What advice would you give to someone just thinking about starting a business?
There never will be a perfect time to start a business. I started Intertech in a recession. To limit risk, ask yourself if there’s a way to dip your toe in the water without quitting your day job. Also, set it up to succeed or fail quickly. It’s not about money or significant investment. From colocation workspaces to all the resources available through cloud-based services to the sharing economy, there are a lot of ways to start with minimal expense.
The amount of resources available for an entrepreneur is staggering. From books to workshops to online resources, the challenge isn’t to find resources—it’s to sift out what is practical and useful. My hope is that The 100 provides a quick read with plenty of actionable ideas for the aspiring entrepreneur.
Today is the official release date of my book. My thanks to Doug, Jessica, Eileen, Jaqueline, Zach, and the rest of the crew at Agate for their belief in and support of The 100.
What inspired you to write “the shortest book” on this subject?
When I attend a workshop or read a book or periodical, I’m the type of person who’s looking for the answer or core idea. Theory, while good to know, isn’t as useful to my business as practical, actionable, and proven ideas and tools are. My goal was to create a book where there were a lot of implementable ideas to grow and improve a business.
What was your own experience starting up Intertech? What lessons did you learn?
In the beginning, it was controlled chaos. I worked insane hours, I took on any project regardless of whether or not it was in my wheelhouse, and I was so focused working “in the business” that I didn’t work “on the business.” I learned a lot of lessons starting the firm.
One of the biggest lessons I learned was that great people make a great organization. When hiring, take time, be stringent, and be consistent. When I was starting out, I was so focused on not missing out on work or opportunities that I was too quick to hire—I’d hire someone over a coffee. Today, we have eight separate steps in our interview process and hire only one out of every 20 applicants. The process is thorough, and the right employees appreciate that we set a high bar. The wrong employees are weeded out or opt out themselves.
I also learned that life is short. For clients and employees, if it’s not a positive relationship, cut bait and move on. When starting out, I would tolerate the employee who was technically gifted but who acted like a prima donna. I would tolerate the client who used berating as a tool to get more “value” out of the work provided by our team.
Today, we have a thorough hiring process, but when we make a mistake in a new hire, we’re quick to fire. It’s a similar story for clients. While it doesn’t happen much, if there’s a client who sees us as a “bar of steel” and not a partner—or thinks raising their voice is a motivational tool—we’ll finish up the project professionally and pass on future opportunities.
The press kit for The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership has a Q&A with me on questions like why I wrote the book, how I started the firm, and advice for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Below is the first in a series.
Why did you decide to write The 100?
The 100 started as a guide for my employees to share how we do things at Intertech. As I started writing, I realized the concepts applied to many organizations and not just my firm. When I read a book, attend a conference, or read an article, I find myself earmarking the ideas that I want to implement. In The 100, my goal was to give readers something practical and actionable in each of the 100 sections. Hopefully, if the book hits home with a reader, their copy will have 100 earmarks.
On March 15th, my latest book will be released by Agate Publishing. The book is pre-released and now available on Amazon.com. I have a limited amount of free copies. If you’d like one, just fire me an email at tsalonek @ intertech.com and I’ll get a copy dropped in the mail.