Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Launched My Start-Up
Scott Caldwell, WBD co-founder and president, sat down with Huffington Post reporters Brad Micklin and Yitzi Weiner to discuss five things to know prior to launching a business. You may read the full article here.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Coming from a family of veterans, I grew up knowing that serving my country was important to me. So, right after high school, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. I was fortunate enough to have great leaders and to serve along-side some of the best folks around. After the Air Force, I knew that I wanted to continue to serve, but in a slightly different capacity. Therefore, I worked hard and earned a fellowship within the Government at the Department of Education. Despite the dramatically different goals of military and civilian groups, both of these massive, mission-driven organizations faced similar challenges. Each was designed to do one or two things really well – defend the nation, improve education – but then struggled when it came to strategy, finance, and other business processes.
Years later, I met WBD co-founder Keith Fawcett while working at one of the largest consulting firms in the world, again serving federal clients. And yet again, we noticed many critical government services and business processes were simply dysfunctional. Worse, the industry’s leading consulting firms, the ones well-paid to solve these problems, were often the primary beneficiaries of that dysfunction.
With WBD’s launch, we set out to prove that raw talent, hard work, and a true understanding of the government’s inner workings could initiate change and make hundred year-old institutions more efficient and effective – all while simultaneously competing with global consulting giants. Keith and I knew it would be the greatest challenge of our careers, but we also knew that we could do it. Fortunately, we were right, and I’m happy to be sitting here today.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
No one is ever fully prepared for the whirlwind that follows the launch of a new business. A month after WBD’s inception, we received a call from Indonesia. An old client remembered our work and wanted to talk now that we were on our own. The only catch – our first meeting was in 36 hours and in Jakarta.
We quickly secured the final seats on the only flight that would get us there in time – a red-eye out of JFK, instead of D.C. We grabbed a taxi at 2 a.m., hopped on the train to New York, took the Long Island Railroad, and arrived just before they closed the gate — all the while nursing wounds and pulling broken glass from my hair from a car accident hours before leaving D.C. In the end, the chaos was all worth it, as we returned stateside a week later with WBD’s first international client.
Yitzi: So what does your company do?
WBD provides strategy, finance, and acquisition support to both the federal government and private sector. Through our consulting services, our team helps clients build more sustainable, strategic processes that ultimately enhance overall operational performance. No matter our client, or the contract size, we deliver top-tier insight by understanding where our clients want to go, and the best way to get there.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve always believed in public service, going back to my days in uniform. And while I now run my own business, I still see our mission as public service oriented. If we can improve how government functions – then they can better serve their citizens.
And as WBD continues to grow, I’m making sure our team continues paying it forward. We encourage and enable all employees to be responsible global citizens, in and out of the office. For example, our firm supports a veteran-focused non-profit, and recently we hosted their day of service event, where our team volunteered. WBD team members also donate their time and skills to pro-bono consulting and professional development work weekly.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me Before I Launched My Start-Up” and why.
- The tale of David and Goliath isn’t quite accurate. Although a harrowing account about the little guy, it’s not a reality in the start-up world. Business is not set up for the underdog. In the modern-day story, it requires an army of Davids to take on the corporate giants. Your entire team must put forth an incredible amount of strategizing, networking, and risk-taking in order to succeed. Although many people wish you well, few offer to join you on the journey — I imagine it’s similar to how David felt asking for backup.
- Your first client will be your hardest. I knew that we could provide better service to our government clients, but first we had to prove our worth. To do so required a full network of teammates, partners, old friends, and, most importantly, a trusting first client to back us. It’s hard to walk into a meeting, headed by our nation’s leaders, and ask for the opportunity to solve their organization’s most pressing issues, all with millions of taxpayer funds on the line. And this feat is even harder without a large firm’s banner flying above you.
- Change or die. The world, your business, and your industry are constantly changing. Every industry is impacted by the breakneck pace of new technology. In order to meet the needs of our changing environment, I knew that we needed to adapt our business model. Now, WBD incorporates online and cloud components in our suite of services, helping us support clients 24/7. In order to succeed, businesses should ensure that their service will not only withstand change, but leverage it.
- Look everywhere for solutions. Some of the greatest lessons that I have received in business are from those in a completely different industry. Since colleagues in your field have often been trained to think through issues in a similar way, you must expand your network to cross industry lines. Start-ups are meant to break away from the pack, and you won’t successfully set yourself apart by continuing to drink from the same watering hole.
- Everything will feel personal, and it is. Every rejection, loss, and failure feels personal — no matter your success. That’s because your business is just that: yours. It’s personal. Your start-up is your baby. It’s yours to make or break. While sometimes unsettling, that personal attachment is your greatest motivator. It’s frequently the indescribable “it” factor, the tenacity, or the “you” in business that sets your team apart from the rest. Let it be personal, and remember that it’s your advantage.
Yitzi: I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.
If I had the opportunity to have a private lunch with any one person alive, I would choose Governor of Missouri, Eric Greitens. Gov Greitens is a former Navy SEAL, Rhodes Scholar, and author of Resilience: Hard Won Wisdom Living Better. Beyond his outstanding service to our nation, I subscribe to his philosophy that life is tough and you have to be tougher.