Business is the ultimate sport. Not only is it highly competitive, it is played for money. And the better you are at this game the more money you and your teammates make. And while many professional athletes are well paid, it is because someone else is making even more money in business by owning the team or the league the athletes play in.
Sports and Business
Will Jurgensen loves exploring the parallel between sports and business. In fact, he began a podcast called Sport Coats to profile the stories of athletes who applied their approach to athletics to successful business careers. I would have liked to have been in the room when Will realized how perfect the name Sport Coats was for his sports/business podcast. Because I bet that boy celebrated like Ickey Woods.
I recently sat down with Will to talk about my experience as a track and field athlete at The University of Wisconsin. But more importantly, we talked about how I have applied my approach to athletics to my career in advertising. And we talked about how my athletic career prepared me to become an entrepreneur when I launched The Weaponry.
Sound bites from the podcast:
‘I remember early in my career, getting hyper-focused on concepts for a campaign or ideas for a new business pitch. It felt the same as those times when I was in the weight room focusing hard on getting those last few reps. It’s the same thing, it’s the exact same feeling.’
On Transitioning: (Not like Caitlyn Jenner)
‘When you are done with your athletics, a lot of athletes say, “I was lost, I felt like it wasn’t me without sports.” I would say I never felt that at all. As soon as I graduated, I just turned my attention to my career and took the exact same focus and drive, and willingness to put in the energy to be great that I did for my athletics. I put that into my career and it surprises me how few athletes do this, because it is the exact same blueprint for athletic success that drives the rest of the success in your career.’
On Self Improvement:
‘Track and field is a little different than a traditional team sport because it is all you, and it’s so cut and dry. I would put a tape measure out or use a stopwatch to figure out if I was improving and if I was better than other people who have tried this. From that standpoint, I found the challenge of self-improvement to be intoxicating.’
“The structure, the discipline, the focus, the background work that you have to do as an athlete, you know, all the little drills that you do over and over to perfect a piece of what you do, when you do that in your career you become highly specialized. And you become world-class at the smallest things. You add extreme value to organizations that make money off of that kind of work.’
Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Ye Can Hear It Here.
You can listen to my interview here at The Sport Coats Podcast. You can also read more of the transcript if you prefer the voice in your head over mine. I listened to the podcast on the podcast app on my iPhone.
I think you will enjoy it, even if you aren’t into sports. It feels like a motivational talk. Will is a great host. And after listening to the episode I understood why people think I am excited about life.
Business is the ultimate competitive sport. It requires discipline, teamwork and strategy. Everything you know about athletic competition, hard work, focus and determination translates directly to business. It is an inherently fun game to play with others. And it is even more fun to win. The money is a bonus. But what a bonus that is.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, or from this podcast, please share it with them.
When I first started my entrepreneurial adventure I did it with a partner. My cousin Brooks Albrecht and I teamed up to put our complementary skillsets together to create The Weaponry out of dust. We were like Wonder Twins. Except we were cousins. And our superpowers went beyond transforming ourselves into water-forms and monkeys.
Brooks and I didn’t just divide and conquer responsibilities. We filled in our respective weaknesses with the other person’s strengths. Between the two of us, there was nothing that we weren’t excited to do. Which meant we made quick progress on all fronts. Or should I say, Albrecht fronts? (I shouldn’t.)
5 Benefits To Partnering
1. We motivated each other. The progress made by one of us inspired the other to make the next great leap forward. We were like foragers showing up each day to present the mushrooms, berries and the Wilson volleyball we had gathered. It made the other person want to do more of the same to show value.
2. It made the whole process fun. The work didn’t feel like work. It felt like a really fun elective project I took on with a teammate. Which is exactly what it was.
3. When you have a partner you feel a sense of responsibility for getting your work done. You can’t take a day off, or say, I’ll think about doing this later. The accountability you feel to each other helps keep you moving forward, like a black hole. Only without that uncomfortable crushing feeling at the end.
4. You feel like you have a strategic sounding board for every decision. Entrepreneurship, like so much of life, can be very isolating. Having a partner to evaluate your strategy, structure, investments, and hires improves your confidence that you are making the right decisions before you set them in stone. Like Sharon.
