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Interview: Ryan Allis, President & CEO, Virante Inc.
1. Please tell us your name and position at your company.
Ryan P. Allis, President and CEO of Virante, Inc.
2. Please tell us a little bit about youself, your experience, and your background in business.
I am 18 and an economics major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’ve been an entrepreneur since age 11.
3. What does your company do and where is it located?
Virante, Inc. is a software development and ebusiness marketing consulting firm located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
4. What is the legal structure of your business? Why did you choose this?
Virante is a S-Corporation. I chose this structure for the liability protection that it offered and pass through tax advantages similar to a partnership.
5. How many employees does your business employ?
6. How was the business model of the company developed?
The business model basically came about from the previous work I had done in high school as a computer consultant, website developer, and ebusiness marketing consultant.
7. Was your company financed by venture capital, private investment, loans, or personal funds?
8. Were you the founder of the company?
9. Do you feel your company has a distinct corporate culture? If so, would you describe it?
Virante is a relatively young company so there is perhaps not a distinct corporate culture yet.
10. Describe some of the obstacles you have encountered along the course of building your company? How were these overcome?
I’ve had to learn about wonderful things such as business liability insurance, security deposits, Quickbooks, and the like. An obstacle has sometimes been my relatively young age however this in most cases is more of an asset than a liability.
11. How important do you feel the proper advisors are in ensuring an young entrepreneurs success?
I feel that proper advisors and mentors especially are crucial to success. From August 2001 to August 2002 I worked closely with a much older and more experienced mentor and partner in building a company that has done $970,000 in sales to date with a 51% profit margin. Getting the right professional advice and developing relationships with the right people is key.
12. Have there been any organizations that have helped your business grow? If so, what are they?
Yes, the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development in RTP, North Carolina, and the Carolina Entrepreneurship club.
13. What have been the keys in bringing your company to the level it is at today?
I think the key is to have a bias towards action. Read often, learn from experienced mentors, get advice from those who have been in your position previously and succeeded, and to never let anyone convince you that you cannot reach your goals.
14. How have you kept your edge over competitors fresh?
Using a unique multi-faceted and international marketing strategy, part of which you are seeing right here through zeromillion.com. Also, developing joint ventures and relationships with established companies.
15. What are the marketing methods you have used with the most success?
1. Affiliate program
2. strategic alliances
3. word of mouth and networking
4. search engine positioning
5. CPC bidding
6. PR and Publicity Campaigns
16. Have you made any mistakes along the way that you have learned from? If so, would you describe them?
I think we all are bound to make mistakes. The key is to learn from them. I’ve made a couple in my day and will surely make many more. I think that holding out so long to incorporate may have been a mistake as it exposed me to some personal liability. Also, I wish I would have learned the value of networking earlier.
17. What books and resources would you recommend to fellow entrepreneurs?
Commanding Heights by Daniel Yergin
The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas Friedman
Economics by Stanley and Brue
Financial Accounting by Harrison and Horngren
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
The Millionaire Mind
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing Robert Kiyosaki
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
Multiple Streams of Income by Robert Allen
The Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet by Corey Rudl
18. What advice would you give to a young person that wants to one day succeed in business?
You can do it. Follow your dreams. Emphasize learning and focus on education. Take challenging classes and try to get into a good university. Instead of getting a job at 15, try to start your own business, or even better do an internship in a field you love and try to develop a relationship with a business mentor who can show you the ropes. Become a sophisticated entrepreneur and do not get too caught up in Network Marketing. Go to college (for at least a year) and build relationships there. Have a bias towards action and do not be afraid to take risks. Save your money and besides necessities spend in only on investments (such as a laser printer, tuition, or incorporation fees). Read lots of books and periodicals such as Business Week, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and Investor’s Business Daily.
19. What trends and changes do you see occurring in business today?
There are so many. Distribution systems are being completely changed as ebusiness is eliminating many middlemen and job security is becoming a thing of the past. Read my upcoming book, Zero to One Million, and my interview with Stratus Technologies CEO Steve Kiely for more on business trends.
20. How important do you consider networking and building contacts to be for an entrepreneur’s success?
Networking and building relationships with the right people is very important. It is both what you know and who you know. Join your chamber, your Rotary, Lions Club, or Kiwnanis,attend entrepreneurial functions, and visit sites such as zeromillion.com that are working to build a network of entrepreneurs internationally.
21. If you could pin it down to just one thing, what is the one most important thing you have learned about business?
Have a bias towards action. Get things done.
22. Any final advice for young entrepreneurs, businessmen, or businesswomen just getting started?
Keep at it. Keep going. Learning is a lifelong process. Make sure you are always learning, always reading, and always improving.