Delegating. Entrepreneurs often want to control the process and priorities, but I can be more efficient if I delegate to my amazing staff. The ownership of projects and priorities is essential.
Jim Williams, CEO at MustHaveMenus.com and is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for design. In addition to founding MustHaveMenus, Jim also co-founded Elli and Sharefaith. In 1997, he founded one of the first cloud-based CRM companies, MarketHome (CLAC, 1999). Jim is also an active angel investor.
Where did the idea for MustHaveMenus come from?
We started off with a goal to help restaurants design menus. Then we realized we could add web-based technologies which progressed to our current solution. It took nearly a decade to progress from graphics to templates to online templates to finally turning the corner to an online editor for the templates—a true web service. We realized that we could really solve the traditional print and new online digital challenges for restaurateurs.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Trying to understand all the MustHaveMenus projects is quite an undertaking. We are a multi-project company, from designing to printing and publishing, and each is a product in its own right. I’m constantly sifting through and understanding what priorities to make and which resources to allocate. Also, making sure products are moving along to solve customer problems is a daily priority. Keeping up with the speed of the Internet in order to stay ahead of others is also a large focus.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When we have an idea for a feature, for example, we have daily calls with the team, talk about things we’d like to do and put them on the table, review, vet and assess the cost and time to implement as well as the value to the customer. Every day we access this equation. Skype is an amazing tool to stay in touch with our global team.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Mobile and Cloud. Mobile blows my mind. The rate of adoption is a paradigm shift from desktop to mobile computers and consumers are simply doing everything mobile. The ramifications are massive and it’s a big deal because all of our users must pay attention to this shift and position their business to mobile and cater to their customers in a mobile manner.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Delegating. Entrepreneurs often want to control the process and priorities, but I can be more efficient if I delegate to my amazing staff. The ownership of projects and priorities is essential. How much effort we put into recruiting and keeping talent is a huge factor in the success of the company. We’re always growing and changing so adding motivated, talented people that are a good fit is essential for success.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Winding down a company I’ve started is very challenging, even painful. There’s a lot of agonizing about whether to give it another six months, or try to evolve the company, or pull the plug. It’s a big reality check and you have to be up front with staff, but you feel really bad because employees are depending on you with the vision and execution of the company. There are families and livelihoods involved. But there’s always a silver lining with those failures, in learning what not to do, what markets to avoid, and how to do things better next time. In 2005 I started General Communities, a social networking and social media company back when Facebook was just getting started. There was a potential for massive growth in social media, but we just didn’t have it at the time. These companies relied on some good luck in addition to being well executed on and needing a truly fanatical user base and some serendipity. We just didn’t have the marketing money nor did we have a truly novel approach to get in the news.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
The goal is to build a great product that has mass desire and path to revenue and a business model; I’m always striving for that. However, team building is always key and moving forward with the right start up team is critical. Don’t go it alone and have multiple founders with a variety of experience to spread the load; make sure to rely on the team from the start.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
We constantly communicate. We obsess over communications and find new ways to improve meetings and efficiency with communications. We don’t hesitate to get together a lot—to the point where it often feels like a repeat of yesterday. But simply looking at the issues every day creates opportunities to come up with different conclusions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
MustHaveMenus has been open to multiple markets, and we built a product that applies to many verticals. Restaurants were first, but the product also has big benefits for salons and doctors’ offices and pet stores and other service businesses. That ability to go horizontal has really benefited the business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We started with offering downloadable menu templates. The problem with downloads is that the customer only uses the site one time and leaves, and there’s no opportunity to provide ongoing value and benefit. Once we moved the menu templates online, we were able to add storage, accessibility to any device, add printing and digital publishing. Recognizing the limits of downloading and moving to web tools was a big deal.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There are huge opportunities in privacy, to gauge our private data and see where it resides, who has access and to make sure all your personal data is secure; that’s a big market. I’d like to build a compelling mobile and social app for weight loss. There’s a great need for a networked mobile app to help in all the facets of staying motivated with healthy diets and being disciplined; I love that idea. I’d start that company today if not for my excitement and commitment to MustHaveMenus. I’ve already secured the name Weight Nag.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I studied English, and never went to business school.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I love Asana as a project management tool to stay on top of priorities. I also love Gmail and Google Docs for the ease of sharing spreadsheets and documents with people. I use dropbox and HotelTonight.com; I’m an investor in HotelTonight. Uber is a killer app as well; it got me a taxi way faster in SF than I ever imagined.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. It gets you in the mind set of how to eliminate marginal activities, time waste, be more efficient; he’s really good at describing how he’s done all of that. It’s a great model to apply to yourself on a regular basis, to audit yourself on productivity: “Am I spinning my wheels?”
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Timothy Ferriss, PayPal Mafia, Elon Musk, Peter Theil—fascinating people that dream big, take on big challenges, go way outside the box and challenge conventional wisdom. They sound like crazy people until you realize they’re really on to something.