Blinds.com CEO Jay Steinfeld gives the inside story on how he built a business that attracted the home improvement chain.
They say that love is color blind, but in my case I think love might actually be orange. This month, my company Blinds.com was acquired by Home Depot.
The experience has been the stuff entrepreneurial dreams are made of--from the early days of working in my garage at night to the exciting welcome of Home Depot's CEO into a 150+ person crowd of safety orange-wearing Blinds.com employees.
While it's hard to fully explain the hours of hard work (although I bet you know all about that already), the failures and the happy moments along the way since 1996, here are some takeaways that helped us get where we are today:
Build Something of Value and They will Come
What's interesting about our acquisition is that we were not (in any way) trying to be purchased. Instead of wringing our hands over attracting a potential corporate suitor, we were busy having a blast building a company of inherent value with a focus on continuous improvement and incredible customer experiences.
It's all about the value: things like knowing and supplying what your customers need, understanding how to be the best partner to your vendors, being an active participant in your community, providing the very best kind of workplace in which your employees can grow. Be the best-in-class organization that contributes in a meaningful way.
A.B.R.--Always Be Reaching
What are you reaching for today? What are the BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) that make your team excited to go to work in the morning and hungry for the next big opportunity?
I have always run the business with the idea that Blinds.com could go public someday. My team put in the processes, policies, and governance in place to make the transition to being a public corporation as seamless as possible--even though it wasn't officially on the immediate corporate roadmap yet.
Even during months of negotiations, we ran the business as if none of it was happening. The team moved forward with an aggressive strategic plan as they would any other year, with regular reminders to anticipate and celebrate change as it arrived. Even when we got closer to a definitive agreement, we maintained our plans as if the deal wasn't going to happen.
This is definitely our company culture at work; my team is always working on something big--so when the acquisition was finalized, it was just another new exciting chapter in our ongoing story.
Condition your team to not just accept and embrace change, but also to expect and seek change and relentlessly prepare for it. After that, anything that comes--no matter how thrilling or huge for your business--becomes matter of fact from an operational and emotional perspective. When you are constantly reaching, you are prepared to take on any opportunity. Even better, you become disappointed when change does not occur.
This ongoing reach is a group mindset that takes a substantial amount of work and buy-in from your team and, quite candidly, isn't one that everyone can handle. When you are hiring or looking internally for employees to promote, the ability to enthusiastically keep running towards a sometimes uncertain target is an essential employee personality trait. Don't settle for anything less.
Pay No Mind to the 'Law of Attraction'
You've heard about the "Law of Attraction"--the belief that you can physically manifest your desires through focused thought.
I'm personally more into the "Law of Giving" (yes, I just made that up), which is the idea that when you are focused on building up the world around you, whether they are employees, community members or customers, you leave yourself open to great opportunity. Even that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you didn't know you should be thinking about or attempting to attract.
While profitability is important to me as a CEO, that's not how I define my success as a leader. My greatest measure of success is the success of those around me. This attitude has trickled throughout my organization and grown a culture of more empathetic and other-oriented employees on both the customer and the co-worker side of office life.
If you're completely focused on ways you can add value and improve others' lives and experiences with your brand, others will find it inspiring and want to follow. Find that "giving zone" and run in it.
Are you looking for the next big acquisition, business partner, or round of funding? Build something of value, always be reaching today with an eye on tomorrow, and focus less on attracting what you want and more on giving what is needed. Best of luck! Now get busy.
JAY STEINFELD is the founder and CEO of Blinds.com, the industry leader in online window covering sales, representing over half of window treatments sold online and doing more than $100 million in sales annually. @BlindscomCEO