Over the last several months my partner and I have been discussing and analyzing whether or not we should close down our business after seven years of operation.
We came to the conclusion that it was best to shut it down.
It was a great run, especially for two guys who didn’t really know what they were doing in the beginning, but we figured a lot of things out over seven years.
I will speak from my perspective only; because at the end of the day all I know is my perspective. My first business was and still is, real estate, but my second business was a service. This was a different beast altogether.
There are many reasons why I could say I agreed with shutting it down, but if I am honest with myself, it really comes down to one reason.
I could say that it is because we lost one of our biggest clients, which was one of our first clients as well. When I say we lost them, we didn’t technically lose their business to a competitor or anything. They had just made some changes and were doing more things in-house. They actually said that they would probably still do business with us but just wasn’t sure of timelines.
I could also say that it was getting harder and harder to execute on some of the functions of the services we provided. Which would be true, especially for certain clients.
Due to certain regulations and policies by the government, it actually helped our business in the beginning, but some of those early needs that forced companies to need our services waned over the last several years. Also, many of the organizations we worked with have changed many of the processes and procedures over time as well, which led to many of them not wanting or needing our services as much.
I could also say that my partner and I agreed with shutting it down, because we were both at different points in our life and career. And the business was really on autopilot, and allowed us to do other things.
What started out to be a full-time job became less than a part-time job for both of us.
Keep in mind; both of us left full-time careers at pivotal moments in our careers seven years ago. We both went from making very nice salaries (six-figures plus) to making zero dollars.
We both had mortgages, I had several. He had children at critical stages of life. Or should I say, expensive points in life.
At the time we made this decision to go all in. All we had were our personal bank accounts, some ideas, a few leads, some terrible processes, and a lot of HOPE.
We weren’t dumb at the time. We had planned and prepared. When we launched we thought we were ready. But we learned a lot about business, sales cycles, and the reality of operating a business. Especially a business that is more of a product than an actual business.
What I learned from the experience was this.
- Business is hard. Starting something from nothing is difficult.
- I learned more about what it takes to operate a business.
- I learned that most businesses are making it up as they go along.
- Companies outsource services more than you would ever realize.
- I learned about taxes. States, federal, business, and how it impacts your personal taxes.
- I learned pricing.
- Sales and execution
- Take risks.No matter how big or small. When I went to zero then, the stakes were smaller, since then I have done it twice again.
I could go on an on about what I learned, because I learned many things along the way, that I wouldn’t have ever learned if I wouldn’t have done it.
Now here we are seven years from when it all began. And we are shutting it down. As I mentioned earlier, it really comes down to one reason why I decided to shut it down.
The one reason is commitment. It is really that simple. Here is what I know about commitment.
Commitment has nothing to do with passion. Although if you have passion for something it helps you have more commitment towards it. But you don’t have to be passionate about something to be committed to it. That is my opinion.
But I lacked commitment towards it.
Wherever there is commitment. You will see three things.
You will see time and energy being expended. And you will see money being spent on it.
I didn’t have enough of any of the three of these being invested into the business.
If I am honest with myself, we probably should have closed it many years ago, but we would renew a contract or land another one. That would give us a shot in the arm, but it would wane after a few months or so.
It is not a sad time that we made this decision. It really is something to celebrate.
We both have other things we are doing, and although I didn’t put as much time as I should have into the business we are closing. It does allow me to focus on my current business.
It is also the reality of life, all good things to come to an end. We were profitable from day one. We never lost a dollar of our own money. We made money along the way, which was the most important thing.
But the thing you can’t put a price on is the education I got from running a business. That education is more important than anything.
Takes risks, keep going, and pursue whatever it is you want to pursue in life. You only have one. Don’t have any regrets.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
I’m not sure who originally said this, but I think Wayne Gretzky is credited it for it the most. Whether he did or did not. The statement is true in the game of hockey, which Gretzky is considered to be one of the best at, or the best. And it also pertains to life.
