Paul Schwartz, CEO/Co-Founder, Thermolift
ThermoLift: Jumping off the Cliff; Life as the CEO of a Startup
Paul Schwartz, CEO/Co-Founder, ThermoLift
Ready, Set, Go!
Congratulations, you’ve just launched your new startup company… and there are a host of questions that need to be answered. Are your goals outlined on paper? Do you have a team of qualified and excited professionals on board? Does your company possess a unique selling proposition? Are you passionate about your product and willing to work 24/7/365 to ensure its success? Can you take “no, no, no” at hundreds of business meetings before you hear your first “yes”? Have you committed yourself to the most challenging role in business: CEO?
You will always have questions, so that is no reason to hesitate. Instead, make a firm commitment to your journey… walk to the edge of the cliff… and leap into the unknown. Embrace the risk, the uncertainty, and the potential rewards that come with taking your first step. Welcome to the world of the startup!
Becoming a CEO
As the CEO, you are the captain, the energetic cheerleader and the money raiser. That is YOUR job. The engineers, scientists and salespeople behind you will each have to carry their individual loads; it will be up to you to oversee, motivate and manage them. Each day will present you with new and different challenges. Remember, you’ve stepped off that cliff… you’re falling… and your focus must be on where you will land. There is really only one option: successfully reaching your objective.
In any field there are common threads for success. My 20 years of personal experience in raising capital for companies at all stages of development provide me with an understanding of the unique areas in which early-stage companies need to concentrate their focus.
#1 - Build your network, make new friends, and find your A1 List – Find a champion from an incubator: an industry executive other than yourself who shares a passion for your project. Interview for the right attorney, someone who can provide you with excellent legal advice, a network to capital and the proper guidance. Develop an accounting relationship with a firm that understands your business and your needs. Each of these resources must have the credentials necessary to attract a following, and you must build on that base every day. This is your A1 list, your trusted advisors (Build a database and maintain it).
#2 – Build an exciting deck – Not a go-to-bed PowerPoint, but a mind-blowing deck that will generate excitement. Put your passion into the first page – you have to suck in the readers and open their eyes. Otherwise, your deck goes into the not-to-read-now pile… and never finds its way out.
#3 – Do not be afraid to invest time/money in industry exposure – Attend the relevant conferences and trade shows and make both yourself and your company well known. Prepare before you attend each conference, check the speaker list, track their bios, and identify those who can best help you grow. During those short few days, work hard to learn the state-of-the-art from your industry’s leaders. Immediately, you gain new contacts and your second level of future advocates – the A2 List.
#4 – Find an incubator – Join it immediately, get your deck out there, show up early every day, and network everyone, every chance you get. If you mine for opportunity in an environment of like-minded entrepreneurs, you may be surprised how quickly you may strike gold.
Okay, it’s been a few weeks/months keep your focus stay on track. Perhaps no one is knocking down your door as yet, but you do have a few warm leads for capital/partners/new team members/advocates and capital investment. Take this time to work intensively with your team and review your technology, research your market and competitors, and keep the engine of your business alive. Don’t hesitate to make use of the closest and most influential advocates on your team. They have the knowledge you need to succeed. LISTEN and hear their wisdom, follow-up, and always be on time. Wake up each morning feeling that this is the day, because for a startup, every day is the day.