This is Part 3 in the series of how I came to be an entrepreneur.
Before you knew it, we had new employees, a great mission statement, great products, a great process and yet we couldn’t get significant traction in bringing in new clients. I was moving faster than I ever had, working harder and smarter, yet the people weren’t coming over. What they were doing was meeting with my team and myself, but not actually giving us their business. But there was definitely a buzz about us.
Fast forward, almost a year into our new business, with revenues less than 30% of expected projections and expenses almost double our 1st year projections. At one point it felt like we had hit a wall and I had to pay attention to our financial situation. The fact of the matter was that we didn’t know how we were going to be able to make the next payroll. Still committed I told my partner I would write a check off my personal home equity line of credit, because that is what you do when you start a business.
In addition to the rising expenses, I learned a valuable lesson about playing your own cards and not paying attention to other people’s hands, as in poker. I learned that the unique niche clientele we were targeting did not like change, they did not embrace change and even if our competitors were failing to perform on a level they should, our prospects would rather let them fix the mistakes than change who they did business with. It was amazing, I couldn’t believe it, time and time again we not only proved our capabilities, but we also proved our competitors lack of ability, and in fact their inability and dishonesty. Still, amazingly, we built it and they did not come.
Now one year into a new business, way over budget and heavily in business debt wondering what did I do? Why did I do this? How do I feed all these mouths? How do I keep my commitments to our new employees? How do I change this? Where do we go from here? All these thoughts and more went through my head on any given day. In most cases, I have since learned that this thought process almost becomes inherent in who you are or will become, so prepare yourself. It is okay and normal to think this way and it is a sign of a great leader, because it is no longer just about you and how you provide for yourself and your family.
All I can say about what happened next is that it came with a lot of perseverance, a lot of commitment from not only myself, but also from my partner, our employees and an outside consultant. Everybody was on the same team because in that short year we had honored our commitment, we had proved we were who we said we were going to be, and, more importantly, our industry saw a huge shift and we were poised to benefit from an amazingly frustrating year of commitment. All those prospects that said they liked what we were doing, now committed to us their allegiance. Over the next three months we almost tripled the size of our projected business, which would ultimately almost triple our revenue moving forward.
So what could stop us now? We were on our way, right? Well, not exactly…