Three DO’s (From Three Guys Who Have Done It)

Even as a magazine that serves small-business owners and entrepreneurs globally, those of us at SUCCESS can’t help but take special notice of the movers and shakers in our own North Texas backyard.

Recently, a few of us took a field trip to the second-annual Dallas Digital Summit, a conference for Texans and out-of-staters alike to “do business, learn, share, network and immerse [themselves] in digital goodness.” There, dispensing 21st century communications and business advice alongside the likes of national tech visionaries (such as Steve Wozniak and Randi Zuckerberg) were countless local success stories.

North Texas has been the epicenter of much startup momentum of late, including the founding of the Dallas Entrepreneurship Center last year. Among the many workshops and panels featured at the Dallas Digital Summit was a discussion titled “Ramping to Success,” featuring three local startup vets sharing their experience with other prospective entrepreneurs.

“There’s just energy here,” one of the panelists, Michael Walsh, the founder of healthcare startup Cariloop, said. “When I came down here to Dallas for the first time and started to meet with a lot of the key players and stakeholders in the startup ecosystem, I saw an air of hustle that was contagious to me.”

The discussion also included Eric Swayne, founder of the marketing data consultancy DataNarrate, and serial entrepreneur Kraetti Epperson, managing director and co-founder of VentureSpur, a seed fund and venture accelerator. Luckily, their three biggest points of advice for starting and growing a business play well not just in the Lone Star State, but around the globe.
 

1. People Are Everything

“Finding the right people is really the biggest challenge and the most important thing you’re going to do with your startup early on,” Epperson says. “If you’re going to spend your time on anything, spend it on finding the right people…. It’s going to be the thing that can allow you to grow the fastest. I’ve gone back and forth, over many years of building companies, between hiring for experience and hiring for raw passion. And it always comes down to hiring for passion. The experience, you can get other ways over time. But you’ve got to have people who really believe in you and what you’re doing in order for your startup to work.”
 

2. Focus First On Doing One Thing Really Well

“We have been approached so many times with different opportunities,” Swayne says. “But the problem is the opportunity cost of building in [a different] direction diverts our focus from the thing we want to build, that we know will have the ultimate success…. When partners are asking us to build in a certain direction that pulls us off of our arc, that’s when we have to be really careful.”
 

3. Stay Healthy (Yes, You)

“This is the personal trainer in me speaking: This thing is a marathon,” Walsh says. “We have been working on Cariloop now for three years, and if you don’t stay healthy you’re going to get burned out so quick. Get some sleep when you can, try and exercise, eat as best as you can. Because this is going to be a process, and if you are the founder and CEO, investors will not want to put money in with a CEO who is going to get burnout.”

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