Startup Lessons From the Trenches

When a startup team clicksI launched ConnXus, a business to help connect minority-owned business to Fortune 2000 companies, four years ago with the help of a small team of loyal and dedicated people. Soon after moving beyond the point of early product development and validation in 2012, came more tough work.

We focused on attracting early customers; raising capital; hiring talent; improving products; and ramping up business development, operations and customer service.

Back then, we were a team of a few doing the work of many, with very limited resources. But we were getting the job done. We were a team of “doers.” It was all about execution. In those early days, as CEO and founder of the company, I was involved in everything from strategy and product development, to marketing and sales, to accounting and raising capital (so that we didn’t run out of cash).

That execution paid off. I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished since launching our complete supplier diversity management solution a few years ago.

Today, in addition to attracting a base of enterprise customers that represent a who’s who of the Fortune 500, we’ve raised more than $2 million in investor capital and have grown to 13 employees, who have helped us achieve triple-digit revenue growth and zero customer churn.

As we now start to scale the business to the next stage of growth, we’re quickly evolving from a team of doers to a company of leaders with accountability for the company’s success. I still recall when we landed that first big customer without any involvement from me. That now happens routinely. This is just one of many examples of how our culture of leadership and accountability is positioning ConnXus for the long term.

While we will recruit more leaders to our team in the months and years ahead, it is great to see so many of our early employees thriving in this rapidly changing environment.

A mentor once told me that, “As a leader your job is to hire people smarter than you and create an environment where they can do their best work.”

This could prove to be the best entrepreneurial advice I’ve ever received. During this journey, I realize that our ability to attract the best people is critical to our long-term success.

Editor’s note: The original version of this post appeared on LinkedIn on Dec. 12, 2014.

 

 

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