Editors Note: Ryan Allis is CEO of Durham-based Broadwick Corp., a provider of software that improves communication efficiency for businesses. Broadwick was recently selected as a presenting company at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s (CED) Venture 2006 Conference (www.cednc.org/venture). CED recently sat down with Allis to ask him about his experiences as a young entrepreneur. This Entrepreneurial Spirit column is one of a series done in partnership with WRAL Local Tech Wire.
What do you feel makes Broadwick a unique company?
The fun, relaxed atmosphere is one of the most unique aspects about Broadwick. We have a ping pong table, a foosball table, and even play miniature golf in the hallway during and after office hours. However, I can only attribute this fun atmosphere to the great employees we have. The people are incredibly smart, energetic and hard working. I also must add that our company stands out because of the age of its founders, who are presently 21 (Allis) and 24 years old (co-founder and chairman Aaron Houghton).
Has your age impacted your experience as an entrepreneur?
I have experienced both advantages and disadvantages to being a young entrepreneur, but overall the positives have outweighed the negatives. Initially it was sometimes hard to get people to take me seriously as an equal in the business world, which served as a major roadblock to acquiring financial backing. However, this was offset by the willingness of others to give advice to a young entrepreneur. Internally with our own team members, age really has not been an issue. I’ve found that your team members will respect you as long as you first respect them and consistently work hard to grow and improve your company.
How have you managed to balance the numerous
responsibilities of a CEO and consistently grow Broadwick’s customer base?
I realized early on that one cannot single-handedly run and grow a successful company. As soon as you are financially able to hire employees, get great people and train them well. The first employee that I hired was responsible for responding to the numerous e-mails and phone calls that had begun to take up all of my time. Hiring just one employee gave me the time I needed to focus on developing and expanding Broadwick. Overall, I recommend that aspiring entrepreneurs plan on investing a generous amount of time on the Human Resources process as well as to devoting attention to building effective systems and processes within his or her company.
What is the greatest challenge that you have had to overcome in developing your own
The greatest challenge that I met was building Broadwick without any outside investment capital. This meant that we had to grow organically, trying to reinvest all sales back in to the company in order to succeed financially. In essence, we had to be creative to keep costs low. In the beginning, I took measures such as sleeping in the office on a futon during the summer of 2003 to cut costs and save money.
What is Broadwick’s vision for the future? Are there any upcoming deals or products that
you are looking forward to?
Our mission is to become the leading worldwide provider of e-marketing communications
software. The future looks promising, given that within only two years we have become the third largest provider of e-mail marketing software in the small business market. Currently we are anticipating the launch of our new enterprise e-mail marketing product, IntelliCampaign.
CED recently selected your company to be a presenter at its Venture 2006 Conference. How do you think this opportunity will impact your company?
I am very excited that Broadwick has been selected to present at the Venture 2006 Conference. I have spoken with other entrepreneurs that have presented at past conferences, and they have all indicated that the conference opened doors for securing new partnerships and investments. We hope that presenting will help build awareness of and excitement around our company and provide us with opportunities to build partnerships.
What is the most important piece of advice that you would give to rising entrepreneurs in the area?
My first suggestion is that all beginning entrepreneurs should have a bias toward action. Don’t put off necessary tasks or spend too much time overanalyzing them, either. Take the necessary steps to be proactive in jumpstarting your company–this may mean going ahead incorporating, building your first web site, hiring an employee, etc. Just take action!
Secondly, once you have a good idea, stick with it. Certainly refine it, but stick with it. I see a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs that seem to have a new business idea every month, constantly jumping from one thing to the next. Find something that works and then focus your energy on developing it. It may take at least 3-4 years of devoted work for a company to succeed.