5. You have someone to take the lead when you need a moment to rest or slow down. Like running or biking on a windy day, creating a new business, or other organization, feels like you are always running against the wind, Bob Seger-style. There is a constant resistance from the unknown and unstructured. It is nice to be able to duck behind someone else occasionally and get a brief reprieve from the wind. Quack.
If you can find a partner to take on a major initiative with, do it. There is nothing quite like the team-feel to fuel your progress. Partners push, inspire, excite and balance you. They neutralize your weaknesses. They enable you to focus on your strengths. And they can afford you a moment of rest when you really need it. Plus, you have someone else to laugh with along the way. Which, in my experience, is the best part of all.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
Footnote: A year after we got business up and running Amazon stole Brooks from us (with my full support). Then Target stole Brooks from Amazon. Then Chewy stole Brooks from Target. Because Brooks is a rockstar. And The Weaponry is full of rockstars.
2020 has been the most interesting year of my life. It is so yiny and yangy that it is nearly impossible to define. It is arguably the worst year ever. It is arguably the best year ever. It depends on which of your eyes you look with. And whether or not you enjoy spending time with humans.
Back in March, I was concerned about what the coronavirus would mean to businesses in general. And more specifically, I was concerned about what it meant to my business and my team at The Weaponry. But my immediate concern was short- lived. In fact, my team has been busier than ever before.
Most of our clients been cranking away during the pandemic. As a result we have experienced growth that feels less like a pandemic and more like pandemonium.
Since March 16th, we have added 8 new clients. But that doesn’t even tell the full story. Because we have also had 3 clients, who had been hibernating, roar awake with major initiatives. (Major Initiatives is also my favorite military figure.)
Plus, we have 5 very strong new business prospects on our doorsteps right now. We expect the majority of those embryonic clients will become full-fledged clients by the end of the year.
But these are still strange times, indeed. The U.S. just added 1 million new covid cases in 6 days. That’s crazy for Covid-Puffs. Which makes it a weird time to invest in your business.
However, The Weaponry needs to continue scaling to meet the ever-increasing demand. Which means we are shopping for more great creative talent.
We are looking for envy-inducing writers, art directors, designers, account types and more. I love finding people who have created great work that I am jealous of. It is how I know their talent will make The Weaponry better.
But the question I am continuously asking myself is when do we pull the trigger, Tonto? Do we do it now, and just go? Do we wait for a vaccine to change the long-term prospects? Do we wait to see if things get worse? These are odd times and those are odd options.
We have the same issue with our office space. We don’t actually need any office space today. But if our full team was in the office right now we wouldn’t have nearly enough space. Which is like getting fat at a nudist colony. It doesn’t matter while you are there. But you won’t have anything to wear when it’s time to go.
Remote work has been a blessing for us in this respect. But once we transition back to everyone in the office we will need a space about 3 times that of our current office space.
But when do you expand your space? It’s odd to do it when everyone is still at home working in their Snuggies. But what kind of delay will we experience once we can actually be in the office, that we could have absorbed when fewer people were coming in?
There are no perfect answers to these questions. (Unless you know something I don’t.) But this is the type of interesting challenge we face right now.
If you are really talented and want to be on our radar, this a great time to talk. Even if you just graduated or are about to graduate from college. We are always looking for great people. If you know someone we should know, please share this post with them. You (and they) can always contact us through theweaponry.com or by emailing us at email@example.com.
I recently was introduced to the CEO of a really fun business in Milwaukee. A mutual friend introduced us via email. And in the quick hellos and thanks-for-the-introduction exchange that followed the CEO invited me to his office for a pow-wow.
When we met in person a week later we talked and developed a quick friendship. Despite the fact that we had just met it was clear that we were on the same wavelength. Our mutual friend, who I will call Erin, because that is her name, must have detected that too.
The two of us began talking about his business. I loved the conversation. I am a big fan of his company. Like one of those Big Ass Fans you see in a warehouse. I noted the remarkable quality of the product his team creates. I shared my enthusiasm for his brand and the great potential for growth, expansion and domination.
