Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Launched My Business or Startup
An Interview With Doug Noll
Founding Clients: We can often get obsessed with finding a large number of clients right off the bat. But in this case, it’s not so much about having a ton of clients as it is about having quality clients. Focus on your client relationships, really understand their needs and deliver. Making connections with quality clients will generate referrals to grow your business and often they will provide case studies or testimonials you can utilize to draw in more business.
Taking the risk to start a company is a feat few are fully equipped for. Any business owner knows that the first few years in business are anything but glamorous. Building a successful business takes time, lessons learned, and most importantly, enormous growth as a business owner. What works and what doesn’t when one starts a new business? What are the valuable lessons learned from the “University of Adversity”? As part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maurice Harary.
Maurice Harary is the co-founder and CEO of The Bid Lab, a consulting company dedicated to helping small and medium-sized businesses find, manage and build their RFPs and proposals.
His experience building a company that started with just $1,500 into a company that has grown tremendously is a great way to help with stories and pitches outside of just procurement and the RFP process. Furthermore, he has helped countless small and medium-sized businesses win their first multi-million dollar deals, and helping smaller businesses drives The Bid Lab’s mission!
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was in college it was my goal to work for a large tech company. I had my heart set on working for a specific firm, but the only opening they had was on the ‘RFP’ team. Even though I had no idea what that was, I went for it. (I was on spring break in Chile at the time, so of course, I accepted!) Once I started actually responding to RFPs I found that it was work that was both challenging and rewarding, and I worked my way up to be a top performer on my team. Eventually, with a little encouragement from my Co-Founder and wife, Jordan, I took the leap and went out on my own starting The Bid Lab.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Hands down the most difficult time we faced when starting The Bid Lab was when my oldest daughter was born extremely premature just as our business was exploding with new clients and revenue. The fear and the stress surrounding all of that is just impossible to describe. Fortunately, I was smart enough to choose a wonderful partner in life and start a business with her. My wife and I really leaned on each other to succeed as both parents and business founders. I am proud to say that both my daughter and The Bid Lab are healthy and thriving today!
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
If my daughter could fight to survive, and eventually thrive, then I was going to fight for her to have whatever she needed once she was out of that incubator.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are going amazing today! We started with just $1,500. As of today, we’ve helped countless small and medium-sized businesses win over $100 million so far! In addition to our success creating RFPs and winning bids, we recently launched our own RFP search engine, Bid Banana. We are now able to bring countless RFPs to small and medium-sized businesses with ease and, dare I say it, a sense of fun.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I made some foolish assumptions about who my first clients would be. I learned that it’s not about the size of a client, but about how much you can assist a business. One of our best clients came to us with just over $100,000 in revenue, and we have grown together to be multi-million dollar businesses!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I’m passionate about helping small and medium-sized businesses grow and expand. Many clients come to us with no previous experience in the bidding process. Or, they come to us at the eleventh hour, stressed and overwhelmed. Unlike our competitors, we focus on our clients, understanding what makes them unique and walking them through the process with complete transparency.
This understanding and focus translates into winning RFPs and happy clients. We are fortunate to showcase so many success stories in the Case Studies section of our website, which covers businesses in all industries. You can see what we’ve done for a singer-songwriter who focuses on disability advocacy, a software development company that handles pension technology, and even the Wyoming Office of Tourism that needed assistance with their procurement process.
With such varying projects, it’s easy to have fun while working on RFPs and we do our best to carry that over to every client interaction. Clients trust us to get the job done with a positive outlook, no matter the time crunch or the size of the request. We’re flexible and with staff spread across the country, we’re able to be available when our clients are. And despite our light-hearted nature, we are incredibly dedicated to what we do, ensuring a high-quality experience for our clients.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I would strongly advise colleagues to hire people to do the aspects of the job that burn you out. That means something different to each person reading this, but for me, that meant hiring an accountant. This was by far my least favorite part of the job! Knowing you have quality people handling the aspects of the job that don’t excite you, frees you up to focus on the aspects of the job that you truly enjoy and helps maintain a sense of fulfillment and excitement about what you do.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Did you know that the vast majority of married couples choose not to work together? My wife and I are the exception. Jordan is my partner in every sense of the word. Back in 2017, she was climbing the ladder in the automotive industry while I was working at IHS Markit. Jordan was tasked with completing an RFP for her business and hired an outside consultant for assistance. When we saw the final work product, we were shocked by the subpar quality that seemed to be accepted by the industry at large. The formatting was off, the writing was shoddy and the information was not even compliant.
She called me and we worked through the night putting together a proposal she could stand behind. It was then that we realized combining her writing talent with my RFP knowledge was a winning formula for success.
