You can’t do all the work in a startup yourself. In fact, it is impossible, and you absolutely have to scale. However, it is not all about people and employees, despite what common sense (or your gut) may tell you as a founder of a fresh company.
As a founder of his own company, and having worked with hundreds of startup organizations, Managing Director of Crescent Financial Partners, Russell Armstrong, has a few wise words for aspiring entrepreneurs.
I sat down with Russell to get his feedback on the best ways to build your business, organization, or brand in a way that is both smart and scalable.
talkTECH Communications: How important is human capital, and how much focus should be on the people in a startup organization?
Russell Armstrong: For a bootstrapped startup, it’s often challenging to find people who are willing to put in the hard work with little return. With current technology available, additional employees may actually be more of a hassle than simply holding on to your core team of co-founders and tackling problems yourself. But good people, and by good I mean effective, are hard to find…so if you find one, hang on tight and make them part of the startup process.
talkTECH Communications: Are tools are imperative for the scaling process?
Russell Armstrong: Build tools and products to do the work for you. Every single product in the world is a type of scale. Google and Facebook are incredibly automated, without which they would have employees in the hundreds of thousands. Consider the following quote from Yishan Wong, who worked with Facebook when it had <10M users:
“Today, a mere decade after the first dot-com boom, the web division of the New York Times uses more advanced technology and gets more done with fewer people than many of the original titans of Web 1.0. If your technology company today is a leader in anything, it is because it was likely started with the latest in tool technology. You will not retain this position without a culture that values an ongoing first-class investment in your internal tools, because if you don’t, not only will your competitors who do pass you by, so will the entire market.”
talkTECH Communications: With capital being so tight, what are your recommendations for startups looking for a little seed funding?
Russell Armstrong: One of the reasons I founded Crescent Financial Partners was because as an investment professional I see many entrepreneurs who don’t understand the investor-mindset. My recommendation is to make sure you have a solid business plan and funding documents that support your market position – and the passion and drive that it takes to see something through. Investors invest in good ideas that they believe will be profitable, but they also invest in the people behind the vision.
talkTECH Communications: Any organizations, besides Crescent Financial Partners of course, that would be helpful to an entrepreneur?
Russell Armstrong: Organizations such as TechStars (http://www.techstars.org/) specialize in mentoring young startups until they are prepared for venture capital.
talkTECH Communications: Can you say a little bit about social media and building community?
Russell Armstrong: Ahh, social media…can’t live with it, can’t live without it.
talkTECH Communications: Ok, so more specifically…how important is this in today’s landscape of crowd-sourcing and real-time everything.
Russell Armstrong: The ideas around building community aren’t exactly recent, although it might seem that way due to the rapid expanding influence of social media. Communities have been banding together for a long time to form countries, topple dictators, save the environment and so on. You absolutely must be a relevant part of this conversation, if anyone is going to care about you.
talkTECH Communications: So I assume this means you are a Tweeter?
Russell Armstrong: I can’t imagine anyone caring enough about my routine that I spend time providing people with daily or even hourly updates. I’ll leave the tweeting to my lovely wife, Mrs. Taylor Armstrong.
talkTECH Communications: Ah, nothing like some good old fashioned brand reputation management!
Russell Armstrong: Exactly.