On February 11, 2015 I reached the five year anniversary of starting my first business. It is amazing to think about how fast the time has gone. I started to think about starting a company as I neared the end of a long project at my previous employer. I knew that I felt capable of starting a business but I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.
In 2010, I started Atlas Management in February. My wife Krissy quit her job to go back to school full-time in April. We then got married in July. It was an eventful year to say the least. Nevertheless both of the major decisions of 2010 have proven to be the smartest things I've ever done.
As Atlas morphed into a new entity, Vigilant, and my own beliefs and goals as a business leader evolved, I have come to trust in my instincts while simultaneously knowing when to reach out for help from trusted advisers. My main source of inspiration and help will always be Krissy, who knows me and the things I want to accomplish better than I do. She is always able to help me find the right path forward in any situation.
Entrepreneurship and the start-up culture has become a big thing around St. John's lately. While I am far from an expert I thought it might be useful to summarize a few key things which help me as I push through this crazy adventure of running a business.
You can't do it by yourself - If you think you can start and grow a successful company without immense levels of support from friends, colleagues, family, etc then you may be in for a surprise. The best thing I have done over the past five years is grow a network of people who want me to succeed and are willing to help me in just about any way they can;
What you start doing is not what you will end up doing - The ideas for my companies have steadily evolved over time and success has come from being able to recognize things that did and did not work and quickly adapting to reality. Failing to see the need to change because you are afraid of being wrong is a terrible weakness;
Being wrong is fantastic - Saying "I was wrong" is one of the most freeing experiences as an entrepreneur. The next best thing to say is "I need help." If you can truly admit when you are wrong and when you need help then you are setting yourself up for success;
Stop talking, start doing - Sometimes we get caught up in the 'excitement' of being an entrepreneur. That is great. However, at some point you need to stop going to events and start getting down to the business of growing your company;
People are everything - The faster you realize that any of your future success is owed to the people that you haven't even found yet the faster you will be able to find them. As a founder of a company you aren't the sole reason for its success. You are a big part of it, but the team that you attract to the company are the ones who will propel it forward to greatness. Your job is to create the framework to enable them to achieve success (and the appropriate rewards!) Without good people, you're just talking;
Never be the smartest person in the room - Michael Dell nailed this back in 2003 and it is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given. Either get some smarter people in the room or move to a different room. Find people who are smarter than you and be worthy of their trust.
As crazy as the last five years have been I do not regret my choice to start a business. I relish the thought of writing something on the 50th anniversary of starting my first company. Who knows where that will be posted!