Take a journey with different entrepreneurs and inventors on their path to startups and small businesses to hear their ups and downs, their successes and failures, and how their journey has been on the startup road.
Try to control the expenses and don't spend on things that are not beneficial and stand on the ground. Don't look at the unicorns and all this. Now yes this is the target but, stand on the ground. This was a mistake that I did and so much was spent was acting as a startup concept that you read about every day and spend a lot based on that but at the end of the day it comes by steps.
Ask for help. It's something that took me a while because I have a lot of pride and think I can teach myself anything, which might be true but, it might take years, and that's not very smart. Every time I have asked for help, it's always led towards more progress. And faster than I would be able to do on my own. And most people want to help you succeed.
And so I think on the lower side, on the block and tackle side, make sure you have your information in excel format or Quick Books so that you can manipulate your information and get it clean. Then on the other side, make sure you have someone to talk to. Whether it's someone like us or whether it's an investor or advisor to talk you through things like profitability and questions that you will need to answer to the taxman but also to future investors.
My biggest fear has been producing an inferior product or a product that won't pass muster. What that has done is it has really shown and taught me that first of don't release something unless it's at least minimally viable. Don't release a crappy product. If you do release one, you are going to have to deal with it in the future. That is what I have learned over these last few months.
This is a very hard lesson I learned. Be careful in how you spend your time. We always are going to get a very rewarding feeling from being busy. And it is going to be answering emails, taking phone calls, and doing marketing. But, if you do not actually evaluate the impact that all this busyness is having on your return on investment (ROI) and what the income is. How are you actually making progress? Are you growing your audience? If you are a podcaster, what your income or profit is. Whatever it might be. If that's not growing or changing, yet you're busy all the time, then you need to reevaluate and perhaps implement different strategies.
I can't tell you the power of networking and reaching out to people and just asking for things directly and not beating around the bush. I think we really underestimate the power of being super direct with someone instead of just sending in your resume and hoping for the best. Find the side doors. That's not just for starting a business and getting your dream job. Find the side doors for everything. Do you want to start a podcast or write a book or anything like that? I guarantee you your network is going to have huge power in helping you get there. Networking and asking direct questions and just reaching out and asking questions to people you look up to that would be number one.
Constantly believe in yourself and your product. If you feel like your product has value, you will have a lot of people who will dismiss it or say that's really cool, but that's as far as it goes. And you will have a lot of days where you are thinking, maybe this was a mistake and maybe I shouldn't be doing this. Then you will have a lot of times where your doubtful but, I would say just continue to keep the faith. Keep holding on to your belief that you have come up with something valuable. Keep pushing forward and having faith it will work out.
The biggest piece of advice is just get started and don't get crippled in revision mode and, oh, I have got to have a business plan and, it's got to be perfect. Just right the business plan and get it out there. Get started working so that you can figure out all the answers to your questions. I guess the saying is, fail fast.
Get your website up and figure out your sales process. I think that has been the hardest businesses to work with is when they don't have a clear sales process. We can get you all the web traffic you need and want. We can set up ads and do everything organically that we know-how. But, if you don't have a way to close, then it's all for nothing. Figure out your sales process, figure out how you close people. Figure out what you actually need to do to increase revenue. Then most agency owners that are good at what they do will help you figure out those channels to amplify your sales process.
Before you go into the fun stuff like, what is the design of my logo going to look like, really figure out what transformation you are going to take your potential clients through. They are here and, you want them to be here. Figure out what those places are and how you fill that gap. Without that, you are just going to be spinning your wheels you are going to be pivoting a lot as I did. Figure out and ask those questions. Where are my potential clients at? Where do they want to be? How can I help them get there?
You have to invest in yourself. A lot of people say go and talk to everyone else but you have to know your weaknesses. And you definitely have to work on those. That's one of the things I have done. Still to this day, I have a book in front of me and, I write down listen before every meeting that starts right on top. Because when you are starting off a business, you think you know everything. One thing is to learn to listen. That's one of the things I have to learn for myself. Invest in yourself and find your weaknesses and then work on them. That will definitely go a long way in you being successful.
You are the authority. You had touched on it a little bit just thirty seconds ago. You have to drive the ship. If you are a startup, a CEO, an owner, or a director, that's your job. You need to steer the ship But, the funny thing is the captain says go that way there's a helmsman crew actually steers said ship. There is an engine crew that's driving the engine and maintenance and mechanics who are keeping those things ticking. You have to see the big vision. You have to know what you know and know that you are an authority. But you also have to get very honest with yourself on what you don't know. And then what is it that it's ok not to know and, what is it that you need to get better at.
My advice is going to be from the perspective of the entrepreneur who is bootstrapping their business. It is to crawl before you walk and walk before you run. I think it's really important to not grow too fast and keep a gradual pace. Growing a business is about figuring out how you can sustain the business. Every step of growth reduces the stability of the business. You have to grow into that larger business so that you are on top of it and can then get to the next level.
Start earlier. Don't think about it more and more and wonder when you are going to do it. If you have the idea and passion to do it, don't wait. Start today. Start right now, make that first phone call, get your business licensed, get set up, name your company. Start moving. Don't waste time because what you will find is once you get into this, you never have enough time.
So they think their last step is running the payroll, hire an employee, coming out on the front. We want to create the other last step which is let's take a look at your expenses. Maybe beyond having an expense on your profit loss, we can convert that into a tax credit. If we could use it for the payroll tax credit, that would be great, or else it counts as income tax. We do a lot of planning, phone calls, exchange information. I also want to say that we use technology. We do a lot of zoom and teleconferencing. We record a lot of our discussions and our interviews. Every single thing we do is to save time for the client.
Make sure you are getting into the business for the right reasons. I would say: don't chase the dollar signs. Don't get involved in an opportunity solely because you believe you are going to make a fortune. If you really don't enjoy doing what you do, it's pretty easy to give up when you run into some roadblocks.
Be really clear on what your goals are in this situation. I think we did it well, even some of the groups that I have worked with over the years. Being clear on what the goals are and what the responsibilities are amongst people really helps.
Take every opportunity. Don't even hesitate about it just do it. Of course, you want to think about it. But, from what I have learned: when you hesitate when there is an opportunity in front of you, it really slows you down, especially with a startup. One of the pros of a startup is you can move at a certain pace. You can quickly change your model. And adapt faster than most businesses. If you see an opportunity, take it. Either joining a podcast or spreading your name out there.
It's along that product-market fit. You've got to get out there and take advantage of every introduction that you can get. Talk to those potential customers or those potential people who are not customers. They may just be someone who knows something about the domain or has tried or seen it before. Get out there and take advantage of every introduction you can get and have those talks and learn from them.
Surround yourself with people who are going to challenge what you are saying in a positive way. But also that you can learn from. Before I moved to Austin I did not have a wide network of people that I could leverage from a connection, network, or from an intelligence standpoint. Nor did I have people who would challenge my ideas. Not in a bad way just why do you think this? Why do you think this product is important? I think the last couple of years especially over Covid I have tried really hard to bring in a vast amount of people that I trust and have backgrounds that I can learn from and continually educate myself but also can give me feedback.
The best way to get the highest evaluation for your business and sell your business for maximum value is proprietary. The fourth P is proprietary. This is the number one value driver. This can take you from a five multiple to an eight multiple to a ten multiple to a fifteen multiple. This is all proprietary. Why am I saying you should start with this? Because if you get this wrong, then you can practically be out of business.
