People who have read my blog for a while know that I knew how to run my first business into the ground pretty effortlessly. At that time, my friend and I who ran the business knew what we were doing to build our products, but not how to get paid for it. Ah, a slight oversight.
We learned from that, and learned that without help in all the areas, chances that you will fail are much higher than when you are well prepared. We were not. A lot of money in debt and paying back everything later, the company is there again, and this time building, doing research, and still stable until it will finally have its products ready to publish.
In the meantime I have been doing what everyone else needs to do to make ends meet; work. I love working, I have no problems with it, and wake every morning up early and work with my clients to get everything done. And then besides that, I do the research, the building, the hosting and numerous trial and error loops with my own company, sometimes deep into the night. It is a passion that every entrepreneur has. It cannot be turned off, if you have that feeling of your own business in your blood, it will not go away because of a setback. It will actually make you want to try again, and do better.
But, life also progresses. When I started my business with my friend, and eventually had 11 people (including us) working with us, we were young, single, and we had no responsibilities whatsoever. Now, 15 years later, I have been married for over 10 years, a wonderful daughter, a mortgage… the whole shabang. Which makes taking the risks a lot more difficult.
And you hear from all the people around you, and the success stories in the media; you have to take the risks! No Nuts, No Glory! That might work if I was a complete sociopath and did not car about my wife and family. But sadly, I seem to be a more normal kind of person, so I decide not to take all the risks at once. So, that has me working double time, or make that triple time. By now I own a photo studio, and IT company and my wife runs a pretty successful store as well. And the clients are not the smallest around,with a couple of businesses rendering my company’s IT services and design services that belong to the biggest of the world, who are very well aware of the business being ran from an attic. But the quality they are used to, makes up for that little fact.
But there is a much better reason why I do not take the risk and make my business my full-time job yet. Back when our business tanked, we did not know that we were going to learn the best lesson business can ever deliver you; taking responsibility. Somehow, the only thing we knew is that we did not want to go bankrupt. We did not completely understand why, but it was taught to us; do not go bankrupt. So when we saw that our debts were getting too much for us to handle, without any know-how to survive it with the company, we sat down with the team, and decided to call it quits. My friend and I looked at the debt, split it in two, and decided to carry our own weights and pay back all the money that we owed.
One of the big lessons learned was that I think it was a good choice to at that moment finance the business ourselves. Sure, it hit us hard, but we also left with a clean slate. I have been working with clients who have less an idea what they were doing but doing that with money that was not theirs. And then you notice how easy it is to burn your whole network, how your name can become smeared, and your good reputation is gone.
Also, it taught us clearly what things cost. We had our logo designed with a fantastic team. The logo was superb and we had the best style guide for our business. But, well, that came with a price. And let’s recap; I am a designer myself. The reason why I did not do it is simply because we were putting our attention in our projects. It is nice to outsource, but only when needed. And to be honest, we should have done it on our own.
Just like owning the office building when we actually did not yet need one. Of course, it was ‘cool’ to have one, but it actually got us nothing but extra bills, while we had the whole network in place. For crying’ out loud, we were a technical company with the know-how to set up flexible work places.
But a lot of those things we have learned, and our friendship endured, and regularly we are going through what needs to be done to launch the company’s products. Right now, we have done close to half a million dollars in research and development, but taken it over time, working hard, working late, and making sure everything happens correctly. And we absolutely hope that this time it is more successful.
But in the meantime, working with clients, there are more lessons that are so valuable. And I learn more from the things of what not to do, than success stories. You can find success stories everywhere, because everyone loves to brad about success. But sitting down, and seeing that the focus on the wrong part of the project – like putting a lot of time in development and modifications without having an audience – or financing departments that are not even needed, trying to build everything custom while there are perfect off-the-shelf deals available, even if they don’t meet all your demands – they are just a couple of examples.
But most of all, what still amazes me, I hardly see people give up. And this amazes me because giving up on a project doesn’t mean shutting down and start working at your local grocery store. But it is to cut your losses, learn and stand up again, and be stronger this time.
But, you know, maybe that is me.