How to start a business while working full time

You do not need to quit your job. Yet.

Money and time are your most important assets. You need to free as much of each of these things up as you can in order to invest them in your new (side) business.

Lean out. Bank your money. Sell your expensive cars. Don’t buy the overpriced house. Rent for now. Pinch pennies for now. The less money you need to live the less dependent on your job you are to live. The longer you can go without reaping profits from your business the more momentum you will get and the faster you will grow.

Every dollar invested in your business will become 2 or 3 dollars in the near future. Every dollar invested in everything else will either be gone or worth pennies. Free up your capital so it can work for you.

Free up your time because it is your most valuable asset. I know you have a job and you can’t free up that time. I know you are overcommitted and you are busy. Start saying no. Say no to your friends for now (they’ll understand its temporary). Say no to your hobbies for now. Hide the power chord to your TV and your Xbox. Make the sacrifices in the near term to get out of the rat race and reap the rewards in the long term.

Make sure your spouse supports you – it will be a long road if he/she doesn’t.

Figure out what service you want to offer from this list of businesses I love.  Make a list of 10 and go through my analytical approach to vetting ideas and finding opportunities. Feel free to stray from these models if your market analysis, network or skillset warrants.

Setup the tools you need to operate your business. I go over the tools I used in this episode of my podcast:

Get out and grind. Sell. Service customers. Make money. Work evenings, nights, and weekends. Delay your gratification now and sacrifice your fun and normality to build the life you want a year from now or three years from now.

Spend a lot of time making and analyzing your financial projections. Revamp them daily as you collect data. Get uncomfortable and push through the barrier where most small businesses stop growing and become a job.

Set measurable goals with time deadlines attached. Add value first. Market like a guerrilla. Start lean with rented, borrowed or used equipment to reduce risk.

If you realize your business doesn’t have the potential you thought it did and can’t become what you desire move on. Quit right then and shift gears to your next business. Don’t get emotionally committed to anything. Use your logical mind to make decisions. You haven’t quit your job yet. No harm no foul.

When do you quit your job?

Only you can answer that. Study your pro formas. Study your market. Study the trajectory. How much risk are you willing to take? Do you have a family to feed and a mortgage to pay? What is the worst that could happen?

Start today and ask me a question if you want my thoughts. Get out there and make your own luck!

January 23, 2019 5:41 am

How is it realistic for me to offer a high-skilled service?

How would you start a service business where you have to have specialized knowledge? A business like yours anyone who can drive can start. But let’s say a business like HVAC or appliance repair, traditionally people that have a lot of experience working in that area eventually decide to go solo and start a company. It seems like these make up the majority of businesses.

First of all a steep learning curve and permitting process is not the majority of businesses out there. Looking at this list 90% of them you can do yourself with a few youtube videos, cheap tools, some practice. Obviously you will get faster and more efficient over time but thats part of anything.

Every business has some level of investment required. The greater the investments the greater the potential reward or potential loss. The investment in these skilled areas is more geared around TIME than money.

To start a waste management company you need a $240,000 garbage truck. To start a business based on a skilled trade you need experience, maybe some education, and likely some certification. You are really investing TIME.

Look at these as barriers to entry and investments. A certification is likely not that hard to get and keeps others out of the market. You want it to be hard remember? Everyone would do it if it were easy.

So its probably unrealistic for you to become a licensed electrician unless you are under 20 or already headed down that path. I get that. But should it be totally out of the question if you are at a dead end job in a dying industry working for the government when you would much rather be working with your hands? Maybe not.

Is making a time investment worth it for you considering all the factors? That is up for you to decide.

There are a ton of trades that you can learn on your own time while you have a full time job. Want to be a specialty carpenter and build home bars or wine cellars for people? Get into woodworking, join a local club, and find a local company that is doing it and is hiring evening and weekend work. Help your friend build one. Build one yourself. Before you know it you’ll feel comfortable doing it and you will be ready to get out and mix it up.

Remember that starting a company is a long game. We are making sacrifices right now so that we can design our life 5 or 10 years from now. We aren’t afraid to work for something even if the reward is a few years out.

The good thing about the this space is that most contractors or tradesmen who own companies are so short on staff that if you are a warm body and will show up you can get a job instantly. Go out and work in the field for a few weekends and see if it is for you.

You can get paid throughout the training process by doing this and it will supercharge your learning and experience as well as help you learn the industry overall.

Its all about risk and reward. You can choose to risk your time or your money. Do your homework and decide if a skilled service is right for you.

January 21, 2019 5:26 am

Idea Generation 101

This is the analytical approach to identifying and exploring new business opportunities. These are all service based businesses but the concepts are not limited to these types of opportunities. Check out ideas I love and ideas I hate. If you have a full time job and want to start a business with the goal of eventually replacing it check out this post.

Have a plan to start a business and want my thoughts? Email me and I’ll analyze it on my podcast.

Initial criteria

  • Growing customer base

You should not need to steal customers from other companies to thrive. Find a business that is in higher demand today than it was last year and is expected to be in higher demand next year than it is today.

  • Weak competition

Who would you be competing with? Walmart? Amazon? Chinese manufacturers? Silicon Valley based companies? Big money? Coders or developers working for $7/hr on Upwork?

  • Constant or rising cost

Don’t sell something that is getting cheaper all the time. This killed RadioShack (along with a host of other things) and is putting a hurt on a lot of software development and tech firms.

  • Avoid passions / hobbies

Avoid markets that are targets for hobbyists and dreamers. These people don’t use common sense and make unwise financial decisions. You don’t want to compete with them. This includes restaurants, bars, blockchain, personal training, health coaching, etc.

Your List of 10

Next we will make a list of 10 possible businesses. Use this list as your resource but don’t be afraid to stray from it. To help with this keep in mind the following questions and considerations:

  • What is unique about my location?
  • What trends or changes may disrupt current businesses in my town?
  • How is new, widely available technology influencing certain old school industries?
  • What industries are way behind in digital marketing and online presence?
  • What services are dominated by mom and pop shops?
  • What services are hard for the general public or companies to find beyond word of mouth?
  • What services are slowly delivered and have a large lead time?
  • What is unique about my skillset?
  • How much capital am I willing or able to invest and how can I hedge that risk?
  • How quick do I need money coming in?

Now we will form our list of 10 services that we would like to analyze for possible opportunity. The first 5 will be low skilled, low upfront cost, and low barrier to entry businesses. For example:

  • Lawn Care / Landscaping
  • Herbicide application
  • Maid Services
  • Pest Control
  • Off Premise Bartending
  • Mobile Car Detailing
  • Mobile Oil Change
  • Pressure washing
  • Deck staining
  • Gutter cleaning
  • Event DJing
  • Mobile beauty services – Haircuts makeup massage or pedicure

These are called commodity services by some. They say its a race to the bottom. This is simply not true. Its only a race to the bottom if you try to compete on price. You can always find customers willing to pay a premium for the other two factors: speed and quality.

The next three businesses should be specialty niche services that only a few companies or no companies do but the customer pool is still relatively large and the work is relatively low skilled and upfront time and money investments are relatively low. Examples include:

  • Beer line / keg cleaning and maintenance
  • AirBNB property management
  • Mobile pet grooming
  • Mailbox installation
  • On demand holiday decorations
  • Home office / closet build outs
  • Fence rentals for events or construction sites

The larger your city the more specific you can get here. Remember, you don’t need millions of potential customers. You can often create a viable escape from the rat race and even a scalable company with 50 monthly customers. Find a niche and focus on it.

The last two businesses should be high skilled and might require significant training or investments in equipment. Examples:

  • Electrician
  • Arborist
  • Surveyor
  • Niche Carpentry (decks, offices, wine cellars, sound rooms, home bars)
  • Mobile car mechanic

These are the best opportunities. There has been a massive shift away from labor intensive professions as more millennials opt to study marketing or liberal arts and less go to trade schools.

