“Focus All Your Energy on the Customer, and You Will Be Successful”Rieva Lesonsky
While there are some universal tenets of success, entrepreneurs wouldn’t be entrepreneurs if they didn’t march to the beat of their own inner drummer. Many successful small business owners have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that help them achieve success.
Here some of today’s smartest, highly innovative, most successful business owners share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Karla Friede, CEO, cofounder and member of the Board of Directors at Nvoicepay. Nvoicepay transforms the massive and expensive effort that goes into paying suppliers into a simple and automated solution.
Friede has 20 years of experience in management, finance and marketing roles in both large and early-stage companies.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Karla Friede: When I grew up, I wanted to be a professional football player. My dad used to throw the ball to us in the backyard when we were little, and I dreamed of being a receiver. My favorite team is the Seattle Seahawks.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Friede: I’ve always wanted to start a business. I liked the idea of competing for customers and building the kind of company I would want to work for. Since I’ve spent the last 20 years of my career in tech, it was a natural starting point. Nvoicepay was created because my cofounders and I saw a tremendous need that wasn’t being served. Why were businesses continuing to pay their invoices by paper checks, when consumers had all but done away with checks? Why couldn’t businesses expect the same level of technology and services that consumers could? Nvoicepay was created to transform the massive and expensive effort that goes into paying suppliers into a simple, automated solution.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Friede: There was no “one” pivotal moment on the way to success. It was eight years of smaller moments of delivering value and building relationships with customers and strategic partners. Nvoicepay’s dedication to delivering customer value has allowed us to double in size year over year. Building strategic partnerships with CDK Global, Coupa, MasterCard and other best-in-class organizations has strengthened our offerings and provided additional growth momentum.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Friede: The best advice I can offer sounds trite, but it's true, “Focus all your energy on the customer by understanding their needs and how to make them successful.” If you deliver great customer value, you will be successful. I learned this when I was at Harvard Business School, but I experienced it first-hand at Nvoicepay. We invest time and energy understanding what the customer needs. This research drives product enhancements and advancements to our payment automation software.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Friede: Before you raise too much money, get in the market, gain some traction and show results. Your traction, numbers and results will speak loudly and make the fundraising easier. It will also enable you to raise funds at a better valuation. Companies that raise too much money too early risk burning through funds before they have solid customer results. This can put your company’s future at stake before you even get started.
Once you’ve hit growth mode, don’t forget about your back-office operations. Nvoicepay exists to streamline the payments process and enable companies to grow without adding additional resources. It’s no surprise that many of our customers are high-growth companies in the technology sector that are looking to reduce costs before their IPOs.
Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?
Friede: I think we’ll see an explosion in small businesses. Like we did with Nvoicepay, other entrepreneurs will provide new and more convenient products and services by leveraging technology. Old processes will be disrupted as new technology is applied to older industries. I’ve already seen this occur and I expect it to continue over the next three years.
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
Friede: I’m currently reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and enjoying it immensely. I’ve also heard great things about [Nike founder] Phil Knight’s memoir Shoe Dog, and it’s up next on my reading list. Since Nike is headquartered in the same town as Nvoicepay, I look forward to learning more about the early days of the retail brand giant.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Friede: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”—Winston Churchill and
“Living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold.”—Milan Kundera