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Austin Veith Shares the Key Elements for Starting & Running a Successful Business

purity muriuki

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After more than 20 years of starting and running companies in the tech space, Denver-based entrepreneur Austin Veith has learned a thing or two about what elements are critical to startup success. Currently the Founder and CEO of First Light, Veith has now set out to share all of his hard-earned knowledge with other founders who have unique ideas in complex or highly regulated industries.

Veith got his start as a business owner in college when he organized trips for students to concerts, football games, spring break trips, and more. His next venture was a brick-and-mortar business, a retail operation across from the University of Colorado, Boulder campus. It didn’t take Veith long to realize that much of his time was spent managing his staff instead of growing the business. This inability to find the time to scale his business was what drew him to the technology industry.

Thanks to tech, entrepreneurs have been able to leverage tools that handle many tasks that previously required human effort, allowing early stage startups to access a global customer base and huge revenue streams with a comparably small staff. One of the most satisfying moments in Veith’s long career was his acceptance into Techstars, where he received introductions to some of the leaders in the tech space, as well as got to know other founders who were going through the same growing pains as he was.

As he looks back at his many, varied experiences, Veith can pinpoint what he considers to be the key elements for starting and running a successful business. In his eyes, in order of importance, they are:

1) Team

2) Capital

3) Concept or Business Model

4) A good corporate attorney

Team

“In a small company, just one or two bad attitudes can have a huge impact on morale and the overall culture,” Veith says as he discusses the importance of having a strong team. “In a startup environment the first few hires are critical. Making a hiring mistake in the early stages can kill a company before it even gets going. The loss of resources is difficult, but the loss of time in hiring, training, and ongoing effort to save a bad employee will distract founders from other critical needs.”

When searching for a new team member, Veith looks for individuals with excellent time management skills, who exhibit qualities like independent problem-solving and self-accountability. Because of their distributed workforce, “each individual on that team must possess time management skills beyond what would be required in a traditional office environment.”

Once the right people are in place, it’s important to keep them happy. Veith does this by paying well, ensuring that upper management is skilled at balancing task difficulty versus timelines, and supporting and acknowledging his staff. Quality of life and helping staff find a work/life balance is also a priority.

Capital

Without capital, it’s extremely hard to get a business off the ground. Even if you’re the only employee, not being able to pay yourself a salary will put you in a stressful situation that can impact your decision-making. When your top concern is whether or not you can pay your bills, you’re not in the right mindset to make good decisions for your company.

At the same time, you want to be sure that any venture capital partners that you’re working with, have the same goals that you do. As Veith says, “the due diligence process is a two-way street. Investors or VCs are not your boss. You are not their subordinate. You are potential partners. You should research potential investors and ask just as many questions about them, their past, their vision, their goals, their team, etc., as they ask about you. Do not hold back, do not hesitate to reach out to other founders of companies in their portfolio, ask to see financials and sources of capital, etc., etc.”

“I know this can be a hard thing to do when you are worried about making payroll at the end of the month,” Veith says. “You may be tempted to take money from anywhere you can find it. But there are plenty of snakes in the garden if you know what I mean. If you aren’t careful you may find yourself partnered with investors who have ulterior motives or actively work to take everything away from you.”

Concept or Business Model

When Veith starts on a new project or business, he starts by analyzing the concept, the market opportunity, and initial capitalization, and then evaluates the required skill sets. The concept is the very first thing he considers; if you can’t bring something new or unique to the market that benefits people, then you should reconsider what you’re doing.

A Good Corporate Attorney

After being in business for so many years, Veith has experienced both types of deals: great ones and those that have gone south. When he reflects on what he would tell his younger self, his advice is this: “Engage more mentors. Be trusting, but always do your homework. Pay yourself. And hire good attorneys.”

“I would always get a second or even third opinion on major business decisions from people outside of the company, especially when it came to legal opinions from attorneys,” he elaborates.

Although Austin Veith would never call himself an expert, his advice for other entrepreneurs is hard to argue with. It is a big part of why he’s so successful in his current venture.

 

I'm a passionate full-time blogger. I love writing about startups, how they can access key resources, avoid legal mistakes, respond to questions from angel investors as well as the reality check for startups. Continue reading my articles for more insight.

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