I love this space because the market is drastically growing, the competition is weak, nobody enters these professions because of passion and there is often a multi week lead time to get services like this.

If you put systems in place and simplify the jobs for your employees and get the service to the consumer quickly you can name your price.

Study the competition based on three factors

Now for each of your 10 businesses you are going to study the three main companies in your city that offer these services based on the following criteria:

  • Speed

The most important factor by far. Call each company and play a customer. How busy are they? How long would it take to get a quote and get service? Ask a ton of questions about their busy seasons, how many customers they service annually, etc.

  • Accessibility / Digital Marketing

How hard is it to find the companies online? Are they buying adwords? Do they have any digital marketing? Do they have a social media presence? Online reviews? Is their business all word of mouth? What is their quality of customer service on the phone? Do they follow up with you? Do they try hard to get the sale?

  • Pricing

How much are they charging for the service? An arborist might charge $800 to take down a tree that takes 2 guys 45 minutes. Are the margins high or is it pretty cheap?

As you go through this process you will find holes. You will find areas you can provide the service better, faster or cheaper. Thats your opportunity.

When you spot the value add and the problem you can solve its time to get serious about research. Dive into industry trends on IBIS World. Study trends.google.com to analyze busy seasons, competitor size and search terms. Read everything you can read about the service. Study the companies that do the exact thing in every major city in America. There is a company out there that does what you want to do really really well but they do it somewhere else. Perfect. Study them and model your business off of them.

Build a pro forma financial projection model. Use it to estimate the monthly income and monthly expenses. Do a lot of research to properly estimate these costs.

Work to keep your overhead low. If you need equipment purchase it on Craigslist. If you need a cargo van buy it for $5k off craigslist or rent one at first. Here is my van buying guide. If you need equipment buy it used or lease it. Minimize your risk here.

Now its time to build your website and get your google my business location operational and get a few reviews on it. Listen to this episode of my podcast for the entire list of tools and the method to get started quickly and cheaply.

Reach out to me if you have questions or want to get my opinion.

A few things to keep in mind:

Be ready to sacrifice your free time and your hobbies in the near term. Be prepared to play the long game. Be prepared to put away your ego and work smart and hard for 3 years straight before the momentum really picks up.

Remember you will never find the perfect opportunity. There will always be reasons why you shouldn’t do it. If it were easy everyone would succeed. You want it to be hard.

Get out there and find your opportunity!

January 17, 2019 5:54 am

Think like an entrepreneur at work

Who is your boss? Who manages your branch? Who oversees your region? Who owns the small business you work for? Who is the most valuable person at your company or in your circle? If you could chose to be complimented by one person at your office who would it be?

Think about that person. You know who it is. Now we are going to study them. Think about their tasks and what they do for the company on a day to day basis. What do they do that causes them headaches? What causes them unnecessary stress?

Now think about that problem they deal with. How can you help them solve it? How can you relieve stress from them? How can you make their life easier?

Figure that one thing out and do it. Take it on. Help in some way. If you can figure out how to take stress away from the key person in your office you will win. You will be invaluable. You will get promoted.

Its not easy. Its not comfortable to do this. Its easy to say well no I can’t do that because I’m a lower level employee. Its not my job. I would be overstepping my boundaries. Remember that life is all about putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and the people who are willing to do that the most are the ones who win.

Figure out something you can help them with and walk into their office or give them a call. Heck even an email would work. Walk up to them and say hey – I notice you deal with a lot of this or that. I think I can take some of that off your plate for you. If you would be willing to let me try I can help with it and I can make time to take it on.

Do you have any idea how refreshing it is as a boss or owner of a company when someone comes to you and asks that? Your whole perspective of that person changes. You see a go getter. You see someone who thinks ahead. You see someone who is a self starter and a go getter. In the 8 years I’ve been a business owner it has only happened to me a handful of times. Those people are now in management and making great money leading the charge at my company.

When you think like this as an employee going about your day you are bound to find opportunities to prove to the decision makers in your company that you are valuable. You are bound to come across a place where you can add value.

Make sure you think this through. Don’t just throw a hail mary and try to make this happen without really analyzing it. Make sure that you can realistically do it. Make sure that you deliver. Start small at first if necessary to gain some trust before taking on something big.

I’ll give you an example of this. Our student storage business is very seasonal. We spend the few months leading up to the busy move out season each year hiring and training 20+ employees at each location.

Early on when we didn’t have a lot of processes my job as the executive overseeing the branch was to make the schedules for the customers to get their items picked up as well as schedule out all the employees to work and let them know when to work, where to show up, and how long they will work each day. On top of that I was also in the warehouse overseeing the unloading and organizing.

We hire a student manager at each location. Generally they organize all the small stuff leading up to the busy season and then work long hours as another laborer or crew leader during the peak time.

One year we had a student manager who took initiative and tried to find a place to add value. He came to us and asked if he could build out a schedule in advance with the crews and the dates and then take it under his own wing to staff each crew, notify everyone of work schedules, and basically manage all the employees.

We realized that if we watched closely and kept tabs on what he was doing it was low risk so we turned him loose. It went amazingly. We serviced more customers than ever and it was much less stressful for me as the business owner. Instead of scheduling customer pickups, employees, and the warehouse I only worried about the customers and the warehouse. The manager handled the employee schedules which is generally the most stressful part.

He looked at my job during the busy season and figured out a way he could take stress away from me. He focused on it and communicated well with the employees so more of them showed up for their shifts and they were more prepared. We instantly gave the manager a raise, he got real world experience, and it was great for everyone.

Three years later and that employee now works full time on our executive team and we plan to hold on to him for as long as we can afford to pay him.

January 16, 2019 10:15 am

The housing cartels

Housing is so expensive in America’s top 10 cities that only the wealthy can afford to buy a home or even rent an apartment. What factor is at play that everyone is missing?

I feel very strongly about this one and I have a bit of a unique opinion.

Housing is astronomically expensive because there isn’t enough of it. There are millions more people who would like to live in our top cities than there are homes available for rent or purchase.

So thats it. Not enough supply. If we could build more housing we would solve the problem. Why can’t we?

Developers are willing and able to build the housing. They can build high rise apartment buildings for $300 per square foot. So if they make a healthy profit of 50% it should cost a consumer $450,000 for a 1,000 sf 2 bedroom apartment. So why does it cost 3-4 times that?

The local planning boards and zoning laws in our major cities limit the density of our housing developments. They restrict the height of our apartment complexes.

Who sits on the local planning and zoning boards? Members of the town. Local property owners.

So the local home owners control the zoning and new development but they also own property in the city. What happens if they limit new development and new housing supply?

Their own home gets more valuable.

Why in the world would the planning boards and zoning boards make it easier for developers to build? They would lose money.

So they don’t. They limit supply of housing to protect their own investments. The local home owners win.

The city loses. The middle class loses. The lower class loses. Local businesses lose. Everyone else loses.

Have you ever been to a town planning or zoning hearing? You should go. Watch the home owners cry and send the developers packing. Watch the “not in my back yard” outcry.

Drive through the suburbs of Boston and look at the yard signs that read “VOTE NO on the Route 2 development”. Every 3 million dollar 5,000 square foot single family home sitting on 3/4 of an acre has one.

January 15, 2019 6:56 am

People do business with people they like

Its easy to forget that doing business is very much an emotional decision. People are way more likely to buy something from somebody or hire someone who they get a good feeling from.

Don’t be a robot. Personalize your website. Personalize your emails. Make people read the “about us” section of your website and begin to like you.

