From Garage to. .
Netpreneurs Discuss Growing Your Business, Your Way
5 Tips For Choosing Clients
Small businesses, like small groups, depend upon the
relationships between people for success. That's certainly true
of the employees on your team and your advisors, but also of
your clients and customers. For whatever reasons, if you choose
the wrong clients at the wrong time, they can torpedo your
efforts—and it may be more your fault than theirs.
1. Avoid clients who don't have a clear goal. They may
still pay you, but they'll drag you all over the map, and
sometimes with nothing to show for it.
2. Beware of unrealistic goals. Whether it's a
timeline, budget or other factor, if you’re not sure you can
deliver, don’t take the business. Walk away from it.
3. Make sure your personalities match. The goal is to
succeed, not butt heads. Don't minimize the importance of being
able to work together smoothly.
4. Avoid people with rigid, preset goals. Sure,
they're paying the bill and deserve good service, but
micro-managers are micro-managers, and it may be you who pays
5. Only use and agree to technology you can investigate
and work with. With so many claims being made, don't let
someone else commit you to the wrong tool for a job.
(Tysons Corner, VA -- April 20, 2000) With all the headlines about
venture money, IPOs and acquisitions, we sometimes forget that most
entrepreneurs are pursuing a less flashy route to their dreams.
Manageable, self-funded growth may not be the path of least
resistance, but it's the one most entrepreneurs follow for a variety
of reasons, not the least being the ability to build your business,
your way. In fact, the vast majority of companies never go public.
Slightly over 95% of them have less than $1 million in revenue, and
only about 4% are even in the $10-$12 million range.
This morning's Netpreneur
Coffee & DoughNets meeting focused on that more typical
entrepreneur who, with a dream and an idea, is an important engine in
this growing economy. The panel featured three self-funded netpreneurs,
all of whom started in a garage, home office or dorm room like most of
their colleagues. Each is now at a different stage along a path of
steady growth, and each sounded more like proud new parents than
stolid businesspeople. Speakers Layla
Masri, owner and Senior Creative Director of Bean
Martin, founder and President of LeapFrog
Solutions Inc.; and Patrick
McQuown, co-founder and President of Proteus,
offered insights, lessons learned and contagious excitement in
describing the paths they've followed in building a business of their
"This is our baby," beamed
Masri, who started Bean Creative with her husband as a sideline while
both were employed at another company. "We nurtured it. This is
our heart and soul in this business, and we got into doing it because
we wanted to do things our own way."
That's one of the main reasons all
three panelists are not actively searching for venture money or
acquisition right now, even though McQuown says he gets several calls
from VCs or possible buyers for Proteus a month. They're anything but
anti-growth, and they don't reject the idea out of hand, but they have
long-term goals for cultivating a going concern. LeapFrog Solutions
example, has expanded its concept of a home-based, "virtual"
alliance of marketing specialists to one that will soon include office
space. Like Proteus, it's getting noticed.
Said Martin, "When you get funded
you have control issues, and just because you get your first round of
funding doesn't mean that you are going to get your second round of
funding. I just want to be educated."
Control was a recurring theme, both in
avoiding its "dark sides," like micro-management and
stubbornness, but especially in the positive focus on managing
"Going into this," said
McQuown, "there was one cardinal rule that I knew I needed to
follow, and still follow to this day. I knew I needed to have more
money coming in than I had going out. I didn't need an MBA for
Like all netpreneurs, they have to run
at Internet speed, but that doesn't mean jumping at every seeming
opportunity or biting off more than they can chew.
No small business person can ever
afford to become a control freak. Their personal touch and ability to
adapt quickly are among the advantages they have over established
players. That means going the extra mile for customers, selecting and
relying upon the right professional advisors and, most importantly,
creating an environment to attract and retain the best employees.
"You have to make sure that you
are listening to what your team wants to do." Urged Martin,
"When you bring people on board that have a can-do attitude and
they see your vision just as clearly as you do—sometimes even more—you've
got to hear them out."
The panelists provided a wealth of
practical suggestions for netpreneurs seeking a similar path, from
recruiting, to culture, to managing virtual teams. "There are
different styles and approaches," commented Mary MacPherson,
Executive Director of Netpreneur.org in her wrap-up to the session,
"but there is clear consistency on the need to focus on your
people, hire people who complement you, focus on your customers,
manage the kind of work you bring in—and believe in yourself and
In addition, each panelist had their
own particular message to reinforce. For Martin it was the importance
of energetic networking to which she credited much of LeapFrog
Solution Inc.'s new
client acquisition. For Masri, it was the importance of "feeling
like a company"—displaying the ingenuity to seem bigger than
you are and roll with the punches. For McQuown it was the importance
of serendipity and personal reward.
"There is nothing more fun,"
said McQuown, "than starting your own business, being your own
boss and watching something grow."
Copyright © 2000, Morino Institute. All rights reserved.