I really enjoyed reading a recent blog post featured in the “Boss” section of New York Times by John Burke, CEO and President of Trek Bicycle. Trek Bicycle has been a veritable success story over its 30-year-plus history, rising from a five person company building specialty bikes with hand-brazed frames for enthusiasts, and riding hard through not only many economic growth and recession cycles, but through the decline of the cycling in the US to its recent revival as a commuter transport and as a leisurely sport.
The blog post is a short read, but I took away some very interesting lessons that I think apply very well to the challenges of growing software companies and are worthwhile for anyone who works in startups or is thinking about breaking into the entrepreneurial world.
4 Inspiring Entrepreneur Lessons from Trek CEO John Burke
1) Make the best of the task
Burke writes about appreciating the value of “hard work and making lemonade out of lemons.” For any career, any position, or any venture there must always be a starting point — and starting points always demand hard work and perseverance. If you want to be successful in entrepreneurial ventures those are essential qualities to cultivate.
2) To make the right decision for your company and your product, you need to be as close as possible to your customers
“You don’t find out a lot when things are going well or if you sit in an office all day,” Burke says. This is a timeless advice — it is what we constantly try to do with our portfolio companies, regardless of their developmental stage.
3) Nothing is more important for a business than making customers happy
Burke mentions the efforts he put in place to improve ship time and returns processing time, which dramatically improved customer satisfaction. In OpenView’s world, this is the equivalent of enforcing a better service level for SaaS companies, as explained by our founder Scott Maxwell.
4) Build a product that you truly believe in and love
Trek Bicycles wins the hearts of customers worldwide because the company has always promoted quality, design, and innovation for superior products instead of reducing costs or outsourcing production elsewhere.
Schwinn: A Contrasting Cautionary Tale
Nothing can be more contrasting than the fortunes of Trek and Schwinn, the once-venerable American bicycle brand that has not weathered changes nearly as well. The company lost its way even as it was enjoying years of profits and the undisputed position as the top bicycle brand. While Trek was growing and learning to be agile and make better products, Schwinn experimented with low-cost outsourcing, neglected innovations, and failed to connect with customers. Ultimately, it went bankrupt and never recovered.
What lessons have you learned in your own entrepreneurial endeavors?