5 proven tips to startup business success

How many times have you had the thought, "that would make a great business?" If you're on the verge of starting a business or need a "kick" of motivation, this episode is for you. There's starting a business, and then there's starting a business right. On this episode, we sat down with two entrepreneurs from Realync who share 5 tips from their own startup journey that proved successful. 

Show Notes

MATT:

Each company has a starting point. No matter what organization, one person had an idea and turned it into a success story. Some rose to the top, while others fell into the shadows. On this episode, we’re sitting down with two entrepreneurs who pulled back the curtain of their organization and gave us a front row seat into their startup process to help our new business become a legacy. Let’s get to the podcast…

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MATT:

Welcome to another episode of the ROI Podcast presented by the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. I’m your host, Matt Martella alongside the Associate Dean of Academic Programs, Phil Powell. For those of you joining us for the first time, we just want to say welcome to the show. We put out a weekly episode that helps organizations make better business decisions. And if you could do us a huge favor, we would be honored if you would hit that subscribe button. That way you can get the latest content the moment it’s released.

Also, if you would like for us to discuss a topic, leave a comment, or recommend a guest for our show, we would love to hear from you. Just send us an email at roipod@iupui.edu.

 How many times have we had an idea and thought, “that could make a great business?” Or how many times have we thought about branching off and starting our own company? Well for those of us who are looking where to start, today’s episode is for you.

PHIL:

Many times, an idea may seem too basic or we have the, “of course that idea’s been done” thought run through our head. Yet, a lot of the time, those are the ideas that launch successful businesses. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the number of established companies, less than a 1 year old, is the highest it’s been since the 2008 financial collapse. The job creation these young companies create are increasing, and overall more companies are entering the economy than there are exiting. According to the Small Business Administration, companies with fewer than 500 employees provided 64% of the new jobs in our economy. So it’s clear to see that these ideas not only have the potential of creating a solution to a consumer’s problem, but they are crucial to sustaining a strong U-S economy.

MATT:

So the question becomes, where do we start? How do we take this idea from conception to the market? We sat down with two bright minds from RealYNC, a real time video platform that instantly connects real estate professionals with prospects to tour a space. Co-founder and CEO Matt Weirich and Director of Operations Jordan Easley took us through their hard-fought entrepreneurial journey. Here’s Matt Weirich:

Matt Weirich: I knew ultimately my end goal somewhere in my life would be start a business, have a company of my own. So I was always thinking in snippets of ideas and opportunities. When I was moving from Purdue up to Chicago, I looked at 40 different places to live, in person, drove up there 6 weekends in a row to look at properties. And half of them, I would walk in, turn around and walk out within seconds. I instantly knew I wasn't going to be living there. Very frustrating process, very broken process and so, I started looking at the process very critically. What could of been done differently, what I could of done, had or used to streamline that. And it just so happened that May of 2011 was when Facetime came out. I just put two and two together. I would have absolutely had my agent walk me through those properties virtually, while sitting on campus at Purdue. I could have knock out half of my trips to Chicago. It was one of those light bulb moments where I saw a gap in the market, saw an opportunity, started shooting a few things around. I talked to some agents and brokers that were in my network already. Started asking them about this sort of experience with clients, if they felt that pain point as an agent. Started talking to some of my friends on the consumer side of it as well and just identifying those initial triggers. Is this an opportunity beyond just myself? Is this impacting our industry? Is this impacting just my demographic? How big is this and how far does it go? I kind of sat on the idea for a little bit. About 2 years while I was a consultant. Eventually I just saw that pain point reiterated time and time again. Especially as a consultant. We were traveling on the road Monday through Thursday, Monday through Friday every single week for the job. One of the hardest things I saw my colleagues go through was trying to find a place to live because they couldn't physically be there. Finally, it got to the point I could not stop thinking about the idea. I knew that if I tried to go for it alone, it probably would not get to where it needed to be. At a work event, I started to talk to my then colleagues, my now co-founder of the business. He instantly clicked with the idea and we were in my apartment the next weekend, whiteboarding and figuring out the business plan.

PHIL:

For those of us unfamiliar with RealYNC, they provide live and edited real estate tours all through a mobile device or computer. Basically, you can tour an apartment or house anywhere in the world. An apartment agent or real estate agent, using their own phone, walks you through the property – saving the client time or resources, especially if they live far away. As Matt said, the idea started from an annoyance, a pain point as he calls it of having to add many miles, spend money to travel, and find himself disappointed each time he found nothing.

MATT:

Matt even admits this business idea seems like something a million people could have thought of and started, but they didn’t. He was annoyed with how he was shopping for housing, so he made a solution that’s now become a successful business. So, the first key take-a-way when bringing your business idea to life is to embrace the reality that your idea is not too simple.

