I remember when Brandon first came out to AZ for a for a few months to work on Zox Straps with me. We put up a massive whiteboard on the wall and drew a timeline for where we expected to be within the next year. It was a fun exercise but the reality is that we had no basis for any of our projections, other than “well there are this many people in the world, and if we can just get X amount of them to know about Zox Straps…” hahaha. Ok it wasn’t quite that bad, but I feel like that’s pretty close.
In the business classes I took in high school, we had to create a business plan for a company we’d like to start someday. My friends and I decided to team up and do one called “The King of Clubs,” a pun on playing cards and a nightclub. I don’t remember much about it other than it was a horrible idea and our references for costs and revenue were totally bogus. Don’t get me wrong, the business plan was legit and we crushed it in our presentation, it just wasn’t applicable to what I call ‘real world conditions.’
Real world conditions (lets call it RWC for short) is what creates the difference between what we plan on having happen in a business plan and what actually happens. It’s not necessarily all doom and gloom either, RWC is an X factor. It ranges from people just straight up not liking what you’re doing to a chance encounter with someone that changes the entire direction of your business. I can think of one friend in particular that started his now very successful business randomly meeting someone at a restaurant. I can also think of another friend who released a product he was sure would be successful that immediately bombed because the market just wasn’t ready for it yet.
So lets say you’re in a job, but for any number of reasons it’s just not where you want to be; It’s not something you enjoy, it takes up all your time, stresses you out, doesn’t pay you what your time is worth, has no room for advancement, etc etc… (Can you tell I don’t like having a job? lol) How can you plan your new entrepreneurial endeavor without risking everything, especially with something like RWC that you simply can’t control? Here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way with Zox Straps that will hopefully help you out.
1. Self fund, slowly.
There is nothing wrong with testing out what you’re trying to do before you go and spend every last dollar trying to make it work. When we first started with Zox Straps, our cost was just that of some elastic, paint markers, thread and most importantly, our time. We all had jobs, so there was never any decisions made because money was tight. We took our time, planned out what we wanted to do and grew with the brand. Yes, some start ups might require huge sums of money for R&D, programming, etc.. If that’s the case and you really think your idea has legs, then go the route of looking for investors. My personal feeling is that I’d rather work hard and invest my own money than have the uneasy feeling of knowing I’m playing with someone else’s. Like I learned when I was trying to buy my first car – you appreciate things so much more when you worked for them and did it yourself. Side note If you don’t have enough in your savings to support yourself while you invest your time, you should not be a full time entrepreneur. Someone that raises money and uses it as a salary is an employee, not an entrepreneur.
2. If you don’t love it, don’t do it.
I’ve gotten some feedback from our packaging with the ‘Do what you love’ terminology. Yes, I’ve seen the research that says many people find running with something they thought they loved was a horrible idea. Yes, I’ve heard most people can’t make a living playing video games or shopping. To me, it means this: If you don’t love what you’re currently doing, don’t keep doing it. You’ve all seen the stickers on your motivational friend’s fridge; the one that says ‘Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.’ It’s freakin’ true! Why is it so easy to preach, yet so hard to do ourselves? My opinion is that we’ve become very complacent; if it’s not too bad, we’ll stick it out. My opinion is that if you don’t wake up stoked to accomplish something new, you need to keep looking.
3. Nobody wants you to succeed more than you.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I hear saying the same thing every day. When I ask them how they’re project is going, they always seem to have someone else that they’re waiting on for something to move forward. I’m sure if you think about yourself, you’re guilty just like I am. I remember when we first decided to really run with Zox Straps, one of our friends was going to build the site for us. He’s honestly one of the best designers I’ve ever seen, not to mention a super humble, all around great dude. Long story short, he was so busy with other projects that our site continued to get put off. After six months, I got frustrated and came to the realization that even people with the best intentions don’t have the same desire for me to succeed that I do. I sat up that entire night with Brandon learning how to use WordPress, creating the site you’re using right now in about 18 hours. An interesting note is that this all night site-building fest also led us to come up with the idea for Night Owl, one of our most popular Straps ever.
Stop making excuses. If people don’t answer an email, call them. If someone can’t get something you need done in time, find someone else or learn to do it yourself. Don’t rush from a quality perspective (ie. cutting corners on quality), but get it done. The life of an entrepreneur might seem glamorous from the outside, but remember that every time you see a successful business owner, you’re seeing the result, not the process; the blood, sweat and tears they went through to get to that point you see them at now. If you want the rewards, roll up those sleeves and get started.
Remember this: Every day you say tomorrow is another day you wake up in the exact same place you were yesterday.
Hope that helps!