By VP of Business Development and Founder Colin Barceloux
Colin has a BS in Management Information Systems and a Minor in Information Technology from Santa Clara University where he graduated with Honors in 2003. Colin resides in San Francisco and is an avid snowboarder, basketball enthusiast, mountain biker, and golfer.
Silicon Valley is a hotbed for startups. Our own founder, Colin Barceloux, was a college student when he came up with the idea for BookRenter. More and more venture capital is becoming available to small, scrappy startups that have nothing more than a couple of engineers and an idea. But whether you have the next big idea or are learning the ropes at an established business, here are some really helpful tools straight from Colin on how to get ahead. Just for the record, Colin has number 4 nailed.
I used these to help found and grow BookRenter.com and if applied correctly you can use them as well to scale your business today and tomorrow…
1. Stay Focused
Remember Occam’s razor? It’s a philosophy that says “the simplest answer is most likely the correct one.” When looking at your business, apply Occam’s razor to decisions. If something is truly tactical, delegate it. If it’s not a differentiator, outsource or partner to get it. At BookRenter, we outsourced all of our fulfillment, warehousing and book logistics. There are companies with a tremendous amount of experience there. We aren’t going to win on logistics, but outsourcing it allows us to focus more intently on what is going to make us win.
2. Stop Thinking and Start Doing
Don’t get caught up in writing the perfect business plan. It is impossible to plan every scenario you will face and it is more important to start executing and learning as you scale. Most startups these days are launched on a PowerPoint Deck with high-level strategies and plans. For more on writing these modern day plans read this.
One of the biggest advantage startups have are their ability to disrupt markets and shift as market conditions change or new business opportunities arise. Often new markets change rapidly and you want to be positioned to take advantage of the change. Staying nimble will be one of your greatest advantages.
3. Make Sure To Balance
Take time off from work; yes, don’t be afraid to vacation. It helps you think and stay creative. Think about ways you can work smarter and not simply harder or longer hours. Just because you are working doesn’t mean you’re winning. Step back and constantly evaluate if you are executing on the right things for your business. Stop and think, “Does this really matter to my company winning?”
As you scale up, make sure to stay engaged with your business from a day-to-day perspective, but also find time for yourself to unwind. Pick an activity, hobby, or passion that lets you have time for yourself. It will improve your attitude and energy. The founder of Kinkos Paul Orfalea has a saying that goes, “Stay on top of your business, not in it!” This means you need to make sure you are not so caught up in the details of your day-to-day operations. If this happens, you lose track of strategic opportunities and overall market conditions that will have large impacts on your company. For more you can read this book.
4. Be Irrationally Optimistic
Every successful startup needs one person that believes in the company no matter what happens and that person is usually the founder. Founders always drive the business and are its soul. Other team members will look at the founder and founding team when times get tough or the company is faced with adversity.
Also, make sure to invest some of your own money in your business. It will show confidence to other investors in later rounds. It will also help you make smarter decisions since your own money is at play.
As you scale up your business always choose success over control. Starting a company is all about your business and NOT you. Ego will kill your company and is one of the fastest causes for a business to struggle. As you frame decisions, always ask the question, “What’s the best outcome for my company’s success?”
5. Don’t Forget The Passion
Have fun with your coworkers. Remember you’re not working for “The Man” for a reason. Have frequent company outings and get togethers. Set milestones for your company and recognize your wins and successes with team celebrations. Everyone works to make money but just as important, employees want to feel appreciated.
From the very beginning, get close to your customer and make sure to use your service or product frequently. It will help improve your process and identify problems early on. Don’t forget to continually do this as you grow. And always take pride in your company and tell everyone you can, after all, you never know whom you will sit next to on a plane!