Random Stroll Down Entrepreneurial Boulevard
It was a long drive and I was wasn’t sure how to get there. I plugged the address into the GPS and wouldn’t you know it, the damn thing was about as useful as lox without a bagel and cream cheese. What’s up with that technology anyway? Then I realized it was an intersection I was looking for, not a specific address, Entrepreneurial Boulevard and Hard Knocks Avenue. Bingo! That got me there. Now I just needed to find a place to park. Conveniently there was a parking garage right there. Not so conveniently, it was the most expensive garage I had ever driven into. No choice though—I parked my car.
The storefronts on the Boulevard ranged from outstanding—couldn’t wait to go in—to rundown and seedy. I walked down the street full of anticipation.
The store on the corner sold advice. Advice! A tough sell, if ever there was one—most people expect to be given their advice for free; I was no exception. Skeptically I couldn’t wait to go in to make a small test purchase, see if there was any real value to pick up in this joint. Fortunately, Bob the owner was in. For a small fee, Bob explained, he would be happy to anoint me with the secret of his success. I let him know that paying for his advice left me as cold as a frozen herring.
Bob said, “How do you expect me to make any money, if I give my advice away for free?”
“I just want to know how you’ve been successful; I’ll pass on the advice.”
He smiled, and then told me that in the early days he gave the advice for free, in order to build clientele. It worked and it wasn’t too long before he didn’t need to do that anymore—people were more than happy to pay for the advice, it was that valuable. “Good entrepreneurs write a solid business plan,” he said. “Great entrepreneurs use it as a roadmap and follow it every day. Successful entrepreneurs know when to change it and adapt it to the evolving environment.”
Hmmmm, worth it, I thought.
Since I found great value in Bob’s advice, I enthusiastically paid him for it. Then I spent the next six hours speaking with myriad other businesses. Are you still with me on this metaphor? J
Some of the things I learned strolling down that Magic Mile:
- To start a business you have to have a burning desire and an unwavering belief that you’ll be successful. Otherwise you’ll be climbing Mt. Everest without so much as a guide, backpack of tools, or any protective clothing. A sure recipe for death, never mind failure.
- Be prepared to work like an army of ants. If you’re not willing to do that, you’ve got your head up a strategic part of your anatomy.
- Whatever your business, you better be there to serve your customers! Otherwise see the last sentence in point 2.
- When you start to hire employees, you better treat them with the same respect you do your customers. Instill in them the same excitement and enthusiasm you have for the business! Another mountain to climb, but give it all you’ve got.
- Stay agile and be quick to recognize the need for change (see Jill Konrath’s Agile Selling). From the moment you start, never cease to learn, innovate, and adapt.
- Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business. Whatever you think you’ll need, it won’t be enough.
- When you succeed, celebrate…but not for too long. If you allow yourself to feel successful too long, you’ll make the terrible mistake of forgetting what got you there in the first place. As the most interesting man in the world says, “Stay thirsty my friends.”
Well, metaphorically speaking, what a productive day! I got a ton more than I anticipated. I was feeling pretty damn good…and hungry, to boot!
Allow me to stretch the metaphor one more time: I made one last stop into Al’s Kosher Deli. I ordered a corned beef on rye. While he was making my sandwich, Al pontificated about his business. He told me how successful he’d become and that people from all over the area raved about his food.
“So, Al, what was your business plan when you started and how did you make it work?” I enquired.
”My plan was to serve the best damn corned-beef sandwich on the planet, including New York!”
“My god, that’s it?” I said, astonished that there wasn’t a more comprehensive business plan than simply delicious food.
“That’s all there is to it,” he said, sticking his cigar into his mouth and taking a puff a la Groucho Marx.
Then I took a bite of the sandwich—Nectar for the gods! The man’s business plan was simple and as good as advertised!