In 2003, Joel Bomgar asked his college friend Nathan McNeill to help him launch a business selling software that he developed to remotely access and fix computers, known today as remote support software. Nathan knew little about starting a company, but decided to take a chance and became employee number two at the eponymously named, Bomgar. Today, Nathan serves as the company’s co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer. Along with the rest of the management team, Nathan has shaped Bomgar into a $38 million company with more than 190 employees and 6,500 customers worldwide in under a decade.
Last week, we had the opportunity to sit down with Nathan to discuss his thoughts on entrepreneurship, business, and the steps to success.
Q: You chose to go into business with your friend Joel. Should entrepreneurs look to friends when choosing potential business partners?
A: Mixing personal and professional relationships can be tricky, but above all choose people you like to be around. Whether or not you love your work is closely related to whether or not you like the people you’re working with. Even a crummy job can seem great if you’re doing it with the right people, and likewise, a great job can seem crummy if you’re working with the wrong people. You’ll get more done with the right people, too, because your energy won’t be wasted on trying to figure out how to work around them.
Q. What did you do to prepare yourself for co-founding a business?
A: I majored in philosophy in college, and I think it gave me a solid foundation for learning and thinking about new concepts, and applying those ideas to various situations. When we first started the company, Joel and I read any business books we could get our hands on, called up more experienced business leaders for advice, and went to local networking events. I think people might be surprised to discover how much free business advice exists if you’re willing to seek it out.
At the same time, if you read enough books and talk to enough people, then the opposite ends of the spectrum begin to contradict themselves: every bad idea is good and every good idea is bad. You have to sort this mess out, make the tough decisions yourself, and not just listen to what the crowd is telling you because consensus is paralysis. You may be dead wrong, but you won’t know unless you try.
Q: What’s one of the most important on-the-job lessons you’ve learned about starting a business?
A: Be mindful of trying to do too much too quickly. In the early stages of a new business, you’ve got lots of ideas, lots of excitement, lots of energy and you’re likely further galvanized by any early successes you’ve experienced.
In this environment, it’s easy to lose focus and invest in new products, expand into different markets, make a significant hiring change, and so on. At the appropriate stage, all of these decisions could be right for your company, but in the early days it’s important to grow by focusing on your core business or product, rather than trying to rush to the next big thing.
Q: What do you think is the most important attribute of an entrepreneur?
A: To always be thinking of the next thing. We got the idea to start Bomgar not because we wanted to be entrepreneurs, but because we saw an industry need that was not being met. As our business became successful, we didn’t stop thinking of ways we could innovate our product.
For example, the idea of people working from mobile phones—not to mention the yet-to-be-invented tablet—was a foreign concept when we founded Bomgar. Obviously the mobility trend has exploded in the ensuing years, and we’re continuously thinking about how to stay ahead so that our products keep pace with the changing nature of business.
Regardless of the industry you’re in, constantly thinking about what might come next is a key part of being an entrepreneur.
Q: How has your perspective on business changed since starting your career?
A: When we started Bomgar, I was 23 years old. Things happened pretty quickly for us and part of me expected that within our first two years we’d grow to be a tech giant rivaling the likes of Microsoft. The last eight years at the company have helped me to realize that good things take time. Whatever you do with your life, you’d better love what you do, because you could be doing it a long time.
Q: Based on your own experience, what’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: Don’t defer your dreams. It’s easy to start working somewhere and say – “someday I will go do…” Unfortunately, in reality “someday” rarely ever comes.
Adam Toren is an Award Winning Author, Serial Entrepreneur and Investor. He Co-Founded YoungEntrepreneur.com along with his brother Matthew. Adam is co-author of the newly released book: Small Business, Big Vision: “Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right” and also co-author of Kidpreneurs.