Being an entrepreneur, and being a good one, is never easy. Just because you own the business, it doesn’t mean that you have the most convenient job description. It’s quite the opposite. Founders face lots of tough dilemmas and challenges just to keep the company thriving.
From his experience, Dave shares the five challenges in building a tech company from scratch and maintaining it, and shares what founders can do to conquer these obstacles.
1. Maintaining a sustainable cash flow.
“Cash flow is really, I would say, the hardest part in running a business because you might have enough projects coming in your pipeline, but your salaries and payments to run things internally- they’re always recurring.”
Dave explains the challenge of maintaining a cash flow that would be enough to provide for utilities, for maintenance, and most especially, for the workforce. Tech companies like Symph which develop software are usually dependent on projects that do not always run for a long time. Projects come and go, but the workforce shouldn’t. Dave emphasizes that the team should be kept and made sure to be provided with the compensation and benefits they need, because the team is what you need more than anything else. You’d want to keep them happy especially because you know they can deliver the satisfactory service you want to give your clients.
2. Finding committed talent.
“You can easily find talented individuals anywhere. But talented individuals who will align with the company’s culture, your vision, and be willing to go through difficult challenges with you, work with you, and make things better for the company, those individuals are hard to find.”
As Dave puts it, it’s actually not that hard to find people to work for you. But finding a team who not only works for you, but a team that works with you? That’s not very easy.
Indeed, Symph is blessed to have found and to be working with a passionate and dedicated team who not only report to duty, do their jobs, and go home, but are actually one with the company in striving to achieve its vision of changing the world, each in their own way that fits into our bigger picture perspective. One piece of advice Dave would give companies who also desire to find this kind of team members is to look for referrals from the current team.
According to him, “We usually ask our own team, ‘Hey we’re looking for someone else who can do this. Do you know anyone?’ It’s personal because you’re asking your existing team to think about it from this perspective: ‘Do I wanna work with this person? Would this person give a good output? Would I want to be assigned to doing a project with her/him? Or not?’”
3. Dealing with clients.
“We want to know what they expect, we want to understand what their expectations are for something so that we can position ourselves and do our best to meet those expectations.”
It’s common to have a love-hate relationship with clients. It’s great when things go well as planned, but it’s not when there are certain expectations the client has that you have no knowledge about, or worse, are just too impossible to be realized (and they can’t understand that). Of course, the clients always want what’s best for their company so that’s what you have to deliver- less than best is not enough.
Dave encourages Expectation Management to be practiced in these kinds of businesses as it is vital to keep customer satisfaction. Before getting into an engagement with a client, make sure you have communicated with each other on what the client wants and what you can do about it. If there are ideas from each party that can’t parallelize with each other, at least meet halfway. Communication is the hallmark to a healthy relationship and both sides should commit to being open and honest.
4. Establishing effective pricing systems.
“You have to think about that for a moment, the perspective of the services that you’re providing, and how you price yourselves because your pricing actually sets expectations.”
For tech companies, especially in locations that are known for outsourcing (like the Philippines), pricing is a struggle. Clients expect you to price cheaper than usual, while delivering the best quality of outputs. Dave reiterates that these things don’t always go hand-in-hand.
Companies, especially those that are just starting, should thoroughly understand how their pricing works internally and externally. They have to analyze and think about their pricing strategy, and be confident in it.
5. Being responsible to do, well, everything.
“You have that challenge that, as required, you kind of have to do everything that everyone does.”
As the founder, the owner, or the CEO, you really have to get down to doing things. You do what everyone else does, whenever it’s necessary. That’s because you’re more than a boss, you are a leader.
However, Dave points out that although you have to be hands-on in doing things, you also have to spend your time appropriately. You can’t just do all the tasks of every department all the time, you also have to manage all the operations from a macro perspective.
“Are you working on improving the way that your business operates? Are you working on the process that your business uses to ensure that client expectations are met? Are you working on the process of how you deliver websites or how you design things? Those things are valuable as well."
In view of what has been said, the idea of starting a business and maintaining it is actually harder than it seems. Many think that being an entrepreneur is this cool, amazing, easy-peasy thing, where you just craft the foundations and then sit from your president’s chair and watch everything go smoothly. It’s not. It takes passion, commitment, and consistent diligence. The path would be long and rocky to take, but not impossible. With passion, commitment, and diligence, you’ll get by.
_yes, as a founder, you need to sleep too... with caution. _
Well, to unclog toilets is not a prerequisite for anyone to be a successful entrepreneur, but it means that you really have to be willing to get up from your president’s chair, walk towards whatever needs your help, and do something about it even if your hands get dirty, for the sake of the company.
Like Dave says:
“You have to question yourself: ‘Do I really want to get my hands dirty?’ You know, life’s gonna throw you clogged toilets. How are you gonna handle it?”