Why Start a Business At All?
According to Roald Dahl, “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” I couldn’t agree more.
Ever since I was a kid growing up in rural Sweden, one of my goals has been to start a business. When I first met my wife, I told her that, even if I failed in my endeavor to start a business, at least I’d be able to look myself in the mirror when I reached retirement age without having the regret of not having tried.
Millions of people spend their careers working through the systems and hierarchies of large corporations, which might feel comfortable for them, but not for me. After almost 14 years working for global brands like Ericsson, Nokia and Cisco, an idea began to germinate and I was determined to give it a go.
The Trigger Moment
It is crucial to be on the constant look-out for this “trigger:” your idea for a new venture. This will not necessarily be obvious to you when it happens, but you’ll realise it as you analyse your thoughts on a subject--it can be the frustration, elation, or disappointment you feel when you look at the world (or industry) around you. Don’t just be annoyed by it; turn it into something useful and channel it into an idea which may turn into your next venture.
In the Spring of 2008, I found myself sitting in my car at an industrial estate car park in west London. The skies were gray and the rain was pouring down. I had just completed a grueling meeting with a procurement manager at a medium sized telco who was squeezing us to get his annual maintenance bill down. Why? No reason apart from the fact he couldn’t see the value in this “insurance policy.” It was clear they felt they were pouring money into the proverbial black hole of IT and no “value selling techniques” could have saved my day. IT had become a boring utility with no purpose.
This was my trigger moment. I realised I was out of love with the industry I had been part of since 1995 when I joined an Ericsson/HP joint venture in Stockholm after university.
For me to stay in the IT industry and be motivated, I had to find a new purpose.
Throughout 2008, more and more coverage around something called the cloud appeared in the trade press. It was generally undefined and no common understanding existed at the time. IaaS/PaaS/SaaS was still some ways away and even in 2009, McKinsey’s view was that 22(!) definitions of the cloud existed. I felt there was something to it, though, and continued to investigate the space. That’s when I came across this press release. Two days later, James and I met for lunch and we discussed the impact of Google Apps in the workplace and the opportunity to start a new business in a new space. We talked about liberating all enterprises - both small and large - from the shackles of IT equipment, software and traditional maintenance models. The ground for Cloudreach had been broken.
This was my second trigger. I had felt it already a year earlier that “something’s got to give,” but wasn’t sure how to channel it. The Google Apps reseller programme was exactly the trigger that tipped us into action.
You start a business because you have it in you and because you are passionate about your idea. Want money? Play the lottery. It’s less painful with similar odds. To build a successful business, you must be determined to make it work because you want to change your industry for the better. Starting a business is deeply passionate.
Will People Care?
When ideating your future business, put yourself in the end-user’s shoes. “Would I care about this business or product? Why would I choose you over someone else?”
Simon Sinek’s "Start With The Why" is not just one of the best TED Talks of all time, but also the core inspiration for us at Cloudreach. A clear and meaningful purpose was as critical to our success as our initial business plan. It’s important to note, however, that defining this purpose on a company level is difficult.
After some soul searching, Cloudreach concluded that our purpose, from our customers’ perspective, is to help them enable innovation through the use of cloud technologies, and that’s been our purpose ever since. But, arguably, the more important purpose to define is that of our team. What gets them out of bed every morning to help Cloudreach deliver for our customers?
After much thought and reflection, the answer lies in the organization’s external purpose. Here’s why: if your company was created for the right reasons and is operating based on the passion to create something new and unique, your employees will buy into this purpose. People wanted to join the “cause.” We were creating something that literally changed the IT industry as we knew it. Forever. This has been our purpose from the beginning, even if we didn’t spell it out, and that’s what primarily drew people in.
Next in my ‘Starting Your Own Company’ Series: breaking convention and building a foundation based on your core beliefs!