I think there is another version of the quote that says “You will regret that of which you did not pursue, more than the things you did pursue.” For me this is the more relevant statement when it has come to my life.
I am not sure when it started, but I know as an adult I have always had this willingness to be willing to take a risk, even when it wasn’t the best risk to take. I know there are people saying as they read this, that you have to take calculated risks and not be dumb about it. But I am not sure where that line is drawn.
I believe most of us spend too much of our lives questioning, thinking, discussing, instead of doing. Look around at the meeting you are in today. How many times have you and your colleagues talked about this same issue? This same person who is an issue?
My guess is a lot, and you will continue to do this until someone says “I’ve had it.” “We can no longer allow this person control the culture of our organization.” “We can no longer be paralyzed by our indecisions and fear of the worst.” Until someone steps up and says this, you will continue to do what you have always done and you will continue to get what you have always gotten.
Two times in my life now, I gave up a very substantial six figure salary to go out on a limb and bet on myself. The first time, the risk was a little premature. The lessons I learned were priceless though.
The second time I did this, it was a success. When I say success, I mean in general it was successful, but it had a lot of bumps in the road. And the road continues to be bumpy. But that is just the reality of life if you are going to play in an uncertain game and you put all of your chips on the table.
The best lessons I have learned by going to zero dollars twice are lessons I couldn’t learn playing it safe. We all know how it ends. When I get to the end, I want to be able to say, you did it all. You have nothing left to try.
Where is it in your life you need to take a risk and prove to yourself you can do it? If for nothing else, to learn.
I am not saying you have to go to zero dollars to learn what you are capable of or to take a risk. I am saying you have to be willing to go to zero though. If you aren’t willing, the chances are you will never do anything that is too far out of you comfort zone to know.
Jim Rohn one of my first mentors said it this way. He said “The pain of discipline weighs ounces, and the pain of regrets weighs tons.” I don’t mind the discipline, but I don’t want the regrets.
To your success and your future.
I know for a fact that I am not the only person that has that little inner voice that talks to me. Someday that inner voice is amazing and is really positive. Somedays, that little voice makes me feel like I am the best of the best at everything I do and any thing I am thinking about doing.
But then there are other times when that little inner voice tells you that you aren’t that great, and that you better be thinking twice before you pursue what you are thinking about.
That little voice pops up at different times and is pretty consistent.
I can remember when I was thinking about leaving a six figure plus job and go to zero dollars. Right before I was about to let my current employer know, I can remember that little voice saying:
“Are you sure you want to do this.” “Things are going so well.”
I can remember that time, well, I don’t want to lie about it. The little voice pops up more frequently than I would like to admit when it comes to this. It says:
“Are you sure you want to get up?” “This bed is so warm!”, “You worked out yesterday, take the day off.”
Yes. It doesn’t matter, as a person who has been focused on health and fitness since my late teens, I still have to fight that little voice at times.
When I was purchasing my first rental property. I can remember that voice telling me.
“Tenants will call you in the middle of the night.” “Are you sure you can afford this!” “You have never done this before, what makes you think you can do it?” “You don’t have enough money to do this.”
You and I are just a like, we have this little voice that starts to talk to us whenever we are about to do something that we don’t want to do or, something we have never done before. This voice starts talking. I am not sure where it comes from, although there have been countless numbers of books written about it and I have read a lot of them.
Here is what I know. All you can do is tell that little voice to shut up. That is what I did in each of the cases above, and they all worked out. That is what I do on a daily basis, when that little voice starts to tell me that I have earned the right to sleep in.
No matter who you are and where you are in your life, this little voice will be chatting with you. At times, it can save you from yourself. But there are many times it will actually work to the negative and prevent you from achieving everything you are capable of achieving. You know what needs to be done. Just go and do it and tell the little voice to shut up.
To your success and your future.