Show a genuine interest in other people. Find out what makes them tick. Ask questions about their family and remember the name next time you see them.

Always have a positive attitude and exude excitement and smile often. It will get you farther than you think.

January 14, 2019 5:25 am

Evening routine

Evenings are tough because they are not as predictable as mornings. You have social events, work emergencies, date nights etc. I manage a predictable evening most days and here is my routine:

First I make a to do list for tomorrow. Everything I need to do organized from most important to least important. This clears my mind and allows me to turn off the work mode.

Then I prepare for the morning routine. The goal is to take any and all decision making out of my morning. When I get out of bed in the morning I want to be able to start my day on autopilot. No emotional energy required. No variance. What I’m going to do in the morning is as good as done.

So I lay out my clothing for work, hang my towel on the shower hook, grind beans and set my coffee pot to instantly brew at 6am, get my bike ready to workout and ride on my trainer along with my water bottles, kit, and towels.

I then put my question or problem on my google document on my computer and put my computer in airplane mode. I put my phone on the charger in my office and leave it there. No checking email, social media, or texting after this point around 7pm.

Then I usually put my baby to bed and spend time with my wife.

My goal is to be asleep by 10pm so at about 9:15 I take a hot shower and meditate through it taking deep breaths throughout. At around 9:30 I brush my teeth and then spend about 15 minutes stretching and using my self massaging tool to ease tension in my pressure points on my back, in my shoulders, and on my neck.

Then its 15 minutes of fiction reading on my kindle before sleep. No business books, no input from social media or work email or my mind will jump start and I’ll find myself on my computer in my office until 1am.

After the fiction reading I lay on my back and meditate until I fall asleep. And my meditation consists of simply taking deep breaths and trying not to think. This is nearly impossible but I practice not pursuing thoughts and instead letting them pass through and go on their own way. This works really well for me.

Thats it. Give it a shot and see how it works for you!

January 13, 2019 6:37 am

The power smoothie

This smoothie has evolved over time and has turned into my daily mid morning snack or lunch replacement. Very healthy and easy.

Ingredients in order:

  • .5-1 cup frozen blueberries (I buy in 3 lb bags from Aldi)
  • 1-2 cups kale (chopped kale keeps longer than spinach)
  • Water to about 3/4 full
  • BLEND
  • 1 scoop pea protein (can use whey)
  • 1 scoop Green Superfood
  • 1 tbs wheat germ
  • 1 tbs milled flax seed
  • 1 banana
  • BLEND

Notes: This Hamilton Beach blender works best of the 5+ I have tried.

Fill 1/4 of the blender with frozen blueberries. Then put a few fist-fulls of kale on top of it (don’t pack it in or you won’t be able to get it to blend). Then put WARM or room temp water up about one or two inches into the kale. Now blend it to get the kale to pull into the water. If it gets jammed add a bit more water until you get it to blend.

Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend it.

This smoothie is quick to make and has a great range of protein, vitamins and fiber. You can add peanut butter if your goal is sustained energy or meal replacement but it adds a lot of calories. It isn’t meant to taste like ice cream. Suck it up and get used to the flavor! If you must add sugar you can replace the water with orange juice.

January 12, 2019 5:29 am

The Pro Forma

A pro forma financial projection model is your best friend.

Use Excel or Google Sheets to build out your models and do a lot of research on your industry standards and fill in blanks with actual expenses and revenue estimates per customer.

Costs will vary at different customer levels so make educated (and research based) estimates based on customers per month. At 10 customers per month go down each line expense item and build the model so that the overhead and variable costs are accounted for.

Then create formulas based on the customer fluctuations.

Run at least 3 models to account for uncertainty and variability. You will need a “worst case” model, an “expected case” model and a “best case” model with different customer figures.

Remember there is bias here and people are more likely to overestimate customer numbers, revenue and underestimate expenses.

Can you still pay your bills in the worst case model? If the answer is no this is a high risk model and you need to make a plan for this situation. How will you liquidate your equipment? How can you get out of your overhead?

Before you hit the ground there will be a ton of variables that you cannot possibly put an accurate figure on. As you operate yourself and collect data you can begin to fill in the blanks.

This is a living and breathing document that should be updated monthly and revamped, studied and used to get the big financial picture and minimize your risk.

If you make every financial decision at your business with this document as reference you will be much more likely to win.

Check out my sample pro forma here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vRLpzvxOsyPyCFR4Gzq-o0ooOGPLUV-5lhOuKczquNS4QMIfau0qMHj_tKhQxOzr-j3H-jJK9KZHBKk/pubhtml

January 11, 2019 8:29 am

The upper body ripper

This is a workout I developed while in college and have found it to be an excellent way to quickly and efficiently build upper body definition and muscle. Make sure to accompany this workout with cardio on the other days of the week.

No long breaks. No catching your breath. You go through each workout of the set quickly and take only a 3 minute break between sets.

Equipment: Adjustable dumbbells and Perfect Pushups

Schedule: 2x per week

Directions: Go through this workout without putting the dumbbells down. 48 total reps with the dumbbells before the pushups and abs. First set 12 reps of each. Second set 10 reps of each. Third set 8 reps of each.

I usually use 30 lbs weights. You may need to start with 15 or 20 lbs or you may need 35 to 40 lbs. Use your judgement here.

One set equals:

  • 12 curls
  • 12 standing military press
  • 12 upright rows
  • 12 standing reverse flys

Put dumbbells down and go straight into:

  • 15 perfect pushups (start with less if necessary)
  • 15 middle crunches
  • 15 left side crunches
  • 15 right side crunches
  • 12 middle crunches
  • 12 left side crunches
  • 12 right side crunches

I do the crunches using the Ab Ripper X style of in and outs on the middle and oblique v-ups on right and left side.

This is one set. I do 3 and I’m absolutely fried after the 15 minute workout. Your first week or two you should only do 2 sets and make sure to use light weight. If you are really sore take an extra day’s rest.

January 10, 2019 6:01 am

Expensive cities have the best opportunities

Expensive cities with high cost of living have amazing opportunities for service based entrepreneurs. NYC, DC, Boston, all of Cali, all of Canada, all of Europe. Anywhere where hourly labor is in low supply.

Here is why:

First of all there is a huge demand for services in expensive cities because people and companies are earning more money and specializing more. People are getting really good at one thing, earning a bunch of money doing that and outsourcing everything else. Nobody is bothering with their lawn, cleaning, basic maintenance, etc. 20 years ago 5% of homeowners outsourced lawn care. Today 40% do. That number is higher in expensive cities and will only grow over the next 10 years.

The second one is the big one. Labor is expensive. Not many people are willing to work in hourly positions. This makes it hard for MOST service companies because they have trouble staffing, keeping up with demand and maintaining a consistent workforce and a consistent service to the consumers. They end up offering a very slow service because they are always 2 or 3 employees shorthanded. Most owners run around saying “I can’t hire anyone worth a damn.” or “I have to pay my employees too much to make any money.”

This sounds like a reason to avoid major cities but its not. This is your opportunity. This is where a good operator can win.

Stop looking for better people and start simplifying your operations so normal moderately trained employees can thrive. Take as much off their plate as possible. Build a streamlined training process. Implement tech into your day to day operations.

If you do this you can offer a more consistent service, you can offer it to the consumer much faster and you can basically name your price. You can charge a higher price and thus pay employees better to keep them around. You can stop competing with the providers on craigslist.

You can grow a viable scalable company.

January 9, 2019 11:02 am

The only kind of goals that work

When you are starting a company time is of the essence. You need to learn and sell and get your service to market as fast as possible. Your opportunity cost is huge. You could be earning in the workforce or pursuing any number of opportunities.

Its time to get uncomfortable. Its time to set goals. Not just normal average vague “we’ll see what happens” kind of goals.

