Entrepreneurial IT: Do your homework

Enterprise IT CEO Stuart Speers advises would-be start-ups to do their research

Do your research well before you set out on your own, and stick to your knitting. Those are the top tips from Enterprise IT’s CEO, Stuart Speers.

Speers started managed services provider Enterprise IT in 2005 with the financial backing of Computer Brokers, now known as Lexel. But in 2008, Speers did a management buy-out and brought in new directors.

Make sure you have got a business strategy, and make sure you understand your market and your competitors, he says.

“Stick to your knitting – we only do databases, and only Linux and Unix operating systems, and that has been part of our success, I think.”

There will be opportunities popping up in other areas but don’t let them distract you away from what you do best, he says. Introduce partners or recommend someone else that can deal with it.

“It will save you spending time on presale activities that don’t necessarily return any money in the end – you learn that as you go.”

Also, make sure you realise the size of the commitment that you are personally making, he says.

“You have to have passion and drive. If you can’t commit to consistently doing 70-odd hour weeks, you really need to rethink it.”

“Work/life balance is impossible. Having a very understanding and supportive partner and family is key.”

For the first 18 months of being in business, Speers, a DBA by trade, spent his days contracting and his nights putting proposals together and working on things for customers.

“Going from that startup phase to getting your first employee and grow from there is certainly a lot of hard work.”

Incidentally, that first employee is still onboard the company today. Enterprise IT now has 25 staff and opened an office in Wellington last year.

Enterprise IT has chosen to put most of its systems and infrastructure in the cloud.

“That really helped with our set-up cost and effort,” Speers says. “For a while we were running all of our IT for about $300/month, by using cloud services.”

As the company has grown, that number has increased, of course, he adds.

He also points out that if you are a “techie” and don’t have a background in business, finance, sales, marketing and risk mitigation – make sure you surround yourself with people that can fill those voids.

Finally, you have got to have attitude and confidence in what you are doing – not to be confused with arrogance, though, he says.

“Starting your own company is a huge commitment. But would I do it again? Yes, absolutely.”

This article is part of a Computerworld series about IT entrepreneurs. Tomorrow we find out what's happening at The Fold..

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