There is No Easy Way in Business

Ah, the fabled easy way.

I’ve been there, looked for it, determined it does not exist and then went back to look for it just to make sure.

Google great small business ideas (I know we’ve all done it) and all you see is the same old crap rinsed and repeated with no tangible steps on how to be successful. Then we start a t-shirt company and wonder why we fail.

Here’s the secret, there is NO EASY WAY. Period.

I have recently been studying entrepreneurs and businesses who started from scratch (no investors in the bag, no free publicity, no real safety net etc.) and are now doing well to try and identify common themes. I looked across sectors, from apps to food to imports to subscription boxes to niche products to service so that any similarities would not be industry specific and thus would (hopefully) be universal.

Want to guess what I found?

The single, most-repeated, trait was working like a maniac on their business.

Not a couple of hours here and there or finding time on the weekend. We are talking 8-12 hours daily, usually in addition to a separate full-time job.

For those bad at math, that’s 40-60+ hours weekly on their business for at least 3 months from anywhere to a year or two and then they turn into an overnight success and people looking from the outside make excuses like “I thought of that idea first” or “they just got lucky” or, one of my favorites “they already had money.”

Here is a summary of how some of those entrepreneurs spent their time:

1. They looked around and see where people were making money and came up with a way to do it slightly better

2. They developed their thing and made it look awesome, professional, and trustworthy

3. They proceeded to market like a madman/woman. Like the kind of marketing where you tell everyone you know and ask them for referrals and then tell all of those people and ask them for referrals. The kind where you reach out to every influencer within your niche. Where you go around and cold-pitch businesses, or sell door-to-door. They told people about their thing and why they should use/buy it.

4. They reiterated steps 2 and 3 based on customer feedback and identifying what was working.

The truth is that success in the world of entrepreneurship isn’t about luck, circumstance or privilege (although those can help). It’s about putting the nose to the grinder and making something that people are willing to pay for (either with time or money).

I think Rohan Gilkes, the founder of WetShaveClub.com said it best:

“There are only really three things we look for when deciding

1. Are people making money doing xyz?
2. With our available skill set can we be better than at least on of those people?
3. Are the monetary requirements relatively small?

If the answer is yes to all three, we go for it, otherwise we pass.

Success, my friends, is both achievable and repeatable, but it doesn’t come without busting your tail to get there.

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How Virtually Anyone Can Escape 9-5 and Become a Full Time Entrepreneur

think a lot of people have trouble actually getting started on the road to entrepreneurship because it can seem so daunting to go from nothing to fully supporting yourself and your family. People think that you have to make the leap in one go and the fear of trying that paralyzes them.

So I have put together a list of steps that breaks the process down into something more manageable to (hopefully) help you on the path to work freedom.

1a. Have a job that covers expenses while still not requiring more than 40-50 hours per week

While this may seem counter-intuitive, it is crucial that you can keep the lights on without having to find a secondary source of income and that you have enough time left over to put towards a small venture.

1b. Save up enough money to at least cover two months of expenses

It is important that you are not desperate for sales or strapped for immediate cash. Desperate breeds stupid.

Summary: have a job, pay bills, save money

2. Do a self-check/self-discovery to quantify your passions and skills

This is not referring to some mystical crap, it is simply identifying what you enjoy, what you are knowledgeable about, where you have a network, what you have skills in, what you hate, what you absolutely could not see yourself doing etc. This will help guide you towards an industry or venture that you already have a leg up in simply based on your experience. It will also help steer you away from terrible ideas that seem good. Simple example, if you are a terrible writer and hate being on a computer, you probably should not be a free-lance writer. Even though the gig sounds good, it does not fit your passion and skill set.

