Essam Abdullah is the founder and CEO of TaxRise Inc.
What is an entrepreneur to do when they don’t have the resources to fund their business ventures? You may be tempted to say “seek investors,” but sourcing outside investments is not always feasible or even the best path toward scaling your business.
As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve started my fair share of companies over the past 10 years. Not one of them involved outside investors. My goal was always to start a software company that used technology to automate and innovate the way businesses worked. However, as a young entrepreneur with no experience or formal education in this field, the idea of finding investors to fund my idea was laughable. Frankly, no one was willing to invest in me — I had to invest in myself.
So, how did I grow a multimillion-dollar business without financial investors?
Challenge your expectations of what the road to success looks like.
I knew that because I did not have the privileges that family money, college alumni networks and business connections provide, my road to success would be different from my peers. And while my dream was to get involved in software development, I also knew it would be near impossible to find an investor. If I wanted to try my hand at development, I needed to find a unique way of doing so. Instead of wasting my time searching for an “angel investor,” I took control of my path forward.
I decided to play into my strengths. My background is in the tax relief industry, and I had the opportunity at a very early stage of my career to help grow a small tax relief company from its inception. In doing so, I became deeply involved in all aspects of the business. I founded my own tax relief business in 2017, intending to use the profit generated from that company to fund my software development goals. I knew that bringing technology to the industry would be game-changing.
Since I didn’t have the resources to immediately integrate my technological goals, I started TaxRise much like every other tax relief company. For every dollar of profit we generated, I invested it back into the company’s technology development.
Within a year, I had a staff of in-house developers building custom programs to make our processes faster, easier and more transparent. That’s when I was able to see real growth in my business. Within three years, we were able to turn a profit enough to launch my software company, MIADVG. Today, MIADVG supports TaxRise’s software and technology needs while developing a number of projects for financial services.
Constantly innovate your business.
When it comes to business advice, reminding you to “innovate” is probably not the mind-blowing piece of advice you are looking for. However, I find that business owners throw around the word “innovate” without fully embracing the concept.
To scale your business, you have to constantly evolve your thinking and your processes. The strategies and procedures that allowed you to earn your first $100,000 are not able to get you to your first $1 million.
If you want to scale your business without investors, you need to kill your darlings, listen to your employees on the front lines and be able to pivot at a moment’s notice. The TaxRise that I founded in 2017 is arguably a completely different company than the one currently in existence. Every one of our processes, procedures and workflows has been changed, tweaked, experimented with, thrown out and rebuilt from scratch.
My company is continuing to evolve to this day and will continue to evolve as we discover better ways to serve our clients and our employees.
Embrace your lack of investors.
In hindsight, the lack of investors probably benefited my businesses more than any amount of money I could have received from them. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs believe that once they achieve a certain level of success, outside investment is the only way to scale their business. Here’s why that type of thinking is detrimental to your success: If you believe that you can only reach the next level of success through outside investors, you effectively take the responsibility of your business’s success out of your hands and make it dependent on another entity. Simply put, there is nothing more detrimental to a company’s growth than an owner no longer being the make-or-break factor to its success.
And to be honest, investors often bring more problems than they solve. If you look at the rise and fall of WeWork, some analysts say that WeWork’s problem was that it had too much money from investors, which contributed to risky business models.
So, are investors helpful and a great way to scale your business? Sure. Are they necessary to scale your business? Absolutely not. If anything, based on my own experience, a lack of investors allows you more control of your business and of your success.
Remember: challenge, innovate and embrace. These three keys are simple in concept, however, their definition is going to change depending on the entrepreneur. Your background, strengths and dedication are uniquely your own. While starting from scratch can be daunting, it is important to look at it as an opportunity to call your own shots and create something wholly yours. As you advance, making decisions will become easier and your instincts will grow stronger. Surround yourself with people you trust, make mistakes and learn from them. Let go of whatever isn’t working and hang on to what is.