Cache Merrill, Founder, Zibtek

Authored By

Small Biz Digest

Cache Merrill, Founder, Zibtek

This interview is with Cache Merrill, founder of Zibtek.

Welcome to Small Business Digest! Could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your experience in the startup world?

My name is Cache Merrill. I live in Utah. I have three kids and a dog. I love the mountains. In my career, I have started two companies and sold them. I am now on the third, which is a software tech company. I have bootstrapped and raised VC money; both were fun, and it was interesting to experience the difference.

What were some of the key milestones in your journey that led you to become a successful entrepreneur?

I always wanted to run my own business. When I was a teenager, I used to ask for jobs in the neighborhood and enjoyed earning my own money instead of depending on others. After graduating from high school, I spent time on a service mission for my church in England. That was a major milestone for me to grow up and better understand the world. I then went to school and learned to code.

I loved technology but was not the best software developer. I used my people skills to lead teams effectively and gained a reputation for understanding and meeting the needs of business owners promptly. With that background, I found a tech founder role, which was my next major milestone. We built that company with VC money.

I lived in San Francisco for a few years, and then Chegg acquired us. With that win, I was able to start my own company. My success story helped me find my first ten customers at Zibtek, a top software development firm. Each milestone really built on the next, and it took about ten years before I had what I needed to start my own company.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs on Small Business Digest are at the very beginning of their journey. What advice would you give to someone who has a great idea but hasn't taken the leap to start their own business yet?

So much of the journey is really about managing your own thoughts. There are so many excuses or fears that can creep up. You need to redirect your thoughts into a space of moving forward with confidence. You can do that by taking small steps - the key is to keep asking yourself what is the next best step. This will keep you guided and clear, preventing you from getting lost in the bigger picture and longer-term challenges.

Our brains are excellent at solving the problem in front of us when we have all the data we need to make that decision. Start today and just keep taking the next best step.

Starting a business often requires a shift in mindset. What were some of the biggest mindset changes you had to make when you first became an entrepreneur?

The biggest mindset change I had was to stop thinking that someone else had the answers. I spent way too much time thinking others had all the answers. There are awesome people with good advice, but you are growing into the main expert for a specific group of customers. Many other people's advice applies to their market, but the more you keep moving, the more feedback you get from the exact people buying in your space. No one will know that better than you if you are talking to them.

Trust your gut and keep moving forward. If others have some advice, consider it, but it is mainly advice, not prescriptive recipes for your market.

Small Business Digest readers are always looking for practical advice. What's one actionable strategy that any entrepreneur can use to validate their business idea before investing too much time or money?

I typically like to build wireframes before spending a lot on building out a product idea. With those wireframes, you can get feedback and validate the idea. Be careful with this step and know that these interviews are directional. Those you are interviewing cannot tell for sure if they will use the idea from designs that don't show real data. Don't lead them along and try to sell them. Truly listen to them and then evaluate if you want to make adjustments or move to a real-world, small MVP.

Building a strong network is crucial for startup success. How did you go about building your network in the early days of your business, and what advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are just starting to network?

My ideal network consists of people I've worked with or engaged with inside the community. Reputation matters a lot; provide great work in every one of your jobs. Be active in your community. I don't think it's necessary to go to a bunch of networking events that seem fake or unnatural to you. If you like those events, go; if you don't, it's okay. Be great in the circles you are already in, and let it grow from there.

Entrepreneurs often face tough decisions with limited resources. Can you share an experience where you had to make a difficult business decision with limited information, and how did you approach finding the best solution?

We recently saw a decrease in revenues and had to make decisions on where to spend our money to continue growth. The worst thing you can do is freeze. Ups and downs are just a normal part of running any business, you have to make decisions with limited information. Gather what you can from those around you, make small and incremental decisions so that you don't swing too far too fast, and you will be fine. Just keep moving.

Failure is a part of the entrepreneurial journey. Can you share an experience where you faced a significant setback, and what did you learn from that experience that helped you move forward?

We had an experience where we spent $100,000 on a marketing campaign to get more leads that had lots of promise. The campaign was not very successful and could seem like a complete waste, however every single experience you have is teaching you.

You learn your marketing better with every experience you have. None of it is wasted because experience is how you become an expert in your space. You would not be an expert if you only hit home runs every time you’re up to bat. You become an expert by failing and succeeding and evaluating the differences.

The key is in listening to your market and truly understanding them, which is crucial for the development of your expertise.