Bill Moore | Crain's Austin

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Bill Moore

Background:  

Austin-based Zello Inc. offers a push-to-talk app for smartphones and tablets. There are versions of the app for consumers and work environments. Clients include Waste Management Inc., Iron Mountain, Restoration Hardware and Marriott International.

The Mistake:

I waited too long to start my own company.

From early in my career, I knew I wanted to operate a business. I have always loved entrepreneurship and had studied business through college. I mapped out a couple of paths, including being promoted through a larger organization. It wasn’t too long into my career that I realized I didn’t have the political skills or tolerance to keep going higher in the organization.

I believed that in my mid-to-late 20s before I started a business I really needed to have a set of competencies. I dabbled in engineering a bit but realized pretty quickly I was never going to be one of the best programmers. Eventually, I joined a pretty early-stage startup and was the No. 2 two guy for a while. That company was ultimately acquired.

My final wake-up call was 9/11. It was such a traumatic event. In my case, I was in Europe and was stuck there for a week separated from my family. It was a good time to think about the path I was on and what I was going to do. It was the impetus for me to realize that I needed to go back and quit my job and start my own company and see what happened. I left a lot on the table financially and it was a terrible time to start a business. This was right after the crash so raising money was impossible. But I impulsively decided to start my own company and funded it with my own money. It took about eight to ten years but it was successful.

 I spent a lot of years trying to understand what it takes to run a company when the time would have been better spent just doing the job.

The Lesson:

Here I am now working at a third company – the second I’ve been CEO of. But now I’m 55 years old. Looking back, I think I spent a lot of years trying to understand what it takes to run a company when the time would have been better spent just doing the job. I ask myself, “Why did I spend 15 to 20 years getting ready?”

By the time I did I was 40 and had five kids, no funding and no insurance. The stakes were so much higher. It’s also much harder when you start a company later in your career when you have other outside obligations to make it through tough times. You have a lot more to lose.

 

Follow Zello Inc. on Twitter at @Zello.

Pictured: Bill Moore | Photo courtesy of Zello Inc.

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