Then something interesting and unexpected happened. The CEO paused and said, ‘Adam, every agency in town has come to me wanting my business. They all talk about what they can do for us. And they share their vision for our brand. But you are the only one who has shared MY vision for the brand.’
At that point the conversation changed from 2 guys getting to know each other to two business leaders collaborating and working through problems and opportunities together. Which is what I love most about business.
I didn’t think of our conversation as a sales call. I didn’t think I was pitching him on working with me and my business. I was just excited to meet a new friend. I’m like a puppy in that way. And in the process of developing a friendship we talked about his business, the same way we talked about his family, the places he has lived and what he likes to do in his free time.
Make Friends. Not Sales.
But sales is not what most people think it is. So much of business development is simply developing friendships and rapport. It is showing a genuine interest in getting to know others. It is about helping and providing value. It is not about asking for business.
I always focus on friendship first. I was genuinely interested in this baller of a CEO first. I was not about to ask for a shot at his business. Perhaps that was part of the appeal.
As the sales expert Jeffry Gitomer says, people hate to be sold, but they love to buy. That is why I always let people buy into me instead of asking for the sale.
Does it work? Well, I now have a meeting scheduled with my new friend and his leadership team next week.
6 Key Takeaways From This Experience
A good introduction from a trusted mutual friend creates a great start to a new relationship.
Make friends. Not sales calls.
Add value first, last, and always.
Paint a picture others want to buy into.
Let your enthusiasm, energy and passion show.
Between the time I first wrote this post and published it a lot has happened. We had a great meeting with the executive leadership team. We were asked for a proposal. The proposal was signed last Friday afternoon. We kicked off our official relationship with a 3-hour meeting (Gilligan’s Island-Style) on Monday afternoon. We will present ideas next week. And we will have new ads live for the holidays.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message please share it with them.
Business development is a vital function of any healthy business. And it is dependent on interactions with non-customers. This is why trade shows exist. They are like massive dates for people with problems and people with solutions. They are the male and female counterparts that make business work. #Bowchickabowbow Lots of business opportunities are created at trade shows. Because people get to meet, mingle and leave non-single.
Right now, thanks to the Covid-19 curveball, in-person trade shows are simply off the table. As are most in-person networking events. Which creates a major impact on new business prospects for most companies. This is a significant problem to solve. And a significant business opportunity.
Calling It Off
New sales calls are challenged right now too. You can’t simply ask if you can swing by someone’s office to show off your cart of potions and elixirs. Because the people you want to meet with are not there. In fact, most of my clients at The Weaponry have not been in the office for 7 months. Some of them have even moved far from the city they work in, because it doesn’t matter where people live when no one goes into the office.
With all of the Zooming that is happening now, it isn’t easy to get prospects to jump on yet another video conference either. Especially since video conferencing today means inviting people into your home, where families are hosting a 3-ringed circus of work, school and personal life.
Where Do We Grow From Here?
This means that to continue growing your network and your new business prospects you have to find new ways to interact with people. So it’s time to adopt new approaches. Or act like Chubby Checker and put new twists on old ideas.
What I Have Been Doing
Over the past 2 months here is what I have done to expand my network during a time of social contraction:
I spoke to the quarterly gathering of Spearity clients. Spearity is a great management consulting organization. This introduced me to 40 impressive people I didn’t know.
I was a guest on the Sport Coats Podcast with Will Jurgensen. (podcast coming soon to a podcast player near you)
I published 25 new blog posts.
As a result of these actions I have grown my LinkedIn network. I have received new introductions, I have had in-person, yet comically-physically-distanced meetings. I have developed great new relationships. In fact, it looks as if I will have developed at least 4 new clients as a direct result of these activities.
I didn’t make a single cold call. I didn’t ask anyone for their business. I simply gave away my time, knowledge and expertise. I gave value first. And as a result I got even more value return. Anyone can do this. Even today.
Remember it is not who you know. It is who knows you. During these unusual times you have to make sure more people know who you are in order to grow your network and improve your long term prospects, opportunities and sales. Provide value first. And good things will come your way. Even in 2020.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
This morning I was scrolling through a folder of unfinished blog posts. I came across the following story that I wrote on the morning of March 16th, which for much of America was the first day of the lockdown/shelter-at-home/house arrest era. I found the story particularly interesting because it was written at what I would now consider the end of pre-covid normalcy. And it was interesting to look back at my mindset as we entered the great unknown.
