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.
Josh Knauer, CEO of software development firm, Rhiza Labs, answers our questions:
What are you doing to stand out from the crowd?
Many software firms are designed to help people create or manage information like numbers or text. At Rhiza Labs, and at our parent company MAYA Design, we create web tools that help people visualize information. In one example of the work we’re doing, we recently launched FluTracker, a web site used to track H1N1 flu cases around the world. By enabling biomedical researchers and volunteers to quickly input and visualize new cases with minimal training, FluTracker has quickly become a resource for everyone from worried parents and health organizations to the military and companies like AT&T and Walgreens.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
With more than 30 public, nonprofit and private organizations as clients, the work is never too similar. Trying to meet each client’s varied needs is incredibly challenging, but it’s also interesting and fun.
What’s the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
For us, the biggest challenge has been dealing with explosive growth. Since we’re constantly recruiting, we worry about bringing in the wrong person, as it could throw us off. In addition, managing our company’s cash flow has been a struggle. Even though we are growing, the economy isn’t doing so well. As a result, clients take longer to pay.
Name: Josh Knauer
Business: Rhiza Labs, a software developer.
Year founded: 2008
Number of employees: 5
Web address: www.rhizalabs.com
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve overcome?
Rhiza is an offshoot of another company, so we don’t have venture capital to lean on for support. And although we haven’t had any months where our costs have exceeded our revenue, we must continually ensure that we’re able to attract a steady flow of customers. To do so inexpensively, I regularly speak at events. And luckily, so far, all of our clients were landed through word of mouth and customer referrals.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
We rushed to get FluTracker up within 48 hours. However, we had no clue about the deluge of traffic we’d get. (CNN and other media outlets linked to the site when H1N1 first broke out.) The site, which was hosted on our office network server, quickly became overwhelmed and crashed. That sent us scrambling. We spent the next 48 hours transporting the site to larger servers. We didn’t sleep for a couple days.
What’s the best business advice you can offer?
Stay in touch with people whose opinions and experience you respect, and don’t be afraid to ask them for advice.
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