Startup Founders: You Must Be Able to Identify Your Weaknesses

Peter Hepner

April 30, 2013 · 3 minutes read

Uncategorized

If you are reading this missive, chances are you are either a fellow entrepreneur or a life insurance agent looking for your next client.  Assuming you are not the latter, maybe you are thinking about starting your own venture; or maybe you’ve already taken the leap of faith and founded your own business.  If you are one of the lucky ones, you have developed your idea, executed its proof of concept, and are now actually making money.

The question is: How did you get here?

Prior to founding my company, Purchasing Platform, I spent a significant amount of time proving the concept and developing a business plan.  With all my due diligence, I knew I had a solid business concept.  My challenge was being honest with myself and identifying my own shortcomings.  This can be a difficult process for many entrepreneurs, as the core of our being is excelling at all facets of running a business.  But, the reality is we cannot do it all well and there are always things we do better than others.

Purchasing Platform brings cost efficiency to the real estate industry; an industry where I’ve spent more than fifteen years.  I know the other companies in the space, how they operate, and what they need to run efficiently and successfully.  When they have the time or internal bandwidth, a typical real estate operator enters into agreements with 20-40 different vendors, providing anything from office supplies to vehicles.

Each agreement requires the products or services be procured in a variety of ways, and the property manager is required to remember the process in each instance.  Some might be through the internet, and others using traditional paper catalogs.  The end result is a patchwork of vendors, contracts, and purchasing venues—a mess. This process needed to be 100% web-based, consolidated, and simplified.  My experience in the real estate industry allowed me the ability to identify the products necessary for operating properties, negotiating attractive deals with vendors, and developing a wide array of clients.  This was a great start for my business; however, it was not enough to get the company off the ground.  I lacked extensive e-commerce and web development experience, which were both essential to establishing our platform.

As much as I like to think I can do everything, I had to (just like any other entrepreneur) be honest with myself.  The smartest person in the world is not the person that knows the most, but rather, the person that has access to the most knowledge.  It’s not always what or even who you know that makes you successful, but the people with whom you surround yourself.  I needed to hire one or multiple people to compliment my knowledge set, better allowing me to focus on the things I know and do best.

To fill the e-commerce void, I tapped an industry veteran, Brad Kreutz.  He helped with everything from managing domains and finances, to providing guidance on the type of technology we should use to build our web platform.  His prior involvement with multiple e-commerce businesses proved to be invaluable as we looked to fill the second void: web development.  We jointly decided to outsource that aspect of the business rather than hiring a person or two in-house that might have strengths in one or two areas, but were lacking in others.  We wanted an agency that excelled in design, marketing, front-end, and back-end development.

After interviewing close to 40 agencies around the world, we ultimately chose a shop in our own backyard: Doejo.  Doejo was a capable agency on all fronts, helping us with everything, from the development of our web platform to creating a social media and PR strategy.  As an added benefit, we were (and still are) able to visit their office and meet face-to-face with the folks doing the actual work whenever necessary.

As I reflect back on the evolution of my business, I am certain I would not have gotten to this point had I not identified my strengths and weaknesses, looking to fill my weaknesses with external talent.  A good idea may come from an individual, but more often than not, a team is necessary for its execution.  If you want your business to be successful, challenge yourself, be honest with yourself, surround yourself with talent, and watch success find you.

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