In my 14 years as CEO and Founder of RGVision, “Steady as she goes.” is a phrase I have become accustomed to in leading a successful business during some rough patches in recent years.
That nautical phrase I read in sea odysseys as captains would navigate ships through treacherous storms at sea to calm the crew. In business, leaders must do what they can to keep the ship on course during rough courses. And be careful of outliers, which I would analogize here as the sirens of the sea.
If you are an entrepreneur or founder, you may have been tempted by these “sirens” in the business world calling for rapid growth and scaling to meet that “B$” number. This article may be useless if you have already set your navigation to meet that “number” to the investors you have pitched to back your idea. And I wish you luck on your journey!
Ah, “The Journey.” Before going further, let’s identify that. In business, I believe the journey should be just as important, if not more important, than the destination. Over the past two decades, the tech industry has transformed the mindset on how we think about business valuation and entrepreneurship. Scaling up with high-tech and low-asset-heavy business models has shown to be highly enticing for most venture capitalists in the past. An exciting time for entrepreneurs looking to ride that wave of growing a business and selling it off for that x-factor, providing high alpha for the investors willing to take on the risk with those entrepreneurs. This rapid growth is good for multiple reasons, BUT there are far fewer unicorns than good sustainable business models reaching steady profit margins that no one hears about in the news today.
I have come across many good companies with great leaders impacting our local economy whose stories still haven’t been told. Those untold business stories provide:
- High-demand job security.
- Quality of life.
- Positive culture.
- A Legacy.
- A concentration on Environmental, Social, and Governance while paying out great returns.
- Continued annual recurring revenue and historical positive profit margins.
When I started RGVision publications, my goal was to shine a light on those untold success stories and compliment a region lacking representation. RGVision magazine’s recent cover story features Matts Cash and Carry, a local building supplier. Last year, they went through a catastrophic event as their primary location burned down in the middle of the Covid pandemic. As one of the leading distributors for local builders with 50-plus employees, this impacted the local economy. One year later, they have risen from the ashes and are looking to be stronger than before, with the full support of the community, employees, and customers.
Matt’s leadership, who’s gone through a bad storm, is now rallying the crew, building back what has been wrecked to stay on course in their journey. There is no substitute for hard work and pulling yourself up from the bootstraps during times like this. It takes time to build something that will last, and that understanding must come from leadership that is committed to the task. This unwavering commitment is seen in most small to medium size companies because the CEOs are, in most companies, the founders. That is what I love about entrepreneurship.
Before you think about starting any business, I highly recommend a deep understanding of the journey towards the destination you are trying to reach. And the goal must mean something far more significant than a number for an exit strategy to reach the level of success you want. Sustainability in growing a business has many success factors, which may mean many different things to many people. And there are tradeoffs to consider as well. Once you identify that, stay focused on that destination without being swayed by the outliers in business. Those outliers are the sirens of the sea and could, at times, throw you off course, enticed by their success. Your startup is unique and special, so be sure to take it steady and stay on course. The journey could be more rewarding than the destination with your crew!