Start. Do it. Just do it. Figure out what your risk tolerances are, leave everything else behind. Give yourself a period of time. Do it. Just do it. Once you put it out there, people are going to rally. It's amazing.
I call it a discovery task list. What we do is we take inventory of everything you do for a week. Then we figure out is this something that you can delete? What happens if we just don't do it? How much effect does it really have on the business as far as ROI vs people's perceived value? Then the second thing we ask is, can I delegate this? And the question that we must ask ourselves for each one of those is if I knew I was going to be hit with a mac truck tomorrow, what would I do today to transfer that knowledge so that my business would not fall apart? That is the most important question because you have asked the brain a different question. And it will give you a different answer. It will come up with creative ways of how you can actually delegate a task that you thought was not possible before.
Start. I think people really struggle to get started. I will say that action is the most important thing. If you are thinking about an idea and you can't quite decide, you just gotta go. And you have to go fast. You are going to bump into walls and say, oh, ok, we are going this direction now and, that's all normal. Startups are not normal. I think that's something a lot of people struggle to understand. It's like these are these really weird experiments and, you just have to test and see what works and keep that feedback loop tight and just keep going.
Talk to maybe another business owner. Just because you talk to someone does not mean you have to hire them. If someone wanted to contact me and has questions, that would be fine. I would not mind talking to them. Just ask, ask around, ask people you know. Or, if you have emails for a virtual assistant, shoot them an email and ask them questions. If they are good enough and, classy enough they will answer any questions that person has, without expecting them to automatically become a client.
Try to surround yourself with people who believe in you. So in that same example that I mentioned, that was my biggest mistake and biggest learning. My wife was absolutely amazing. She was a rock and, she was picking me up off the ground when I was in the corner crying and rocking back and forth when the project was going south. She was like, no, you've got to keep going this is just a part of the journey. We are going to get through it, and it will be fine. So she really picked me up. You have to surround yourself with people that are going to tell you that because there are going to be days where it just sucks, and it's not a good day. There are going to be days where this is the greatest job in the world, and you love it. Some days it's just nothing is going my way. You've got to be able to get through those. I think a huge reason why I was able to get through those days was my wife and the encouragement people were surrounding me with.
Always make sure that you are establishing your relationships. Always say to people what can I do for you? And Never burn a bridge even if people are wrong. Wrong things have happened to me, and it does not matter.
Get a coach and or mentor. You probably think it is self-serving saying getting a coach. It may be a little self-serving, but it's also speaking from experience because I have benefited tremendously through the years from having tremendous coaches but, also have had some mentors. If you not in a place where you can hire a coach look up people in your industry, look up people who are doing what you are doing, look at people who are successful at what you are trying to do, and just contact them.
I would say be fearless it really does take that. I have talked to so many people. I was coaching football for my son, just the little league football. One of my assistant coaches, a great guy still good friends to this day, came up to me and says I have an idea that I know will make me a millionaire. I was like, well, awesome, what is it? And he said I am not going to tell you you will go do it. And I said well, one I won't but two fine don't tell me I don't care what it is. Why don't you go do it? He literally said because I am afraid I will fail. I think that has stopped more people from ever becoming successful than any other thing.
First, I would try and make sure they are ready to do it in the first place. I don't necessarily take my own council right here but, particularly for a younger entrepreneur, you got to put in your time. I mentioned earlier that I considered my 10-year at Deloitte an apprenticeship. That's really what it was. I didn't roll out of bed at 25 and start Kalypso. I put in a decade learning the industry, developing my skills, developing a management model, and leadership philosophy. That was the foundation of that firm.
In my experience, this is why the bottleneck of so many businesses is the CEO. It's because they are not making decisions, opportunities are being lost, and everything else is falling behind. They within themselves are not showing up as the CEO in their business. And that is why I am such a firm believer that your business growth can't outgrow your inner growth. If you really want to not just perform at that level but breakthrough to the next you really have to evolve within yourself. You need that level of thinking and the ability to control the stress and pressure and all of the mindset shifts in order to actually sustain your success.
Surround yourself with really good advisers. I know that's said really well but let's talk more about how to pick advisers. I would say that as a founder to find your philosophy for how you are going to grow your company. How you are going to treat the people you are going to support. Find the advisers who are experienced in the area where you have a gap. Go to accelerated programs. Go to your local co-working space. Go Google spaces if you don't have any in your community and search out people that have had success in the areas that you would like to have success in that you are not very good at. Then offer to compensate them well for being in the company. In that relationship over a couple of conversations, you will figure out if they are just trying to get equity or get compensation. Or if they are really in it for a mutually invested interest and the vision you are trying to drive.
Just do the research. You know so many people who have an idea get excited, and they automatically turn to marketing. They start spending money on marketing. I would strongly suggest you do the research. Identify if your product or service has competition or is it innovative? Look and see what other people are doing. What niche do you fit into? Where do your customers hang out at? Those are just some small things to really start thinking of before you just automatically start jumping into trying to make money.
Listen. Find a problem. We were in a hospital once when I broke my back. It was a family and doctor-owned hospital. It was family so, my wife and daughter were there and, my daughter was ten at the time. She said hey I would like a milkshake. They said we don't have any milkshakes. So They called down, and they had a chef at this kitchen. So they made her a milkshake. The next day they had milkshakes on the menu for the kids of the family. They fixed that little problem. I think that it's fixing problems and looking for solutions, and then it is just listening to the people around you. You put them in your sphere for a reason. You hire your attorney. You get your bookkeeper. You have to listen to the people around you. Then you ultimately have to make the right decision.
I am going to steal something that I have never forgotten that I learned 35-40 years ago. People today may not be familiar with it. It's called the entrepreneur credo. One major line in the entrepreneur credo, in fact, it may be the first thing is, never fall in love with your company it is a thing, not a person.
Never ever trust your family. You are alone in this game. Your family is going to be overcoming themselves when they promise anything. Just because they over emotional, they are not rational. If you do that, then it's going to fire back. My one piece of advice is you are alone in this game. Don't count on anyone. No one is there to help you. If you plan that way, then you will go a long way.
Try it out and experience it for yourself. Really put yourself in the shoes of the next generation of shoppers. I feel that it typically costs a shopper an hour of their day to visit any one store. Even if they decide to go to that store, they have to decide whether or not it's worth the trip.
Start small and measure everything. There are so many people when they are starting a business that gets sort of turned one way or another of how they should be spending their money. If you can't measure it, you don't know what's working.
Look at it as a continuing journey. There is not a start into it. It's something that you learn every day. You get better at it every day. I equate it to sports because I played sports. In business, athletically, you don't have to lose. Your mind can just get sharper and sharper. I know now based on my experience in having made decisions. The decisions I could have made better earlier in my career. There is no way for me to improve on myself if I am not a continuous learner throughout the process. My number one advice would just be to be open to learning for the rest of your life or as long as you want to be an entrepreneur, not getting stuck in your own mind.
The importance of one, getting a team that will support you since this journey will take a lot longer than you think to reach any milestone you have in mind. Any projection you have initially, you might think in terms of days or weeks, or months. It will probably be years and, it will be longer than even your wildest dreams are. Have a team that will stay with you through the end. Those people are the ones that will make the journey worth it. They are also the ones that will keep you there and make you not doubt yourself if things don't go according to plan. I guess another piece of advice is to try to do as much research as possible. Understanding key parts of the process. Don't let your excitement impede you from getting the knowledge for you to do well. Know that you won't have enough no matter how much you try you are still going to make mistakes.
