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Column: How to grow a business from zero to boom

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Grier Allen, CEO and co-founder of BoomTown, talks to Jeremy Berman at Startup Grind Charleston about developing and founding a startup. (Photo/Thomas Heath)

By Thomas Heath

“This is probably the most appropriately named event ever,” mused Grier Allen, the CEO and co-founder of BoomTown. “The Startup Grind. For those of you who are in it, who know what I’m talking about. It’s a helluva grind.”

Allen’s opening statement in his interview with Jeremy Berman at a recent meeting of Startup Grind Charleston reminded me of another wise saying: “Being an entrepreneur is not sexy. There’s always homework to do.”

As a business coach and entrepreneur, I’m always fascinated to listen to someone smart, who started with nothing but an idea and grew it into a multimillion-dollar business. That’s what Allen and his partner, Cooper Bane, did with BoomTown, which made the list of Inc. Magazine’s fastest growing private companies for three consecutive years.

For those not familiar with BoomTown, they created a web platform that real estate professionals use to generate leads and close more business. In a little over a decade, they have grown to more than 250 employees and are part of the new, Google-like campus at Pacific Box & Crate.

Startup Grind Charleston is held each month to discuss issues surrounding technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. (Photo/Thomas Heath)

Tidbits I took away from Allen:

“We spent our first year trying to understand the pain points in the real estate industry and how we could use our skill sets to solve those problems. We wanted to get under the hood of our prospective customers and understand their business.”
That’s so smart. Many budding entrepreneurs create a product or a service first then bring it to the market and hope it sells. It goes against Solution Selling 101: Diagnose before you prescribe.

What about their first product?

“We wanted to build something that was an amazing experience, create an amazing experience. It’s one of our core values to this day and one of the things that Cooper and I believed in from the very beginning.”

I love that. In this day of tech companies rushing to build minimum viable products just to get something to the market, it’s refreshing to hear an entrepreneur who wanted to create something that was a wow out of the gate.

One of their early mistakes? 

“Taking too long to switch from the what to the who.” 

Allen shared how they knew their stuff when it came to technology, but they weren’t prepared for BoomTown’s crazy, initial success. 

“Even with the great people we had, we were in hyper-growth stage and didn’t have the right talent to help us scale.” 

His point was to think early on about the high-level people you need to grow.

One smart thing they did initially?

“We created our core values when we were about 30 people. We truly live by them. Everyone who works here is a custodian of them.” 

That’s great stuff. I believe the foundation of a company’s culture is their core values. It’s probably a reason why Allen and his team went from zero to boom.

Thomas Heath, CLC, is a business coach, strategic advisor and founder of Thomas Heath Coaching. Have a question? Planning a great startup event? He loves to respond to our readers. Contact him at Thomas@ThomasHeathCoaching.com or on LinkedIn at  www.linkedin.com/in/AskThomasHeath

Startup Roundup

An insider’s view into Charleston’s Startup community — Curated by Thomas Heath

If you’re looking for one calendar to find the best startup, tech, digital and entrepreneurial happenings around Charleston, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are my picks for the most worthwhile events coming up:

One Million Cups
9-10 a.m. April 19, 26
Every Wednesday morning, this growing community of super-sharp and friendly professionals gathers to hear a startup entrepreneur present about their business, followed by feedback from the audience on how to grow that company. It’s great for making connections and you’re bound to hear some amazing ideas. The Harbor Entrepreneur Center, 1505 King St. Extension, Suite 110, North Charleston. Free. 

Instagram for Small Business
5:30-7 p.m. April 19
Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social media tools around. This mobile photo and video sharing app is reaching more than 600 million monthly users. But how can small businesses take advantage of it to grow? Start with this class from Stacey Crew, founder of Ease Communications. She will teach you how to set up a business account, create a compelling profile and build your visual brand on Instagram. The Life Guidance Center, 3030 Ashley Town Center Drive Bldg. B-203, Charleston. $35 (class limited to 20 attendees.) Register via Eventbrite:  http://bit.ly/2nc2Imx 

iDea Launch
10 a.m.-3 p.m. April 20, 21
You have an idea, now you need a strategy. That’s the focus of this two-day workshop for entrepreneurs and small business owners presented by the CofC’s School of Professional Studies. The goal of the personal branding event is to help you increase your earning potential, reach new clients, and possibly change the world. $395 (payment plan available). College of Charleston - North Campus, 3800 Paramount Drive, North Charleston. For more info call 843-953-6684 or go to http://sps.cofc.edu/jobbridge/idealaunch/

Power-Up Your LinkedIn Profile
11 a.m-1 p.m. April 25
If you’re in business, it’s important to have a strong presence on LinkedIn. But where do you start? In this interactive workshop, yours truly (Thomas Heath) teaches you eight starter tips on how to power-up your profile. It’s my most popular class that I’m now opening up to CRBJ readers. Only 20 seats available. The Life Guidance Center, 3030 Ashley Town Center Drive, Bldg. B-203. $25. Register on Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/2nPGVEt

Tech After 5
5:30-7:30pm. April 25
Looking for tech connections or just a good brew after work? Join host Phil Yanov and more than 100 entrepreneurs and tech professionals for this monthly event where there’s always some great beer on tap. Lagunitas Taproom, 161 East Bay St., Charleston. $10 (Free for tech professionals.) Register on Eventbrite: http://ta5.us/ta5-upcoming

 

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