Since then, we’ve created the world’s leading RFP company, had two daughters and recently launched our own RFP search engine, Bid Banana.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I started this company because I am the best at what I do — winning bids for companies. I wanted to take my talents and use them to help smaller companies win new business. Winning these bids changes the lives of the people who run these companies, their families and their communities. I love knowing that my skill set is helping change lives in impactful ways. There is nothing better than knowing that you are contributing to the overall good.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first launched my business” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1 . Addressing Loneliness: Starting a company is very lonely in the beginning, even if you are constantly pitching potential clients and working with vendors. You lose out on that built-in cohort of people in a traditional work environment that you see day-to-day and makes the work easier. Working alone means you are constantly needing to seek out socialization, which can be challenging especially when you’re working day and night to get your business off the ground. I recommend taking time to network with old college friends or co-workers; you never know when one of them will bring you that great idea, essential connection or funding source.
More importantly though, there needs to be a time for you to socialize without discussing work. Just like you schedule a meeting, schedule time to grab dinner with your best friend or have a date night with your spouse. This should happen regularly, not once in a while, and will make a world of difference in your mental health. Starting a business allows you to manage your own schedule, so use it accordingly to make plans that work for you!
2 . Daunting To-Do List: When you look at successful entrepreneurs, you may see splashy headlines with huge accomplishments under their belts and wonder how you too can make big wins happen quickly. That is a very common mistake and often leads to failing quickly. There is no easy path to success no matter what you see in the news.
Instead, refocus your energy on executing a long-term plan by working on your first to-do list. Then, once you complete that to-do list, the next set of tasks will present themselves to you. Make another to-do list and execute that. Keep focusing on the to-do list at hand, instead of the accomplishments. The accomplishments will come once you actually complete enough tasks!
It’s so easy to finish thousands of tasks when you break them up into to-do lists that are a few tasks long. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish by doing this every day, week, month and year. By the end of the year, you will look back at where you started and be shocked by what you accomplished…just like the next generation of entrepreneurs who will see your accomplishment and wonder how you got there!
3 . Support from Family and Friends: It’s impossible to be successful without support. Know who is in your corner and don’t be afraid to reach out when you need help. Whether it’s business advice or just a kind ear after a long day, you need to feel supported to have the energy to keep pushing and create your business.
4 . Excellent First Hires: Really focus on those first hires you make, ensure they are the right people and you give them a solid foundation. If those first hires get off to the right start, then what’s built under them down the line will scale considerably easier due to the culture and processes built out initially. If you put effort into finding solid employees and bringing them into your company culture, the return on investment will pay off.
5 . Founding Clients: We can often get obsessed with finding a large number of clients right off the bat. But in this case, it’s not so much about having a ton of clients as it is about having quality clients. Focus on your client relationships, really understand their needs and deliver. Making connections with quality clients will generate referrals to grow your business and often they will provide case studies or testimonials you can utilize to draw in more business.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
After years of hard work, The Bid Lab was finally at the home stretch of launching our new software, Bid Banana, which would enable small businesses to find new bid opportunities. Then, my second daughter was also born earlier than expected. In addition to that, a key team member had a health crisis that required her to step down from her role developing the software. It was a double whammy. While we could have let this moment derail everything we had worked so hard for and push back our launch date, we did quite the opposite. My co-founder and wife, Jordan, worked with me around the clock to get the work done, and done right. Having the newborn in the hospital, then luckily, at home, may have required us to work odd hours, but it did not diminish the amount of time spent. In fact, it allowed us to work smarter, and have a new sense of motivation for what we were working so hard to achieve.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I, too, used to go into a 52-story skyscraper in New York City in a full suit every day. But, when I founded The Bid Lab, I remembered that the people I worked most closely with on my previous team worked out of the UK and India. Why couldn’t I work closely with people who weren’t located geographically nearby to me?
The Bid Lab is, and always has been, a remote company. While there are myriad reasons why remote work is worth championing (environmental impact, productivity, work/life balance, etc.) one of the reasons why I think it works best for The Bid Lab is because it allows us to hire from a unique pool of individuals. I’m looking at you, amazing writer, living 3 hours outside of Albuquerque who needs to be available to her elderly mother in the afternoons. And I’m also looking at you, sales superstar who wants to homeschool her kids, but can also sell ice to an Eskimo.
I’m proud of the fact that The Bid Lab is made up of a team of individuals who have individual needs but also a common ability to log into work wherever they may be.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Check out all that we’re doing at The Bid Lab or Bid Banana. From articles in our Learning Center to our extensive list of Case Studies you can find information to grow your business or inspiration on how we’ve helped others grow theirs. You can also check us out on:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Link to Authority Magazine Article: Maurice Harary of The Bid Lab: Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Launched My Business or Startup