I’m talking about serious uncomfortable goals. Goals that can be measured with real numbers. Goals that have deadlines and dates attached.

I will put out 20 yard signs this Saturday. I will attend two open houses and hand out 250 flyers this weekend. I will knock on 30 doors after work. I will build my website and have it completed by tomorrow at noon.

Now the most important goals are the goals tied to your financial projections. The goals that will tell the story on the overall health and potential of your business. The goals that if you don’t hit you decide to move on and the lofty goals that if you do hit you decide to double down and get aggressive or quit your job.

If I don’t hit ______ in sales in the next _____ days I will _________. If I don’t get ________ customers in the next _________ days I will move on to my next business. If I get ______ customers in ________ consecutive months I will double my marketing spend.

You have to give these goals a shot by really getting after it with the marketing and sales goals you can control. You can’t just set lofty goals and pray they get accomplished. You have to get out and make them happen.

Get out and make your own luck!

January 8, 2019 5:41 am

Simplify the job

I hear people say all the time that the key to success in entrepreneurship is finding great people. That if you can find people who care about your business like you do you will succeed.

News flash. Nobody will care about your business like you do. Why would they?

Stop looking for people like this and blaming the world when you can’t find them. They don’t exist. And if they do you can’t afford them.

Simplify the job so that normal people can do it well. Stop asking your employees to be good at 20 things. They’ll end up being crappy at everything. Your customers will get a shoddy product. Turnover will cripple you. You’ll be inundated with questions and problems. Training will be nearly impossible. Scaling isn’t feasible.

You will end up joining the ranks of overworked business owners that complain about not being able to find good employees.

Simplify things so normal people can deliver your service really well and you’ll be on your way!

Take as much as possible off the plate of your field reps. Take your billing online. Have them direct customer service to someone who specializes in it. Do not let them give prices or quote jobs. Let them focus on the one thing you really need them to do so that they can do it well.

January 7, 2019 6:52 am

Get comfortable in uncomfortable situations

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

Neale Donald Walsch

If its comfortable it probably isn’t getting you anywhere.

Getting that safe job and going to that safe college and minimizing as much risk as possible is comfortable. But is that how you get ahead? Is that how you design your own lifestyle? Is that how you get wealthy?

Its not. The safe comfortable way will lead you to a perfectly normal average life. What is the fun in that?

The way to get ahead is by getting uncomfortable. To take the road less travelled. To put yourself out there and risk failing. To approach the beautiful woman at the bar. To reach out to the business owner down the street to sell him on a service you are offering. To agree to a public speaking engagement at your local college.

Most businesses stop growing when the owner gets comfortable. Delegation is uncomfortable. Hiring and training employees is uncomfortable. Building a business that can run without you is very uncomfortable.

Its comfortable to get really busy and keep offering your service yourself. Its comfortable to keep working really hard and long hours on the ground.

Its uncomfortable to shift gears and focus on building systems and bringing in new business while your new hires offer your service. Its risky. Its hard.

But thats the key to building a business that can give you the life you want.

January 6, 2019 6:39 am

Time is your most valuable asset

If you are exactly where you want to be in life then keep doing what you are doing. If you are on pace to accomplish your goals and you are happy with your life right now then this advice isn’t for you.

But if you have a goal or would like to make a change then its time to get serious about your time.

Its your #1 asset. You only get so much of it. You can’t replace it.

Say no to the distractions. They cripple us. Say no to the fantasy football. Say no to the Xbox. Say no to TV. The average American watches 5 hours of TV per day. PER DAY! Say no to late night sports. Say no to the news. Say no to social media.

Say no to the norm that says you have to trade your time for money. Say no to working for the man for 40 hours a week and commuting an hour each way to get there.

Start saying no to people. Start saying no without feeling like you have to give a reason. Start saying no to the people who don’t respect your time.

Get serious about building the life you want. Put your time where it matters and invest it in getting closer to your goals. Temporarily shut out your hobbies and your fun in the near term to achieve your goals in the long term.

Delay your gratification. Put your time where it matters now so you can take it all back 5 years from now and do whatever you want to be doing the rest of your life.

January 5, 2019 6:29 am

Avoid the sunk cost fallacy

Just because you have invested time, money and energy in something does not mean you should continue.

Humans are wired to consider the past when making decisions for the future. This leads us to a lot of bad decisions.

This leads us to operate a business way past the point we should have pulled the plug. It leads us to miss the information that is pointing us and telling us to close the doors and cut our losses. We waste more time. We waste more money. We hope for a miracle. We work harder. We work longer hours.

If data and logic and analysis tell you that its time to shift and pivot you should not waste another second. Time is your most valuable asset.

If you spent 3 years and $200k on a law degree but you hate your life and logic is telling you it will never get better then you should shift gears and pivot as soon as possible. Don’t waste another day.

Its hard. Your heart is in it. Your emotions are at play. Try your best to see past that and make the logical decision.

January 4, 2019 6:21 am

Don’t let your emotions influence your decisions

Something bad just happened. Something went wrong. A problem. Most people just react. They go with their guts.

Stop and think. Stop and think about how your emotions effect your decisions. Realize that between every event and your reaction there is a split second that you get to choose how you react. You get to choose how you feel. You get to choose positivity or negativity. You get to choose a freak out or cool headedness.

That is the basic principle on Stoic philosophy. The stoics believe there is no bad or good in the world there is only our decision to react a certain way. Read The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. Or search Ryan Holiday on YouTube.

The goal in business and in life is not to ignore the emotions like anger and fear and anxiety. But instead to put them in perspective and keep them from clouding our judgement and making bad decisions.

Don’t start a business based on your own selfish desires, passions or hobbies. Don’t filter information based on what you want to hear and what supports your beliefs. Don’t turn around and slug the guy in the bar who is acting like an idiot.

Think logically. Change your mind often. Don’t make decisions while angry.

This is a skill that requires serious practice. Nobody is perfect. You have to make a habit of working on these things every day. Analyze each day for how you could have reacted better. How you can improve.

You’ll be better off and more likely to make great decisions.

January 3, 2019 4:02 pm

Want to get involved?

I’m on a mission to help as many people as possible get away from the rat race. The 40 hours a week for the man with a commute each way to get there. I want more people to design their own lives. I want more people to give entrepreneurship a shot in the area with the highest chances of success. I want to help more people with jobs get ahead by thinking like an entrepreneur.

This blog is all about doing common things uncommonly well.

Even if its a one person shop or a lifestyle business. Those are sometimes the best.

Do you want to help? The podcast is my focus so I need help managing my social media, this blog and more.

Have a story of how you bucked the norm? I’d love to feature you on this site. Reach out to me.

nick@sweatystartup.com

January 2, 2019 6:39 am

Play the long game

There is no get rich quick scheme. Its hard. It will take time. It will take focused intensity.

This is why most people aren’t able to stay healthy. It takes focused intensity over time. This is why most people are in debt. It takes focused intensity over time. This is why most people don’t win at entrepreneurship and 90% of businesses fail.

Ask any social media influencer or professional YouTuber or blogger what it took for them to get a following and start winning. In most cases it took YEARS. Everyone wants to be an online influencer but it rarely happens because people get discouraged when they are 6 months in and it turns from fun to work and there is no end in sight. They aren’t willing to keep at it for another two years with no pleasure and profit and fame.

If you really want to buck the 9-5 and start your own company and design your own life it takes time.

You have to make a 5 year plan. You have to swallow your pride and get out and work. You have to cut all the distractions and hobbies out of your life temporarily. You have to cut out fun temporarily.

It will be fun and exciting for a while. 3 months or so. Then it becomes work. Most people give up. If you are still hitting targets and gaining momentum keep at it. Stay the course and you’ll win.

