We set up shop in my one bedroom apartment, and I would get out of bed each morning, wondering if this was going to work. I was taking a big risk — I was starting a software company without software — but I kept pushing forward.
When Tyler Douglas sets his mind to something, he makes it happen. So when he decided to start his own software company nearly fresh out of University, he was going to make it work, even if he had to set up an office in his tiny one bedroom apartment.
Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. It’s a rollercoaster full of twists and turns, and it can be exciting one minute, and terrifying the next. Tyler holds on so he can enjoy the ride.
It’s about determination
Tyler built his company in 2003, just after the dot-com bust of 2000. The markets hadn’t yet recovered, but Tyler and his two business partners believed that they could create a great product and build a viable business.
Tyler’s natural disposition towards sales paved the way. He and his co-founders spent weeks pacing around the small apartment on the phone each day, hustling to sell their company to clients. They’d make a deal with one client, then another, and another, until they had to hire people to staff the growing company.
“We had a sense that the world was what we made it,” said Tyler. “We moved the couch out of my apartment, moved in a couple desks, and got some phone lines. We believed that if we could sell something, we could use the money to build a successful company.”
It’s about taking risks and loving the challenge
When an entrepreneur starts a new venture, it isn’t clear whether it’s going to skyrocket to the top, or fall totally flat.
“Entrepreneurship is about taking risks,” said Tyler. “When we started our company, we weren’t sure how we were going to make things work. You have to love that rollercoaster — every day brings a new opportunity. Being determined, believing in yourself, and being passionate about what you do is key to growing.”
Building a solid business plan doesn’t happen automatically. It’s challenging, and takes work, effort, and pain.
It’s about finding the right people
Tyler has an entrepreneurial spirit, but it took more than him and his co-founders to build a viable company. “You’ve got to hire people that know things you don’t know, and are better at them than you,” he said.
Tyler is a sales and marketing expert, not a developer, but recognizes that he needs expert developers to build a great software company. At the end of the day, you can’t scale without great people, whether you’re a zero revenue company or a $100M revenue company.
“In order to scale a business, you need to grow beyond yourself,” said Tyler. “Aim to hire people that are world class at what they do.”
It’s about revenue
Some have a dreamy vision of entrepreneurship, but Tyler is much more pragmatic. When he and his team were building their content and workflow management software, Tyler was focused on hitting business goals.
“The earliest lesson I took to heart was focusing on revenue,” he said. “Some people focus on development and building things, but for me, the heart of being an entrepreneur is driving revenue.”
But it’s not just about the money. Tyler believes that an entrepreneur must be passionate, willing to learn, and must understand that failure is part of the game.
Tyler sold his company in 2006, and today runs all marketing and sales at Vision Critical, where he’s the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer.
“When I first took over marketing at Vision Critical, there wasn’t a lot of process in place, and no strong sense of the potential of marketing except for making things look pretty,” he said. “It was my job to bring in a modern SaaS marketing vision, one that is scalable and data driven at its heart.”
To Tyler, growing a marketing organization is much like growing a business. Marketing is extremely strategic, and it’s essential for a company’s revenue generation. Today, marketing is as much science as it is art.
“The story we tell is as important, if not more important, than the product we sell,” said Tyler. “That fundamental belief makes marketing as strategic a function within the organization as any other. And alongside being able to see the ‘wow’ and communicate it, to be successful we also have to be revenue focused. It’s the bottom line, and the focal point for all we do.”
Whether Tyler is building a company, or building a department within one, he’s willing to take risks, focus on growth, and find the right people to help him get the job done.