The event referenced occurred on Thursday, March 12th, just prior to catching a redeye flight home. Which would be the last time I flew for 6 months. I expect the drop in redeye flights has hurt Visine sales.
Thursday night I grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant in Las Vegas. I was by myself, so I sat at the bar and ordered my food and drink. I had a burger and tots, like Napoleon Dynamite.
The guy beside me and I started talking. We were both in Vegas for CONEXPO/CON-AGG, the enormous construction industry trade show. I told him I owned an advertising and idea agency that worked with the trade show. He told me he owned a mine in Texas, between Dallas and Houston. Which means his business mined the earth. And mine mined the mind. (Which I think is what the seagulls were saying in Finding Nemo.)
We discussed then newly emerging and unfolding challenges of COVID-19, and what it meant for our businesses. I told him that it would have very little if any impact on our ability to operate. (Meaning our ability to operate as a business. We still wouldn’t be any good at surgery.)
We transition fluidly between working in our offices in Milwaukee and Columbus, to working from home or wherever our work-travel takes us. As long as we have a computer and an internet connection we are good to go.
Tex, my bar-mate, had a pained expression on his face when I finished my evaluation of our business. Then he replied, ‘Until I can figure out how to run a backhoe, dozer and dump truck remotely I need my people on site.’
This simple barstool conversation in Las Vegas made me extremely thankful for being in the business I am in. I am thankful that when we planned the launch of The Weaponry we put systems and technology in place that would allow for maximum operational flexibility. It also helped that we didn’t include backhoes, dozers or dump trucks into our operating system.
On Sunday I sent a note to the 10 core members of our team telling them that we would transition to remote work as our standard until further notice. I am sure the current situation will pass, and we will get back to standard operating procedures. But I am not sure how organizations can declare that a remote arrangement is going to last for the next 2, 3, or 4 weeks. The only thing certain right now is the uncertainty of the timeline.
Right now we have plenty of work to do. We have 3 or 4 major presentations this week. The work needs to be done, because it is vital to our clients’ long term plans. The release dates may shift. But we are marching on. Because on the other side of the unknown we know we need to keep moving forward with our plans for business and life. We will present our work via Zoom video conference. Which we have used for presentations several times per week since our founding. Because our clients are as far away as California, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
We have also seen some work quickly evaporate thanks to the current climate. We have had a few events canceled. Which means that film and photo shoots tied to those events have been canceled or postponed. Those things may never be rescheduled.
Like so many businesses, we are adjusting to a new normal. For our team, it is almost as simple as a Mr. Rogers wardrobe change when he enters or leaves the set of the show. We put on a sweater, change our footwear and we are ready to work in a new location. I expect we are luckier than most as we head into the new unknown.
Things will be abnormal for a while.
(this is where my draft stopped)
The flexibility we built into the operation of The Weaponry meant that we didn’t and haven’t missed a beat during the new normal. Other companies around the world have adopted many of the same technologies and approaches we baked in from the beginning. Our comfort with the uncertainty of the future has been key to our ongoing success. Seven months later we still don’t know if we are closer to the beginning or the end. But we are ready for whatever comes next. I hope you are too.
The latest numbers on new business creation are staggering. New business registrations in Q3 of 2020 are up 77% over Q2. Which means there have been more new businesses registered in the past few months than at any comparable time in history. The Covid-19-induced disruptions have created all kinds of new opportunities for entrepreneurial-minded earthlings to capitalize on.
There are suddenly great interests in face masks, Non-Brooke shields, plexiglass, distance learning, contactless-anything, at-home entertainment (which sounds dirty, and maybe is), home remodeling, camping, food delivery and a hundred other things.
Of course all this new business creation isn’t purely good news. Much of the new business development is from displaced employees whose best, if not only option, is to start their own business and give it the ole college try. (Or, in some cases, the ole high school or GED try.)
