Jeremy Bolls | Crain's Nashville

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

Jeremy Bolls

Background:  

Since 2011, fundraising CRM Kindful has found a wealth of success in Music City. Dedicated strictly to the nonprofit vertical, Kindful organizes and stores its clients' donor records, and provides a seamless integration of data and tools. Kindful has clients in all 50 states and eight other countries. 

The Mistake:

The early success of that software product which is today known as Kindful, and the success it grew into, was really the key to the mistake. I became too comfortable with the success that we were having, and had convinced myself at that point that we hadn't found the product market that we actually had. We kept pushing for something bigger.

If I had known then what I know now, I would have made my first hires within the first three to six months of 2012. Unfortunately, I waited until the middle of 2013 to make those first hires.

While a year may not seem that long and we did grow during that time, I would love to have that year back. In fact, had I made those hires earlier, the year of growth would have compounded multiple times over within that same year. We would have been way beyond where we are today, in both product and growth.

It was a lack of committing to full-time employees, and in some ways to our early clients, that slowed us down and was probably to the detriment of everyone.

The positive of that is we are now in a very great place. We're serving thousands of organizations across the globe and are growing month-over-month – but we could be doing more good if I had stepped on the gas sooner.

If you invest in people, they'll continue to surprise you and their resilience will shock you at times.

The Lesson:

As an entrepreneur, the lesson for me was that waiting to hire, or hiring too slowly, is actually a place where being conservative can increase risk by delaying growth. The core of entrepreneurship, and of startups in general, is risk. But you can't be afraid to move faster when the opportunity presents itself.

When you have an idea that has merit and you take a leap into a new startup, product-market fits can at times be elusive. You can be too conservative and not invest into that product-market fit quickly enough.

I had contractors who were great, but ultimately you need to have people who are mutually committed to the goal.

If you invest in people, they'll continue to surprise you and their resilience will shock you at times, especially in the ups and downs of a startup. Once you understand what their “why” is, you can help them invest in themselves and get to the core of what you’re trying to accomplish in the company. You will both be more successful.

Follow Jeremy Bolls on Twitter at: @JeremyBolls

Pictured: Jeremy Bolls | Photo courtesy of Kindful. 

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