8 Building Blocks for a Small Business
Morris Tabush, an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member from New York, is the founder a president of Tabush Group, a successful cloud computing, technology solutions and IT company focused on serving small businesses. We asked Morris what it would take for a small business to be able to grow and reach the next level of success.
Ever since my parents bought our first family computer back when I was a kid, I have been passionate about technology and assisting others. Throughout high school and college, I often found myself helping friends and neighbors learn how to use computers. In 2000, between my junior and senior years of college, I turned what I was passionate about into a real business, officially becoming an entrepreneur. I worked from my dorm room, providing IT services to small companies.
When I graduated with a degree in information systems in 2001, the Dot-Com bust was still lingering and the IT job market was rough, so I figured I would just continue doing what I was passionate about. I put US$25,000 of money I had saved up into renting a small office, and I hired my first employee. At the time, I didn’t have a business plan, or any sort of advisor, mentor or coach. I just followed my heart and went for it. Sixteen years later, I am proud to say that company has grown to be very successful.
I’ve been fortunate to have learned a lot along my entrepreneurial journey. Here are eight building blocks for anyone starting a business:
- Get a mentor. Or a business advisor or a coach. It doesn’t have to be someone professional, just someone who can share experiences, be there to bounce ideas off of and tell you when you’re losing focus.
- Be clear in your mission. There’s a reason you started a business and left your job (or didn’t try to find a new one). Why are you doing this? Keep in mind that your personal mission and your company’s mission can be different, as long as they’re aligned and can coexist.
- Focus. You don’t have to have your exact focus from day one, and it’s OK if your company pivots a few times along the way. But you do need to always have a focus. I’ve seen some companies try to do too many things or service too many customers, and they lose focus. Even the largest companies do their best when they focus on certain things.
- The right clients are more important than the most clients. Up until 2011, our strategy had been to get the most clients, and do whatever they needed, to generate the most revenue. The problem was that we achieved all of this at the expense of quality, profit and sanity. The right clients will allow your company to do better work, build a better reputation, generate more profits and retain better employees.
- You can’t do it by yourself. No great company was built by one person alone. However talented you may be, you will need a great team to help you execute, deliver and do everything behind the scenes. Surround yourself with the best people you can find. Hire people who are smarter than you, and then step back and let them do their jobs. Also, treat them like they are your most valuable asset (hint: they are). By doing this, you will be able to focus on whatever it is you need to and not worry about what your team is doing. Remember, championships are won by teams, not athletes.
- Cash flow and financials are king! For years, I didn’t pay much attention to our financials. We were a startup, so I was able to know in my head every invoice we sent and expense we had, and I simply kept an eye on how much money we had in the bank account. It wasn’t until five years later that, at a friend’s suggestion, I hired a part-time CFO to look at our books and see why we were so busy but our profits hadn’t increased accordingly. After only one day, he showed me where we were making and losing money, what our receivables were costing us, and what we could do to improve this (it was easier than I thought). Since then, I’ve learned how important it is to pay attention to your numbers. If financials aren’t your strength, hire someone (full- or part-time) to get things straight for you.
- “Sales go up and down. Service lasts forever.” This quote was on a plaque that one of our client managers handed out in 2014, and it is self-explanatory. Regardless of how things may be going for us, we never let our service level slip one bit. By doing that, we’ve not only helped instill this value across our entire team, but also built up tremendous loyalty from our clients.
- Remember, you’re only human. In my first year, I kept getting down on myself for not scaling the business quicker (I was focused on growth). Then one day, a friend reminded me that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Things take time. We aren’t supposed to be perfect. Human beings make mistakes. It’s part of who we are, and, as long as you learn from them, it’s OK. Everyone will understand. Just don’t make them a second time.