TECHNOLOGY

A Necessary Trait for Successful Founders: Maturity

Industry leaders may be intuitive, innovative, and able to handle risks, but real success requires them to be mature.
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We’ve all heard stories about the early start-up days of well-known tech companies like Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. In the case of Facebook, it even became the Academy Award-winning movie The Social Network. In each success story, the young founders defied insurmountable odds to not only launch a rapidly growing business, but achieve more than any other company in their field.

These high-profile founders served as inspiration for other would-be entrepreneurs, including three former high school buddies from central Indiana. This trio had a dream to create a thriving tech company dedicated to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which involves helping deserving brands achieve top organic rankings on search engines like Google. At the time, SEO was still fairly unchartered territory—as new as personal computers, operating systems and social media were to those previously mentioned tech founders.

In every new sector of the tech world, a company emerges as the leader. The three young visionaries saw no reason why they couldn’t be leaders in SEO. Nearly five years later, their company Slingshot SEO has emerged as one of the fastest growing, most innovative companies in the SEO space as a result of the founders’ vision and persistence–and, of course, the hard work of all those they’ve hired.

Webster defines “entrepreneur” as “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” Wikipedia takes the definition a step further by stating “an entrepreneur is an owner or manager of a business enterprise who makes money through risk and initiative.”

Personally, I like the latter explanation because it takes more than just risk. Initiative and ingenuity fuel the fire of entrepreneurial success.  Every new business must morph in some manner during its early years to survive and thrive. Try morphing anything without initiative and ingenuity and failure is probably not far behind!

You could say I’m a bit biased, but I also may be in the best vantage point to state an opinion on the extent of the initiative and ingenuity of Slingshot’s three founders. You see, Aaron, Jeremy and Kevin rose above being SEO geeks as their business started to rapidly grow. An increasing number of their decisions revolved around critical administrative matters such as hiring, managing, financing and orchestrating fast-moving expansion — leaving them less time to properly address their area of expertise — navigating ever-changing search engine algorithms.

Ironically, they had been dealing with those complex algorithms for nearly 15 years, but the increasingly challenging business management decisions were brand new to them. This is where they showed business maturity and some entrepreneurial initiative to explore a novel yet logical solution to aid them with management issues.

They agreed to secure the services of a new CEO with significant experience in addressing those complex issues. I was honored to be the chosen “experienced” leader to help navigate the current and future issues so the three founders could focus on what they do best: technical innovation.

If the answer is so logical, then why do we so seldom see rapidly growing organizations explore this solution? I believe the answer can be expressed in a single word–maturity.

Only those with a truly mature business mindset can honestly evaluate both their strengths and potential weaknesses then have the bold confidence to act upon them. I urge any of you running new businesses to look in the mirror and conduct your own internal analysis. It might be just the catapult your business needs to make it to the next level.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Dec 7, 2011

JAY LOVE | Columnist | CEO, Slingshot SEO

Jay Love, a respected technology entrepreneur, joined Slingshot SEO, No. 58 on the 2011 Inc. 500 list, in August 2011 as chief executive officer.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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