Founders’ Friday: Stephanie Sharp, Plexus, Inc.
Hi, Brandon here again. Today’s featured Friday founder is Stephanie Sharp from Plexus, Inc. I got the chance to sit down and talk to her about her company and how she got started. Enjoy.
Founder: Stephanie Sharp
Company: Plexus, Inc.
BC: Tell me a little bit about your company:
SS: I started my company in 1997. Web design was probably considered “high tech” during those days, but it is simple stuff now. My company builds websites for established micro- and small businesses, and some startups. We have built web applications for a number of start-ups including dealmobs, whose founder, Jim Flannery, started Four Athens.
BC: Where did the idea come from?
SS: In 1997, the web was in its infancy and many people needed websites but there were not a lot of people who knew how to build them. I started Plexus because I realized the Internet was around to stay. I saw that people needed websites and I knew how to do it.
BC: What have been some of your biggest challenges so far?
SS: Managing people. I realized that I am not very good at managing people. I work very well when I am managing the work, but not the people. I strongly believe that people need to manage themselves.
BC: Would you ever consider selling your company if the right offer was presented?
SS: Probably not because in my business the talent is the business. Since myself and my partner are the business, to sell the business would essentially be selling ourselves. In that sense, it is not a sellable business with the way it is currently structured.
BC: What is your biggest strength? Weakness?
SS: My biggest strength is being able to look at a problem and find the solution and execute the solution. My biggest weakness is interpersonal communications. I have trouble looking people in the eye and when I tell them the things they don’t want to hear. I don’t like patting someone on the back and telling them they did a good job. It’s not that I don’t think they did a good job; it’s just that I am not a touchy-feely kind of person.
BC: What is the best thing about being the founder of your own company?
SS: I guess the freedom that you have once you are successful. Also, I enjoy working for myself. I do not consider myself employable anymore because I have owned and worked for my own business for over 15 years. It’s hard to be managed, when for so long you have managed yourself.
BC: Is it harder to create business or sustain it?
SS: It is way harder to sustain. To start a business, all you have to do is get a business license, figure out how you want to structure it, get Quick Books create a product or develop a service and start selling it. Selling it is a part of the building and sustaining process. Each year you have to outsell the previous year and you are always looking for the next job. Starting it is hard but sustaining it is much harder because you have to do that forever.
BC: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
SS: I am ashamed to say that I really love going on Law & Order marathons. I love all of the different Law & Orders and I could watch them all day. I enjoy making beaded jewelry. I like to go out and socialize, have a few drinks, eat a nice dinner and go to concerts on occasion. I also have two children I enjoy playing with and raising.
BC: What would you say to someone who is considering building their own company? Any advice?
SS: I did not have a business plan; I know everyone says you have to have a business plan. I think that this is categorically important, but you cannot put too much expectation into it. There’s a saying I’ve heard time and time again – “You’ll never see a bad pro-forma.” You should know that when you start a business, you may not make enough to pay yourself or your expenses for several years, if at all. You must have a back-up plan, and you should think about not paying yourself and only focus on paying for the things that are absolutely essential to what you are selling.
BC: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about your company?
SS: I have been in the business for a long time and I am highly connected. If you ask anybody if Plexus does good work, it would be an unequivocal yes. If you get a price from someone else in town and if you are not sure if it is a good price, bring it to us and we will tell you if it is fair or not. We would like the chance to do better for you, and if we can’t we will certainly be honest with you.