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6. Focus first on systems. Technology is the foundation of a solution provider's business. A successful company must ensure it has a strong, stable technology infrastructure early on. Not having to worry about whether things will actually work saves headaches and money later on, and that's a big advantage.
Often, startups will have one large partner that is critical to the fledgling firm's success. If the IT infrastructure can't meet the big customer's needs, it could lead to the end of the solution provider. Park found a large partner, Covad, which functioned as 3GC's de facto sales arm, pitching the solution provider's services as part of its hardware package. VARs should find partners that will sell their services, and then be certain the solution can be implemented reliably and economically.
7. Make sure clients' needs are met. Regardless of what is built or sold, you are a solution provider. That means your business is built first and foremost on personal relationships. "Our clients are everything," said Park. "We always check in with them, see what they need, update them with changes. When clients are asking about new technology, we are the first guys they ask." When customers are made to feel important to their solution providers, they are more apt to engage that VAR for future projects.
8. Understand the fine line between bleeding edge and cutting edge. Entrepreneurs such as Park invest in new technology. They forge relationships in the venture capital arena, find bleeding-edge technology, and research it from a finance and management standpoint. Park researches the company thoroughly, because it's crucial that the new company can execute well. By the time the company is vetted and brought on board, it has moved from "bleeding-edge" to "cutting-edge."
"Bleeding-edge technology can bleed you dry," said Park. "You can waste a lot of time, money [and] energy getting into bed with the wrong technology."
9. Leverage the cloud. The cloud levels the playing field for startup companies.
"You will be able to achieve scalability, elastic agility and focus on what really matters to your business: the business itself," said Vincent W. Mayfield, CEO of Bit-Wizards, Fort Walton Beach, Fla. "Nobody went into business to own a bunch of IT assets. Soon private data centers will be a luxury even the Fortune 2000 will not be able to afford. The cloud is a small and medium business equalizer. It gives every small business the ability to have a global infrastructure that they otherwise would never be able to afford."
10. Understand finances. Either have a good grasp of accounting, or bring in someone that does. It's a good idea that this person, while fitting into the team, also looks at the business differently than you. A different perspective can help identify issues that could turn into major difficulties down the road. "If the guy you bring in is just like you, you are going to face the same problems, and not recognize others," said Park. "Don't be afraid to see things differently."
It's important to know your strengths--and not forget your weaknesses. As Mayfield advised: "Know what you don't know; admit you don't know and get help."