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If you run a startup, you may have heard the expression “gray hair” to describe an experienced business person, as in The Young BioTech Entrepreneurs Bringing Grey Hair Into The C-Suite. Jargon aside, there is now solid evidence that older founders fair better at building startups, with 50-year-old founders being twice as likely to start a very successful company as a 30-year-old. But while you cannot change your own age, you can surround yourself with older — and most likely wiser — advisors, board members and C-suite staffers.
Marty Schultz is one such “grey hair” worth listening to (although his hair may not actually be grey). Based in Miami, this mentor, speaker, angel fund investor, and award-winning innovator has grown five companies with a combined valuation of more than $300 million. Marty has a knack for innovation such as developing the McGruff Safeguard product to keep kids safe online. He is also known for his creativity as founder of Blindfold Games, offering mobile games for the visually impaired community. Marty’s lectures are filled with valuable tips. Here he shares some of his best advice in our recent interview about the power of bootstrapping:
- Avoid the obvious mistakes. Bootstrapping involves intense amounts of listening to the needs of your potential partners and customers. Marty says: “It is crucial to remember to ask everyone with whom you come in contact if they would be willing to buy the product or service you are creating.” Just as importantly, you need to gain an intimate understanding of the business needs of your potential initial customers. And in addition, it pays to determine as soon as possible who the right people are to hire or to help you. The right partner or advisor can ensure a company’s success; the wrong ones can break it.
- Establish a business culture that works. From day one, entrepreneurs should surround themselves with people they trust, who have the same motivation they do, Marty explains. “An entrepreneur should lead by example, seeking to instill in those they work with the kinds of values they believe will best impact the operation of the company. You need to decide on the type of culture you want in your organization and ensure it is in place from the start. Having the kind of transparency that allows a company to run smoothly is a must, and this can be accomplished by establishing clear lines of communication between you and every partner with whom you work on a daily basis.”
- Get ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. Flexibility is an absolute must for entrepreneurs who are bootstrapping their companies, Marty points out. “Business — like life itself —is made up of constant change, whether we like it or not. There are tried-and-true strategies for keeping up with change. One of them is constantly talking with others, including potential customers and other stakeholders, and learning what they are concerned about or fascinated by.” This information might just inspire you to pivot your company’s startup strategies. Staying on top of trends is also easier when you are reading the most relevant blogs or articles on topics and trends that directly affect your business sector.
- Keep your ego out of the equation. It is important to love your new company and the work that must be done to ensure its success. “Conversely,” Marty notes, “It can be deadly to love yourself to the extent that it gets in the way of achieving the former goal! It is all too easy to lose sight of the fact that while serving as the head of a new endeavor, you are only as smart as what you have accomplished to date. There is a great deal to learn when growing and managing a business, and the bulk of that learning will come from keeping one’s ears attuned to what others say, including what you read on blogs, news websites and more.
- Set goals and stick to them. The end game should be in your mind right at the start. Marty counsels: “Get used to being rejected and learn from it. When you are cold-calling potential stakeholders or engaging in any other activity with a relatively high rate of rejection, set a goal of how many conversations you plan to have each day—and then stick to it. The end will justify the means once you have seen things through, especially if these conversations lead to new business relationships. Yet goals should not be set so unrealistically high that they inevitably fail to be met. Set goals modestly to start and ratchet expectations upward incrementally.”
Entrepreneurs who look at Marty’s successful track record in bootstrapping businesses would be well-served to follow the advice of a man who says: “Constantly ask for feedback and don’t take it personally. If you don’t enjoy confrontation, do it over and over again, until you don’t mind it.”
March 10, 2019 at 07:34PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs