How to build a successful company
Today I had the opportunity to interview successful entrepreneur and business leader Ernie Bray of ACD. ACD is a technology and services provider for the auto insurance industry. He built his company into a fast growing firm that has gained awards such as multiple year rankings on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 5000 and Deloitte’s Tech Fast 500.
What I wanted to find out for readers is what is it like to bootstrap and build a company without any outside investment and actually grow it successfully. We all hear about start ups receiving funding and burning through cash but this was a different approach and here’s what I found out.
How did you get your idea?
Well, I had worked in the auto insurance sector for about eight years prior to ACD. I saw an industry that was so behind in technology and ripe for innovation. The claims process was very paper centric and vast amounts of valuable data wasn’t even being captured. As we all know today, data have tremendous value. With that in mind, I knew that digitizing the process was huge opportunity. I’d tell people who are thinking about starting a company to think about what you know already and how can you build something off of that.
How hard is it to bootstrap a company?
You have to be willing to invest in your idea and trust your gut. There’s a lot more to be said when you put your own personal money on the line. Good money management is essential and you have be able to forgo paying yourself and reinvest much right back into the company. I’d say that reinvesting money back is vital when bootstrapping. Too many people see the first profits and think, wow!, I’ve made it. In reality it’s just the starting point.
Since you are not selling products to the general public, how to you market business to business?
Marketing b2b is a little different that to regular consumers. When it comes to social media, we’ve found that LinkedIn has the best results. You also have to look at your business in the frame of your niche market and where your customers are going to be. Attending core industry functions, getting involved in industry trade groups and becoming a thought leader by writing and providing value to prospective clients goes a long way. You have to really believe in what you do as a company. Every day I get up excited about doing something great in my industry.
What would you say you attribute to your success?
I ‘d say that the biggest thing that has been key is that I am intensely focused on really doing something great in my industry. I truly want to bring new innovative technology to clients and by focusing on that, success follows. It’s about really getting in there every day and asking yourself what you can do to move your company forward.
What advice do you have for those starting out?
Of course business is about being profitable and I know it may sound strange but don’t focus on just making money. Focus on doing amazing work on your product or service. If you focus on delivering quality and value and do it with an intense focus you have a better chance at success. You really have to truly believe in what you are doing.
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