Scratch an itch. Build something that you are intimately familiar with that has been a real problem for you in real life. The closer you are to the problem, the easier it is going to be to solve it in a way that other people will understand. The people are experiencing the same problem. I will give you two. Be persistent.
I share too much. I tell too much. Maybe it makes people nervous. Maybe they don't need to know that much to do their job. I always thought I wanted to know a lot therefore, I want to share a lot. Learning how to not do that and I am still not very good at it but, I am better than I was. I don't want to fail my people. I don't ever want to be not always thinking of my team first. I know clients are going to come and go. But, keeping a really good solid team and being considerate of them and genuine for them. I am always double-checking just to make sure that the decisions I am making are ones that in my heart of hearts I know I am doing what I need to do.
Find what people are buying. If their product is fitting that, great. If it's not fitting that, then tweak it until you get there. That's the easiest way to succeed. Find out what people are buying and figure out how to position yourself with someone that sells that. Don't go try and create a new market. Just find what people are buying right now.
I think as an entrepreneur, one of the real blessings or curses you have is that you have these hunches and ideas that pop into your mind. That is just entrepreneurship. It might not be a business it could be a song your playing around with if you are a songwriter or anything else. Try to tinker with that on the side for a long time before that emerges as its own thing. Otherwise, there might be too much at stake, and the weight of the business and the need to support yourself and your family for example which cause it to collapse. You will go crazy and run yourself ragged trying to do fundraising. So I think if at all possible side Hustle is the way to go. There seems to be a natural incubation period for business that is not a month or two but is more like a year or two.
Figure out what makes you different. I think the biggest thing that I have seen so far because of all the things I am working on. I am a small-town guy, I don't have a huge network, I am not the smartest guy in the world by far, and even for the things I am working on, they are very small right now. The zap idea I have been working on is just wireframes and a decent pitch deck. My YouTube channel even still only has about 200 subscribers. The company I am working on is only doing about four or five figures in terms of revenue so it's not major. Putting yourself in the right places, taking chances, and being different more than anything will get people to notice you.
Choose an SMB renderer that will do a holistic view. You can say that I just want to start with email or ads or web analytics. That's fine but choose a renderer that will have all of those so you can expand in the future. As my business grows, can this support me? Can this support use cases as my business grows? I chose one renderer that just does analytics. Now I have to choose another one that does email. You don't want to be in that situation. Try to see who will help you grow. As you grow, can they meet your needs? That's super important.
What most entrepreneurs who are launching do is they take easy to use and they build what they think is easy to use. Then they put it out into the market place and it does not get the result they want. So the second question that you ask is, what has to happen? How do you know that it is easy to use? What happens is the buyer gives you what I call their buyer blueprint. They are going to say I want it to be mobile. I use an IOS on android. I want to pay for it once, not every month. They will give you all those things. As an entrepreneur launching, what you do is build at that. Just build that and push that out and, it will give you a much higher chance of being successful at the get-go.
First, I will tell them to get your marketing right. When I say marketing, that encompasses everything. If you get that right, I believe strongly that what makes a business successful or fails is the business model. Get your pricing right is extremely important. Because of what we do, we are working with more than sixty different industries. So we tend to see this a lot. Business entrepreneurs start to have ideas and, the next thing they want to do is go and start without sitting down and get your marketing right.
Take walks. I do thought walks every single day. It feeds the soul but, it also feeds the mind. Sometimes if you try to think about the problem all the time, you are actually getting farther away from the solution. Whereas if you just take a walk you notice something in nature and it sparks the idea you have been looking for. That has really fed my soul. It's helped me get my steps in every day. That is probably the most productive thing I do every day are my thought walks.
Streamline. Laser focus. It's amazing that advice is out there and it's so important. Try to figure out that one small thing that you can do better than anyone else and then strip that down even more and try to really nail that one thing. especially in software. Keep it really simple.
Really understand whether you've got the passion to stick with it. Really understanding yourself and what you want out of it. Really make sure you have a good, pure intention. These things are very challenging and take a very long time. In general, they are marathon journeys. The ones that have the grit to stick with it, have a lot of creative ability to connect, and bring in the right people are successful but, most aren't. Most are not very successful when it comes to building and growing high-tech companies.
Just go for it. Don't overanalyze everything too much. Put your feelers out and see what your audience is. See what kind of options you have. It's very easy to get caught up in the planning and, by the time you know it, it has been five years and, you still have not launched a company. That's my big advice is to just take it by the reins and see what you can do with it.
When you are inventing, there is a concept and, I forget the name of the designer who came up with this concept, He an amazing guy from the nineteen fifties. The concept is called MAYA, which is most advanced yet acceptable. The struggle is that if you make something too advanced, you are going to have a difficult time getting people to adopt the product. So there needs to be effort put into making something, whether it's the interface or some aspect of it acceptable to the general public so they can understand it.
There are going to be difficult times ahead when you start something. You're going to sometimes want to throw in the towel. Lots of financial hardships that I went through and a lot of discouragement from people around you. The only way you are going to be able to make it through is to really know your why and to recognize that if other people are out there discouraging you, it does not mean that they don't believe in you it just means they don't believe enough in themselves. If they don't believe in themselves, how can they possibly believe in you? So that's a key component.
When we first started out we said you know what we know how to make this. We have made a few of them here are there. We will just get the money that we require to set up the factory to make it so we can go from the lab to commercialization. And then we will make it in mass production. But then once we started looking at things and speaking with potential investors and potential customers we realized that everyone wanted to see what we had made. They were like ok so you say you can make it now we want to see it.
Reflect on it really carefully. If you don't love it. If you are not willing to put in ten years of your effort at forty to eighty hours a week, getting paid nothing in addition to earning your living income. If you are not willing to do that, you're probably not determined enough to make it. Some people win in a year but, the reality is most people, most millionaires, most self-made people are in their fifties before they develop the sort of self-discipline and determination.
Keep a flexible mindset and don't be married to strategies. Don't be married to a specific belief and set deadlines and tripwires. Go forward and be open to reassessing your strategies at different points.
Everybody thinks that the only thing you need to watch out for on email is to get out of the spam box. But, there are actually several steps to having an email gets delivered to the person that you are trying to reach before that system even decides to put it in the spam box or not. That process is called deliverability. Deliverability has a number of factors in it. Some of them can be related to your domain or whether you're on a blacklist, do you have the correct thing set up in your DNS settings for that. Those are all technical requirements.
The first thing you should do is read the book "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek. I truly, believe that if you know your why things will be easier. You will be on a good path. Know why you are doing something because that is going to dictate how things move forward. That has helped me tremendously; knowing why I made it, knowing why I want to work with the community that I am working with sets everything down a great path for me. You will also learn why you don't want to do something. But for me, that is the most amazing book. "Start With Why" I would read that.
You need to do your market research. You need to make sure that the market is healthy and that there is space in the market for your idea. And going back to the idea of validating, there is a great book. I do not remember who it is written by but, it is called "Nail It And Scale It". I think it was a book produced here in Utah. The book "Nail It And Scale It" talks about how doing short, easy market tests that allow you to validate or invalidate the demand for your idea/product in the market.
