Looking back to when you started your first business – how did you know when you had the right idea?
I don’t think I ever felt like I had the “right idea”. Mostly, I listened to my clients, and in turn, they provided the “right ideas”. Customer feedback is probably the most important ingredient when trying to develop a successful product. Moreover, I think that in the technology business there are no lasting “right ideas”. The right idea of today may not necessarily work tomorrow. It is also important to grasp a good understanding of where the industry is heading in both the near term and the distant future, and this will provide you with a path to your next “right idea”.
What has been your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I love the challenge of staying at the forefront of an ever-changing industry. As an innovator (all entrepreneurs are innovators) I enjoy the process of bringing new ideas to life. Also, the boss has no dress code.
What advice would you offer someone who is starting their first business?
Starting your first business can be overwhelming. There are so many daunting issues to face: product development, marketing, intellectual property and obviously financing just to mention a few. As a software developer, I think one advice I can provide is: Do not take too long to launch a product. Yes, focus on developing a great product, but take version 1.0 to market ASAP. Then listen to your customers’ feedback and follow up with endless incremental enhancements.
How did you go about building a customer base for your early ventures?
My co-founder and I placed a small ad in a local newspaper showcasing our products. This ad generated a few leads which we followed. We then traveled to each customer site and demonstrated our products. We sold them all. After that, we did a lot of cold-callings and attended industry trade shows and conferences. This was 40 years ago and I’m not sure if this approach would work today.
What habits and/or mindsets have helped you succeed as a business owner?
Positive attitude, self-motivation, and vision. There are so many challenges facing an entrepreneur that having a positive attitude is a crucial ingredient for success. Self-motivation is also key to running a successful company. Finally, the ability to stay focused on the “big picture” – Is the company headed in the right direction? Where do we need to be tomorrow, in 5 years?