Rules to Remember: Being a Start-Up’s MD
By David Allan – CYSIAM MD & CTO
So, what’s it really like to be the managing director of a small start-up company? Well, it’s been a lot of things; challenging, demanding, rewarding, eye-opening, to name a few and I’m sure other MD’s can agree with me on this. In the style of the film Zombieland, I’ve decided to share a few rules I would tell my younger self and maybe help a few others along the way….
Rule number 1: Create the pressure to succeed & use good stress to your advantage
Growing a business is a privilege; you are directly contributing to the economy in a very tangible way. Creating jobs, paying taxes and most importantly, providing the platform for talented people to develop into amazing professionals.
However, it is also stressful. We’ve started from scratch, with no investment, running a business without any sales, marketing, HR or finance team. You do everything. You find the clients, deliver the pitch, get knocked back, find another one, write proposals, win some work, relax for 5 minutes then go again, day in day out.
At the same time, you are looking for new recruits, trying to manage resources, proofread reports, design marketing materials, attend conferences, keep an eye on quality and so on, so on. In the early days, you simultaneously need to be focussing on the minute details and looking at the big picture; strategically, where is the business going?
It sounds stressful even recalling it, but one of the best things I have done was use that pressure and stress positively to drive CYSIAM forward to where we are today. If you have no pressure to succeed, are you really going to be as hungry for the next step?
Rule number 2: Embrace your responsibility
I’m not necessarily talking about job titles here, after all, my job role goes beyond the title of MD and CTO. But instead, starting a business and recruiting our first employee is where the dynamic changes from essentially being self-employed and only worrying about yourself, to feeling real responsibility for the organisation that you are building. You now have members of staff that have families to feed and are depending on the business to provide them with the means of doing so.
Instead of shying away from this responsibility, embrace the accountability and use it to forge ahead.
Rule number 3: Ask for help from everyone and as much as you need to
Our industry is full of amazing people that are always keen to help, from technical problems to routine HR queries, finding people that you can talk to that are also independent from your business is key. Honesty is the best policy.
Rule number 4: Surround yourself with awesome people!
Firstly, starting and running a business is tough, throw in a global pandemic and it becomes tougher. We’ve built an amazing team at CYSIAM meaning a hard job is made much easier with the truly talented people we have in the business. So, I’d urge everyone to connect, construct and invest in their teams so that challenges, including fully remote working, are negligible.
Rule number 5: Enjoy the journey
I expect the current growing pains will get easier as we expand and bring in more overhead resource and expertise, but even as CYSIAM develops into an international powerhouse (fingers crossed), I’ll be very grateful for the first few years’ experience and I’m sure we’ll look back on this as the ‘fun’ bit.