January 1, 2019 6:54 am

My morning routine

I’ve been working on a morning routine for about a month now and have had great results. I forget where I read about this. Maybe Tim Ferriss.

Before I go to bed I write a question or problem I’ve been working on with my business or life in general at the top of a google document. I close all other windows and put the computer in offline mode.

The next morning I wake up and brush my teeth. Then I drink a full glass of water and a cliff bar while making coffee. No phone or input at all. No checking emails. Then I do a 15 minute workout routine. Cardio 3x per week and weight training 2x.

I then read the question at the top of my google document before taking a quick hot shower. While in the shower I purposely breath very slowly and try to let all the thoughts pass through my head without focusing on any of them. I’ve gotten better now and a few showers I have been able to meditate through the entire thing.

As soon as I get out of the shower and get dressed I sit down at my computer with my coffee and begin to type out my thoughts. No phone and no email and no social media. Just this blank page with the question on top. My computer is offline and my phone is still in the other room.

I start thinking and I start writing.

Bullet points at first. Some days I write for 20 minutes and some I write for 2 hours depending on how much time I have. Some days I have 5 or even 10 pages of thoughts out on paper. I am often super productive during this time get a lot of very important business planning done.

It is amazing how this makes you feel and the insights that come. This blog and podcast are a product of this creative time in the morning.

December 27, 2018 12:31 pm

New Years Resolutions

  1. Say no more often and without feeling like I have to justify with a reason. Turn down a few opportunities that don’t make sense for me right now. I got ahead by saying saying yes to everything. Now it is holding me back.

  2. Treat my time like it is my most valuable asset. Take back control of my time and disassociate with those that don’t respect it. Stop stealing time from myself.

  3. Be more aware of my ego and how it is keeping me from learning new things because I think i already know them

  4. Keep emotions out of my decision making. Anger and passion cloud my judgement. Get better at controlling my emotional response to events. There is a moment in between an event and my reaction that I need to get better at taking control over.

  5. Specialize. Realize that I can’t be great at two things at the same time. Focus my professional energy in the areas that will produce the most value for me.

  6. Avoid over valuing sunk costs. Time and money mostly. Switch gears when necessary.

  7. Stop trying to control and preach to my family and friends. Try to learn from them instead. Listen more and talk less.

  8. Get better at showing a genuine interest in other people. Stop thinking and talking about myself all the time. Learn what the people closest to me are afraid of. Learn what makes them tick. Learn what they are afraid of and what they are passionate about.

December 21, 2018 12:04 pm

You don’t build a network – you earn a network

A lot of people run around networking as if its the key to success. I have bad news. The network doesn’t come before success. It comes with success.

You earn a network just like you earn money. You gain it over time by providing value to people. A network is mutually beneficial. People invest time and resources in people who bring something to the table. People invest energy in people if they can find mutual gain. You help me. I help you. That is a network.

If you have nothing to bring to the table your network will never grow. You will never get recommended to meet people. People won’t come to you to do business with you. People will not go out of their way to help you get ahead unless there is something to gain. They won’t put their neck out to recommend you for a job or to a friend unless they know everyone wins.

I spent some time recently thinking about the most valuable people in my network and how I met them. I didn’t meet them at networking events. I met them because somebody recommended me to them because they thought I could help them with a problem they were having. There was mutual gain. I could provide some utility.

You have to earn your network. If you aren’t good at anything or you aren’t helping yourself your network will never grow. You have to be a master at something. You have to be able to add value somewhere.

A network grows when someone says “I know a guy that you need to talk to about that”. Be that person! Be that person that people refer people with certain problems to.

Get really good at something. Help powerful people solve a problem they are having. Add value. Don’t build your network – Earn it.

December 20, 2018 1:23 am

Cargo van buying guide

Ford E Series vans are amazing assets and can be purchased used very affordably. We got our first van on craigslist in 2011 for $1500. Vans that we purchased 5 years ago for less than $4k are still going strong today. We now spend around $5,000 to $7500 to get a presentable van.

These can be used for all types of service businesses. They are much more affordable than pickup trucks and the contents of the van is more secure and dry.

The cheapest place to buy vans is Chicago. The problem with this is they are rusted out. Look for southern vans in Atlanta or Phoenix. Travel if necessary to get a good deal.

Extended vans are moderately more expensive but haul 25% more stuff. Buy one of these if you need to. The E350s have V8s if you need to haul a trailer. They have just as much power as a pickup truck for hauling.

This is our rough checklist of things to keep look for when buying a used van.

Questions for the owner before you visit:

  • When did you buy the van and who did you get it from?
  • What did you use the van for?
  • Have you done any work or maintenance to the van?
  • Did you get any major work done to the van?
  • How are the breaks, have you gotten them worked on?
  • Have you had any engine, transmission, problems or work done?
  • Have you had any starter, radiator, alternator problems?
  • I’m thinking more like ($500-1000 under blue book). Would you take that price in cash?

Checklist when you arrive at the truck – bring a paper towel.

  • Check all the windows for cracks. Especially front window.
  • Check oil and smell it. It shouldn’t smell burnt. Get a decent amount of oil and rub it between your fingers and make sure there are no little pebble feeling things in it. Should be smooth even if darker colored.
  • Check transmission fluid and smell it. This is even more important. Make sure this fluid doesn’t smell burnt and also look for small pieces of substance inside of it. Also taste this with the tip of your tongue and make sure it doesn’t taste burnt. Don’t eat much as its poisonous.
  • Take a close look at all the belts and hoses on and around the motor. Look for wear and tear and for loose belts and dry rotted tubes.
  • Check bottom of engine for fluids. Look underneath engine area at the oil drip pan and bottom of the engine. Make sure there is no oil or fluids leaking or a dark colored sticky looking oil pan. Put your finger on the oil bolt and feel around.
  • Get under van and look all down the exhaust pipes. Make sure these aren’t rusty or brittle. Touch and feel around on this before you drive it because it will get hot when you drive it and you wont be able to mess with it.
  • Look at the shocks on each wheel and check the rods for rust around the axles. Some rust is normal but you want it to look pretty good. Get on back bumper and jump up and down to test the shocks. Make sure they are strong.
  • Check the tires and make sure they aren’t dry rotted with little bitty cracks all around the side wall and tread.
  • Check Ball joints. Check front tires and make sure they are completely straight and don’t wobble at all when you kick them or push on them. A ball joint is what keeps the tires straight up and down.

Start up the van and listen to the start. It should be strong and clean without knocks or noises. Turn off the van and start it again with the hood up. While its being started look at the engine and the way it
moves when started.

Put your foot on the break and shift the van all the way through all of the gears. Do this with the center console taken out of the van so you can see the transmission. Listen closely to it as you shift.

Drive the van and while at about 20 mph shift it from drive to overdrive to 2 to 1. Listen closely to the transmission and how it reacts.

Test the breaks with strong stops and long slow breaks.

Get the van up to 70 MPH on a local highway. Accelerate quickly and slowly and feel for wobbles or noises while driving full speed.

When you get back to the lot shut down the engine for a few minutes. Do the fluid inspection under the truck once again.

Make sure the title is clean and run the VIN number online.

Negotiate hard and offer an all cash price. Call your insurance company and get it added before you drive away.

December 19, 2018 7:34 am

How do I really motivate my employees?

There are two main factors that lead to happiness and joy in the workplace (and in life). The first is being appreciated and valued and respected. The second is being listened to and having input.

Both of these are all about communication – not surprisingly.

People want to know they are making a difference. Compliment them and show respect often. Words of affirmation. When they do something well or they have a win in life speak up and let them know that you noticed and that you are lucky to have them.