Start a business in an area that you know. You have a network, and you are passionate about it. It does not matter what you see as a business opportunity, people are going to invest in you as the beginning of a business. The only way they are going to invest in you is if you're authentic and you know what you are doing. You can read about it all you want but, It comes from your heart.
Don't worry about other people. I use to get bogged down with that at the beginning of my company. I would see other people running startups that were getting more attention and publicity. I would think they are not doing anything. I am here slaving away 22 hours a day and think no one even cares about me. They are out partying on the weekends and, they are barely doing anything and being published in the media. And they are realized that behind the scenes, it's all a façade. Now five years after that, look what it came to, my 8-9 years of no one paying attention to me is now paying off.
Realize your strengths and weaknesses. Understand that the people around you really do have superhuman abilities compared to what you may have. You need other people and identify where people are strong, so you can synergize and make something bigger than what you are on your own together. That's a real thing. You can't do it all alone, so you need to find the right people to help bring something amazing.
You, Devin, are a consumer. If you were going to hire you to do the job you do. What would you look for and, what would you want to know? And I think we forget that we are consumers. We look at it as business owners, marketers, and the person building the thing.
One of the biggest mistakes I think we see is people thinking about intellectual property too late. They start to run up against those deadlines and lose out on some of those property rights. My biggest piece of advice would be to think about intellectual property early and often. Intellectual property is one of those things you can lose out on. And not just from the typical ways that we hear inventors and entrepreneurs complain that someone else is ripping them off. Sometimes they are their own worst enemy as far as making sure they are getting their intellectual property on time.
I think it is always good for entrepreneurs to keep an eye out as to what the competitors are doing. Not a fear necessarily but, I think you need to be aware of other companies. Being a little bit paranoid about that is actually a good thing. That is one thing we always try to see if our product is differentiated enough and has enough defensibility in the market when we go talk to customers. I would say that is the most important area where we continue to stay focused.
First, don't give up. It's going to get tough. Don't think it is going to be so easy. And then get advice from people you trust their sense of judgment. You need mentorship. Be open to change your idea. Sometimes your original concept can change along the way. So be willing to listen to professional advice and don't give up.
Entrepreneurship is a journey. It never ends. It's not something that you can say I am going to be an entrepreneur today and, then tomorrow it's off. No, if you start entrepreneurship today, you are in it all of your life. It will never stop. When I am saying entrepreneurship is a journey I am also saying be patient. Don't believe all the things you see on social media. Most entrepreneurs are not that successful.
Think in terms of what your audience wants to hear rather than what you want to say. We all get so hung up on these are all things I want to tell people about my company, my brilliance, and my services. And instead, turn it into what are they coming to this for. What is the value that they want? And make that the first thing you give them.
Don't be shy. Do a lot of cold calling. The nice thing with cold calling is they don't see you on the other end. You can just smile and dial. Ask the silly questions. You can always hang up and dial the next person. So don't be afraid of cold calling. The next thing is to have an outlet. You have your 9-5, you have your family, your kids, your side hustle you're trying to do. So I say have an outlet. have a de-stressor. For me, it is snowboarding, so go snowboarding. Running, when you are doing the pirate run, have something like a stress ball with you. Do some meditation.
I think you should start with your own personality and really understand yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. What are you drawn to and what do you avoid? In this game, when there is only a couple of people, and you don't have a lot of structured accountability you, can really go off the rails if you don't pay very close attention to the stuff you know you are going to avoid. It's like driving down a road, and you know there are going to be potholes. Why not plan to avoid them. Just see them ahead of time instead of bouncing your car through those.
I'm a really big fan of finding customers before you start building anything and that is what we did as well. We got early customers who believed in what problem we wanted to solve. And build the platform with some early feedback from them. It really helped us validate the idea we were working on. There were times when investors would be like, no, that's not a great idea. I don't think there is a big market for it. But, because we had so many customers, we could really believe in what we were solving for. I really value having those customers with our life cycle and, I give the same advice to everyone who is building a platform, product, anything. There is nothing better than getting customers involved in your journey early on, even more than investors.
You need to make sure that you are looking at sufficient cash flow to be able to do what you are doing. I think one of the biggest mistakes startups make is they don't recognize the amount of cash it will take to get a business off the ground. It usually takes twice as much as you think and twice as long. So it's really important to be mindful of that.
I would say three things: One is to work hard. The second is to be persistent. And third is to do things differently from others. A lot of times, people want to do what everyone else is doing and, that is just going to put you in a normal category. If you do things differently from everyone else, that makes you different from everyone else. There is a better chance of breaking out and reaching your goal.
Really figure out what KPI's you think make sense to track for whatever initiative you are working on. And don't let yourself get distracted or deviate from those. Actually iterate on improving those KPI's. If you decide click-through rate is what you want to improve, actually start measuring that. Layout a plan to achieve that. If you have to change the plan because it's not good or it's not working, that is one thing but, don't spend three minutes or three days working on click-through rate and then get bored and decide you want to focus on a number of impressions and then after that say no I actually want to work on ranking. Cause that is a recipe to get nothing done. And it happens a lot in digital marketing, unfortunately. Because these things do take so long, SEO in particular, you just have to have a certain degree of focus. I think that is going to be valuable to a lot of small business owners and start-ups.
We tend to think that intellectual property, patents, trademarks, that kind of thing are higher on the list. But, we also are ready to acknowledge that sometimes maybe getting together a prototype might be a little more important than getting that patent if you have to choose between one or the other. A lot of times being able to make those decisions and then commit to it. We are here to help businesses to make those decisions. We are not going to try and milk you out of money, and get you to make a decision that you are going to regret later. We want your business to be successful. So we can help you try and navigate what's the best path, particularly in regards to intellectual property.
Start with a brand strategy. I think a lot of people dive straight into trying to get their website up. Whenever somebody has an idea there are so many steps that tend to get skipped in the early stages. What I always like to tell people is to take these ideas that you have and put them into a strategy for how you want to be representing yourself and bringing it to your audience.
Start small and start with a minimal viable product. It does not have to be perfect when you launch it. It does not have to cost a lot of money. Even if you have to do it manually to see if you can get traction, interest, and an audience, then you are on to something. I feel like there is so much talk today about these startups. And you have to raise all this money and hire this team and build out this product. I would just say start really small and think hyper-local to get it started. Then you can grow from there.
I think managing your own expectations. We all want to manage our customer's expectations but, we forget about ourselves. When I get into a business, I know there are going to be a lot of hurdles. I know there is going to be an issue. When those issues do come, you have to remember, oh yeah, that's what I expected. Instead of getting frustrated and stressed out about it, you work through it. You know it has to happen. There are going to be frustrations. There are going to be things that don't go right. If you can expect to expect the unexpected, you can probably handle those a little better.
This is my take from that. This is what Mark McCormack said who built IMG into an incredible company. He said: "when you are looking at your pnl, and you're looking at all your projections and everything, and you are feeling good, do this. Double your expenses and cut your revenue in half and tell me how you feel." The second is going back to being a smart guy. I kind of use proxies mentors, and one is Michael Dell. And Michael Dell says: " if you think your the smartest guy in the room, get new guys. If you still think your the smartest guy in the room, get a new room."
I like to make it super clear to lay the tech foundation. Create one page of content for every single keyword you want to rank for. If you are in a big niche, you will want to rank for thousands of keywords. And then get other websites to link back to you. Those are the three things that compile SEO. And any SEO company that is good will be creating content and getting links for you.
