As entrepreneurs continue to build businesses throughout their professional lives, they are bound to take lessons learned along the way and apply them to their next effort.
Laura Steinbrink, president and CEO of Flashstarts 2015 Accelerator company Brilliency, has experienced both sides of the coin throughout her entrepreneurship career: startups and larger businesses, for-profit and nonprofit work, being her own boss as well as working for others. Even in different spaces, she has found a way to apply many of the same best practices across the board.
“I found myself starting my own businesses because I am wired to see opportunity, to chart out solutions, and dive right into action. Those entrepreneurial qualities help get non-profits off the ground just as they do for-profit ventures,” she said. “My personal mission is to do good and make profit, and thus my business activities are focused on areas that create sustainable environmental benefit.”
Before starting Brilliency in 2014, Steinbrink worked in consulting for the energy and building industry. Her first for-profit startup, a sustainability consulting firm, is in its seventh year of operations. Additionally, she has 15 years of experience as an executive and program manager for non-profit organizations on a local and national level.
She emphasized the importance of teamwork when launching a startup – “You simply do not have a business if it is only you,” – and encouraged entrepreneurs to find out what product or service will be most relevant to consumers before wasting time on something that they do not need or want.
“The product must be relevant. What you think you should do or develop first is probably not what will ultimately be ‘bought’ by customers and clients.”
Throughout a business career, it’s inevitable that entrepreneurs will build and maintain relationships with co-founders, mentors, potential investors, and other stakeholders. Keeping a strong network is important in growing mutually beneficial relationships.
Steinbrink said that with its connections between clients, funders, partners, and stakeholders, the nonprofit space is a network by nature. Even after she entered the for-profit space, the skills and experiences gained from working with nonprofit organizations helped her maintain her network.
“Maintaining a strong network is all about what you do for the people you know, and knowing when to ask for help,” she said. “I thrive on helping other people reach their goals, which tends to attract back to me people who want to help me.”