The second part is ask for input. Even if you already have a plan and you don’t need their consultation remember that people long to be listened to. People want to be heard. So listen. Ask them once every few weeks in a very sincere way how things are going with life. Put your hand on their shoulder and tell them “listen I am not on the ground as much anymore. You are on the front lines with our customers and delivering our service which is the most important job. Have you noticed anything out there? Do you think we are still doing the right things and thinking the right way as a business? Is there anything you would recommend we try to change to be more efficient? Think about this and bring it up to me if so. “

You will be really surprised what kind of input you get back and how valuable it is. Most importantly you will learn a lot about your employee and the way they think. You will learn if they are the type of person who you want to keep around or if there is another job or area of the company they would be better at.

This is a great way to get your employee, wether they make $15 or $100 per hour, to buy in to the company and begin to care about you and your bottom line. They will instantly feel like they have some responsibility for what happens. They will feel valued and heard and like they have some responsibility over the trajectory of the company.

This communication is really what creates a culture. If you show respect for your employees it creates culture. If you compliment your employees it creates culture. If let them know you are listening to them it creates culture. Culture isn’t about ping pong tables and beer kegs in the office. Culture is about how people are treated. Culture is about how people are feeling when they are doing what they do all day.

Focus on it because its important!

Side note: Remember to maintain authority and make it clear that you aren’t opening up the flood gates to freelancing and doing whatever they want. You are still the boss. You still make the calls. You aren’t their buddy to goof around with and you require respect.

December 15, 2018 6:34 am

The 9 worst pieces of business and career advice

  1. Start something you are passionate about

This is bad advice and I hear it all the time. Start something that makes logical sense. Enjoy the process. Enjoy the relationships you will develop along the way. Enjoy building something. People who think with their hearts instead of their brains lose money and waste a bunch of time. When you operate on passion you are more likely to trudge on down the dead-end road. You are more likely to make poor decisions with your money. You are more likely to get into a business in the first place that is high risk and low reward.  I’m passionate about beer but I sure as heck wouldn’t start a brewery. I’m passionate about food but I wouldn’t dare get into the restaurant business. Use your brain and be passionate about entrepreneurship!

  1. Try to change the world

I have bad news. You probably can’t change the world. Especially if this is your first company. This is like trying out for the Lakers when you haven’t ever touched a basketball. Build your first business. Take the next opportunity and build your second business. Get the momentum behind you and then you can think about influencing serious change. Start by changing your neighborhood!

  1. Work hard and you will succeed

If success is being able to pay your bills and feed your family – then yes. But in general you know how I feel about this one. Everyone works hard. This is America. You can’t succeed in business just by working hard. When you think you can solve every problem with hard work you miss all the warning signs and your business fails slowly over the course of several years and you sacrifice your health, self confidence, relationships and the financial well being of your family. Make sure you are able to see the signs.

  1. Never give up

There are tons of reasons why you should give up. Your brain is telling you to give up. Your market analysis is telling you to give up. Your customers are telling you to give up. Your spouse is telling you to give up. Your financial statement is telling you to give up. Determination is a great quality when there is an attainable goal in sight and you are hitting the targets along the way. The people who never give up parish with those that work really hard and think with their hearts and not their brains.

  1. A top dollar college degree is a must

I’ll say first I am very grateful for my time at Cornell. I met great people and learned a ton about life. But what you have to give up to get accepted and the traits that are rewarded in the Ivy league are not transferable to success or happiness in life. People there don’t know how to communicate. They are sheltered and coddled so much by their parents they don’t understand how to solve their own problems or deal with adversity. In the Ivy League you are rewarded for fitting in and doing as you are told. I’m teaching my kids what they need to know at home and sending them to public schools.

  1. Its all about finding the right people

The hardest part of business is not finding the right people who are capable of doing your job. The hardest part is designing the job to be so easy that anyone who is qualified can do it and anyone who is qualified can thrive. Setting your employees up for success is the key. The people who give this advice had over complicated job descriptions and tons of turnover. Don’t make the same mistake they did.

  1. You need a new idea to be an entrepreneur

This is probably the one that I hear the most. Or at least the “I don’t have an idea” excuse for not being an entrepreneur. Our media glorifies new ideas. Shark tank glorifies brand new services and brand new products. The books we read about entrepreneurs glorify the forward thinkers and the risk takers. You don’t need a new idea! You just need to find a growing market that has a hole in it somewhere. You just have to add a little bit of value. Faster, better or cheaper. There are thousands of markets in thousands of cities. You think they are all perfectly efficient? You don’t need to have a new idea to escape the rat race. You just have to do something a little better!

  1. Keep your idea a secret

Hopefully everybody knows by now that this is not the way real entrepreneurs think. Ideas are a dime a dozen. The execution is the hard part. I would go as far to say that you should always share everything with everyone. Your competitors aren’t paying attention and your network will grow and so will your opportunities.

  1. Choose your career like you choose your spouse

This is bad bad advice. We’re in America. You can divorce your career 10 times over and you get rewarded for it. People switch jobs and switch industries all the time and when they do they usually get way further ahead in life than the ones who don’t. Unfortunately our culture is starting to feel the same way about marriage but that is another topic for another day.

December 13, 2018 1:52 pm

Would you send your children to the Ivy League?

First of all my children have relatively zero chance of getting accepted into the Ivy League. They won’t have all of the extracurricular activities required to get accepted. They won’t volunteer 20 hours a week. They won’t have incredible test scores. They won’t have a sob story to tell in their application letter.

Lets assume hell froze over and they did get accepted. Would I send them?

The answer is no. I wouldn’t. Getting into a top 15 college is so competitive nowadays that its a full time job for the entire family to make it happen. They must push their children to do a bunch of stuff they have no desire to do. Stuff that has no utility later in life.

Lets think of the traits you need to get accepted. Very good at standardized tests. Very good at holding a position in student government. Very good at schoolwork. Very good at following the rules. Very good at fitting in. Very good at doing what everyone else is doing. Very good at complying.

Now lets think of traits you need to succeed in life, business and relationships. You have to be very good at communicating. Very good at socializing. Very good at making friends. Very good at doing hard work. Very good at dealing with failure. Very good at handling surprises. Very good at leading others. Very good at helping others succeed with you. Very good at holding down jobs when necessary.

People who succeed and lead happy lives have street smarts. They have experience figuring out life problems on their own. They have emotional maturity. They thrive in social situations and enjoy learning from and interacting with real humans. They can operate without a safety-net or helicopter parent.

Kids who get into top universities are horrible at all of these things. They can’t carry on a conversation. They can’t work with others. They can’t socialize. They can’t deal with failure. They have never been dealt a surprise. They have never dealt with a problem without leaning on their parents. They have never worked a summer job doing manual labor. They do not understand how money works.

They are zoo animals. They have been coddled and guided and fed their entire lives. They are great at doing as they are told.

They got into the Ivy League because their parents worked hard to get them into the Ivy League and they are good at complying.

When zoo animals get let out into the wild they starve or they get eaten.

Let me tell you that I am very grateful for my time at Cornell. I met amazing people. I met down to earth people. I met my wife and my business partner – the two most important people in my life. I learned a lot.

But I’m sending my kids to public school. The most important lessons in life you learn in the household. I’ll do my best to teach them those things. The rest is up to them.

December 12, 2018 5:45 pm

The “add value first” approach

Business is all about momentum. If you can get in the mindset to “add value first” to gain your following and build your brand you will be a lot better off.

Sacrifice profits in the near term by discounting your service or products with the goal of gaining a following and securing value later.

In “offline” industries you see self storage facilities give the first month free. You see subscriptions like Netflix give away a free trial period. You might see a home services company give away a free service at first in the hopes of gaining a long term client.