Don't be afraid to go first. Provide value first. Everything is a relationship there is no b to c or b to b. It's all human to human. If you can find a way so that you are providing value right out of the gate, your close rate, conversion rate, and the whole experience is going to be better throughout. The more that you invest upfront the more value you provide the more that you are going to extract out of that.
You can have a great idea you, can even have the funding for it. But you need to leave room in the execution of that model to have that variance, the human condition variance. You can pull all the data, you can interpret all the data, you can look at all the comps, you can see all this stuff. I will tell you that you have to go with your gut. You have to do gut checks all the time. And you have to leave a little room for something to happen. I don't mean, be negative; it will not work that way. It's more like something amazing could happen in that little space that you leave for magic to happen.
I would say before you jump in headfirst, ask yourself a question. Do you have the DNA of an entrepreneur? Yes or No? In most cases, the answer is no. To become a successful entrepreneur, it takes a tremendous amount of grit, resilience, and the ability to take the pain and get back up. It will be a very painful journey. You have to know that before you launch yourself. If you ask me right now, I can't prove it scientifically, but by experience, how many people that have what it takes. If you are one of those people, you are the five percent. You are one out of twenty.
If you have a business idea, do the smallest possible next step towards it right away. If you think that you want to start a new social network or something for dog lovers, call up five of your friends that love dogs and ask them what could be better about the social networks they use. If you have an idea for say I want to get into lawyer referrals. Maybe I should call up lawyers and ask them how you can help them out. You really don't need money or some big thing to start a business. It's usually just one step at a time. If you have an idea just, do something. Do something right now about it.
Pick your mentors they are very helpful. One thing that I was fascinated by when I moved to the US was that people are always available to help all you have to do is ask. Don't feel shy, don't feel that you are cool reaching out to a random person and they will ignore you. People talk and like to help, and pay it forward. One of the biggest things I learned from my mentors when I went back to them and said hey, thank you for helping me out. What can I do for you now that I sold my company? They told me three words that have stuck with me, pay it forward.
I would recommend reading the book "Good To Great" by Jim Collins. I found that really helpful. I was lucky enough to have a Ph.D. advisor that had me read it in grad school which was great. I did not know I would be in a leadership position at the time so I think my thoughts were formed really pure before I had any sense of entitlement. So now that I am in it I can compare myself to my thoughts of myself back then. When there are pain points executives especially me endure the most of it. Take on the headwinds so that people working for you feel less of them.
Don't overthink it. I think we can get in our heads and, we can overthink things. I like to think of myself as a perfectionist and, I have learned in one of the books that I have read it's bad to be looked at as a perfectionist. That's because we are constantly chasing after something that's not real. Perfect is not real. We are driving are selves crazy. People who are looked at to be perfectionists have a higher rate of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders because we are driving ourselves nuts. There is never really a perfect time. People say I have to learn more before I get started. No just go for it you will learn along the way. The only way you are going to learn is by doing it. You can do it. You are a big deal.
Work from what you know. And that is going to give you your edge over everyone else. As Jack Trout says, "differentiate or die." You need to have your product be unique. What sets it apart? If you start with your knowledge, you're different. Everyone is unique, so build that into your product. What do you do that is unique? What is it that sets you apart? Do that for your product. Don't stop there; always put it in front of the customer for feedback. Get it in front of your customers, get feedback and see what they say. When you follow that rule you will have a product that is unique, differentiated, and that customers want.
Keep going. Never ever ever give up. Always keep that fire, keep that passion awake. And always remember what is the purpose. What are you doing here? What is your potential impact? Why you are doing this for real. Keep that passion alive and, it's going to be worth it in the end. Keep going.
You've got to get some experience first. There are so few and far between of the Mark Zuckerberg or the Bill Gates that drop out and create something amazing. Most people have gone and got whether it's experience working in a start-up or experience working in a big corporate entity, that experience is invaluable. It also starts to build up your network, which also translates into those soft skills that you need to run a business.
So one of the first things we suggest for business owners that are starting to launch and grow is, at a minimum, start paying yourself a salary. That's equal to what you have to pay somebody else to do the job that you are doing. The first starter is to make sure the business is viable. If you had a CEO of a company, and what you need to pay them is 120,000 a year, and you can't pay yourself that, that becomes your first check that the business needs to grow and produce more cash flow.
Be ready to keep trying and keep reformulating. Even though master Yoda says there is no try, only do, it's going to feel like a lot of trying for a while unless you are extremely lucky and/or skilled. If you are not coming at this already from having the full skill set and the full finances and the full social relations that are just going to guarantee your success no matter what. If you come from any background where you have to struggle to make things happen mainly due to financing, then be ready to just keep hanging in there and keep feeling your dream and just trusting that you have a good product.
It's better to try than to talk about it. I have had so many ideas over the years that I never bothered to realize. They could have been great, ahead of their time. Who did not think of the iPhone, or this and that? Yes, everyone had similar things in their mind where they say: oh yeah, this could be great. The difference is always in the execution. So there has to be biased for action. Do it earlier. It does not have to be perfect but do it.
Go work with either Score or the SBA- The small business administration and let them guide you. A great resource that will save you from making tons of mistakes that I had to make starting out thinking you know everything. Go ahead and get some people to help you know it. They are here to assist you. I would say to go and use your resources.
It's just a sense of denial or not even a sense of denial. Being in denial about something very important to the business. And maybe as a founder or entrepreneur, you are not seeing clearly, So finding colleagues that can be brutally honest with you. Whether that's friends, family, business partners, or other partners, it's very important. I think you can kind of self realize every day, but that is a challenge. Having outside accountability is helpful. But constantly questioning yourself and being ok with that. Taking negative feedback or even critical feedback is really valuable and important.
One we are boot-strapped so we are trying to get the most out of every dollar that we can get in the business. For us, we are always trying to look at different ways to market, sell and attract leads. We do the things that we can get the most out of every dollar that we can. We started initially with a digital marketing campaign but our messaging was incorrect. We had to change that. We had to pivot. We had to stop that and come back and move forward. Now we have started putting together some of these sales and marketing items with the right messaging to attract customers. We are getting a great response. We are getting a lot of leads, a lot of meetings, and a lot of feedback. More usage of the product helps us improve what we are doing. It's moving in the right direction.
I would have to say cash. Make sure you really understand your runway. So you know where your money is spent. How long do you have? And aside from cash what is your personal runway? Because there is the money aspect and, there is your personal mental health being. Can I sustain these ups and downs for the next six months without a paycheck? Am I feeling depleted that I need to not be doing this or, I need to take a break? I think it's your personal runway and also your cash. Making sure you spend it wisely because cash is king. If you don't have enough money, you are going to be out and you are done.
When you ask for money, you get advice. When you ask for advice, you get money. When I was doing my research interviews reaching out to centers of influence I was only asking for advice. I was letting people share with me what their feedback was. Those conversations have led me to other connections where if I was reaching out to somebody and said, hey, I am going to be doing this virtual reality event startup and I want you to either invest in me or give me some money. That channels how the person your talking to thinks about their role in it.
The best piece of advice is around time. Time is a constant. You can't mess around with time. Leave it to Elon Musk and Bezos to mess with space. But still, no one can mess with time. With time it's either for you or against you. When you first start, it's really important that you don't want time to be against you. The thought is as a side hustle, nights and weekends you have a salary, you have your health insurance taken care of. But, as soon as you leave your job to focus on this hustle and the hustle is not to the point that it's paying your salary or paying for what you need then, time becomes against you. Be smart about when you make that decision to go full time with a project and how you want to approach it.
