5 Lessons Learned From 5 Years of Growing a Business

April 5, 2016

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since I launched Virsys12. Looking back from this vantage point, it’s clear I had plenty to learn about starting and growing a business.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned during Virsys12’s first five years (so far)

1.  It’s hard to grow alone.

Like many who start a business, I started Virsys12 from my kitchen table in August of 2011 as a ‘solopreneur’, responsible for all the work done. I knew I could count on me: I’d get the job done, and I’d do it to my exacting standards.

But when you’re the only resource, there is a cap on potential. No matter how much energy and drive you have, if you don’t want to burn out completely or allow client service to suffer, you have to make a choice. Either put a limit on your growth potential, or bring in some help. Within six months, I hired two contractors. I was in pursuit of a big dream.

2. Culture doesn’t just happen.

Having support was a huge relief. But concern of my employees not living up to my quality standards persisted. Although the contractors were smart, talented professionals who were skilled at their jobs, I knew I wanted a culture of quality and teamwork.

Leadership has to define and nurture culture. For me, 2012 was about setting clear quality expectations, holding us all accountable (and resisting the urge to just do everything myself!), and creating an atmosphere of collaboration and teamwork around a shared purpose.

3. What got you here won’t take you there.

By 2013 the business was really beginning to thrive. Our team was growing and the message was spreading about our value, fueled by our growing network and satisfied client base. We even received our first industry award.

The upside: We experienced tremendous revenue growth. The downside? Like most start-ups, we needed more defined internal processes in place. To continue to scale, we began to bring more discipline to our lean process approach, including developing a product delivery methodology.

4. If you’re feeling the pains of growth, check your strategy and structure.

We kicked our marketing and branding efforts into high gear, helping drive yet another year of significant revenue growth in 2014.

But that growth didn’t come without some measure of pain. We were running as fast as we could to try to keep up with demand and pressures from all sides. We needed more focus and we took the time to get it. We redefined our channel and industry strategy; aligning our infrastructure, prioritizing our projects and building the right level of staffing.

5. The more you grow, the more important talent management is.

By the end of 2015, our group of Salesforce-certified experts moved into even bigger offices. Our Agile team-based approach is helping support clients all over the country and we may have our first international client by year end..

My fifth lesson is simple. To grow, the skill level of your talent needs to progress as well, from the front line all the way up to the management team. I have discovered the importance of talent management strategy and strong senior leaders to guide their teams, nurturing the growth of legacy employees while integrating new, highly credentialed ones. It takes more than just a single point of leadership.

It’s gratifying to look around today and see the realization of so much hard work and we know it is just the beginning. I’ve said many times, “A leader can have a vision but it is the team who makes it a success.” I am so proud of the powerful impact our team is having with the clients and communities they serve. And we’ll all keep learning lessons as we grow.