5 min read
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you, and what’s your business?
My name is Steven Werner. I am a small-town kid turned U.S. Marine and then tech founder. My co-founder, Phil, and I started both Lawn Buddy and Blyss. Lawn Buddy and Blyss are software tools used by tens of thousands of business owners in the trades industries. We provide them with tools to efficiently manage and track their business and electronically invoice their clients from their computers and/or smartphones.
What inspired you to create these tools?
Our “aha moment” was born out of initial growing pains. We started Lawn Buddy in 2016 as a marketplace for homeowners to connect with professional lawn maintenance companies. After a year of growth, we learned that giving landscapers jobs was an unsustainable way to support the blue-collar service industry. They needed more tools for sustainable growth. We found that every business owner we worked with loved the fact that they could track their jobs/tasks, optimize their routes, and deposit funds in as little as 24 hours. So we decided to flip the gig economy on its head. We decided to repackage all the tools we had developed to manage an on-demand business and give those tools to the business owners on the platform. That enabled them to grow their businesses more efficiently with office management and billing tools.
We continue looking for more “aha moments” by staying in constant communication with the business owners on both of our platforms. Because of this, we are building an effective tool based on real, unmet industry needs.
What was your biggest challenge during the pandemic, and how did you pivot to overcome it?
The biggest challenge we faced during the pandemic was maintaining high growth levels and leveraging existing yet diminishing resources to hire much-needed staff. Since more people have become vaccinated, this has become less of a problem.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
When it comes to raising money, my first piece of advice is don’t. Not unless you really need to! Obviously, for high-growth companies, it’s difficult to scale without outside funding, but if you can bootstrap, do so for as long as possible.
If someone is looking for outside capital, I advise founders to thoroughly vet their potential angel investors/ venture firms almost as if they were to be a partner. Not all investors are the same. When it comes to choosing someone who will sit on your cap table, avoid the pitfalls and heartache by ensuring they are a good fit for you and your company. Look for investors familiar with your industry, or those who have relevant experience. Financial capital is one thing, but financial and intellectual capital will help you outpace your competition. You can find most of these individuals or investors with a simple pitchbook or Crunchbase search.
How to prepare for a pitch?
When preparing for a pitch, know your audience. I spend hours researching before a pitch. This helps me tailor my presentation/conversation to the metrics and facts that matter most to the audience. It also shows that I have done your homework. Also, cut the fluff and get to the point. It smooths the deal creation process, and a seamless deal creation process builds trust between partners.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
It’s all about being resilient and never giving up. You will face several obstacles in your path to success. Staying focused and working on the problem at hand will make all the difference in the future. You will also be surprised to see how much fruit can come to bear with a little persistence and hard work.
What is something many aspiring business owners think they need, but really don’t?
Founders think that you need a significant amount of money and an Ivy League education to start a successful company. Both have their value, but nothing replaces drive and hard work.
What is a productivity tip that you swear by?
I have recently discovered how important rest is for your productivity. I am often so consumed with pushing everything forward that I forget to take a breath. When I have a good work-life balance, I bring my best, both to the office and to the home.
What is a business book you always recommend and why?
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
Our staff would say that my favorite thing to say is, “Let’s punch today in the face.” While it can sound animalistic, it is a great reminder that every day we have to get up and give it everything we have. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so live life to the best of your ability today!