Lessons from a decade of running a Consulting Company
It has been a decade of running Solvative. Here are some lessons we have learned.
Make a 90-day plan of action
Remember, up until yesterday, you had a "boss" telling you what to do. Today it's you. There is no one above you telling you what to do. When you make a list of things you do in the next 90 days, that's your "boss." The best part, though, is that this boss always listens to you.
The day to day tasks will take over your long term focus. This list will help keep things in perspective.
Put in the work
Your results will be directly initially and exponentially proportional to the amount of smart work you put in your business. The initial hard and intelligent work will have exponential compounding effects over the long term.
- The initial years will be the hardest.
- Thoughtful action will help you navigate all the crises.
- Get your tasks done - This is what helps me. https://kunjanshah.com/intentional-focus
- The CEO Role is CxO. CEO stands for Chief Everything Officer. The CEO will have to fill in for any role not currently hired at the company. Don't have any marketing folks? Sure you do, it's you, the CxO. If you are a CEO with an engineering background, that means that you are expected to know the "Full Stack". That includes how to code to the boardroom.
The job of the CEO internally facing, is lonely. Many decisions need a long term focus, but initially, the CEO will be focused on today. It is important to find mentors that have done it before, that have that long term perspective. A great place to start is to connect with your local ScaleUp or other business groups, meetings, and other events.
Rarely you will have all the information required to make a decision. The job of a CEO will ask that you decide what information is available to you now, coupled with the total of your experiences. It's ok to be wrong, but you won't know you are right or wrong if you don't decide. The cost of inaction is too high. Wrong decisions can be reversed and fixed.
Learn to read contracts. Find a great lawyer who understands your business and the risks you want to take. But still, learn to read contracts. Understand legal jargon, at least the basics.
Take significant risks for the long term. Long term risks are easy to pivot to another goal. Focus on short term bets for immediate revenue, if you need to. This helps balance out your revenue cycle. Long term bets always win - because you have a lot of time to learn, reflect, and iterate.
Trust your team to deliver. Do not check in with every second. Let your team plan, execute, learn, and repeat. Your team will shine through.
You are winging it. And so is everyone else. Keep your overheads low, and you'll always be able to fix them. However, not acting is even more expensive. Ask for help: your banker, your local meetup, your local ScaleUp. Conversely, if someone else needs help, and if you have the means, support, and show the way.
Find great partners
Your partners are the ones that will cover for you when you need a break. They will allow you to split roles and focus on the area you are each most passionate about. I have been very fortunate in this regard.
Hire for aptitude and attitude. Hire Solvers. It would help if you had both specialists and generalists. A CEO, by definition, is a generalist. The person leading the charge for each practice area should be a generalist. They are the interface of various cross-functional roles. Specialists are who deliver the bones of the complete solution.
You will need different operational methods at different stages. At each stage of the growth, your company will iterate and improve its processes to account for that development stage. But remember, a five-person company doesn't need the methods and rigor of a 300 person company.
Things to focus on every day.
Make the connection - the medium doesn’t matter - email/chat/twitter/texting. But most times, the best connection is over the phone or in person. Connect with your employees, clients, and mentors.
Follow up, and then follow up again (for sales). Do that if you think you are going to add value.
Sales is an important skill, but more important is delivering value. Solve the problem, and the sale will follow.
Reputation is everything. Don't screw that up for the long term for a quick reward.
Commit to a goal with your friends, family, mentors, or if you like, publicly. For example, I have committed to writing an article every week. The Write of Passage podcast is fantastic to get you going. https://www.perell.com/write-of-passage-podcast
Always spend only when you need to. If it saves you time, please buy it.
Perfect your work - rapid growth will follow.
Plan for the worst hope for the best.
Create opportunities for yourself. Don't wait for the universe to create them for you.
Your company is you, but you are not your company. Company setbacks shouldn't affect you personally. Because you have to be you to orchestrate the comeback, stay healthy physical and mental. Running a company will be as taxing on your brain as it will be on your body.
Above all, don't think of your competitors. They can do what they want; you do you—focus on your client and your work. Add value, and the rest will follow.