Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jake Davies, Project Manager of Biomethane, LLC., located in Renton, WA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I work as a Project Manager for Biomethane LLC, a biotech startup operating as a municipal and industrial wastewater consulting firm. We work to establish realistic pathways and lower the barriers to entry for organizations to build new or optimize existing Anaerobic Digesters.
Anaerobic digesters are a source of renewable energy that uses bacteria to break down organic waste, producing natural gas in specially designed containers. This natural gas is then treated and available to be used as a carbon-neutral or negative fuel source.
Tell us about yourself
In undergrad, I started as a sole biologist and quickly added on a business administration degree as well. The combination of these two disciplines lent itself quite well to the biotechnology sector, so it seemed like a natural progression, although I wasn't sure where it might lead. During my time there, and because of some very wonderful professors, I had the privilege of participating in a leg of research that proved arsenic-reducing bacteria could be used to clean up certain radioactive isotopes found in the pollution left over from the production of the atomic bomb in the 1940s.
This familiarity with anaerobic environment microbes was ultimately beneficial in launching my career. I was approached by my company at the presentation of a medical device I gave just prior to graduation. I had little to no understanding of this technology at the time. Since then, I have been thrust into the wastewater-to-energy space. I have found it to be a field where, despite the competition, almost everybody feels like an ally. At the end of the day, even if one company loses out on a bid to a competitor, value is still added to the common good. Everybody wins. Earth wins.
I have particularly enjoyed my time at this company because of its mission. Aside from the obvious requirement of sustaining themselves financially, their sole purpose is to reduce carbon emissions. A goal that gives back to that common good. When normalcy is finding new ways to exploit available resources for financial gain, it's a refreshing take on why we operate. I find it hard not to be motivated by this.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I’ve found that the biggest accomplishments are seldom tied to financial transactions. You may have secured funding for another 10 million dollar project or even found a new and unique source of revenue through an untapped market segment- but I think back to what my dad would always tell me, “people remember how you make them feel.” Pretty sure that one is a Maya Angelou quote, but the point rings true. You could define your success by how you stack up against quarterly financial goals.
This year, I was given the opportunity to learn that this isn’t always the right type of metric. This opportunity was to be a mentor within my community. What I learned is that it is always worth pursuing ventures that touch lives. I remember what it was like at that age, and I remember the people in my life who took the time. I also remember who didn’t.
We are given few opportunities in our lives to connect with those who may need it the most. Some of us live today distracted by past accomplishments, some of us live today regretting the decisions of yesterday, and some of us live thinking about other things that don’t matter. The biggest mistake we can make as professionals is simply not taking the time to share support when someone can use it, and the opportunity presents.
You may be too busy today, and you also might not have the energy tomorrow- it will always be far easier to find reasons not to take the time, and you may regret that. This experience pushed me to capitalize on a different kind of market segment, despite the worries of bandwidth, a “side gig” founding program that provides opportunities for underserved parts of the community.
The realization of this opportunity is what I consider my biggest achievement as a professional. Every single member of a community is also the steward of it. As entrepreneurs, using our platforms and skills to take the time for someone else provides far more value in the long term because it operates far beyond the startup cost. It follows the non-linear “pay it forward” growth model.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Starting any business is a difficult venture. How often can you count on the consistency of the market for any extended period of time? Likely not often, and to top it off, you have no idea what difficulties you might find along the way. There are no guarantees, but you have to pay to play. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Find patience and perseverance, don’t jump ship at the first sign of a storm, and count on your people. The caveat there is to try and find the good ones.
“People want to do business with people they like.” A good manager of mine once told me that, so why not be somebody people want to do business with? Care about your employees. Treat them well. Care about your customers. Treat them well too. People will go to bat for you, but be somebody worth going to bat for, and remember that you may need to do the same for someone else one day. We’re all people. It will be hard to remember this when the going is tough, and you’re up against deadlines and hard numbers. Remember that there’s a big difference between who you are in crisis and who you are when thriving. This goes for everybody else too. Find patience and perseverance, even when it’s hard.
Don’t jump ship at the first sign of a storm. You’re just going to end up in the water- and stakeholders are going to see you jump over the bow. Count on your people, “start your studs.” Maybe it’s the supplier who has been with you since the beginning of the employee who stepped up when you needed it. If you can count on them, they’ll count on you when they need it.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Build an airtight value proposition. Know what you do, and do it well. Make sure all of your employees are on the same page. Any organization is only as strong as what it stands for, spoken or unspoken. The same is true for businesses. Your product or service may change with time, but what you set out to do from day one is likely still being accomplished.
- Good faith.
I’m a huge fan of operating in good faith. It’s true that a cutthroat business may give you an edge in the field, but it won’t gain you any friends. Seldom does it even gain you respect. Good business leverages relationships, but you won’t have any relationships if everyone you do work with will never do so again.
Remember that businesses are run by people. Everybody in business now has had their first customer at some point, which means someone took a chance on them. Give the people you might do business with the same opportunity you would like to see offered to you.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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