There’s never a good time to get married, have a baby, start a business or expand a business — you just have to go for it, said Scott Case, CEO of the Startup America Partnership.
He kicked off The New York Times Small Business Summit with that advice and many more words of wisdom for startup founders and small-business owners who want to take their companies to the next level.
Take time out. The life of an entrepreneur is a busy, hectic one, but you can’t let yourself get so busy with tasks that you don’t have a moment to think, Case said. He recommended scheduling an hour of “white space” each week during which you shut out all distractions and take time to think about the world and where it’s going.
Network. “Networking is vital to your business,” Case said. “You cannot do without it.
“We’re often so heads down in creating our companies that we forget to be heads up about building a network.”
A lot of people are uncomfortable with networking, but that’s no excuse. If you’re one of them, Case said, you need to “suck it up, get over it and get out there” because valuable customers and talented employees are not going to come from your marketing efforts; “they’ll come from people one degree away” from you.
Use social media. When Case asked, many summit attendees raised their hands to admit to being afraid of using social media. They were quickly told that fear isn’t an option.
With social media, as with networking, you have to get past the fear and discomfort. “If you’re comfortable, you’re not doing it right,” Case said. “Expose yourself to new ideas” and things that are out of your comfort zone.
This is important because if you aren’t using social media, you can be sure that your competitors are, Case said. And, as American Express OPEN President Susan Sobbott said later, “businesses that use the Web are growing 15% faster than those that do not. That’s the reality now.”
If you really have no idea what you’re doing, find people who do and hire them or get them to teach you, Case said. Besides, it’s really not as hard as you think. “If you’ve bought something on Amazon, you can put something on YouTube.”
Commit to growth. There’s nothing wrong with not scaling your business, but if that’s what you want to do, you’ve got to commit to it, Case said.
Once you’ve committed, you’re going to have to change the way you do things to make the business expand, he said. You will have to let go and stop micromanaging; find someone to take care of the day-to-day while you focus on growth.
Manage your talent. As you build your company, you should always be on the lookout for extraordinary people, Case said. That way, when you need them, you’ll know where to find them fast.
Once you have employees, part of your job is to develop them, he said. Pinpoint the high-potential people on your team, and find out their goals. Then spend time developing those whose goals align with your business’.
Do business with other entrepreneurs. Most entrepreneurs like to help other entrepreneurs, Case said. Startups will work harder for your business than anyone else, so you should look for opportunities to work with them.