There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Nick Hedges, the president and CEO of Velocify, a cloud-based sales automation software company, and a 15-year veteran of the Internet and software as a service (SaaS) industry. Nick has been a leader at many well-known corporations, including Bain and Company, Ogilvy and Mather and Anderson Consulting (now Accenture). He was also the CEO of an online marketplace for the global soft commodity industry, which was one of the few early dot-coms to generate healthy revenue and was a forerunner of SaaS technology.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Nick Hedges: I always knew I wanted to run a company. Maybe that’s a bit of a boring answer but it was obvious to everyone including myself from a young age that I was hopeless at being told what to do. My only viable option was to be my own boss. Of course, I’ve learned from being an entrepreneur that [everyone has a boss]. Today I answer to my clients, my board and my investors, but see it much less like being told what to do and much more like a partnership.
Lesonsky: Why did you want to run your own business?
Hedges: Velocify was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform an entire profession. I saw that a number of things were shifting from a technology perspective that meant sales professionals would increasingly interact with their customers remotely rather than face to face. Web meetings had become common, buyers were doing more research online and most buyers had less time to spend meeting with salespeople. Velocify provided a solution that allowed remote sales teams to approach sales with a higher velocity and more scientific sales process than can be achieved by field sales reps. Today, with Velocify’s technology, inside sales teams consistently outperform the results of field-based sales organizations at a much lower cost per lead.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Hedges: When I was 18 years old I decided to put off college and travel the world. I found myself in India working for the Dalai Lama as a teacher in a school for Tibetan refugees. The experience made me realize how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to achieve whatever I set my mind to. Since then I have always dreamed big and seen it as a duty to do my best to achieve those dreams.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Hedges: In the technology industry at least, a small business is a big business of the future, so build your organization with that in mind. The worst decisions I’ve made as a small business were ones where I only accommodated the organization at its current size. Nowadays I always try to build process, products and people with an eye to where I want to take the company, not where it is today.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Hedges: Read. Most entrepreneurs in the building phase of the business put their heads down and work all the time. They don’t spend time reading books. They become pretty inwardly focused. I did the same myself early on as the CEO of Velocify, but realized I was missing out on a full learning experience. There is such a wealth of knowledge in books by other entrepreneurs, and if you continue to read consistently while building your businesses, many of the hardest problems you need to solve will be answered for you. Today I always take a business book on business trips and only allow myself to read when I am in flight. This way I typically read a business book every week.
Lesonsky: Do you have a 2015 small business prediction?
Hedges: I believe small businesses will have increasingly attractive options for funding as it becomes easier for individuals to become investors in promising businesses and the credit markets loosen up.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Hedges: Eleanor Roosevelt famously wrote, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” It matches the philosophy I think is necessary to be a successful entrepreneur—that anything can be achieved if you believe in it.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.