Five nuggets of wisdom for early stage entrepreneurs

Bryan Delaney ’03Belk College of Business alumnus Bryan Delaney ’03 is a partner and co-founder for Skookum, a digital innovation partner for companies looking to create new digital products or revenue streams.  He co-founded Skookum in 2005 with his college roommate from UNC Charlotte, James Hartsell ’02.

Delaney, who completed a bachelor’s degree business administration with a major in management information systems, has found success as an entrepreneur, but the path for he and Hartsell began while working for a Department of Defense contractor in eastern North Carolina. In their spare time, they began developing a suite of business tools that could improve a company’s ability to digitally respond to governmental requests for proposals. This led to the realization that a niche existed to solve business problems through the creative application of technology while also creating exceptional user experiences, which is the genesis of Skookum.

Today, Delaney serves on the board of a local group, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, which offers the Accelerator program. The program's mission is to empower entrepreneurs with annual revenue more than $250K to scale to $1M with tools needed to grow their ventures. He also returns to the Belk College to mentor budding empire-builders.

His top five nuggets of wisdom for early stage entrepreneurs:

  1. Know your worth – Pricing is often challenging for first-time entrepreneurs. Understand the value of the service/offering of your venture and discern what the market is willing to pay, which can be in flux, so close attention is required constantly
  2. Cash is king – strict adherence to cash flow management is critical to getting an underinvested operation off the ground
  3. High ‘figure it out’ factor – contrary to what people might think, there is no guidebook to run a unique company, so it is critical that an entrepreneurial leader must consistently find ways to adapt and overcome.  Grit and perseverance are not optional for an entrepreneur to succeed
  4. Establish a culture early – a culture will exist within your organization, but it is the leader's choice as to whether that culture is built intentionally or not.  So have the vision to build one and communicate it; companies change and evolve, but employees whose personal values align with the corporate culture will be the most happiest
  5. Get a mentor - Getting a business off the ground is a race against time. Find people who have been there before and can help you accelerate the learning curve faster  

Ultimately, Delaney says entrepreneurs must have the ability to see opportunity and be willing to take a leap and place their faith in themselves. The plan may not be perfect, but entrepreneurs who succeed are those who are the most resourceful and have the ability to pivot toward the direction that the market moves. Quoting boxer Mike Tyson, Delaney noted, “Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth.” The key is how you respond.