Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Interview with Bill Troy - International Bootstrapping Association

Tell us a little about yourself?
I am a Bootstrapping Entrepreneur myself. In 1998, I started a web-based market research company with $3500 in my basement. We have been lucky enough to grow TroyResearch (www.troyresearch.com) over the last 10+ years to be on the Inc. 500 and to work with some of the most influential brands and companies in the world, including MTV, Sony and Disney, and others.

What is IBA?
IBA stands for the International Bootstrapping Association. We are starting right here in Columbus, but we hope to develop a model that will be able to grow from Columbus to many other cities. There are Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs everywhere! We define Bootstrapping as overcoming business challenges with creativity and perseverance (as opposed to money) and the IBA is a peer support association of, by and for Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs.

Who do you serve?
Over 90% of business owners will never get formal venture capital or angel investment, so they have to grow their business with those two Bootstrapping qualities: creativity and perseverance. And even if a business does have formal investors, in this day and age, it is still good to know how to stretch those dollars. We serve those business owners who are looking for ideas and support from peers who are up against the same challenges that they are every single day.

How do you serve them?
As an entrepreneur, everyone in your life (family members, employees, investors, creditors and customers) need you to project strength and confidence. They need to know what you are strong and in charge and that they can count on you to deliver. But there are times when being an entrepreneur is really harrowing and you don't know if you will be able to hit the impossible deadline or make the spectacular save.
In those times, there is absolutely nothing like being able to talk with peers who have been through (and are going through) the same challenges. To hear how they have "felt and dealt"...how they have emotionally handled the challenges and how they ultimately suceeded or failed in addressing them has two huge benefits. First, it is validating to hear that you are not alone, that every entrepreneur goes through the same kinds of issues. In fact, you learn that dealing with doubts and questions and uncertainty is one of the defining characteristics of being an entrepreneur! Second, it is incredibly informative to be able to learn from others who have tried different ideas when dealing with the same challenges you are facing. To hear how various approaches have succeeded or failed is valuable to help you come up with your own solutions to the challenges in front of you.
Those two benefits happen at our in-person Monthly Meeting. The Monthly Meeting is the centerpiece of the organization...where everything happens. Each Monthly Meeting lasts for two hours and focuses on a particular topic (topics follow a standard rotation based on our 12 Disciplines ranging from Burden of Command to People to Customer Service to Funding). The first part of each meeting is dedicated to a Panel Discussion on that month's topic where you will hear stories of success and failure from entrepreneurs who have been there before. In the second part, the meetings break up into Work Groups of 8-10 members each. In the Work Group session, you and your peers will explore that month's Discipline in greater depth, helping you to work through your own individual business challenges.

Why did you start it?
Once you reach a certain level of success in business, there are some great peer support organizations available to entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur's Organization (which I love and have been a member of for 6 years), Tech Columbus' Peer Forums and many other programs are available once you reach millions of dollars in revenue. And there are also pay-for-support organizations where you can join a peer group if you can pay several thousand dollars per year. But most Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs aren't at a level where they will be invited to join EO or a similar group and they can't afford the cost of a pay-for-support organization. That was where I was at for the first 3-4 years of our company and those were the days when I probably needed help the most! Luckily, I made it through, but I recently started thinking that there might be a way to build a support organization for Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs that was more accessible and affordable. That's where the idea of the IBA came from and it has just become kind of a personal mission for me and the other folks who have gotten excited about the IBA idea.

How do I find out more about
the IBA?
Two ways. First, visit our website at www.bootstrappingassociation.org to read more about what we are trying to accomplish. Second, register on our website and attend a Monthly Meeting in person (there is no cost to attend a meeting to experience the IBA firsthand) to see if we are right for you.


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