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.
Aaron Levie, co-founder of online collaboration service Box.net, answers our questions:
What are you doing to stand out from the crowd?
Document management companies like FedEx Office allow customers to ship documents through the mail and email allows them to distribute those documents electronically, but Box.net allows people to share, manage and access their content in one place online. Some similar online services spread out the data, storing it on individual PCs that may make it easier for an individual to access their work files from home. But ours offers the ability for employees to create shared folders, manage team projects or search across the full text of all their content. Our service is designed to make it easier and more efficient for people to work collaboratively.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
Being able to define the culture and attitude of our organization is thrilling. Not only do we get to create our own processes, solutions and systems, we make high-impact decisions on a daily basis. We’re constantly breaking rules and creating the environment that we believe best fosters creativity, collaboration, and innovation.
What’s the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
When you’re just starting out, every task seems tough. Whether it’s launching a new product, introducing a service to a new segment or starting a new company entirely, you’re constantly redefining what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for. The challenge is getting past the point where it’s mostly about those questions and arriving at the point where you have enough answers to be confident in your decisions.
Name: Aaron Levie
Business: Box.net, an online collaboration service.
Location: Palo Alto, Calif.
Year founded: 2005
Number of employees: 50
Web address: box.net
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve overcome?
Changing our target audience. Box.net started out focused on the consumer market. However, a couple of years ago, we decided to switch gears, and focus the product and technology on serving small- and medium-sized businesses instead. The transition was fraught with doubt and anxiety, but it ended smoothly. We now have more than 50,000 companies using Box.net.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
We didn’t act quickly enough on a demand from our users. Early on, we had a few customers ask that our service integrate with Salesforce.com’s customer-relationship-management (CRM) software. And although we put it on our to-do list, we didn’t prioritize it high enough. We just launched the integration last week and believe it will draw new customers and help us retain existing ones, but we should have done it sooner.
What’s the best business advice you can offer?
Don’t confuse changing your strategy with giving up. You’ll rarely succeed immediately, so be sure to keep iterating and testing frequently.
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