This month at the CEO Club of Marin, we were pleased to have Chris Kitze, CEO of Safe Cash, as our guest speaker. Chris has had a long career of building and running successful businesses, so I posed a simple question to him: “What does it take to be successful in business building?”
His answers seemed to flow naturally and were insightful as always. Here is a brief recap of his response.
Paul Herrerias: “You have started, invested in, or been the CEO of at least five businesses. You have successfully led two IPOs and several M&A transactions. You have many people who would drop what they are doing and come join you in your ventures if you asked them too…what is your secret to being successful in business building?”
Chris Kitze: “I have been blessed with a good sense for where consumer markets are going. Additionally, I have been a student of business building and learned a few things over my career that I can share with you today…critical ingredients for business growth and value. Here are my secrets:
1) First, find great people. Only hire A-players who will bring in some other A-players. (Hire B players and they will attract C players…soon D-players will take over and kill your business.) Use a tight screen for hiring and build the best team you can.
2) Think Strategically. Keep the big picture in mind and share the vision constantly. Know where the company is going and where it is today on this journey. Startups quickly go thru transitions and business cycles that take traditional companies 50+ years. Keep an eye on your strategy and progress.
3) Run your business by the metrics. Pay critical attention, in real time, to your data. Have good data and work to get all the information…though you will never have it. “Test and then Invest” is our motto.
4) Be in communication with your customers. They will tell you how to improve your current product…and your next product. Analyze every sale. What worked? What didn’t? Call your customer and ask. And keep it simple: KISS!
5) Be hands on. Don’t delegate everything. Work the balance between leveraging your time and protecting your company, customers, vision, values, and profits. Pay attention to your business and get involved. Remember: employees can take care of the easy ones…we get the hard ones! You need to be involved to solve the hard problems.
6) Be honest with yourself….so you can be real and solve real problems. This is what business people do…solve problems. Combined with being hands-on, we can solve the hard problems. Solve them right away! Don’t let them fester. And have good lawyers at hand.
7) Be persistent and totally honest with everyone. Trust is at the core of everything a business is allowed to do. More importantly than technical skills and abilities, or college degrees, is our trustworthiness.
8) Stay open to changing your business, plan, products, and/or services. Morph continually. To survive, adapt, and thrive!