Adapted from BetaKit, as part of a regular series powered by Dell, where BetaKit asks prominent entrepreneurs to share how technology has evolved since they first launched their business, before predicting where it will take them.
A millionaire by the time he was 25, Michael Hyatt learned at an early age how to build a successful business. Following his second exit with BlueCat Networks, Hyatt is now in the business of sharing his lessons from the early days and investing in the future as a Next Gen Den Dragon.
BK: What technology were you using regularly at the beginning of your business?
MH: When I started my company in the mid-1990s, the only technology we had was a phone line and a fax machine. These were the weapons of business at the time, and if you wanted more you had to spend a lot of money.
We had computers that we used to develop the software we sold, but when we acquired a new client we had to mail them a disk with the software on it so they could install it – the cloud was not a thing at the time.
By about 1997, when the internet started to become a thing, we began to use email, but that created new problems around the speed of internet (we had dial-up), bandwidth, and the cost of internet connections on top of phone and fax connections.
BK: Are there tools or support systems available now that you wish you’d had then?
MH: Thinking back on the challenges we faced, cloud technology is the biggest thing that would have helped us.
With cloud computing, we could have sent our software to customers seamlessly and been able to demo it through screen-sharing. In the beginning, we had to mail them a disk and then talk them through using it on the phone. We couldn’t see the screen, so we’d be blind on the other side of the phone as we tried to explain which button to click in which order.
These kinds of things would have added a huge layer of simplicity, since the cloud would have brought efficiency and data storage into technology companies that couldn’t afford to fly on-premise for every installation.
BK: Is there any advice you’d want to give to your past self?
MH: The biggest mistake I ever made was hiring the wrong people. Thankfully, I also hired amazing people that far outweighed the bad hires, but the bad ones held us back.
I’d find someone with an amazing resume, but there was a gut feeling that said they wouldn’t have fit in with the organization. I’d ignore that red flag and hire the person anyway because they were perfect on paper.
The same thing happened every time – they were smart, but inevitably a bad cultural fit.
Looking back, I’d tell myself to invest in HR, even as a small business – both hiring an HR team and caring about it myself. I’d also tell myself to realize that HR is just as important as sales no matter what size you are, not only to have an objective process for hiring (and firing) but also building your culture.
If you’re so focused on selling that everything else takes a back seat, you might be setting yourself up for a lot of problems with talent. Hiring the wrong person is expensive, and firing that person is expensive, too.
BK: What do you think is the next big trend in technology and how will it impact the way we work?
MH: I think the four next big trends are AI, cryptocurrency, quantum computing, and data security – and they will all impact the way we work.