As an entrepreneur, I find this extremely exciting. There will be great businesses that come out of this time. But not all the stories will have happy endings. (Meaning fairy tale-style, not Robert Kraft). I predict that the brave women and men who are now embarking on their entrepreneurial journeys will have one of three outcomes:
Little To No success: This is due to an inability to attract customers or clients. Costumers are the helium in a startup. If you can’t find customers the business won’t float.
Great Initial Success, Then Dramatic Failure: This is because they found initial customers, and delivered the initial product or service, but then couldn’t keep it going and build momentum.
Huge Success: These startups will quickly mature into real businesses and will flourish for years if not generations to come.
What Makes The Difference?
Anyone can start a business. If you can find customers you can do the work yourself and make your customers happy. But that’s not where the long term, sustainable, flywheel-style magic happens.
To build a business you have to create a system. Create YourWay. Make it repeatable. Your repeatable system is what enables you to both deliver for your current customers and attract new customers at the same time.
The system, your system, creates order, predictability and a clear division of responsibilities. It creates room for continuous improvement. It allows you to bring in help (employees) with little to no experience and contribute in meaningful ways.
The system allows you to step out for a bathroom break without the business also springing a leak. If fact, with a good system in place you should be able to take a monthlong vacation in Europe and the business will keep humming along. (Assuming American’s are allowed to visit Europe again. And assuming businesses are allowed to hum.)
Failed business owners realize too late that they didn’t have a repeatable system. A system that could be used to attract new customers, and keep them happy in a profitable way. They didn’t have a system that worked in both good times and bad (Think JJ Walker and Michael Jackson times). The didn’t have a system that enabled them to scale up and down when needed. Don’t let this happen to you.
Don’t just do the work. Or all you are is a worker working without a net. From the beginning you need to create and use your system. Think about what works now, document, follow it, and continuously improve it. It should allow you to use other people’s time to get the work done. Because if you have to do all the work yourself it is not a business. You simply own your own job. Which will be hardest, most stressful job you’ve ever had. But a system that sets you up for long term success will create a great work environment for everyone in your business. And you’ll wonder why you didn’t start your own business years ago.
Most businesses fail at some point. That is just a fact. I knew that 5 years ago when I began making plans to launch my own advertising agency. So I bought the book The E-Myth, because a bunch of smart people recommended it as a way of, well, not failing.
The book is great, and I always recommend it to anyone thinking of starting their own business of any size or shape. I also recommend it to any business owner who hasn’t read it yet. In fact, The E-Myth is like my Frank’s Red Hot. I recommend that sh#t to everyone.
But I didn’t just read The E-Myth once. I study it. It has become one of my most important reference books. In fact, I handle this book so much it looks like I don’t know how books work. See the pic below. It looks like I tried to open it on the binding side until someone suggested that the other side might offer less resistance.
One of the key tenants of the book is that there should be a predictable, repeatable process for everything. I fully believe this. From the beginning, I established processes for my team at The Weaponry to follow. I have regularly revisited those processes, modified them, and added new processes.
But I have never been satisfied that our processes are as good as they should be. Which is the point. When people tell you to work on your business, not in your business, they typically mean, improve your processes. Unless those people are roofing consultants. In which case they probably mean you need to do some work up on top of your business.
Back to Business
Today, I am revisiting our processes again. In fact, last night, just before I went to bed, I went all the way back to the beginning, again. I asked myself, ‘What is The Weaponry’s process for establishing processes?’ And here is what I wrote in the notebook on my nightstand. (I translated it into type below so that non-chickens can also read it.)
Process of Processes
Figure out Step 1
Write down Step 1
List each subsequent step to a successful conclusion
Follow established process until it reveals a flaw. Or until a better process is revealed.
Modify process to eliminate the newly discovered problem, or to improve outcomes.
Continuously evaluate each process, looking for flaws, and better ideas that will lead to better results.
Note: Always run the best process you know until you know better.
Note: Even this process process can be constantly improved until a better process process can not be found. At which point the process process will be perfect. (Then check the Vector Victor.)
Note: Run everything the organization does through The Perfect Process Process.
Note: You will be able to do, make, and deliver anything with this process.
