As mentioned in How We Made Our Second Million, I started a business in my 20s. Starting a business is one of the top ways of building wealth in America. And the great thing is that just about anyone can do it!
Many people say that they’ve thought about starting their own business but haven’t for one reason or another. It’s an unfortunate reality that happens often.
For me it wasn’t even a question. I just did it.
What gave me the confidence and background to launch a business?
After spending time thinking about it, I realized that the largest factor was my dad.
He didn’t set out to specifically teach me about small business. But through his actions I learned valuable lessons that I want to share with you today.
Understanding these tips just might help you take the step into entrepreneurship that you’ve always dreamed about.
1. Just Do It
My father was awesome.
Dad enlisted for Vietnam then worked as a civilian with the Air Force until retirement. During this same time he remained active in the Air National Guard. So he worked his 40+ hour week rotating schedules, plus a weekend per month and a couple weeks each summer on top of it.
Yet, even though he was so busy, he always found time to pursue his interests.
When there was something that interested him, or he saw the need for something, he did it. If he could make some money at it, that was even better. But even that didn’t hold him back.
He didn’t think “there is a need for a solution to X; someone should do it”. He just did it.
Dad liked to tinker. He liked to work. In fact, after just a couple years of retirement he took a part-time job because he loved being productive.
What did he do?
Sometimes I would wonder what didn’t he do! He sharpened saws, made custom picture frames, cut down trees, and split wood. My father would fix whatever needed to be fixed. Cars, radios, and anything around the house. He and a military friend ran a chimney sweep business for a few years. (Yeah, it’s a real thing.)
My father loved to work and since these things interested him, they weren’t a burden to him.
If he wanted to do something, he did it.
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2. It’s Not All Or Nothing
As far as I know my father never thought “I’d like to do XYZ so I should quit work and do that.”
No. Instead he found the time to pursue these activities while maintaining his steady income.
Many exciting businesses start out as a side-hustle. Even my own business originally started out as a side-hustle. These ventures my father engaged in were each side-hustles too.
Dad used his spare time. He wanted to do these things so he made them a priority. By using previously idle time to explore these interests he was able to minimize financial risk and assure he had options.
Most of us have a few hours each day that we could reallocate. Mindless TV watching. Facebook. Hanging with friends.
These aren’t necessarily bad activities but with limited resources we need to balance priorities. If someone REALLY wants to start a side-hustle, they can usually find time.
3. Have The Right Tools
I’ve worked with a lot of small businesses and startups. It’s amazing (scary?) how many spend money on items that don’t directly improve their business. Then often they skimp on necessities – making it harder for them to succeed.
Each of the ventures that my father engaged in required certain specific tools. He would acquire those tools that were needed, but that’s all.
There are a lot of products and services that promise efficiency or another benefit. Sure, perhaps they’d be nice, but are they needed?
Acquire the tools you need, but only the tools you need.
By avoiding wasted spending you enhance your cash flow and improve your odds of being successful at your new venture.
4. Listen And Learn
My father wasn’t much of a talker. He was a great listener though. Sometimes it didn’t seem like he was paying attention, but he was. And later he’d bring a topic up again, or take action based on something he heard.
None of us know everything we need to know.
And unfortunately much of what we need to know won’t be “taught” to us. At least it won’t be taught in a formal fashion.
So to learn and improve ourselves we need to be good learners. That might mean tinkering to figure out a solution. Often it means being around people smarter than you and just listening.
Don’t assume you know everything you need to know. Always seek out knowledge, whether it’s Google, a training resource, or another person. Then soak it in.
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5. Give It Time
Dad never expected an overnight success for his business ventures. Because of #2 above, he didn’t have to. He wasn’t stressed about an immediate return on investment. There was an understanding that this was a marathon, not a sprint.
Few businesses launch on day one to experience a line around the block, tons of media attention, or a large queue of potential customers.
According to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) data, 30% of businesses fail within the first year and 50% fail within the first five years.
I believe most of that initial 30% could be avoided with proper planning and expectations. A founder who plans for a big launch and immediate success probably isn’t going to plan out their cash flow adequately.
When you launch a venture – whether a side-hustle or full-time endeavor – you need to give it time.
It’s not uncommon for a business to take 2-3 years to reach profitability.
With my first business it was five years into it before it would be successful enough to replace my income. That’s a LONG time if you don’t expect and plan for it.
Set your expectations properly and plan for a slower ramp-up than you initially expect. Better to be pleasantly surprised than strapped for cash.
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6. Stop When You Stop Enjoying It
There are too many opportunities available to stick yourself with something you hate.
If you find yourself in something that isn’t going the way you expected; if you don’t love it; stop. Wind it down and circle back to #1 above.
Dad had a ton of little ventures. Probably way more than I noticed and remember. Almost as soon as he wound down one thing, he started working on another.
Starting something doesn’t have to be a permanent situation. You can start many things – like my father did.
In fact, some of the most successful entrepreneurs fail first before finding their “big win” venture.
“You haven’t failed until you stop trying.” – Jon Gordon
While I didn’t experience a direct failure in my first venture, I did notice lack of traction. Once I identified that situation, and then a potential solution, I made a pivot. I shifted the focus from one area to another.
There’s no reason you can’t do the same. If it isn’t working out, try something else. Perhaps a pivot or a total business shift. That’s OK!
Tips You Can Use
There you have it. These are the lessons that come to mind when I think about my father and the influence he had on my business abilities.
- Just do it
- It’s not all or nothing
- Have the right tools
- Listen and learn
- Give it time
- Stop when you stop enjoying it
I think these tips can be useful to you too.
What Do You Think?
What do you think? Were you exposed to this type of thinking when you were younger? If so, how did it impact you later in life? If you weren’t, do you think it might have made any difference?
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