I have a friend who owns a wealth management company. He makes his living by advising really rich people on how to avoid taxes and manage their assets/companies. He goes into every sales meeting with prospective clients with the goal to give away as much information and add as much value as humanly possible. All the advice he would usually charge for he gives away off the bat. I asked him one day if he ever worries about people taking notes and going to their accountant and doing it all themselves.

He said sure that is a risk but what ends up happening is that I differentiate myself from my competitors and gain instant trust with the potential client. Most of the time we bring on the client on the spot and if not they usually come back six months later when they need more advice and we start our relationship then.

This can be applicable to so many industries. Amazon is still playing the long game and adding value while sacrificing profits. Dave Ramsey built an empire giving away consulting on public radio.

There is always that fear, especially in small young companies, that you really have to capitalize on each early sale to validate your model or feed your family. So you try milking everything out of the client or customer up front. You can differentiate yourself by thinking differently here.

Delayed gratification is the key to success. The marshmallow test. Amazon still hasn’t eaten the marshmallow.

December 12, 2018 7:39 am

What business would you start?

If you had to start all over right now what business would you start? What sector would it be in? What sectors would you avoid?  How about real estate?

I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t go into – and thats Tech. Its mature. Competition is strong. The market isn’t growing anymore like it used to be. Its getting cheaper and its a race to the bottom right now.

I also would avoid a new product. Again the competition is strong and the market isn’t there. You are spending tons of money to educate a market because nobody knows its out there. Not ideal and high risk.

Retail is also brutal. Online retail has boomed and flattened. You are competing with China and all goods are turning into commodities. Its a race to the bottom.

Online content and trying to become an online influencer and build a brand around that is also a tough business for those starting out right now. Everyone wants to be an instagram influencer or a YouTuber and its getting harder to carve out your niche. The amount of people on their phones scrolling or watching youtube videos is nearing its peak. The market isn’t going to grow forever. The people in that business need to double down and milk the golden goose while shes still there and start leveraging other opportunities and think hard about where the market is going and where they are headed.

America is a service economy right now. Its exploding. Specifically in the service businesses I would target those that customers sign on for scheduled service over and over again. The subscription model. Where a customer is going to utilize your service weekly or bi weekly or monthly for as long as you can keep them on board.

I think pest control is a great business. It would be relatively simple to scale and easy to train employees. Customers can stay with you for 10+ years so you could do creative things to get new customers in the door knowing they are very valuable in the long run. Same with lawn care and lawn treatment. I love the home service businesses that are not just one time hit and runs.

I also love businesses that are seasonal because you can plan and think ahead and rewrite your business plan in the off season and improve leaps and bounds based off the things you learned during the peak season. In our seasonal business we are really able to analyze our market and find our wheelhouse every year and focus on it. Its a common theme at Storage Squad that they pay us the big bucks for our work in November when nothing is happening and we aren’t servicing any customers. Thats when the real advances are made. We’re working in quadrant 2 and nurturing our wheelhouse.

I also love businesses with the opportunity to lead into specialized real estate. Real estate is the end goal because of the massive tax advantages and passive stress free income that comes along with it. However the real estate most people invest in is so competitive there are no deals left. If you are buying rental houses on Zillow you are competing with 1000 other buyers in any neighborhood. Everybody wants to own rental properties or buy and flip because its the sexy thing to do right now and the TV shows on HGTV glorify it and make it look easy. I hate that. If you are going to get into real estate and think you can just go on Zillow and find a good rental property you are sadly mistaken. If its on Zillow you are too late. You have to find a competitive advantage. Cleaning up tax liens or estates. Buying foreclosures. Doing your own repairs and remodels. You have to find additional ways to add value or its very hard to thrive.

I would also love to start a business that leads into real estate in a niche market where you aren’t competing with a lot of other players. That is where the real value can be gained. Examples of this would be warehousers or distributors because it leads into warehouse and commercial assets. Maybe a vacation rental management company that leads into vacation home assets. It was my experience in the storage industry that lead me to self storage assets.

But honestly. The number one business would be the trades. I’m encouraging my kids to be electricians. These industries are so far behind everything else when it comes to tech, customer service, marketing and sales that implementing these things I talk about on this blog would put you leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else in the industry. None of the owners of other companies work in quadrant 2 and think about their wheelhouse. They are all just running around working to keep their head above water.

December 11, 2018 8:21 pm

The four quadrants of time management – important but not urgent

Time is your most valuable asset and there are four areas that you can spend your time in life.

  • The first quadrant is important and urgent. A crisis. An emergency. You must do it now.
  • The second is important but not urgent. Prevention. Planning. Forward thinking about how to improve.
  • Not important but urgent. Distractions. Interuptions. Busy work.
  • Not important and not urgent. Time wasters. Mindless entertainment. Social media scrolling.

Successful people spend the majority of your time in the second quadrant. The stuff that is important but not urgent. In life this is your health and your relationships. In business this is your forward thinking analysis. Your strategy. Your technology. Your training systems. Things that prevent problems and fires from taking over your time.

Too many business owners spend too much time in quadrant 1. They are running around putting out fires. They are working 15 hour days. They can’t come up for air. They are doing things that have to be done right now because they are emergencies or problems. The deadline is tonight. I’m working on it now because I have no choice.

This goes back to working hard but not smart. If you work smart you are taking care of the issues before they become problems. You are spotting trends. You are studying your competitors. You are analyzing your training systems. You are developing employees and their roles.

Set aside time whenever possible, maybe on the weekends at first, to do some work and thought in quadrant 2. Put systems in place to solve some problems before they become urgent and it will free up even more time to work in quadrant 2.

Stay ahead of the game by working in quadrant two and you’ll have an advantage over your competitors. You will be able to spend more time developing your competitive advantage. You will spend more time on bringing in new business. More time on training and developing members of your team that can make their own decisions and solve their own problems.

You will spend time taking care of your health and your body and you will live longer and have more energy. You don’t want your health to move to quadrant 1 and become urgent.

The main advantage to working in quadrant 2 is that you can spot issues that arise before they take down your business. Markets change. Competitors join the market. Technology changes. The market shrinks or grows. When things change and business owners are not keeping up with the overall state of the market and the company little problems can become big problems and lead to failure.

December 10, 2018 1:45 pm

The 80/20 principle – how to find your wheelhouse and multiply your results

The 80/20 principle is my favorite and the most important principle to understand in life and in entrepreneurship.

Its says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. 80% of your stress comes from 20% of your environment. 80% of your joy comes from 20% of your activities. You name the result. 80% of it is generated by 20% of your efforts.

This applies to everything. 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clientele. 80% of your stress comes from 20% of your customers. 80% of your work is spent on 20% of your customers.

I call the 20% your wheelhouse.

The goal is to understand the wheelhouse. If you can understand it and pinpoint it and focus on it you can multiply your results with the same relative effort. Spend more time in your wheelhouse and you will be a lot more productive, profitable and even happy.

I’m sure you have heard the term work smart not hard. Im a firm believer in this and I preach it often. One of the responses I sometimes get is that this is a cop out for lazy people who want to get ahead.

Not the case. Everyone works hard. This is America. You can’t get ahead by working hard alone. Every day you wake up with a decision. Where are you going to spend your two most precious resources – your time and your money. If you can work smart and understand the 20% that is generating the 80% you can make better decisions and multiply your results.

The concept is this – if you can understand it and go from spending 20% of your time in your wheelhouse to spending 100% of your time in your wheelhouse you can produce 5x more.

So later you do another analysis and find that once again 80% of your desired results are coming from 20% of your efforts you can specialize even further. Go deeper into your wheelhouse. Your competitive advantage. Your niche. Another 5x multiple. So a year ago you were producing 1 now you are producing 25. You multiplied by 5 the first time you specialized and now you did it again.