Creating a well-run business requires great processes. Creating great processes requires a strong process process. Figure out yours. Then use it. And perfect it until it can’t be improved any more.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
Launching your own business sounds fun and exciting. Right up until the moment when you have to find your first paying customer. Because a business without customers is like a kite without wind. It just won’t fly.
A friend of mine wrote to me yesterday about a major challenge his startup is facing. He said that like Carmen Miranda, he has had several fruitful conversations with prospective clients. And he was excited about next steps. However, at some point in each conversation it came out that the prospect would be his organization’s first customer. After hearing that, all of them ghosted like Patrick Swayze.
Which comes first, the business or the customer?
I expect my friend isn’t the only person to ever deal with this issue. In fact, every business ever created has had to transition from fantasy-business to reality-business by acquiring their first customer. If you have had this challenge, or are concerned about it as you begin your entrepreneurial journey, here are some tips for getting over the humpty hump.
9 Ways To Land Your Startup’s First Customer
Give Away Your Product Or Service For Free. This approach doesn’t technically give you your first customer, because customers are those who pay for your offering. But what it does do is give you proof of trial. You can point to someone you have worked with. You can refer to a user who has enjoyed your product or service. It can give you a testimonial to leverage. It can offer an example of where and how you delivered. All of those things help make your prospective customer feel like you have the experience they want.
2. Start With Friends and Family Start by turning to those who are most likely to want to help you succeed. If you are making a relatively low cost consumer good or service, approach your friends and family first. They will want to help. Unless you are one of the Menendez Brothers.
3. Site Examples Of Your Personal Experience. Maybe you haven’t offered this service or product under your own banner, but you have done this sort of thing in the past through a business you worked for.
For instance, if you are a barista, a financial planner or a home cleaner who has worked for someone else, and now want to start offering the same type of service on your own, point to the examples of how you have done this extensively in the past. Now, you are excited to offer your customers what you have spent years perfecting.
Even better, you have fixed all the problems your past employer had when offering such goods or services. In fact, the reason you were inspired to go out on your own was to offer an even better product than you could have when your hands were tied by your prior employer. Then show them the rope burns around your wrist to make the whole hands-tied-thing more believable.
4. Offer A Money Back Guarantee. The reason people avoid working with new businesses is because there is an inherent risk involved with working with a new entity before they get the kinks out.
The key is making yourself a safe choice. You can do that by offering a money back satisfaction guarantee. If wasting money is the customer’s concern, and it often will be, a guarantee helps a great deal. However, losing valuable time is also often a concern. And that you simply won’t be able to give back to them unless you have a Delorean and a flux capacitor. So understand when a prospect’s concern can be alleviated by offering to return their money if they aren’t fully satisfied, and when it can’t.
5. Seek Out Other Entrepreneurs. The people most likely to want to see you succeed, after your friends and family, are other entrepreneurs. They have been where you have been and just needed someone to take a chance on them, like ABBA. Someone who was willing to forgive a little early-in-the-game wonkiness. Entrepreneurs love startups. Startups are nostalgic and inspiring to those of us who have been there before. Use that against us.
6. Partner With Another Company That Already Has Credibility. There are lots of ways to sneak in the backdoor. One great way is to tuck yourself into an already proven entity. It’s how The Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow snuck into the Wicked Witch’s castle. In the beginning, my startup partnered with many respected organizations. Those businesses vouched for us. And that was all we needed for client approval. Everyone wins. And it opens up even more possibilities down the road.
7. Sell Your Prospect’s Role In Your Founding Story Every company magically transforms from dream to reality when they acquire their first customer. And that founding story will be told for eternity. This is your customer’s chance to be part of your history and the story you will tell for years to come. The opportunity will be appealing for many. It’s appealing to me. Practice your pitch until it becomes an irresistible Disney-esque story.
8. Offer Steep Early Bird Discounts There are plenty of services that provide sticker shock to new shoppers. Take weddings for example. The photographer, venue, catering, flowers and dress all cost way more than you would have imagined. If you want to break into the wedding game, offer a cure for the sticker shock by offering a soothing, doable price. This is how you get your foot in the door. You will be solving 2 problems for the happy couple. First, you will be offering the service they need. Second, you will provide room in their budget for the other things they really want. A discount on your first gig is no loss to you. In fact, lowering the barrier to entry to get your first clients can unlock the path to millions of dollars in revenues in the future. And with a little luck, your business will outlast most marriages.
