Getting Down and Dirty

Getting Down and Dirty

Let's get one thing clear, starting a business is fun. And then it's all downhill from there. Not really, but if you're in it cause it's fun, you're up for a rude awakening.

Growing a business is totally different than starting one.

I was called to a mysterious coffee meeting a few years ago. The entrepreneur was an inventor, but he had also bridged the gap and knew how to sell the products he had invented. He was successful.

We chitchatted for a few minutes, then his mood shifted, his voice lowered to a whisper.

"What I'm about to show you...I haven't shown to anyone..."

It was an exciting moment in the coffee shop. I felt like we were about to do some sort of mobster hush-hush trade deal or something.

"This is the only widget like this of its kind on the market..."

"So it's already on the market?" I asked.

"Well no, but it's going to be..."

After the big reveal, which was unfortunately a bit of a letdown. He then said, "What do I need to do to get distribution for this?"

"Pick up the phone. Call. Send samples. Listen to their feedback."

"Oh, well. How much do you charge to do that?" he asked me.

We ended up parting ways on the deal. I couldn't reconcile that if the very entrepreneur who invented the widget didn't believe in it enough to make his own phone calls, then the business would stay at the hobby stage for much longer than both of us would have liked.

He canned that idea and ended up finding a new partner on a business that has done very well. The key, his new partner was willing to pick up the phone and call. And together, they were willing to do the hard work to grow the business.

Starting a business is fun:

  • Name the business
  • Create a catchy tagline
  • Tell people about it
  • Start a Facebook page
  • Build a website
  • Dream up fancy prototypes
  • Incorporate!
  • Put a few dollars in your new bank account

But growing has its pains:

  • Being willing to tell your story for the millionth time
  • Picking up the phone and calling prospective clients. Repeat every day until you start hitting some sales traction and can train others. 
  • Then you dig into policies and procedures like Hiring & Firing, Company Financial Policy, board meetings, sales goals, business plan updating, annual reviews, etc
  • Your website, product, widget, app starts having bugs as more people adopt it. Uh oh! Time to do customer service with angry people.
  • Fixing your mistakes that you're learning as you grow along. 
  • Picking up the phone and calling again and again. 

So many entrepreneurs want to do the fun idea stuff, but don't want to get down and dirty and make the phone calls and create the systems.

That's why the entrepreneur above wanted us as his partners...to be his glorified sales guys. He didn't want to do the dirty work at first. But you can't hire really great salespeople until you yourself become really great at selling your own business.

Back to the mud.

(photo via garrett ziegler)