Over 180,000 in debt to the IRS, and separated from his wife, this man had lost all hope. After a good cry he determined to turn his business, and marriage around.
I started my first business at 19 years old and thought I knew it all. The business quickly grew to $500,000 in gross revenue with five employees in three states.
Business was good, but because I didn’t learn how to manage my business things quickly got out of control. Six years into the business, because of mismanaging the finances, I was over $180,000 in debt to the IRS. My dream of entrepreneurship had turned into a nightmare. The debtors were constantly calling our house wanting to get paid; the repo men were looking for our cars. My wife and I constantly fought because of the stress our finances put on our marriage. There were times when I thought it would be better if I just gave up. That year my wife and I separated with no hopes of reconciling. I sat there in the living room of a friend house crying my eyes out wondering what else could go wrong.
According to the Ecoprenuerist 54% of young Americans (ages 18-34) want to become an entrepreneur. As a man, owning our “own thing” is very appealing, we want to roam free. What’s sad is that my first business wasn’t something I was passionate about. As I grew up I actually started to hate the business. If you’re a young businessman or just a young man, here are seven key lessons that will help your business thrive.
- Be Clear About Who You Serve
If you’re a “jack of all trades” type of guy, you want be able to grow your business. Your efforts to grow, such as marketing, will be scattered. Seth Godin said, “If you try to reach the whole you’ll end up reaching no one.” The more specific you can get as to who your ideal customer is the better. It will help you figure out the best way to find, and reach new customers. Your efforts to find new business will be focused. The best thing I did was to create an avatar of my ideal customer. What does he look like? Is it a man or woman? Where does he live? What are his biggest struggles that you can help solve? This information will help you focus. More than that, it will help you dig deeper and really make a difference with those you’re trying to serve. The money is just icing on the cake after service.
- Don’t Over-promise and Under-deliver
Brent Beshore at the Huffington Post says that if you promise your customers a miracle you should deliver one. To grow your business you have to be the kind of business, and man, that stands behinds his promises. When you do your customers will become your biggest evangelists. As you start out in business there are going to be limits on what you can do, that’s OK. Instead of focusing on the areas where you aren’t the strongest, focus on where you are strong. Sometimes it’s hard for us as men to admit our weakness. If you’re going to be successful you have to get past that feeling and do what’s right for your business.
- Get Organized
When you’re not organized it’s frustrating for everyone: your employees, your customers, and your sanity! A lack of organization will repel new customers from doing business with you. Guys, you know organization is one of those things we have to work at. However, if you can master it your stress level will greatly decrease.
- Take Care of Your Taxes
The biggest mistake I made in my business was not properly handling my taxes. There are entire libraries with books written specifically about taxes. It’s important to hire a professional! Mishandling taxes has destroyed many businesses. As a young man I had a hard time listening to those that were wiser than me. They told me to save money for taxes, but I thought it was more important to party. Those dumb decisions almost ruined my business, and marriage.
- Focus On What’s Important
One of the best things you can learn is where you should be focusing your time. You want to be spending your time growing your business, not just running the business. You have the knowledge of the entire world in your pocket if you own a smart phone. That can be a blessing, and a curse. As you research ways to grow your business you can quickly become the victim of information overload. Just because something is working for someone else doesn’t mean it’s something you need to be focused on right now.
- Speed of Implementation
As young businessmen we can have many good ideas, but the most successful entrepreneurs know how turn a good idea into a viable product or service for their business. You always want to put your best product out to your market, but realize that sometimes it takes time, and feedback from your customers to get your best. Once you have an idea, get that idea out to your market as a beta version. Let your customers know this is a beta version that you’re building upon, don’t worry about making it perfect at first. That feedback you get from your customers using the beta version will be invaluable in creating the final version. Don’t be the guy that “knows what his customer wants” without asking them. The best businesses rely on feedback from their customers to improve what they offer.
- Quickly Get Over Failure
One of the biggest things that holds men back is fear of failure. Whether it’s Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, or any other successful man a common theme you’ll find is failure. Successful entrepreneurs view failure, as a momentary set back, not a business-ending event. If you experience failure realize it’s not the end of the world, and determine to come back even stronger because of it.
After I learned these lessons I was able to pivot, and get my business back on track. My business grew as a result, and I was able to pay off all the debt. Today I operate a successful business from Maui, Hawaii. My wife and I reconciled. Going through that experience taught us how to communicate, and made our marriage so much stronger. Don’t be that “know it all” type of businessman or guy. Learn these lessons now, and your business will thrive. We live in an incredible time when men can create businesses they love, and serve, and change lives.
What lessons did you learn, or are you learning, about your business that could save a marriage?
Photo: Flickr/Guian Bolisay