Stephen Davis, StarBase founder and MD of StarBase, was recently asked about the challenges of building your own company.
What were the major challenges for you in the early days of StarBase?
I think one of the biggest challenges was having to learn how to do all the different roles needed to run the business. Now I have people who are responsible for running aspects of the business, but when I started I had to carry out the sales, finance, and operational functions, all while I was still consulting. I was still consulting up to the point we had 10 consultants.
How did you learn to perform the roles you needed?
It’s a combination of two things. The first thing is that you have to be prepared to learn new skills.
The second is that you surround yourself with smart people and invest time in their development. Some of the time it’s about bringing on smart employees who will be able to fix a problem. Sometimes it’s a case of having the right friends, and being able to call them for advice on their specialist area, knowing that they can call and ask for your help, too. I think it’s also about looking for a formal network of entrepreneurs who you can talk to. For me, one of the biggest challenges of the last ten years has been knowing that I don’t have a boss, and therefore I don’t have that person to go and talk to. Not having a boss means it’s hard to measure your performance and to know if you’re doing well. You need someone to be honest with you when you’re on the wrong track, and my entrepreneurial network has helped me understand this.
A revelation here for me was: don’t try to be a hero. You can’t do everything. You’ve got to focus your time in a way that’s going to add the most value. As the business grows, be prepared to delegate, because initially the temptation is just to work longer hours. A major pivotal point in my life was taking on my first administrative person. That freed up my weekends and was a real value for money investment and made a significant difference to my quality of life and that of my family.