Small-business owners, what are you doing to stand out from the crowd? Each week, we focus on an entrepreneur who has lessons to share that we think will resonate with other small-business owners.
Daren Cotter, founder of online marketing platform, CotterWeb Enterprises, answers our questions:
What are you doing to stand out from the crowd?
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What’s the best part about owning your own business?
I get tremendous satisfaction from knowing that the company I launched from my dorm room as a 19-year-old college freshman is on track to generate more than $17 million in revenue in 2008. I’m particularly proud that our strong financial picture allows me to hire talented individuals, provide excellent benefits and nurture a company culture that not only promotes results but also a work-life balance. From a fully stocked kitchen and a game room complete with a foosball table, a Nintendo Wii and a mini-golf putting green that’s built into the floor, our employees look forward to coming to work each day.
What’s the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
Managing my time is a constant challenge. Between marrying the tactical and the strategic requirements involved with owning and running a business, it is often hard to leave the office and feel like you can put work aside.
Name: Daren Cotter
Business: CotterWeb Enterprises, an online marketing platform.
Industry: Online marketing
Location: Mendota Heights, Minn.
Year founded: 2000
Number of employees: 30
Web address: www.cotterweb.net
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve overcome?
At 19 years old, I had a great idea for a product and the technical ability to create it, but I had no experience starting, managing or growing a business. I got through the early years with a lot of hard work and self-determination. But by 2004, it was time to ask for help. That’s when I brought in an experienced management and business development team.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
I waited too long to aggressively grow the business. Even though I officially launched CotterWeb in 2000, it wasn’t until 2004 that I hired a business development team and started advertising to attract new members. Despite the fact that both sites collectively now boast more than six million members, it’s likely that the businesses would be even larger (and more successful) today if I took that risk earlier.
What’s the best business advice you can offer?
While you should never rationalize away a great business idea with the excuse of youth or inexperience, it’s important to recognize your limitations. In order to build and grow a successful business, you need to surround yourself with a team of bright, reliable and talented people.
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