Use this mindset when deciding where to invest your two most precious resources. Time and money.

Work smart. Work in your 20% wheelhouse. Multiply your growth and productivity.

It works in reverse as well. 20% of your customers are causing 80% of your headaches and your stress. Fire them. Avoid them. Tell them, in as polite a way possible, to go elsewhere. Design your service away from them. Design your marketing to avoid them. 20% of your activities in your personal life are producing 80% of your anxiety. Pinpoint it. Avoid it. Step away from it. Get out.

Every year sit down and pinpoint your wheelhouse. Reflect. Study. Learn. Discover. Spend a lot of time doing this. Then adjust. Change the plan. Do things differently. Change the way you invest your time and your money.

Each year you’ll specialize further and achieve 5x the return. You’ll develop your competitive advantage. You’ll nourish the areas of your life that are producing the most benefits.

Do this 5 years in a row and you’re spectacularly good at what you do and living the life you want to be living.

December 10, 2018 12:51 pm

Don’t partner with someone who is broke

The way people treat their money is one of the most important traits in entrepreneurship.

Frugality wins because every dollar you save personally and invest in the company the right way becomes three dollars a few years later.

Having cash reserves because you live in a responsible way allows the company to survive when the going gets tough or the competition gets fierce. When the next recession hits the businesses with owners who live above their means will have the hardest time weathering the storm.

When looking for a partner make sure they have the same mindset as you do when it comes to money. Similar to a marriage it can lead to tension, arguments, resentment and failure if both partners are not on the same page.

Don’t partner with people who are broke. Broke people have a hard time planning 3-5 years down the road. They have to have short term goals to bring in cash because they are hungry and need that money to pay the mortgage. People who are broke are stressed and thus unable to perform. People who are broke need money from the business earlier than the business might be ready or able to provide.

An important distinction here – I’m not talking about a person from a poor or middle class family when I say broke. This is not about rich vs poor. This is not a socioeconomic status thing. Some “rich” people are horrible spenders and have never been taught the value of a dollar. I call those people broke. Avoid them.

The college friend who needs to call mom on friday night to pitch in for a case of beer. The grown adult with credit card debt and a shopping habit. Avoid these people. There is no excuse to ever be broke. If they can’t manage their own money you will never be happy with their ability to manage your money.

Successful entrepreneurs don’t have goals that are based around the things they will purchase when they make money. The flashy car. The boat. The vacations.

Successful entrepreneurs enjoy the ride and the process of building something. That is where they get their joy. Not by spending the cash that comes after success.

December 10, 2018 8:57 am

Rentable moving boxes

I have a job that pays me well but I hate it. I think there is a real demand for rentable moving boxes in my town. If I can capture just 1% of the people who move every year in my city I’d be profitable. Should I quit my job to pursue this startup?

I would think hard before entering this space. Cardboard boxes are a cheap commodity. The market for them has exploded with the increase in online retail. There are a lot of packaging companies out there competing to do it extremely cheap. You’re trying to replace a cheap commodity and turn a profit + you are adding logistics to this scenario (eg. trucks, manpower, pickup, delivery, appointments). Not to mention a plastic box takes up 10x the space of a folded down cardboard box.

Some companies are doing this but you are largely going to be educating the market that your service even exists. Do not get wrapped up in overall move data to come to your market potential because 95% of people who move aren’t even going to consider renting moving boxes when it is only an $80 expense on a multi thousand dollar expense in the first place.

I do hate to discourage you. It can work and it might very well be worth a shot.

My advice to you would be to find a niche within the market. Do not compete on price. You can’t get cheaper than cardboard boxes and you don’t want to try to be. Find people who are wealthy and are into sustainability. Your service won’t be the cheapest or the easiest option so you need to find people who want to use it for other reasons.

The beautiful thing about entrepreneurship in certain areas is that you can start out as a freelancer on the side and test the market, learn, shift gears if necessary and not take a lot of risk.

I would hammer out nights, weekends and start to get a feel for the market. Start to sell. Start to get money coming in as a freelancer. The entire time you are doing this analyze the market – make sure it is a growing sector. Make sure you can add value by either making the product or service better, faster or cheaper. Ideally 2 or all 3 of those.

Do not quit your job right now.

Then when you are confident that this new gig could replace your job its time to quit with the goal of replacing your income as fast as possible. This entire time you can be investing in your website, your brand and your momentum will begin to pick up.

I started my company while a full time college student and athlete. My company is also in the moving space. You can do it on the side if you are willing to make the sacrifice and really get after it.

December 6, 2018 6:52 am

My biggest client just left me

20% of my business out the door. I’m scrambling. I’m stressed. What do I do?

Nick’s answer:

You may be expecting a lot of motivation here. A lot of encouraging words. Keep going. Keep trying. Stay determined and you can do it.

Be weary of this advice.

As a manager – you’ll try to work your way out of any problem. You care so much. A lot of entrepreneurs, when the shit hits the fan, just put their heads down and work and avoid looking in the mirror and accepting if something could be wrong with the big picture. They avoid nurturing their competitive advantages. They blindly throw more money at marketing to try to outspend the problem. They are unable to diagnose the problems and fix them early.

I’m not saying there is a problem. Its the natural growth cycle of most businesses. You lose customers and you gain customers.
But if there are signs out there don’t spend so much time putting out fires that you miss them.

Make sure you are still spending time on the areas of your business that are important but not urgent. Big picture analysis. Employee role changes. Operational methods. Market analysis. Advances in tech that your competitors may have. Overall health of the market you are competing in. Etc.

Don’t forget the most important step – the exit interview and a competitor analysis.

Why did they leave you? If you have a decent relationship they would return your call and give you details on what they found elsewhere. This is one of those times an email may be more likely to get an honest answer from them because there is less confrontation. The goal here is to figure out what is the competition doing differently?

Tell them you understand. Tell them it would be invaluable to you to know about everything that went into their decision. Don’t get offended. Thank them.

There are four reason they could have left you:

  1. On one hand A lot of companies simply outgrow a service and no longer need it anymore. Its possible that it isn’t on you.
  2. Another company offered the service at the same price and same speed but better.
  3. They offered the service at the same cost and same quality but faster.
  4. This is the worst one – they offered it exactly the same but cheaper.

Do everything you can to find out which one happened and study the company they moved to. Get their prices. Figure out how they tick.

Ask yourself it is worth specializing and getting better or faster or spending more marketing dollars getting more businesses to come in to replace the losses?

Is your industry mature or is the market growing? It could be in a race to the bottom and the service you are providing is getting more widely available and naturally getting cheaper. You are in for a tough ride if this is the case.

My advice is usually to specialize further. Continue to look for, find, and develop a niche that gets you there better and faster so you don’t have to compete on price. Competing on price is how businesses die. It is usually what kills the 5-10 year old semi-successful business.

The ups and downs of entrepreneurship are what makes the good times so good. Stay positive and work smart!

December 6, 2018 6:47 am

How much money do you need?

There are only three levels of wealth in this world and beyond that money doesn’t matter. The first is being able to feed your family, pay your mortgage and not stress about going into debt. The second is going to a restaurant and not worrying about what restaurant it is or the prices prices and just ordering exactly what you want. The third is not worrying about the cost of trips or flights but just going and doing what you want to do. Beyond that it really just doesn’t matter. How much money do you need? I bet it isn’t 100 million dollars.

On this blog I’ll tell you how everyday people have slowly built businesses that make hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in profit. I’ll tell you how those same people designed the life they want and escaped the rat race that so many of us are stuck in. They can go where where they want and when they want. They don’t work in a corner office for 80 hours a week and commute an hour each way to get there. They make money while they sleep. If they spend a lot of their time working its because they want to work – not because they have no choice.

November 29, 2018 8:48 pm