It takes a passionate and driven individual to be an entrepreneur, but what happens after the company is launched? How does an entrepreneur go from an idea to building a long-term successful company? As part of our Scaling Q&A Series, we dive into growth strategies and successes from our rising stars. Here we chat with Vlad Schmunis, CEO of RingCentral.
Describe RingCentral in one sentence?
VS: It’s a cloud-based communications platform for business of all sizes.
What inspired you to start the company?
VS: My prior company dabbled in the software communications space a bit and it was apparent that there was a need for next generation communications system.
Communications is a huge market, traditionally manned by stagnating incumbents. I was inspired by the possibility of creating disruption in a giant market and building a significant company in the space.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through the process of starting a company?
VS: That it is a living organism and you need to adapt. It is important to hold your own and the values that are important to you, but you also need to be flexible and open to new opportunities as the company grows and expands.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs looking to start a company?
VS: Don’t do it (laughs). But seriously, you need to jump in with both feet, you have to believe in the company, what you are doing and what you are trying to achieve. It is really hard work and if you aren’t enjoying the process of building the company, then it isn’t worth it.
Once you get past that mark, it is important to keep the end goal in sight. Think about your goals for the company long term – what do you want it to look like in 10 years and how can you build to that while staying focused. As I mentioned above, you need to be flexible but you don’t want to be chasing the latest shiny objects. Stay true to what you want to create.
RingCentral has experienced a tremendous amount of growth? What’s your secret?
VS: There are three main ingredients to building a big business 1) a sizable, meaningful market 2) a market that is ripe for change 3) a better mousetrap than the other guy. If any of these components is missing, you don’t have a chance.
After that, you need a strong team on both the technical side (to build the product) and the marketing side (to bring said product to market). Bringing on the right people to help grow your business is crucial and worth the investment. One strong player is better than 100 mediocre players.
Lastly, there is a certain degree of risk tolerance you need to be comfortable with to go big.
Who has helped along the way?
For me, a group of advisors has been useful. You can’t have multiple hands on the driving wheel steering the direction of your company, but it is important to appreciate the past experiences and external value that your strategic partners and board members can provide. We were very selective in choosing our board and they have been helpful in providing resources, business advice, growth strategies, intros for key hires and an overall external point of view on the business.
What do you do for fun?
VS: I try to find balance and spend a lot of time outdoors, snowboarding, wakeboarding and my latest obsession kite boarding.
Has it influenced how you run your company?
VS: Absolutely – especially kite boarding, there are a lot of analogies between the sport and running a successful business. First, you need to accept that there are powers out of your control that are infinitely stronger than you and figure out how to manage that environment – knowing when to fight it or let go. Second, you need to be respectful of your environment and adapt to changing conditions. Third, you need to look where you are going and remain focused. Don’t panic, ever! Otherwise really bad things can happen. And last, but likely most important, is to have fun!