The Shift is a series of interviews by FoundersWire and its partners that explore the issues, challenges and possible solutions that accelerate scale. Our first Q&A features Steve Snyder, partner and entrepreneur-in-residence at Gesmer Updegrove LLP. He meets, above right, with fellow Gesmer colleague Chrissie Lee and Boston design entrepreneur Katie Burkhart. (FoundersWire photo)
FW: You started out not only as a lawyer, but as a tech entrepreneur yourself. What appeals to you now about working with entrepreneurs?
A: Practicing law was never my passion. Building businesses always has been. So the opportunity to meet with two, three or four entrepreneurs every day and help them with their business challenges is extraordinary.
What value do you add that’s unique, beyond the necessary/obvious legal support?
The focus of our firm is working with entrepreneurs to ensure the success of their companies. We focus on the business, not just the law. We provide valuable business advice and guidance as well as legal advice and guidance. In my role, I focus only on business. For me, it’s about finding ways to drive revenue, increase profitability and help entrepreneurs succeed, all at no charge.
You’ve worked with many hundreds of founders and CEOs while they’re scaling. What do you see that they all have in common? What’s one marker that says, yes, this one is going to make it?
That’s a fabulous question. Most of our clients are tech companies so the CEOs with whom I have worked are really smart. That’s a given. The most successful CEOs are thoughtful and considerate; open to advice and guidance; good listeners; truly aware of their areas of strength and want to supplement or complement those areas by building a team around them; and able to process information and make decisions.
What pitfall do you often see that you wish founders were more aware of?
I wish I had been more aware of this early in my career but, as the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20.” Scaling a company is really hard. There are hundreds and hundreds of little details that we think about every day. It often feels like we’re being bombarded by little pebbles. It’s those little pebbles that divert our attention from the “big boulders,” the big stuff that we need to focus on to achieve our goals. Push those little pebbles aside, prioritize, delegate, but most importantly, focus on the big boulders.
Building a startup is stressful. Scaling one is even more challenging. What advice can you offer founders to find peace of mind, even after they realize they don’t have all the answers?
Wow, I wish I could offer that kind of advice. The best I can suggest is to surround ourselves with really smart, experienced, thoughtful advisors. That way, we don’t need to have all the answers.
Do you have a lesson you’ve learned while helping entrepreneurs scale that might help others? Let us know. Have a question that Steve might be able to help with? You can reach him directly at email@example.com