Surround yourself with people who inspire and challenge you. We are braver when we are feeling inspired. We are more committed when we are feeling challenged. You're going to run into hard things and, you're going to struggle. But when you do, who do you want in your constellation? Who do you want in the group of people that you know? Do you want people around you who say, I knew this was going to happen, or do you want people who say, come on, get up, you can do this take a second to breathe if you need to, that's ok but, you've got this.
Save your money first. That was one of the big things we did when we knew we were going to start our own company. We set up the initial business formation in 2009 and did not quit our day jobs and go full time until June of 2010. We did not want to quit our jobs, start working and realize well crud I either have to say yes to everything because I don't have any money. Or I have to go find another job right away because I don't have any money.
Focus on MVP-minimum viable product. We have all heard the term before but, when it comes to hardware it's particularly important. It crosses lines into all elements of a business. Whether it's a service or software, you need to think about how to make your best feature. The real innovation, that golden nugget that you thought about. How do you make that shine and nothing else? We have a motto that's plastered all over our design offices brilliantly simple design. Modern, clean, sophisticated, edgy, but focusing on that one or maybe two core features for your first version.
It's a marathon, not a sprint. We are in it for the long run. We are thinking about making that impact in the long run to make a big-scale impact. We both understand that if we want to make a big impact in the world it's not going to be overnight. Be ready to be in it for the long haul.
Start with one thing and only one thing. Don't worry about whether it is working for you or not. The reason why I say that is, for it to even reap results, it will take you a good six months to know if it is your thing or not. It is easy to get carried by the noise that you see in the world today. Everyone is shouting at your ears to purchase their product. You have to spend a little time trying to figure out whether it is your thing or not.
As a startup, you focus more on your product and strategy. This is very important because when doing a startup. If you spend too much time on your presentation of your idea you are just wasting your time. As a startup, your time is valuable. So focus on a small step at a time.
You can lose your biggest account. You can have a new competitor come into town and start to take a bunch of stuff away from you. It's constant uncertainty when you own your own business. And when you are working for someone else, and you have a steady paycheck. It is a vast difference. So if you think ok, I don't want to scare people away from it. It's not impossible to do. It's a mindset where you go ok another body blow, so what. I'm still standing. Just get up and get going again. So if you can't deal with that, then you will have a tough time in business for your self.
Think about media. As Entrepreneurs, you think about advertising. 80%-90% of entrepreneurs do not even think about it and they are not familiar with a ton of opportunities that are even free with a little investment of time. Don't just put out press releases but look at some of those resources we talked about earlier to see where media is looking for sources where you might be a source. Don't be afraid. A lot of that is a mindset too. You are an expert as well. You would not be doing what you are doing if you were not an expert. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there.
The number one slide that every investor spends time on is the team slide. Who are the founders? Who are these people? The number two slide is the business model. How are you going to make money? After that, it goes down very significantly. All those slides about how this is going to be a giant market in five years. What I tell people to do in their presentation is to focus on the funding window, and what you are going to achieve. You should have a slide in there that shows in five years it's going to be a big market but that does not matter. The more important slide is what is your business model? What is your operational plan for the next twelve to eighteen months that is going to get you into the market?
It's going to cost you more than you ever thought it was going to cost and, it's going to take more time than you ever thought it was going to take to get where you want to go. That being said, have fun. If you're not having fun starting a business, and that includes all of the angst that comes with it, you need to back up the truck a little bit. When it stopped being fun for me, that's when the juice starts going out of it and I needed to reinvent myself.
It's really important to surround yourself with great people by being a great person yourself. By that, I mean something that has been super beneficial to me is I have put a lot of effort into being a life long learner and being hungry to learn, and being humble to learn. I think sometimes we love our ideas as entrepreneurs saying this is it. I think as I have had the mindset of this is an awesome idea and, I am excited about but, there are so many ways to go about this and collaborate and create. Every day I am trying to learn something new.
There's a lot of noise in the world. There are many different coaches, books, and self-development things telling you what you should or shouldn't do. While some of that might be helpful, sometimes what it does is brings your mind into multiple different directions. There is so much conflicting information that you don't know what to trust or believe. Then you try one thing and it brings you down one path and then you are going back. So it is creating more space to trust your intuition. Know that your intuition, Science might call it quantum physics, and spirit will call it trusting your soul or what your soul message is but, it is that inner voice. Trust that to guide you along the way. You feel it in the lower part of your belly. It's that gut feeling. That is what's going to lead you to your greatest inventions.
My advice is to just never give up. If you have researched to know that this is a good product that people would buy or even if it's not a consumer product. If it's a business you know that people are going to use or a service that people need, just don't give up. You never know. It might be the tenth time you get knocked down that you get back up again and turn that corner and take off. You can't let yourself stay down. You have to get back up and keep pushing forward with it.
I think it is important to know this is not a one and done. Legal compliance is a continuing thing that will rise with your business. As you scale and grow there will be new issues that will come up. There will be new opportunities to kind of enter into strategic partnerships and those will bring there own separate issues around all of this and what kind of agreement you want to engage with a potential business partner to create a new offering or to pitch a joint offering. Those will all involve rights and obligations about intellectual property and liability. So those need to be negotiated properly.
I hadn't gotten any attention from VCs. So these who invested in me, some of them as many as seven or eight times, I have to honor those folks, I have to give them a great deal. They have been with me since 2014. Hearing out the idea of what we wanted to go after as a market was easy. Building the tech was harder. We founded in 2014 so we are looking at year seven and just now looking at monetization and talking about exit plans. So I have to honor those folks. I have to make sure they are rewarded for sticking with me. And if there is a nine or ten-figure exit, they absolutely deserve to be apart of that ride along with us.
If the market is telling you something, don't ignore it. You know the story about PayPal and eBay is there was an anomaly where people on eBay were starting to use PayPal. They saw this anomaly in their data and then pursued it. Then PayPal exploded because it became the go-to solution for buying stuff on eBay. But itinually it was just a blip in the data. like what was going on over here with eBay and why are people over there using PayPal. So I say look for those anomalies and look at why they are happening? Think is this something I could leverage? Is this something I could build upon? Then start small and iterate from there.
Being able to adapt to changes is very important. For us, the pandemic changed people's habits from housing to communication to transportation. This means we had to move fast to serve the people in the housing market. We started in the Bay area and right now we realize people are moving to Austen and Idaho Falls. So we have to figure out how we can help those people. It is challenging for us because we are in the real-estate sector and it's a local business.
In order to make a very successful company, in addition to what I said before with focusing on a bunch of different things marketing, development, and all of those things. You have to have a passion for it, and you have to put in the work for it. If you are just going to say I want to make a trillion dollars on the first day, it's not going to happen you need to put the work in. It's going to be a lot of hard work. But as long as you are passionate about it it will be worth it.
So for me something that was really important was trying to really take it one step at a time. There were a couple of times where I put it down and did not touch for a month at a time. And I do think that why it took so long to finally publish it. But, once I kind of set deadlines for my self, and they were very manageable deadlines. At first I felt like maybe they were too small because they were small chucks to work on at a time. It was nice to be able to take a month to only go over so many pages or paragraphs at a time. That way if I did not necessarily want to devote as much time to it and spend maybe more time with friends and family I was able to do that and not feel like I was putting on the back burner.