9. Work With Former Clients Or Customers. If you already have a proven track record of success with happy former customers they should be the first clients you approach for your new venture. Customers know that people, not businesses are the key to delivering a great product, service or experience. And if you have delivered for your customers in the past, they will expect that you will do the same for them in the future.
This is how I launched my business. After nearly 20 years of working for other companies I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. I talked to 5 former clients about my plans in order to get input, feedback, and hopefully interest in my new business. All 5 of them told me that if I did what I was planning to do they had work for me.
In fact, my Original 5 became my biggest cheerleaders. They wanted to see me succeed, and wanted to be part of that success. I think they felt as if they helped discover The Weaponry, in the same way Clive Davis discovered Whitney Houston. Let those former clients in on the experience. Let them help mold your offering to meet their needs.
Because your former clients have history and trust with you, and they know you are starting something new, they will likely be more forgiving of you as you navigate the process for the first time.
Like so many others, I started The Weaponry as a side hustle. Not because I thought of it as a side hustle, but because I wanted to breathe life into it and gain momentum before I quit my day job. And I knew that my trusted former clients would understand why I needed to meet early, late or over a lunch hour. They wouldn’t expect me to be responsive throughout the day, and they would be forgiving of the various other quirks that came along with a startup side gig. And sometimes an understanding first customer is all you need.
A business is not really a business until you have your first paying customer. But there are multiple ways to find that legitimizing customer. Don’t worry about making a profit on your first client. Simply get the deal done. And you’ll have proof that someone else has trusted you with their hard earned money. That’s often all a prospect needs to hear. Then keep looking for that next customer as if your business depends on it. Because it does. Good luck. And get going!
*If you know someone who could benefit from these ideas, please share this post with them.
Yesterday I talked to a good friend of mine about his entrepreneurial ambitions. He is a rockstar who has held impressive positions with 5 elite brands that everyone in America knows. Thanks to COVID-19 he is now starting the next chapter of his career. This is an exciting opportunity for him to do something new and self-directed. Like a Spike Lee joint.
As he told me about all the things he has in the works right now I was impressed. There were interesting partnerships, licensing opportunities, consulting requests, new product development ideas and brand building thoughts. It was like a Thanksgiving table full of opportunities. And everything looked delicious.
A blessing and a curse
Having many options in front of you is a gift. It is also a recipe for entrepreneurial failure. Because entrepreneurship doesn’t require dabbling and exploring and nibbling at a number of interesting things. It requires you to focus your attention on one thing completely. Like a hitman.
Dreaming Vs Doing
When you have many opportunities available to you, you are still in the dreaming phase. You are considering the possibilities. It is exciting. But it is still fantasy. And there is a big difference between dreaming, dabbling and doing. Which sounds like a Fred Flinstone-ism.
When I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I was completely focused on my mission. I threw all other options aside. I put all my eggs in one basket and then focused on the basket as if nothing else mattered. Because it didn’t. That focus made all the difference.
To be successful as an entrepreneur you have to become obsessive. You have to roll a rock up a hill to get started. Which is hard. And it can’t be done while texting. Or with one hand in your pocket. Unless maybe you are Alanis Morrisette.
If you are thinking about starting your own business, pick something you are really excited about and focus on that one thing completely. Think of it as your one nail to drive. Then hammer away at that one nail until the job is done. Don’t touch, tap or tickle another nail until the alpha nail is hammered home.
Once you have the business humming it will afford you new opportunities to do more. You can pour all that you learned bringing the first business to life into the next. A successful first business will also provide additional funds to deploy towards your next venture. You can repeat the process over and over, and make many great things happen. But start with one. Just like Brian McKnight.
If you are thinking of starting your own business, think singular, not plural. One business opportunity should step forward and take all of your attention. Find the one idea among the many that you are most excited about and feed it. Fuel it. Fixate on it. And force it to happen.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.