Matt Weirich: The number one question I got when I was building this company was, "why wouldn't someone just pull out Facetime?" It's a free solution, it's on their phone already and that was always the question in the back of my mind. Is there enough of an opportunity here that people will pay for it and pay for a built for real estate solution. There are so many constraints with Facetime. It's only one-to-one, it's apple only. As soon as it's done it's gone. It's reliant on memory. All of our live tours are saved and recorded through the cloud.

PHIL:

Here’s a big differentiator that sets Matt apart from many others. He did not let the discouragement of, “why can’t someone just use Facetime?” stop him. In fact, used those questions to help improve upon his initial concept by dreaming of things like, “well what if when you jump on a video call, the user can save that video to watch later? What if anyone with any phone or device could watch? What if multiple people wanted to jump on at the same time?” Etc. Instead of us letting others tell us why our idea won’t work or why it’s already done, use their criticism to our advantage. Inside those push-backs lie the keys to differentiation – and differentiation leads to a successful business solution.

MATT:

The second key take-a-way to bring your business idea to life is to really take your time and do extensive research.

Matt Weirich: Our first investor in the business, he actually cut us a check, no strings attached, before anything was formed and gave us the advice of, "don't build anything. Go out, go to conferences, go to focus groups - just talk to your target audience before you build anything." Understand the personas, understand the needs and the opportunities. And really, that's what we did for the first 10 to 12 months before we even thought about building a product. We speced things out. Speced out what the product would be, what the messaging would be, go-to-market strategy, all of that. But ultimately it was listening to the market and figuring out what this company needed to be to have a valid market opportunity and a chance at surviving. Once we go to a point where we were very confident in what we needed to build and what would drive value for our end customers, we brought on a technical member of the team, built out an MVP, minimal viable product just enough to get in the hands of some test users and really hit the ground running from there. So it was ultimately the upfront research we did, the market analysis, doing the focus groups and the surveys and just getting in front of both sides of the market. The consumers and the agents and real estate professionals. That was ultimately what gave us comfort in knowing that there was a valid opportunity here. 

PHIL:

We need to remember that creating a business takes a lot of time. We have to embrace that truth. So, if we’re going to be in the trenches for the long haul, we better make sure we know who were reaching. And more importantly, we want to know what the consumer really needs – not what WE think they need. This part of the startup is like building the foundation to the house. Though the aesthetics are not pleasing nor does it show a home’s character, without it, every piece of wood, brick, curtain, and furnishings crumble like a house of cards in a summer’s breeze. We cannot underestimate this step in the process.

MATT:

Once we embrace the idea that our idea is not too simple, then take extensive time to research, the third key take-a-way for bringing our business idea to life is to drown out the noise.

Matt Weirich: That was one thing early on in Chicago when we started our business that I felt like there was a lot of noise. I feel like there were a lot of people in Chicago in particular that were playing start-up, playing entrepreneurs were clearly not going to go anywhere but they were just so many events, so many places to be, so many scenes to be in that ultimately it was a distraction. And that’s quieter here in Indianapolis. There’s still great ecosystems, and meetups and coworking spaces where you can be in community with those other people going through the same seasons, but it’s focused on hard work, it’s focused on results, it’s focused on growing and actually building value. Like I said, early on in the process, we were going to all these hang outs and entrepreneurial events and trying to be in the scene, which was fun but it was distracting. Ultimately, looking back it just pulled us away from stuff that we could have been working on, could have been doing and could have been listening to the market and building product and things like that. Focus on the customer, focus on your clients, your market and just listen to them. They will show you the path that you need to be on. They will tell you what your product needs to be, what it needs to do. Their opinion is ultimately that values most. Not even investors and all that. It's your end customer. That's who you need to be listening to.

PHIL:

We must keep the real thing, the real thing. Entrepreneurship is all about creating a solution to a problem through a new business. We cannot lose sight of our company. There will be times throughout the journey our focus will try to shift. Whether it’s from mentors who check in once a week, startup hang out groups, or investors trying to steer the direction of the company. I’m not saying to avoid all these things, hide in a closet and don’t see sunlight until we have a finished product. What we need to do is understand our why. Remember why we decided to start, why the world needs our solution, and why we’re putting this much work into creating this solution. Our why becomes our anchor and protection when the noise comes which acts as a filter to every decision we make. Simon Sinek offers an incredible Ted Talk on this – if you have not listened to it, I highly recommend it.

MATT:

Once we drown out the noise around us and stay focused on our conceptual business idea, the fourth key take-a-way to creating a successful startup is to hone in on a super specific market segment at the start.

