Steve Prather | Crain's Denver

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Steve Prather

Background:  

Dizzion, pronounced like “fission,” is a desktop-as-a-service provider based in Denver. The company runs large-scale cloud infrastructure and helps mid-market small enterprise customers outsource their desktop system needs. Dizzion has 36 full-time employees.

The Mistake:

One of the things I still struggle with is underestimating how long things take.

We live in a world of busy people. People like myself, CEOs and entrepreneurs at venture-backed companies, are often impatient and seeking instant gratification.

When we sit down and talk about a new process, whether its raising money, establishing a new relationship with a customer or what have you, we’ll talk about how long it’s going to take. I always want it to happen a lot faster.

It’s not easy to manage that constant pressure to underestimate.

This is not something that’s caused any major problems for the business or for me, but it has had an impact. I have tons of examples I could point to.

Just in general, it’s important when you are raising money. We raised a Series A in January 2015 and a second round in September of 2016. Those both had huge positive impacts on the business, but they required a lot of focus and about twice as much time as we planned. Each time, it pulled me out of the day-to-day operations of the company. It pulled our CFO out for a third to half of her day-to-day work, among others on our management team.

The impact of having our leaders away wasn’t tremendous, but underestimating the time those processes took affected our planning and operations.

We had systems set up to manage those funding rounds, and we had a great team working on it, but it’s a small team. We only have three people on our finance team, for example, so having the CFO occupied with fundraising put a lot of the burden on the other two. We still got the work done and I think we did a good job of handling it, but underestimating the time put a strain on everything.

It’s not easy to manage that constant pressure to underestimate.

The Lesson:

Other people are on different timelines than you. They have different priorities. Understanding that and the broader issue of time-management is part of leading a business.

You have to know that if you need something in April, you’ve got to start working on it in February. You need to have the right expectations when you are modeling your business. It dictates how you think about growth and how you deal with customers.

We will probably be back on the market in the next year or so, so we are definitely thinking about this again.

We are also going to be working with new funding partners, so there is going to be a process of learning. It might take as long as eight months, and I am trying to get us ready for that. Communication is important. If I’m going to be away, I need to make sure people have the information and answers that they will need.

We’ve done this in the past two rounds as well, but we have a much higher awareness of the importance of thinking it through thoroughly and setting good expectations for ourselves. 

Steve Prather is on Twitter at @PratherSteve and Dizzion is at @Dizzion.

Photo courtesy of Dizzion.

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