My name is Michael Riordan, President of Lifepages. For the last 2 years, I have been building Lifepages into a pioneering company in the field of online yearbooks. While working to expand the current “expression” of the yearbook has been one of the most fulfilling and exciting experiences of my life, it has certainly come with its challenges and disappointments. Two years may not sound like long, but it provides hundreds of learning experiences in running a business.
When first starting a business, obviously you focus on the “big success.” Entrepreneurs imagine a service / product / technology that revolutionizes the world and saves humanity! While your vision may someday come true, the “big successes” are truly the culmination of hundreds and thousands of minor successes. Incorporating your business, finding partners, developing a business plan, doing market research – all of these steps, once completed, are a success for your company because they are all vital steps along the path as you reach to achieve your “big success.” Lifepages measured its successes every week with one simple question in our weekly meetings, “What did you accomplish this week?” We celebrated the small successes with a “Congratulations,” the moderate success by cracking a beer and most recently, the major successes with a bottle of scotch! The culmination of 2 years of successes and failures led to our landing our first large guaranteed contract with a University, a huge turning point for our company. We are also now exploring the possibility of partnerships that would provide Lifepages national distribution. These larger successes would not have been possible without all the minor daily successes.
As a founder, one of the biggest challenges you will face is the ability to swallow your own pride. Thinks aren’t always going to go your way. The original vision for your company may fall flat. You could pivot, lose co-founders or employees or simply discover that you are not as smart as you think you are. At Lifepages, I can still remember the day we finished our first business plan. In my mind, I might as well have been holding 10 million dollars in my hand. However, once we sent this plan off to someone with 30+ years experience reviewing business plans, my perfect business plan was basically ripped to shreds. At Lifepages we had to change our original vision because it would not provide quick enough revenue to be sustainable. We lost a co-founder 6 weeks before the scheduled re-launch of our service. Challenges will present themselves everyday. The successes you achieve will stem directly from your ability to handle the day-to-day challenges, both large and small.
To me, surviving as a founder and continuing to grow the business comes down to three principles:
Belief – If you don’t believe in your idea, no one else will either. Your doubts will trickle through the entire organization, from your co-founders, to your employees and ultimately to your customers.
Support – No one person can do it alone. Support from family, friends, colleagues, partners and clients will fuel your fire. Surround yourself with positive support.
Perseverance – Nothing will test your resolve like starting a business. No matter when you expect something to happen, it will most certainly take longer, and sometimes MUCH longer. Prepare yourself for this, mentally and logistically, and continue to persevere towards your goals.