In the final post of her three-part series, the founding partner and CEO of Torchlite, Susan Marshall, provides five key pieces of advice for anyone thinking of launching a tech company, all gleaned from the lessons Susan has learned in her career.
“’I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” – Steve Jobs
Last time, we talked about how to make the freelance lifestyle work for you. Now, we’ll cover what to consider when you’re looking to take things to the next level: starting your own company.
Here are my five key pieces of advice to anyone looking to launch their own tech company:
Pick the Right Team
You can’t – and shouldn’t – do it on your own. Take your time to pick the right team. It can make or break you. Surround yourself with team members that have the experience and the temperament to help you succeed in a challenging startup environment. You want to bring on people who are flexible and who can help you problem solve as you go. Find smart people, but then be sure to give them an opportunity to really grow and be creative. It’s up to you to create an environment where they want to come every day. This means setting the tone for a workplace that allows people to thrive, and paying your team well.
The Idea is King, but Don’t Ignore Your Financials
Central to the launch of any company is the idea behind your startup. So you think you have a great idea? Make sure you’ve identified where it will fit in the marketplace, and developed a solid plan for how you’ll take it to market. Take the time to map everything out — your business plan, how you’ll scale. These are the things that matter most to be potential investors, and behind every great idea, there needs to be a solid plan for rapid revenue growth or you won’t be able to raise the money to get your company off the ground. I’ve never had trouble raising money and I believe that’s because I’ve demonstrated how we plan to hit revenue targets in my pitch.
Be Self Aware
The good news: running your own company means you finally get to be the boss. You set the agenda for what you want to accomplish and how you plan to do it. The bad news: being the boss means wearing many, many more hats than you’re likely used to. You are going to be spending a lot of time doing things that may not be in your wheelhouse — navigating human resources, complying with legal standards, developing billing procedures and more.
Self-awareness is key. Know what you are good at, and hire or partner with people to complement your strengths and weaknesses. Be willing to grow, learn, and step outside your comfort zone. I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years, but I’ve used those mistakes to grow. And the only way to grow is to take on new challenges and do things that scare you from time to time. If you overcome those challenges and learn from them, you’ll be a much stronger and happier person because of it.
Consider Your Personal Life
There’s no way to sugarcoat this: starting a tech company takes time and will be stressful. Your work/life balance, at least in the beginning, will suffer. Make sure your family is in a good spot for you to do this. You’ll either need a very supportive partner, or a community of folks that can help you fill in when things at work get hairy. It’s very difficult to juggle both family and your business (let alone friends!), so make sure you are set up for success there and have backup plans when it comes to the getting things done at home like homework, housework, and after-school sports.
Keep Your Expectations Grounded in Reality
I launched my tech company, Torchlite, in 2015, and it’s been the most satisfying and rewarding experience of my career. But, let me be clear: there have been many bumps along the road. Prior to launching your business, come to terms with the fact you’re going to face setbacks; the key is how to take them in stride and use them to make you — and your business — stronger.
Be prepared to make less than you thought (or not pay yourself anything!), particularly in the first year. The journey of launching your business will be a marathon, not a sprint: everything always takes longer and more money than you’d ever imagine. That’s not to say that it won’t be worth it — if your dream is to be an entrepreneur, I wholeheartedly believe that following that dream will be the most amazing professional experience you can have.