Matt Weirich: Sitting where I am and looking back and reflecting, we wasted a lot of time. We were chasing every shinny object and we didn't really hone in on a particular market, a particular segment where we may have been seeing success, but we could also have success here, we could also have success here. So that lack of focus early on probably held us back from some strong initial growth because we were all over the place. Especially in the real estate industry where you got commercial and multiple parts of commercial, with retail, industrial, all of that. You've got residential sales, you've got multi-family student living, senior living, there are so many different segments of the real estate industry that our platform works perfectly for, but they all take different go-to-market strategies. What really got us to where we are today was honing in on the product market fit where we had a true B to B opportunity and the product was proving successful quicker. And honing in on that success is what really expanded our growth.

Jordan Easley: Being very very focused, and understanding if I'm going to build a product, sometimes that paralysis that you mentioned Matt, might come from, "I'm trying to go after too many things all at once." So by segmenting your market, you're going to market one way to all of these people. You're not going to have to big, total addressable market. That number's probably not going to be as big if you hone in your specific market segmentation, but you're going to be able to market to them, you're going to be able to speak their language in the sales process more effectively. You're going to build a product more specific to their use case. You're not going to be trying to build integrations with 20 different industries, you're going to be building it for one and you're going to be an expert in that. Once you own that one market segment, you can go to a peripheral segment where you can tweak a little bit of the marketing or product or the sales process to fit that adjacent market. Again, Scott Maxwell, highly recommend that. 

PHIL:

Because we’re so passionate about our idea, we can easily think of a million ways why every individual on the planet could use our product. Yet, this is dangerous because the reality is, our initial product only addresses the solution to a very specific market segment. Focusing on that group, instead of a super broad approach, like Matt and Jordan said, will allow us to master our solution and guide us on where to expand.

MATT:

We’ve gone through the process and now we are off the ground running as a business. Our idea is not too simple, we’ve taken time to do our research, we’ve silenced the noise around our organization, we’ve identified and honed in on our super specific market segment, and now the 5th and final key, and most important take-a-way to bringing your business idea to life is to persevere.

Matt Weirich: Hands down, the biggest lesson I've learned through all this is persevere. You mentioned the highs, the lows, the roller coaster that is the entrepreneurial journey, it never ends. No matter how good or how bad it is, it's going to get better and it's also going to get worse. It's never going to change. There were plenty of opportunities we could have thrown in the towel, gone in and done something else. Perseverance is ultimately why I believe so many of the big businesses that have been featured as incredible startups and all of that are here today. The thing that I really see consistently, time and time again in Midwest built companies is hardiness and the value of actually providing value. The investors in the Midwest, they want to see revenue they want to see companies that are growing with expanding contracts and not just fluff and word of mouth and promises. 

PHIL:

 (Comment on perseverance and give closing remarks)

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MATT:

So let’s recap, ideas can start from a million different problems. For Matt, his was the annoyance of driving hundreds of miles to look at properties, only to be disappointed. They may seem super basic, but we have to remember that our ideas are not too simple. Once we lock that down in our minds, we need to turn criticism of why it won’t work or why something already exists into questions our product could answer. Look at the flaws to the current solution in the market and figure out how our idea could fix those issues. Second, it’s extremely important to slow down and take our time by doing extensive market research. From focus groups, to meetings with industry professionals, take time to really know what the market needs. Third, once we start moving the ball down the field, we have to drown out the noise. Knowing why we’re starting this business or idea helps to silence the distractions. This will identify who to bring in and who to walk away from; what conference or hang out to explore and which ones to pay no attention to – because at the end of the day, we’re trying to build a business and we dictate how it comes to fruition. Fourth, once we get our idea going, it’s important to hone in on a super specific market segment. It’s easy for us to answer why the whole world could use it, but the reality is the whole world is not ready for it. Mastering how we market to a specific segment makes widening our reach a whole lot easier in the long run. And finally, the 5th and most important key take-a-way to bringing your business to life is get ready to persevere. The entrepreneurial journey is a roller coaster. There’s guaranteed to be highs and guaranteed to be lows. We wear many hats as this grows and hit major setbacks. However, what separates companies who make it and those that don’t is the willingness to push through. This will take years, and quite frankly, will take the life of your organization because even well-established companies still hit major setbacks.

If you enjoy our podcast, we would love your help. When you get a chance, head over to iTunes and leave us a review. And if you want us to explore a business topic, have questions you would like answered, or want to recommend a guest, shoot us an email at roipod@iupui.edu. This has been another episode of the ROI Podcast presented by the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. I’m your host Matt Martella alongside Phil Powell – we work to help organizations make better business decisions. We’ll see you next week.

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