Don't have an entrepreneurial seizure. Don't just do it because you're tired of your job. Look at what it takes to run a business. Look at all the things you have to have in a row. If you need help, talk to Devin. He will help you. If you have a cool idea, talk to Devin. He will help protect you. There is one thing we have been so hypervigilant about that we have locked it down so much that it impeded our growth. So we have the trademark, now I want to look at a patent to help me protect the methodology more.
You really need to love and be super passionate about whatever your going to do. Because it is going to take away time from other things that you love to do like your family, or another passion whether it is golf or whatever it may be. Your going to have to sacrifice and take away time from something that you love to go and build this. Because most likely you don't have the resources to not be working and build it as a full time job. So for me whether it was Vibio or content creation I have has to do it on nights and weekends, I have had to wake up early and stay up late. That takes away from things that I love to do. So to really be successful I think you need to understand that commitment that you are going to be in and be super passionate about it.
First is start as soon as possible and don't waste your time. Define your priorities, each day study something new, and don't hesitate to ask. People are open when they ask. If you have a question ask someone and they will responded.
Research first. Do your research, do not jump into something without a deep dive into something that you have interest in. A lot of times these interest come from things that happen to you, and that's great. Before you go diving into things I have a perfect example to share. I was competing with virtual private networks. So virtual private was a much better play because they were making money. They could sell where as I was free. I was stuck in the browser world which is free and I could not figure out how to make any money. So as I said do your research before you do anything.
I have had those conversations with people who are in that same boat and they say what you are talking about sounds great, I know I need it but I don't have that money. What do you think I should do? And I say you know what keep doing what your doing. Keep working your job and keep trying to set aside a little bit of cash, keep working on your plan, and get yourself in a little bit better financial position to actually launch this business the right way. That is actually my best advice. I don't want to discourage anybody from starting a business, don't take me wrong there. I just want people to put themselves in the position to be successful as they possibly can and that requires a little bit of capital.
Be confident in yourself and be positive. You never know what will happen in the future. You will definitely have your ups and downs and you will never know where you will find your treasure. Have a plan but always be flexible and always be positive. Never think that something went wrong. Even if something went wrong it is a lesson and you need to study something.
Every entrepreneur needs to develop grit and practice gratitude. What I mean by that is with developing grit there is no easy business. If it was easy everybody would be doing it and nobody would be willing to pay you for it. You are doing something hard and so you are going to have days that are awful. You are going to have days where your partner is depressed and you are depressed and you don't feel like you can go forward. That's where I feel like you really have to take a step back and say ok I need to have the same Passion and excitement that I had on day one for this project right now in this moment. Because that is the only way we are going to get through this.
Failing is another story but definitely on your own path to your successes whatever it is. It will be rocky and you will have ups and downs and it's hard as hell. So definitely I think perseverance is the number one thing I could advice anyone. I tell that to myself every time it is hard. It was hard when it was Corona like two months ago. So you just wake up and say oh it's this time of life again. You just have to wake up in the morning and plow through the day.
If you have the chance to do research on an angel, which almost every single time you will. Whether raising money from a restaurateur, ok what type of restaurants do they like? what type of food do they like? Are there talk with them at conferences? Watch those talks, read their white papers, look at what they invested in on crunch space. See if you can learn anything about their family. Do their kids go to a private school or college or something like that? Do you have anything in common with any of them? If you can find that stuff and tailor your pitch to them and create and actually personal connection with them.
I truly believe that success in creative business comes down to the mindset and the skill set of the leader. And honestly 80% mindset. And so what I have really been focused on is not just tactically what does a business look like, and how you do sales, and marketing, and finances. What's the mindset that helps somebody be good at those things so that they have the desire to go learn how to improve and grow their business. So that they can get better at their craft or skill set.
You want to go after a key word that is a little bit more niche. There might not be as many people looking for it but it's hyper relevant and it's easy to rank for. You can be the big fish in the little pond an own whatever traffic there is going to those key words. For most small businesses that the direction you want to go.
You never know when your time is up, So spend every moment of your time with something you love. Just find what you love and do it. I have found so many kids that don't like school and I tell them dude find something that you can do after school that you love, even if it is a sport. Because you just never know. I could go to school tomorrow driving and boom a car hits me and I am gone. You just never know.
Grow their network and find a mentor or a coach who can really help guide you. There is no way I would be where I am today had I not worked super hard to find people who had the type of lifestyle, that had the type of businesses that I wanted. And I hunted them down and pursued them and I worked hard to build really great relationships with a handful of really successful entrepreneurs. And that has made all the difference for me in terms of opportunities that have opened up, having them give me advice, giving them space to call me on my blind spots and on areas that I need to work in.
I can't be in a conversation without talking about LinkedIn to the point where anyone thinking they want to be an entrepreneur at some point or even they are now to leverage LinkedIn. It's the one platform for professional business purposes. Leverage the platform is my biggest thing. Sometimes I get clients who wait until they are at the point of frustration where they may have to close their business and it's like no you should have connected with me a long time ago. Making sure they are leveraging the platform and then guarding their time.
Follow your heart, Follow your conviction because you are the person who knows why you started the business in the first place. It's always good to pivot and take in feedback and change. I am not asking you to be ridged but, I think if there is one thing you can be ridged about it is telling people hey I want to follow my conviction, I want to follow my heart so that if I lead a life and fail I can always get up and change course and be satisfied. But, I never want to live with that regret that I did not start in the first place. I think that is the number one reason when people are on their death bed saying why did I listen to people more and why did I not listen to myself. I would say just listen to you. You have a short life, just 60 to 70 years of quality life. Go pursue your dream. That's the best thing you can do for yourself and for the community because you are creating something that will impact people.
It does not matter how much you know, but how much you are willing to learn. And I think growth mindset along the way. I have seen even among my business partners, It's really understanding that you are not going to have all the right answers but if you are willing to fight for it then that's what is going to make the whole difference. I just look back on where I was when I first started this. I did not know anything about business, nothing about strategy, and nothing about building products. Just even being able to dive into it and learn that, I know that that was more important at least to me then just trying to make it work in the long run. I think knowing that goal in mind is huge for any entrepreneur going in.
My big thing in terms of advice is to just Start the business. Its not going to turn out the way you want it to, almost certainly. Whether that means you need to make a small pivot or the business was not meant to be there is something that is not going to work out the way that you are expecting it to. So I think the important part is to just start and you will learn as you go, adapt as you go, and pivot as you go. I think that is really the most effective way to learn.
I'm a huge fan of side projects and side hustles so to speak. Before you decide to change your life, quit your job, or take money out of your 401 K, try to get one customer. Try to just do one thing. Try to validate the idea in a number of different ways.
There isn't necessarily a right way to do it. I would say that if you are trying to figure out what to do as a start up and where to start the most important thing to do is start. If you can get 80% of the way there then often times that remaining 20%, lets say that remaining 20% is the gap between where your at and a perfect answer, a perfect product, a perfect sales pitch. Often times that 20% is more of a nice to have then the 80% of actually having something there.
It's about persistence. I actually think it was Ryan Smith with Qualtrics he said the same thing about being all in. So if you are doing this be all in. Also be persistent in what you are doing. If you do run into some road blocks, and they are legitimate road blocks, evaluate that. Maybe you are not on the right course and maybe you need to make some adjustments. However that happens just keep at it. If it is something that is legitimately a great thing that will help whatever market you are in then you will see results but that persistence has to be there.