Summary: find out what you like and what you are good at

3. Identify a cheap way to easily start generating a small amount of cash-flow in your excess time, without working for someone else

The key words here are “cheap”, “small”, “excess time” and “without working for someone else”. Whatever you decide to do in this step will probably not end up being your full-time venture, it is simply a means to get your feet wet being your own boss as well as create a “Future Business Fund.” Some potential ideas are: mowing lawns, cleaning gutters, flipping furniture, tutoring, doing DIY and re-selling, making cheap websites for local business, doing business photography etc. **What** it is does not really matter but it needs to start generating income on day one and it should probably be something that has the potential to generate more than $1000 extra a month (not that much money folks). If you were mowing lawns at $50 a lawn, you would only need ten bi-weekly customers to make this. Note that you may need to buy some initial equipment to do your job more effectively. I would advise that you do not spend more than about $3,000 on initial equipment and that you do not take a out a loan. Instead borrow from yourself with a plan to pay yourself back from half of your profits each month.

Summary: come up with a day one income-generating business idea

4a. Slowly grow, expand and iterate on the idea(s) from step 3 until you have $10,000-$15,000 in your Future Business Fund and an efficient process.

The timeframe on this depends on how much time you invest in step 3 business and how successful it is. Ideally you would be able to generate $10k-$15k in 6-9 months give or take. Patience is key here, you are learning to manage your time effectively and you have the opportunity to learn how to do basic accounting (keep your books or pay someone to help you like a friend or SO), keep a basic customer database, do effective customer service etc. All of these will be immensely beneficial in whatever venture you decide to do full-time and it will help you stay organized.

4b. Be thinking about an exit or expansion strategy for your idea from step 3

It very well may be that you find your idea to be lucrative and something you enjoy and want to expand it, if not you need to be thinking about an exit strategy. Either option is fine but you should be forming a plan for the next step. If the idea is expansion, it may be a good idea to go ahead and incorporate your business and look to hire a helper part-time (two people mow more lawns than one). If your plan is to exit or pivot, begin looking for a way to sell your small business. This is where good book-keeping and a customer list really pays dividends. Work out your your projected 12-month revenue and then multiply that number by 0.75 to get a ball-park sell price. For example if you forecast that you would generate $20,000 in sales over the next 12 months your target sell price would be somewhere in the $15,000 zone. Remember that the goal here isn’t to get the best price for you created business, it is simply to off-load it and make something additional for your efforts. Think of it like a severance pay-check. Another option is to work to automate your idea from step 3 for a reduction in profits but freeing up your time.

Summary: grow your business to $10k-$15k and decide whether to expand or sell

5. Begin using your Future Business Fund to either expand your business or start your new venture

If you opted to expand, you should now have the capital to add something small (an additional mower and a part-time worker for example). If you opted for starting something new, you should have enough capital for the pilot round of whatever you decide to do. If it is a subscription product service you should have enough to buy your first round of inventory, set up a decent looking website, do some paid promotion etc. Regardless, of what you decide to do as your new venture, remember to start small and work to deliver something quality over rushing to get the job done, it will pay incredible dividends in the long run. Note that your expansion or new venture should be able to generate enough income for you to eventually make the switch to working in your venture full time.

Summary: expand or grow your old/new business

6. Using your business to become the man/woman

The next goal is freeing yourself from your regular job to focus on your business as your full-time gig. The easiest way to figure this out is to have a monthly budget (good practice anyway) to determine exactly how much you need to make per month in order to sustain yourself while still being able to re-invest in your business growth. Regardless of what idea you end up pursuing you should be able to reasonably reach this point within 6-12 months or so give or take.

Summary: quit 9-5 and be your own boss

7. and beyond.

Continue to scale until you are Uber successful (pun intended) and rule the world

Summary: you’re just lazy and should not be an entrepreneur

Review
– You have started your potentially two business
– You did not have to go into debt to do it
– You have quit your job and are working for yourself
– It did not take you that long. 1-2.5 years may seem like a lifetime but in the scheme of things it is nothing. If you started today and are 27 (or 17) you could reasonably expect to be running your own full-time gig before you are 30 (or 20)

Remember that there is no replacement for hard work, sweat, and blood. You do have to put in the hours, you do have to sacrifice, you do have to be willing to put yourself out there, but it’s worth it.

Go out and win bootstrappers.