“Wow, 19 years. That’s impressive.”
Since passing the milestone of 19 successful years in business last month, many people have said something similar to the above expression. Actually, I have heard that often this time of year for several years in a row now. It’s taken me a long time to accept that compliment, but I think I have finally gotten to that point this year.
It has been an incredible journey, and one that I am proud of even while I also recognize there is still a lot more that we want to do.
The thing is, many people newer to the entrepreneurship scene are led to expect a very different trajectory by those involved on the sidelines for a long time. I’m not trying to be overly critical; I understand that an effective way to get people excited about something is to talk about all of the “sexy” stories about exceptional successes and leave out the dull, average experiences. If you don’t take this approach, you might not ignite a passion, right? But… this approach might also bias peoples’ understanding about what to expect when pursuing an entrepreneurial venture. Our success certainly has looked nothing like that rocket ship that we were told to expect…
From my perspective, most everyone getting into entrepreneurship is told to expect one of two scenarios. The exponential, “hold on for your dear life” growth curve, or the rapid “go down in flames, but earn the scars that will make you stronger for the next venture” failure. Our nineteen years of success definitely does not fit into either of those two scenarios! We did not have to abandon our personal lives to build a business. We did not take extreme risks. We did not follow a secret formula for success. And we definitely did not “disrupt” or “transform” any market or industry. But yet, here we are. And I think it is correct to call it success.
If my last statement resonates with you, I do have some advice. Here are three things Mike and I have done that have contributed to our nineteen successful years in business:
- Be Flexible: When Mike and I first started Bio::Neos, we had a completely different idea of what we were going to do. Much like many startups, we pivoted… hard. However, it doesn’t stop with those early pivots. Over the years, we have tweaked and changed things as we learned more about what clients we want to serve and how we best want to partner with other researchers, educators, and health providers. Honestly, I would advise you to keep this flexible mindset indefinitely. Flexibility will enable you to adapt to changes, send the right messages, and stay relevant. For example, we have only adopted new messaging to describe our services as recent as this last year! We now know that we are Scientific Technology Architects, and embracing that mindset ensures we are bringing the highest value to our clients.
- Build a Great Team: It is not a surprise to anyone that a solid team is the foundation of any successful business. Some of our success can definitely be attributed to our team. Everyone brings something different to the table, and each has a unique interest and passion for using software to help our clients. The part I think many entrepreneurs struggle with is the “how”. I’d suggest that when you are looking to create or expand your team, accomplishments on a resume are notable but shouldn’t be the only focus. As we have grown, we have found that looking for culture fits and people who we know will mesh well with the team is a good first step, but it is also important (and harder) to seek out those culture adds. These are people who add something creative and unique to a team. Not only does this promote objectivity in the hiring process, but it also helps create a more inclusive environment. And I am a big believer that the most diverse perspectives will come together with the most innovative and exciting solutions. So the hard work to find those culture adds will pay off if you choose to do it.
- Keep Learning: My most critical piece of advice for future entrepreneurs would be to keep an open mind and be willing to learn from others, always. We have used more established opportunities, like the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program, for more structured education around successfully growing a small business. But we also learn from other business owners, the entire Bio::Neos team, our connections in our network, and all of our technology partners. Discernment is important to know what will work best with your team and your business, but don’t hesitate to take as much advise and suggestions as you go. You still get to make the final decision (it is your business after all) but you never know when you are going to learn something amazing that might radically enhance your perspective.
So there you have it. I hope my short advice is useful to anyone that wants to pursue an entrepreneurial venture but has been intimidated by the advice they have heard so far. If you want to talk one-on-one about the details of your particular venture, let me know, I am always interested in helping other entrepreneurs.
Despite hearing, and believing, that same scary advice when we started (“we are either going to make millions and retire early or flame out and then try it again!”), we have taken a different course and persisted. I do think if someone had told me 20 years ago that we didn’t have to expect one of two extremes — it would have taken some pressure off and maybe that alone would actually have helped us speed things up. Regardless, I couldn’t be happier and prouder of our journey, and I can’t wait to see what else we can do! Thanks for reading.