Identifying where your largest community is. I always want my clients to get the biggest bang for their buck when they are looking at their content. So finding where the majority of your people are and targeting the top three to five questions, interactions, or response that you see most often is a really great place to start when you are looking to create content. Chances are you are already engaging with those people and working to answer that question anyway. So building the content is an opportunity for you to polish and fine toon that response and make it available to people easier, which will eventually save you time on the other side.
If you feel like your business is stagnant, or not moving like you would want it to then focus on talking to new people. If you set aside an entire afternoon and just talk to new people then you will fill up your next weeks schedule. It does not have to be people in your industry. If you sell shoes talk to the guy that sells carpets and see how he dose it. Talking to new people I think has been one of the biggest drivers for our business. We are always looking for new people to connect with via linked-in, Instagram, and Friends and family. New people that have not heard about your value propositions yet, I would take time to talk with those people if you feel like things are not moving like you want them to.
Be Stubborn. I never ever quit. When it looks like this is a terrible idea or you hear no for the thousandth time you just have to preserver and keep going an pushing because it only takes the one time. You can quote Edison, Colonel Sanders, and other people but it really only takes the one time for it to blow up. If you stop then you will never find out that one time.
Find people that you really trust and partner with them. It's crazy what you can do with other people compared to what you can do alone. It does not matter how smart you are, or think you are. I was so reluctant in the beginning to get on board with an investor and to partner but taking his money and also having him as a permanent consultant to the company and getting his whole life's worth of expertise has just been invaluable.
Learn how to sell. I think a lot of people who want to start businesses focus on a lot of different things but, they don't actually go out and get customers. I think Mark Cuban said that "sales solves all problems" or something like that. I think that is something that is super underrated. People are a little bit thinking we are in the tech world so we are all on the computer, not really talking to people, we are not going to go out and make a sale. That's the life line of the business. If there is no sales, there's is no revenue, there's no business
Meet with 2 new people, 3 new people, 4 new people a week. As many people as you possibly can. I have found that people absolutely love to support business owners. It's still one of the reasons I think America is such an amazing and great country. Entrepreneurship is such a foundation for what this whole country is built on. To me I have seen so many times someone who just wanted to support me as a young entrepreneur trying to build something. I would encourage anyone who wants to start a business or even just take their career to the next level. Meet new people constantly.
Focus on your customer. A lot of start up business owners my self included like to think about your product and/or service. That is probably the part of your business that you are most passionate about. In my view, the way that you actually make a business succeed is start with your customer. Who are you going to sell to? What are you going to sell? Why would they care? If you can get those first few customers and actually make a sale then you are on your way. Try and resist focusing on your product and service in advance of having any customers.
I think that having someone that you trust and best friend in a business partner. Someone that compliments you in everything you are maybe not as good at is definitely the biggest assets you can have. If at all possible, having a partner by your side that shares the same values, complimentary skill set, and understands that the journey of starting a business, especially in a different country, is something that requires dedication and the absolute will to succeed.
Definitely those profile pictures. You don't want to have one with you in a group where someone is going to look at it and go ok which one is it. You don't want to have one from your high school/all-star years were you are now 35 and 40 and you don't look the same. You definitely want to make sure that it is you. Also your headline. It's that quick snap this is who I am in a nut shell. It does not have to be so robotic though. I see a lot of them that are like, I have my masters degree in this, its all of these credentials. Don't worry about that they will get your credentials later. Tell them what you do with those credentials.
The first thing you need to do is commit. A lot of people try to figure out things and put the details in place and who is going to do what, where they are going to get the money for this. None of that will happen unless you commit first. The biggest lesson that I learned in my career and starting a business is commitment. That decision has to be made that you are all in. Then everything falls into place after that.
If your just starting out in business there is nothing more valuable, especially in todays market, then to be able to grow your network and be able to find the right people in your network. I think the best piece of advice I have for you is whichever direction you want to be able to go in to, whatever niche you want to go into study that niche. But, give yourself a deadline. Give yourself maybe a couple of weeks, a month max to really get your knowledge up to par were you understand the language, you could hold your own in a conversation. The reason I say a deadline is because you want to get your knowledge up but you also want to be able to take action.
You need to be really really introspective. I know a lot of CEO's that were really happy as the number two in their previous company. As the COO, or CFO or whatever and they are miserable as CEO's. I have hired a number of folks who will tell you they want to be in start ups, who desperately want this to be the right path for them and they should be working at Bank of America. There is a very different support structure that comes with a big company and if your mind set is how to I extract the greatest value for me from this company you are going to have a hard time with a start up.
We had a lot of people on our rookie roaster and I was leader in charge of the rookie class because I was determined, I believed in myself, and I made it happen. Even in business when I discounted myself sometimes saying oh your just an athlete, oh you don't know much about business, This and that. Just believe in yourself and make things happen. It's literally the truth. If you can tell yourself that you really believe that, not just tell yourself that but really believe it, I think anything is possible so you can make it happen.
The most important thing is to keep learning and be an infinite learner. No one is born an infinite learner or made one over night but you need to practice that. You need to constantly grow yourself as a founder, CEO, or as team member, you constantly need to grow. Growth is the only solution. That would be my advice. Keep learning no matter what. You need to enjoy learning and it will give you are really good results.
Value pricing mean that, where our focus as a business is how can we create more value for our clients? How can we change their lives? How can we make as big difference as possible? Knowing that the more of a difference we make, we can also charge a higher price. We create a win win. We both win from that. The customer gets a better result/solution and we get a better price and make more money. So we need to shift away from this cost plus mentality towards value pricing.
My business partner Jill, she owns several companies and has a parent company that runs them all. Since she owns a portion this company, I now have access to her CFO and all the accounting and book keeping that she does. That is part of her investment. She has a cash investment as well as a sweat equity investment in the form of development resources as well as some financial resources. Financing and accounting resource. She did some cash investment as well as sweat equity, so I was able to off load the thing that I will put if off till I am dead cause I hate it. I think my advice is just make sure you know what you like to do and what your good at and find people to come up and help you with what you are not good at.
My piece of advice would be to trust yourself. You are going to make mistakes. I am sure there is not an entrepreneur out there, there is not a business owner out there who said oh yah this is a very smooth process and I came up with this idea, I built it and everything worked perfectly just like I thought it would. Everybody goes through these growing pains, struggles and self doubt. Every entrepreneur has these stories of yah we are struggling, things are hard, a lot of night working, trying to make this work. If you don't believe in yourself, if you don't believe in your product then you will never go anywhere.
I would lean into partnerships. One of my partners is really good at board of directors, getting all the structure set up, a phantom stock and all of that advance stuff that I don't fully understand. I do know that something I have learned is that partnerships are great. If you can bring people in, even if it's for a small percentage of your company or even if it is conditionally based I love that idea. It gives people skin of the game and they want to make it work.
Despite everything I went through go after your dreams. Go after what it is your heart tells you that you want to do. For me it's worse to live in the what would have been and regret decisions I didn't make or things I didn't go for versus going and learning. Your going to learn. If you accept that failing is also part of succeeding then that is all part of the big lesson. If I were to sit back and wonder what would have happened if I had actually done that non profit thing, Put a little bit more effort into that. I Can't live with that kind of regret.