Lessons from a Founder – Q&A with David Lawson

As a startup founder, Insperity’s David Lawson utilized his experience by being a resource and advisor for business owners. David enjoys working with start-ups because he understands their challenges and is passionate about building a culture by design, risk management, strong infrastructure based growth, and HR technology.

Reflecting on his past endeavors, David wishes he had known about these concepts when starting his own business. 

Q: What’s the best advice you can give to help someone starting a venture?

A: Make sure you are well capitalized and that you are protecting your cash flow. Well capitalized can be a pipeline, prospects and money coming in. Plus, money on the side (dry powder) to aid with growth versus missing the opportunity to grow. This could be from a bank, VC partner, or private investor. Just make sure you are planning for cash flow. Recessions, eco challenges, and clients, it comes up unexpectedly.

Q: How do you encourage innovative ideas?

A: Innovation is not something you do in the moment. It’s something you support in your organization over time. If you want to be innovative, don’t micromanage. Give yourself and partners room to breathe and take risks. Build the innovative spirit along the way, while continually monitoring KPIs, but don’t hold the reins too tightly.

Q: Do you have a mentor? How have they influenced you?

A: I have a lot of mentors. I’ve been blessed. My dad has been the best mentor for me. He was the CEO of three technology companies in different verticals. Finance guy by trade, turned private and broke away into tech leading the way in fiber optic tech. I learned a lot about operation excellence, and how to manage people. However, it is important to have diversity in mentorship. People from all walks of life and backgrounds. The broader your mentorship, the broader your reach and opportunity. Don’t silo yourself. This is part of why Insperity works on building advisory boards.

Q: How and where do you find inspiration?

A: I find inspiration when I’m not looking for it. I think a lot of that comes to me when I’m out and in a natural setting. Less chatter, no phone, no electronics. Be one with nature. When you start to relate to the natural world, you can connect and innovate. If I’m really struggling or feel like I’m missing something, I go outside and get active. It allows me to relax and get rid of the chatter in my mind and get back to my base level.

Q: What values are you committed to?

A: You have to have mission, vision, and values. It’s the three legged stool for building your culture and setting you up for success. The values and ethics I like to focus on are win-win scenarios. It’s not about how much you can get, it’s about how you can give the best or provide the best fit to the person or situation. Look for ways to partner with people to add value long term. In everything you do, both business and personal, create win-wins and treat people the way you’d want your family to be treated. Come to the table with the kind of ethics and morals that cause others to seek you out. One more core value, perseverance. You have to push through the hard times and dig deep to stay the course.

Q: How do you balance your work and home life?

A: That’s a tough question, especially for a founder or owner of the company. You go through times where there is no work-life balance. You focus on one more than the other because you have to. It’s all fine and good to say you can have work-life values, but the reality is, you might not have that all the time. It’s a difficult situation that you will struggle with continually. You need however to understand, the hustle isn’t always healthy. Appreciate the small wins. It could be as simple as scheduling a vacation or committing to dinner with the family three days a week. There is sacrifice that comes with owning and managing a business but, it’s important for owners and founders to understand that no one will be as motivated in building your business as you are. Remember that when you hire. Work life balance will look different for you than your employees.

Q: Do you have any books/podcasts/blogs that you would suggest reading?

A: I’m a big picture person. I look at things holistically. There have certainly been a number of books that have been helpful over the years, but the one thing I default to over the years is Harvard Business Review. 

  1. They are technically sound publications, vetted by peers and held to a higher standard.
  2. They came out and publicly started talking about how they might have missed the mark when teaching entrepreneurs that maling money was the crescendo to managing a business. 

In turn, Harvard Business Review built in new programs to create better outcomes. They are looking internally and looking back on themselves to continue to grow.

David Lawson is Business Performance Advisor with Insperity, providing workforce solutions and advice with a focus on early companies and startups.

Have questions for David, or want to learn more about teams, entrepreneurship, and putting human resources in place for your organization, get in touch with David here.

Amazing mentors such as David are part of the global network of startup advisors and teachers that put together to help you find success.  Join us by signing up for our Spring cohort here.

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