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An Interview with Dale Lemke: Startup Advice from an Industry Veteran

  • March 26, 2014
  • Written by

Dale Lemke is no stranger to the struggles of entrepreneurial life. In 1983 he founded Display Systems International, a company which creates software used to create channel listings used in hotels and hospitals; similar to program listings provided by cable services.

How did you get started?

"I had this idea...I designed and developed the first product called a character generator, which was software that was burned into a cartridge, which turned the Atari game computer into a cable TV advertising and information display system."

It sounds like a great idea. What challenges did you face getting started?

"I had the business plan, but I lacked the money. It took me six months to find investors. The financial side of a business is where many entrepreneurs need help. An entrepreneur has lots of ideas, but is maybe short on the financial side and the experience."

What was your biggest mistake?

"We didn't raise enough money at the start. We had this one time at the start our company where we almost went bankrupt when a large customer failed to pay a bill. We had to move the business into our basement and cut staff."

Now your business is doing well, what advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?

"I think the number one lesson is that it is a huge commitment. It takes a great deal of your concentration, your time and your finances. You need to be prepared for this change in your life. Very quickly, you will find yourself thinking and worrying about your business all the time. The time you will spend on your business can be very consuming. And the money you sink into it, or even the money you give up to work on your venture, is all a very large commitment. You must consider how these changes will affect your current life and those around you."

Starting a business can be an emotional roller coaster. How do you deal with the highs and the lows?

"You have to love it. This is true with almost anything, but especially true when it comes to your business. You have to love what you are planning to do. If you love what you do, you will be great at it. But remember that there are always aspects of everything that you will not like. So the parts of your business that you do not like, you need to delegate. Get someone else who loves to do, what you do not. And then empower them so they can be great at it for you and help build your company with you."

Thanks Dale!

Display Systems now employs 10 people. Annual sales range between $1 million and $5 million and sales growth improves every year. The company has won numerous awards.

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