Editor’s Note: Each week, Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: For the past five years I’ve been running a business from home. Now I’m looking for investors to turn my website into something bigger, including running it out of an office. What can you tell me about running a small business?–Founder and CEO of a growing website
First, congratulations on running your own business for five years. I hope it is successful.
It sounds as if you are starting to look for investment money. Remember, investors who like internet solutions and are in the consumer space are looking for significant traction and growth potential (they want to see growth in numbers of users, in adoption, in time spent on the app/platform, etc.). They will also expect you to have a clear vision of what you’re doing and where it is going. Have clarity on all of this before approaching anyone.
It is significantly different to go from being a sole proprietor to running an office with employees. In any company, there needs to be a strategy, a product or a service, goals, a budget, and a culture. And when you have people working with you, all of that has to be communicated.
You will also have to hire people to help you execute your vision and grow–and that’s hard. When you start out, you are probably only looking to hire a few people, not an army. With a small team, it’s critical to get only the very best players, but too many founders see that as intimidating. That thinking needs to be changed: Founders need to play offense instead of defense. It’s all about attitude. Operate from mind-set that demonstrates what you are building is very rare and special, and you are offering a once-in-a-lifetime, ground-floor opportunity to those who are qualified to participate. Also, here is some advice I have for the kinds of people you should be looking for when you start to build a company:
Don’t be swayed by big names. Just because somebody works for a great company doesn’t mean that they are great or will be right for your startup. There is a big difference between being on the bus at a great company and someone who is driving the bus. There are also great talents out there who don’t always work for brand-name companies.
Pay extra attention to those with a “chip on their shoulder.” The best hires often have something to prove–and are motivated by a profound desire to excel in their jobs.
Rule out people motivated mostly by money. If your candidate is focused on a high salary, you should be questioning whether or not he or she is the right fit. (Being motivated by equity is a different story, as that’s tied to performance and demonstrates a belief in the company.)
Now, how do you get them to stay with you?
Be the best place to work. Be the place people are clamoring to join. That’s about what is being accomplished, what is being learned, and how well people are treated.
Have huge aspirations. Be inspirational with what you are trying to accomplish.
Be humble. You can’t ever stop trying to get better.
Be fun to hang with. Care about your people. Treat anyone you bring on like a family member. When former employees look back on their career, you want them to think that yours was the best and most fulfilling job they ever had.
Is it difficult to go from working on your own to having others work for you? Absolutely. But it’s also fun (and terrifying at same time). It’s just like caring for a baby. You are excited about the idea, but there are times when everything turns to poop and you’re constantly up in the middle of the night. You are going to be tired and frustrated, but also fulfilled beyond anything you could have imagined.