We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.
Meet: Shahab Kaviani, the co-founder and Chief Entrepreneurial Officer at CoFoundersLab, the world’s largest online community of entrepreneurs, which helps entrepreneurs build startup teams and find essential support. Shahab is a natural networker and serial entrepreneur, having previously co-founded HyperOffice, a cloud startup in the SMB collaboration space, in 2003.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Shahab Kaviani: I don’t think my aspirations for a particular career were very strong or clear at the time, maybe because no “job” seemed appealing. I don’t really think I grew up until my early 20s, and at that time, I wished I could have Charlie Rose’s job. I find the art of interviewing admirable personalities fascinating and a chance for endless learning.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Kaviani: Well, with my first startup, HyperOffice, it was not really such a deliberate choice. I was recruited by a few people to join as the fourth co-founder. This came at a time when I felt I was beginning to top out in the position I held at an enterprise software company as far as personal development, and I was ready for a new challenge. I saw my first startup as a chance to create something from scratch, and that was extremely appealing.
I started CoFoundersLab because I wanted to be part of a meaningful mission. I found my mission when I recognized a personal need which went unmet, then realized there were many people like myself who wanted to launch a startup but didn’t have a teammate to take the leap with. I believe that by working on a meaningful mission, you’ll come out a winner; even if you don’t achieve your financial goals, you can find satisfaction in the journey and the impact you make on people’s lives.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Kaviani: I’ve never experienced a pivotal moment professionally. My journey has been a series of “slow hunches” and very much a culmination, which can only be defined as success when you look back and compress your timeline—then you may see pivotal points, but it never felt that way in the moment.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Kaviani: I remember this very clearly. It was about 1999 and I was taking a walking meeting along the San Francisco Bay with our CEO, Bobby Yazdani. I remember Bobby told me, “Life is long.” Contrary to what everyone says, this statement really struck me and I began to see personal and business choices through a new lens, a lens that allows you to take a long-term view about doing what’s right in the long run for your business, deferring gratification and recognition for a tougher road with a better prize in the end.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Kaviani: Focus. New ventures often fail not because of the lack of opportunity, but because we’re drowning in opportunity. Many people join startups because of the adventure and the chance to try new things. However, there’s a lot we can gain from the more traditional and more mature businesses—they have the discipline to stick to one track and scale a path that works.
I’ve been witnessing what I refer to CADD or Corporate Attention Deficit Disorder. Just because something’s lost that “new-car smell,” don’t be too quick to abandon a good idea until you’re certain you’ve attempted to execute as best as your resources allow. Sometimes this means sticking to your running game and gaining a few yards at a time. Yes, we’re in this game for the thrill of the long pass, but I would caution entrepreneurs to be very focused and patient when it comes to building pathways to success.
Lesonsky: Do you have a 2014 small business prediction?
Kaviani: Large companies are struggling to grow revenues; they seem to be stuck around 7 percent growth. I think acquisitions will become a popular strategy to grow revenues among larger companies, and while cash is relatively cheap, I think we’ll see a big uptick in M&A activity, with SMBs being prime targets.
Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?
Kaviani: I’m reading a lot of Curious George these days. I just love that mischievous monkey. I bet he’s gonna be an entrepreneur when he grows up, just like all the other well-adjusted misfits.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Kaviani: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi
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