We built something of value.
  • Business Systems Group (BSG) – We made this company  into the fastest growing systems integrator in the UK at the time. I loved being a key part of that growth. I built up several product and service streams whilst at BSG. This included their software support business. At the time BSG had virtually no support services. They mainly sold PC hardware and software. I build their software support service into a healthy and profitable service. I also grow BSG’s Apple Mac business and helped build their software development services.
  • WARNING PLUG = Today, I have my own startup, Aware Monitoring – We have a website, web app, e-commerce performance monitoring service. If it’s down, with error or slow – we let you know! We  started from scratch!  Building it has been intense. What an amazing feeling doing it for yourself!! It’s such an incredible feeling when a major company and new customer says they’re ‘delighted’ with the service. Very different from doing it for someone else..

I love building businesses or product/service streams from very little. For me its the challenge of making something new that was not there before. I look back further into my family history and see a strong heritage of trading in great trading cities like York. Looking closer, my close family have had or still run their own businesses.

Having a startup and growing a business into something real is not for everyone. It’s not easy. It takes great persistence, sacrifice and belief. The more I think about it, the more I realise that building businesses has to be part of you. It’s part of your past and your future. I don’t think you wake up one day and say ‘I feel like starting a business today’. You have to be committed. Really committed – Like Morton! It has to be part of you!!

5 ‘Shocking’ things founding a startup

January 13, 2011

Its been a real eye opener starting-up a new company. We’ve been doing it now for over two years. After many life experiences I try to limit my expectations when going into something new. I believe having an open mind is the best way to enjoy a new experience. On our startup journey I’ve been surprised, and even shocked, by the sheer scale of the challenge and the help you do and don’t receive.

(image dedicated to the memory of Jeffery Walker and his great blog posts)

Startup experiences fall into to camps – the positive and the negative. This is typical of the roller coaster of a ride that a startup is. Lets get the negative out the way first:

  1. Doubt – I still find it shocking how many people doubt your startup. Even when you’ve had some success they still doubt. The most shocking thing is the doubt can come from the closest people around you – family, friends, ex-coworkers, etc. To overcome this doubt I’ve relied on the positive people and startup friends.
  2. Hard work – I’ve worked hard in my career. Startups take hard work to a new level. The shocking thing is there’s too much to do. You can’t possibly do it all. And do a good job at everything. The only answer is to prioritize and work damn hard!
  3. Time – Everything takes much longer than you plan, want or need. In a bigger company, with a comfortable salary, you have much more time to make decisions and get things done. In a startup you have shockingly limited time and resources (money) to make something, sell it and survive.
  4. Startup Karma – Other founders help you out expecting no return. Its surprise and shocks you when it happens. They’ve survived to tell their tale and know exactly how hard it really is e.g. point (1) & (2). They become your first customers or are customers who take you to the next level. It’s like an unwritten code – help other startups, when they really need it. The catch is, startup Karma can’t be forced. You can’t ask for it. It just happens.
  5. Excitement – I’ve had a very exciting career having worked in London for several years, worked for a leading global software manufacturer and grown a outsource service internationally. Having a startup is an even more exciting experience. It’s all-consuming. It’s like being in a tornado – your pulled in every direction. It seems like chaos and changes often and could all come crashing down at any minute. Startups are certainly not for the fait-hearted!

I’ve heard this and repeated it before – startups are a roller-coaster of a ride. This is the biggest shock for me. One minute you feel like you can conquere the world when you win a key deal or a startup founder helps you out. The next minute someone close tells you to ‘get a real job’ or  you miss a vital product deadline. You’ve got to learn to keep a level head and deal with the way it is. Thumbs up 😉