Starting a business presents unique challenges. Entrepreneurs often have difficulty finding the right mentors and people in their field to help them reach their path to success. Most of the time this path to success isn’t linear. It includes many stopping and starting points and opportunities to reevaluate. These reevaluation points are critical, as they can determine the future of your company.
After over thirty years in business, the main area where I’ve seen entrepreneurs struggle isn’t in launching their company. It is in taking their company from the beginning stages of success and seeing exponential, long-term growth. I’m passionate about giving these businesses the tools they need to find success. That’s why I started Aquila Capital Partners. Our mission is to help entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level by offering not just financial capital, but intellectual capital.
The Mission Behind Aquila Capital Partners
Aquila began over 20 years ago after we sold the first public company I helped build. I wanted to get back to the energy and grit of being a serial entrepreneur like I was before getting involved with taking companies public. But I wanted to do it differently.
I wanted to be more involved as an investor and operator. After a successful sale early in my career, I decided to dedicate a portion of my professional life to helping others. It was highly rewarding, and one of the companies I invested in became the predecessor to Argo, which took me on a 20-year journey. I had this notion that entrepreneurs needed a little help outside of monetary investments. Too many advisors focus on financial advice and don’t think about the other practical aspects of running a company that leaders really need help with. Oftentimes finding good mentors is just as important to the growth of your company as finding financial advisors. In fact, 76% of people think having a mentor is important—but only 37% have one. Imagine the heights these businesses could reach if they were backed by the right team. In fact, some studies indicate that mentorship is directly related to career success.
That’s why I started Aquila Capital Partners. I’m helping established entrepreneurs build their businesses, not just financially, but through mentorship and collaboration. I want to invest and help CEOs build their company from the ground up. It all goes back to providing financial and intellectual capital. I always approach investments this way. Our business model is entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs—the energy and expertise these collaborations bring are of unparalleled importance in business. We have a lot to learn from each other.
As someone who is investing intellectual capital, it’s really helpful to have been in the shoes of the people that are building businesses today. Many of them have great ideas and successful launches, but they need an extra push to get to where they want to be. One of my portfolio’s CEOs summed it up best. He said, “we entrepreneurs know how to get from zero to one, and we can kind of get from one to two or three, maybe four, but really need some help to get from one to ten”. And that’s what Aquila is all about: helping entrepreneurs get from level one to level ten.
Increasing Entrepreneurs’ Success
There is sort of a glass ceiling for entrepreneurs trying to take a company from the early stages of success to the next level. Getting something from an idea to a business model and then a business plan takes a lot of creativity and thoughtfulness. Once you get your company going, you must constantly reevaluate your skills and prepare for the next phase. And at every step along the way in the evolution of the company, the requisite skills to get the company there keep changing. And so, if you think about it, every time the company gets to a different stage in its life, the people or the skills that those people need to have in order to be successful change. This level of adaptability can be challenging. It’s very hard for you to keep retooling yourself as the leader while maintaining the day-to-day functions of your business.
Some practical ways that entrepreneurs can push past the glass ceiling and into success? Find people you admire, who are on similar paths, and ask them for 30 minutes of their time. Take them out for a virtual coffee or ask for a quick phone call. Come prepared with your questions and concerns and ask them what challenges they overcame to get where they are now. Once you find a mentor you can meet with regularly, be transparent with them about where your company is and where you want to go. Share your pain points and challenges. Allow them to give constructive criticism and honest feedback about areas where you can grow and improve.
Next, it is vital that you reevaluate your toolbox and see if you’re correctly equipped. At Aquila, we want to help the founders and core leadership team figure out what’s coming next in the evolution of the company and help them retool their toolbox so they can keep growing. We’ve found that it’s one thing to get a few customers and another thing to create an amazing product—but the challenge lies in scaling the business. If you don’t have the tools to get you where you need to be, you ultimately won’t arrive at your intended destination.
The companies that we’re focused on have an amazing product or service, and they’ve got a lot of customers. They’ve figured out their go-to-market strategy or their distribution platform. What they’re trying to figure out next is how they can bring all of that together. How do you go from $1 million in revenue to $10 million? How do you go from 12 employees to 50 employees? What’s the connectivity that brings all those things together? That’s where Aquila is here to help. We’re building the next generation of innovative, tech-enabled companies by backing entrepreneurs to fuel the next generation of business.