As a kid growing up I am sure I was told by much smarter people, grown ups, of things that I should do or shouldn’t do. And I didn’t listen. Because I was young and dumb. But the older I get the more I realize that those grown-ups knew more because of their experiences. And nothing can replace experience to teach us lessons.
With all of those lessons that I may have missed along the way, I did pick up a few lessons that I did listen to that were completely wrong. And these people didn’t intentionally lie to me. It wasn’t their fault. But I learned them, and as I have gotten older I now realize they didn’t know what the heck they were talking about.
Money isn’t as important as you think.
If I had a dollar for every time someone said this to me, I wouldn’t have to worry about money. I am sure it was told to me as a child at times as well. But more importantly, and more critical, was the fact that money wasn’t discussed. Look, I know my parents did all they can. I didn’t go without food, water, shelter, and clothing. And I know for a fact that my parents did whatever they could to provide us with everything they could. I had a great childhood.
I also know that there were people around me that were better off. Their parents had better paying jobs. Which meant that they got the newer and nicer things. Kids are smart enough to look around and see the reality of situations, but instead of them only seeing the realities of the situation, I think parents can use that as a motivator to encourage their kids to understand the realities of the situation better by explaining to them the realities of the situation.
My parents didn’t talk about money which meant we didn’t think about money. At an early age, I knew that money was important, because when I had it, I felt better, and I could go and buy all the damn candy I wanted. And for me to be able to do that I had to have money.
I can remember poor person after poor person telling me that money wasn’t everything. There are more important things in life. But just as I learned as a kid and I know it to be more true as an adult, money is necessary for everything. I need money just to leave my house. Gas is expensive, food is expensive, dry cleaning is expensive. Everything requires money. Not only do you need it to live, but if you have any desire to help other people, you will need money as well. Never tell anybody that money isn’t that important, because it is.
Formal education is the most important education:
Do good in school, pick a great high school, and be sure to go to college. I don’t want to discount any of these things. We all need to understand the basics of which education teaches and provides. I think most people get this. Where it goes wrong though, is to only focus on this.
I never had a teacher, parent, counselor, etc. tell me that skills are more important than education. Skills that I can use in the marketplace that can help me get what I want from the marketplace.
Here are just a few skills, that should be overtly taught, instead of hoping students get them through the process of pursuing a formal education.
Skills such as influencing other people, selling their ideas, being a leader, communicating with tact and candor, taking initiative, problem solving, critical thinking, how to get attention for the things you want, marketing, etc.
Yes, you get some of these skills through the process of a regular classroom, but there wasn’t any course on how to get attention (marketing) in the marketplace. And if there was, the people teaching the course, my teachers, didn’t know how to exactly do it themselves. They were reading it to you out of a textbook, which meant their examples were weak and not very compelling.
Yes, a level of formal education is important, but skill development is what is even more important. Children should learn how to make money, manage money, talk to people, take initiative, take risks, problem solve, etc. These are the skills that are more important.
Everything I learned by watching everyone in my life was all about security. Find a good paying job with benefits. Go to college and get a good education so you can have opportunities. Save your money. Don’t get noticed, stay under the radar. Do what you have to do.
Not once did I learn that everything in life that is worthwhile will be just out of reach of my comfort zone and my willingness to expand that zone is what will allow me to get whatever it is that I wanted.
Nobody taught me to seek discomfort. To seek challenges. To challenge myself to learn new skills and to be entrepreneurial.
Again, it wasn’t anybody’s fault that I learned these things. This is what the people I was around the most were taught, and this is what was taught by everyone they knew. We really are a product of our environment.
As the great Charlie “Tremendous” Jones says: “You will be the same person you are today, five years from now, except for the books your read and the people you meet.”
As a child growing up, I didn’t read very many books outside the ones I had to read. And I only met people who were in my circle of friends and family.
My suggestion to parents is to look for unique ways to challenge your children and get them experiences with what they will eventually be exposed to in the marketplace. Teach them the skills that will help them get ahead and stay ahead.
To your success and your future.