Joshua Sutton | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Joshua Sutton

Background:  

Pandera Systems helps businesses reach peak performance by providing immediate access to data, user self-service analytics, and applied decision sciences. Based in Orlando, Pandera has offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Nashville, Tampa, Charlotte, N.C., and Bangalore, India. Pandera and REV Acceleration recently founded Tech & Beers, an Orlando incubator and fund for tech startups.

The Mistake:

Thinking that a great idea was something that would actually pull itself to market, make a lot of money and be wildly successful.

Running a business is far more complex than having a great idea. So I think that was the largest mistake: Not looking at it holistically and simply thinking that a great idea is going to create a great business.

For me, the idea can be created into a product or a service offering. That’s pretty simple. I think distributing that product or service offering is far more complicated. The issue we had was trying to market all of this ourselves as the innovators and the idea creators. Not having channels and the proper networks [and] partnerships in the market that we operate in, which is analytics, to distribute this product or service caused an overwhelming weight on us.

I think the aha moment was realizing that [getting] enough of the right people behind you and on the same page – and with a network and a partner community – can act as an interim distribution channel, especially if you’re a brand new company out of the gate. [We realized] there are amazing channels and networks that we should be leveraging that can help drive distribution of the idea.

I’ll give you an example. An investment of ours is REV Acceleration. Essentially we tried to market and develop that product as a fairly successful organization ourselves without having a distribution channel for it, without having partnerships and networks in the metros and enterprises we were trying to serve.

[We spent] an entire year of self-marketing, self-promoting and self-distributing, and [got] virtually no traction. Then we partnered with an organization called MicroStrategy. Part of their goal is putting intelligence in everybody’s hands. And we realized, “Hey we’re investing in a company that we’re starting up that has the same goal but it actually materializes it instantly.”

So we found mutual goals and created a win-win with another organization and a great network. We had more success in 30 days than we’d had in 18 months. They have a series of 20,000 customers in a similar space, and they add instant credibility and relevance. And they’re doing the marketing by helping us position it in the marketplace. And that’s substantially more successful than us trying to do it on our own.

Running a business is far more complex than having a great idea.

The Lesson:

You have to network with like-minded businesses that have common goals. And you have to identify intersections of business strategy that create that win-win. Being the innovator and idea people is burden enough, right? To help shape market fit is far more complex. So having a great relationship with a partner – that’s the lesson we’ve learned here.

Having great networks to be open-minded with is incredibly important. And those networks have to have relevance and presence in the marketplace. [They] could be a distribution channel for your idea. And if you can craft a business strategy, then I think you’ve done something of significance. You’ve eliminated that burden of trying to press something into the market alone.

Follow Pandera Systems at @PanderaSystems and Tech & Beers at @ORLtechandbeer.

Photo courtesy of Pandera Systems.

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