I was selected to be on a panel discussing “Tips From Business Survivors”. We introduced ourselves with a little story and then took on some questions. I think some of the questions are worth relating here, along with my answers.
Q. Why Were You Selected For This Panel?
I’m pretty sure I was selected because I have failed so many times at business, yet I keep going. I learned from each failure and applied that knowledge to the next try. The current business is very successful for those reasons I am sure.
Q. What Made You Start Your Own Business?
I had two main reasons. Time, and Money.
Money: I was working as a commission salesman for a printing company in the early 90s. I was getting 20% commission (only) on all my sales, but all my “leads” were things like envelopes, business cards, stationery etc. Small stuff. I was barely scratching out $300/week. I made a decision to go in to a new market, and contacted some real estate developers I knew in south Florida. One was building a 3000 unit golf course community and wanted glossy, high quality brochures and inserts to market it. I went down to meet him and left with a $120,000 order. I was elated and ecstatic as I handed in the 50% deposit check (yes, $60,000) and eagerly awaited my check on Friday.
Friday came and I opened up my check not to find the $12,000 I was expecting but a check for $2,000 and a note that said “See me, Rich.” Well I traveled very quickly to Rich’s office and said “See this note? It was unnecessary. If you pay me 2K when I’m expecting 12K I will be here anyway!”
The conversation went from bad to worse as he explained that they were going to put me “on salary” and they couldn’t afford to pay me $12,000. I said, “Why not? I just made you $120,000, 60K in hand!” He replied, “I can’t pay you that, that’s more than I make!”
“Hey I just made you more in one sale than you made the company all year! You can’t PAY ME?” He said his boss would fire him if he paid me that much.
Money lesson learned: Never let someone else have control of your potential income.
Time: I changed industries and worked towards being an airline pilot. Yes it was a “glamour profession” with prestige and the office had a great view, but I had no control of my time. I was stepping on to a cruise ship on my honeymoon when the company paged me, expecting to “junior assign” me and cancel my vacation. This happened ALL THE TIME. Even though I knew this, I couldn’t drag myself away from aviation. However, after 9/11 my company shut down and I was forced to start another business. It was a horrible tragedy for America but looking back, it was the best thing that happened to me in my business career. Lesson: Even out of tragedy can come great benefits. I now have complete control of my calendar.
Time lesson learned. You can get more money but you can’t get more time. Control your own time!
Q. Handling Good Times Seems Easy. How Do You Handle Bad Times?
Being in business as EmployerNomics since 2004, we have had highs and lows. I remember one particularly bad time in 2009 when we were down to very few clients and barely making enough income to pay bills. I was about to whine and complain to my wife and business associates when I had an epiphany. I told them, “Hey things may seem bad. But if we had to start over today, this isn’t a bad place to start from.” Since then, I have viewed each day as a fresh start, and down time as an opportunity to improve and grow the business. Business cycles are real. You will have good. You will have bad. Learn to enjoy both.
Q. What Keeps You Up At Night?
I still wake up at 3am often worrying about some business thing. Then I realized, nothing ever gets fixed at 3 in the morning. I have learned that stress kills. I try to fix the things I can, and adapt to the things I can’t. That’s all I can do. It makes me much more relaxed.
Q. How Do I Get Started? Where Do I Find Clients?
Well this is the big one isn’t it? No business survives without sales (not marketing, sales.) Somebody has to sell something before business happens. Learn sales techniques. Get good at networking. Learn to make good cold calls. Find out the RIGHT places to do social media. Put money in the budget for sales training or even a sales coach. I do all of the above.
Q. What Is Your Biggest Fear Of Your Business Failing?
When I failed in the past I usually had to go find a job. There is no more humbling experience than entering the job market when your business fails. My biggest fear right now? I would have a tough time entering the job market at age 60.
There were many more questions but these were the ones that stuck in my mind. We also ran short of time as we only had an hour. This topic could easily be an all day seminar. If you are interested in hosting one, contact me to be on the panel please!
I am excited about SCORE. I love the concept of giving free counseling to startup businesses. I plan to apply to be a SCORE counselor now. I highly suggest you check out your local SCORE chapter.