Cameron Chell is an experienced business entrepreneur who has successfully co-founded and founded several innovative technology companies, including UrTheCast, which has produced the first streaming HD camera images from space. His company, Business Instincts Group, helps entrepreneurs create successful startups. Chell and business partner, Jamie Clarke, have recently published an e-book entitled The Sustainable Startup, which details seven distinct principles that one should follow to create a lasting business.
We sat down with Cameron Chell to discuss these principles in more detail and, in particular, to discuss one concept that Chell and Clarke speak about in their new book called “guarding the gate.”
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today, Mr. Chell.
Cameron Chell: No problem at all.
Your new book, The Sustainable Startup, which you co-wrote with your business partner, Jamie Clarke, has gotten very positive reviews. What was your inspiration behind the book and why did you decide to work with Mr. Clarke?
Cameron Chell: Well, I think winning and losing allows you to see the value in creating. There is a new startup arms race and I think it’s only telling one side of the story, namely focusing on the idea or product. We wanted to tell the other side. Building talented, focused teams is the other major part of building a successful startup, and that’s what we wanted to emphasize in our book.
Can you describe in more detail a concept you mention in your book called “guarding the gate?”
Cameron Chell: Sure. Essentially, what that concept means is that entrepreneurs have to make sure that their company’s culture is always being protected. When starting a new business, it’s essential that the company’s culture is continually being considered. The ‘culture’ of a company relates to how a company works together to, one, assure customers are satisfied and, two, to expand reach in the marketplace. If any part of the ‘culture’ comes unwound, other parts of the business will certainly start to fail too.
What do you think is the most important thing that entrepreneurs need to remember when trying to create a sustainable start-up?
Cameron Chell: I think the most important thing to remember is that entrepreneurs have to focus more on what goes into the creation of the idea and company, rather than the actual idea itself. If you spend too much time over-analyzing the actual idea, you can tend to stray from thinking about the things that really impact whether a company lasts. One concept that we discuss in The Sustainable Startup is for new companies to focus 80% on creation and 20% on competition. There are times, I think, when entrepreneurs spend too much time concentrating on beating competitors to the punch and trying to make sure their idea gets out there before anyone else can take it. Focusing too much on competition can create a rushed creation process, which can impact the startup’s sustainability.
The 80/20 idea is very interesting. I also think that a reason companies fail is because of their creators trying to do too much, too soon. Your company, Business Instincts Group, promotes BIG thinking, and you’ve hired people with different specialties to help you in that creation process. It seems like having an outstanding team around you is an important factor to the way your company runs. Do you think that having this type of team is important in all startups?
Cameron Chell: Hiring people who are specialized in different parts of the creation process assures us and entrepreneurs that their startup will come to fruition. Not only that, I think it’s extremely important in any company to have a team beside you, not under you. In our book, Clarke and I talk about autonomy as being extremely important in startups because it allows employees to set their own successes, per say. In turn, by allowing them to measure their worth to the company, they’re more apt to dive into projects full throttle, consequentially making for an even better team. This concept is something that I not only advocate but use in my own companies.
I love the idea of autonomy in the workplace as a way to promote teamwork and better results. Any final piece of advice for those who are looking to start a company in the near future?
Cameron Chell: Remember the customer and remember how important it is to create new value in the marketplace. At the end of the day, these two elements will help add to the client base of a new business and help its potential for sustainability.