Building a business to be proud of
A quick Google of Ted Jordan's company ActionStep reveals a flurry of commercial activity over the past year. But it's 2013 that will see ActionStep, a cloud-based management system for professional practices like lawyers, really hit its straps, Jordan says. With distribution deals signed in the United States, Britain, and Australia now secured, staff on the ground in America and all the groundwork done, this is the year that ActionStep will go from a local producer to a highly scaleable international business, he says.
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
When I had previously worked for a number of big corporates in the United States, I noticed that although there were commonalities in the systems, they were designing systems for different organisations, they would reinvent the wheel every time they started developing a new system.
I had a vision of creating a better system, one that could meet the needs of small-to-medium-sized businesses in the same way that the larger organisations' needs were being met, but at a price that SMEs could afford. That's when the vision for ActionStep was born. The decision to start my own business and develop ActionStep coincided with the decision by my wife and me to move to New Zealand to raise our children. So this gave me a fresh start and a clean slate, which is perfect for an entrepreneur.
Name one thing you've learnt while in business and from whom?
One thing I've learned is that businesses are successful not because of a unique idea but because of the way they meet the needs of the market and deliver extraordinary value and service for their customers.
I learned this not only from my experience in corporations, which often lose their focus on what they're supposed to be doing, but also from a great business book with an interesting title: A Good Hard Kick in the Ass: Basic Training for Entrepreneurs. I found that the author, Rob Adams, gets straight to the heart of the real issues facing start-ups because he is a specialist in financing and supporting new businesses.
What are your business and personal goals?
My business goal is to grow ActionStep to be an internationally recognised player in the online business space and a leader in niches such as law practice management, where we offer unique advantages over any other technology available and are making a name for ourselves at the moment in the United States as well as New Zealand.
On a personal level, money is not a motivator for me, I am more interested in building technology and a business that I can be proud of and that will deliver value to our clients. At the same time, I am conscious of the need to maintain my core values in regard to my family and friends.
Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?
Don't dabble in a whole bunch of things, focus on one thing, the one thing you do best, and do it better than anybody else.
Are you prepared for failure?
Totally. I've always believed you learn more from your failures than your successes and for that reason, take the time to carefully analyse mistakes. Any one business strategy may fail, so you need to be prepared to adapt and move on if you need to. Don't get too caught up in one thing if it's not working, and don't take it too much to heart if a strategy doesn't work. Just move on.
What has been your biggest disappointment since you started your business?
No specific disappointment, but generally having a feeling that we could have gone harder and faster earlier. We were so far ahead of the technology curve that they did not even invent the terminology for what we were doing until years later. But we got there in the end so that's really what counts.
What is one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you?
That I am still a kid at heart and I still enjoy watching cartoons and being generally silly whenever I get the chance. My children still ask me what I plan to be when I grow up.