Investors and Temperature@lert: Staying Independant
The Trouble with Investors:
It's tough being a small business, but even more so with the presence of investors. When there's mounting pressure to multiply profits or quickly evolve, entrepreneurs will face a tough path of balancing their dreams and aspirations with the interests of those investors. The divided interests pose a difficult question for any business owner or CEO, which is "how can I maintain the company's culture and overall success, while also satisfying the needs of my suited finance partners?". It boils down to a tug-of-war, in which competing interests and ideas can stunt the company's progress and growth. Investors have their individual agendas that can be closely aligned with that of the owner, but this isn't always the case. Hours can be spent in the preparation for a visit from investors, and sometimes conversations can carry into left field. Even with six-figure investments and their highly intelligent representatives, talk can be cheap (and a waste of time!).
Shift the angle to Temperature@lert, and we have no official relationship with any investors, public or private. Based on the difficulties stated above, our independence stands to benefit our culture, our productivity, and most importantly, the research and development that directly affects our ability to innovate and evolve. But along those lines, most of our hesitation (and more often, rejection) to taking outside investors is because our customers are the lifeblood of the company, and we don't want to divide our time between satisfying both investors and customers. We exist for our customers, and solely for their benefit.
We have roundtables (at least) twice a month, and instead of feverishly preparing revenue charts, projection analysis, or any potpourri of reports that somehow represent our "progress", we use these roundtables to focus on our development, our next great product, and most of all, the needs and concerns of our customers. And the truth is, when we focus on our product development at these meetings, we stay away from devilish tricks to calculate the maximum "return on customer" or any attempts to align our margins with any type of projection or demand. For us, the idea of profits or revenue generation comes second to our customers, and that means within support, continuous innovation, and a focus on "people" rather than "numbers".
And further on the concept of people, our maintained independance has allowed us to keep a rock-solid core of employees. There have been no layoffs, no downsizing, and no "Bob Slidell" to keep tabs on the "observed productivity" of our team. Our methodical and systematic growth can be partially attributed to the contributions and ideas of our existing team, but also from the newer members that are still 'green'. When a customer calls with a concern or complaint, our desire to respond as rational human beings, and not as profiteers, is a huge part of our "customer first" philosophy. New hires must understand this concept, and they undergo extensive training to ensure their commitment to this idea.
We apply the same philosophy to our products. When we create a new product, every circuit board, every software tweak, and every feature is geared towards improving the benefits and options for our existing (and future) customer base. Since we don't have outside investors, we don't face pushback for implementing features that may drive up our costs or that may minimize our revenues. Sometimes we face tough developmental-based decisions that may inhibit our profits, but we've shown a commitment to keeping the customer in the driver's seat for each innovation. It's not necessarily about providing customer service; it's about creating a reliable and beneficial service for our customers.
At the end of the rainbow, all of this is made possible by our independence, and while we field several investment inquiries each month from a host of private and public companies, we'll continue to align our interests with those of our customers, and not with any outside investors.