This post is co-authored by Carter Freeman and Mike Wilfley.
As vcfo celebrates 25 years of making companies stronger, we also celebrate the new and emerging entrepreneurs and leaders that continue to start and build the businesses of tomorrow. Being a firm of this age, comprised of professionals with deep careers at the highest leadership levels, we’ve learned many lessons and accumulated a wealth of wisdom that helps us help others in developing business leadership..
Here, we reflect not on balance sheets, employee policies, or attracting top talent, but rather on some important, big-picture perspectives that are not typically easy for up-and-coming business leaders to exemplify.
Lead in a Way that Lifts Others and Leverages Strengths
Entrepreneurs are among the most driven and vision-minded individuals around. While vision is critical, it can’t reside in only one person if a business is to achieve sustainable success. Are you a leader who sees yourself as smarter than everybody else in the room and gets frustrated that people can’t keep up? Or are you a leader who hires others you believe to be as smart or smarter than you in one or more areas and moves with little ego towards common goals? This personality type can be highly effective; however, All-About-Me, Inc. is not a viable path to long-term business health.
Practice and Appreciate Patience
Being highly driven and restless for results is admirable, and so too is patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Google wasn’t either. You can’t perform brain surgery by simply watching a YouTube video. In our space, controllers don’t all become fully realized CFOs in 90 days, and for those that do, it happens over years of experience. In short, the passage of time is important and something to appreciate. Think about your career and business over a longer continuum and avoid self-induced pressures that create anxiety about the destination and lessen your enjoyment of the journey. Time will expose you to experiences and insights that collectively, not instantaneously, advance your objectives.
Balance “Let’s Go Do It” and “Let’s Stick to It”
Many entrepreneurs are idea people with grand designs on changing the world. This can lead to an ever-shifting focus to shiny new objects. There’s a balance to be struck between acting with urgency to try and capitalize on potential opportunities and in staying the course.
Prioritize Your People
Focusing on one’s core product, technology, service, whatever, is great, but it can’t happen at the expense of people. Finding and keeping excellent employees is incredibly tough today, and so too is navigating compliance issues, development needs, and related responsibilities required to manage a workforce. Successful leaders put the necessary supports in place for their people. Ensure that you or someone on your leadership team treats this as the top priority it is. You can also tap outside experts for help if needed.
Mind the Money Like It’s Someone Else’s
In vcfo’s early days, an Austin-based venture capital firm hired vcfo to produce accurate, repeatable, and consistent reporting packages across their portfolio companies to provide better information for making decisions and to keep a finger on the pulse of their respective financial health levels. We have since done that for numerous other funding sources. They did so because in the early stages of a business, it’s important to know how long one can last without securing more funding and how effectively existing resources are being utilized. Discipline in managing money can unknowingly and unintentionally relax too much. Minding the money like it’s someone else’s (and often it is) with accurate measures and objective processes, brings about a mental discipline and accountability that new businesses need.
Build a Business, Don’t Idle with Ideas
Business ideas and fully sustainable business models are two very different things. Bringing an idea to fruition requires a clear articulation of what you can do, where you can go with it, and how to get there. That means laying out a multi-year business plan that answers fundamental questions – Is there a market for this? How much capital will be needed and when? How many people will it take? What will sales look like? What are key milestones? Developing sound business plans and projections give leaders something to measure against to gauge progress and provides evidence to potential investors as to the company’s viability and promise.
Business Leadership: Don’t Go it Alone
If there’s one bit of advice to leave new and emerging business leaders with, it’s that you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Sure, it can be lonely at the top, and early on one’s responsibilities typically span a very wide range by necessity. The good news today, however, is that even if you can’t currently develop or hire for specific capabilities within, you can rent them in small doses – whether it’s getting someone to build a website or handle your payroll. For example, not everyone needs a full-time CFO, but anyone managing a business model of any complexity can get a slice of a CFO, which was the genesis of our own business. Engaging fractional experts to fulfill certain functions for you is far more advantageous than trying to do it all yourself and foregoing some crucial advice and guidance along the way.
To every new and emerging leader out there who is diving into the daily grind of building a business, we thank you. We would not have a business if you weren’t doing what you are! We also offer you a challenge – before you look for those individual fires to fight each day, reflect on the bigger-picture perspectives that will help you and your business be healthier and more successful for the long haul. It will be time well spent.
vcfo is a professional services firm making companies stronger by bringing the wisdom and experience of senior level Finance, HR, and Recruiting executives to each client engagement. Our team of consultants guides CEOs and business owners in making strategic decisions, optimizing operations, and providing people support. Partner with the vcfo team to support you in a wide variety of areas from plan development to financing to people recruitment and management as you build out your business. We have had the privilege of partnering with a lot of great teams in our 25 years of business.
Since 1996, vcfo has supported more than 5000 clients nationwide with offices in Austin, Dallas, Denver, and Houston.