Starting a business is harder, and more rewarding, than you thought it was.
The anxiety comes and goes. Sometimes it gets pretty heavy, enough to cause me to dry-heave, instantly. I don’t handle it very well.
It was Friday the 13th of March, just two weeks ago. I had recently been given an opportunity to present my business plan to a small group of well-qualified investors. The excitement was overwhelming. This is what I’ve wanted from the beginning, pun intended. It’s what any entrepreneur without a bankroll would want. All your passion, creativity, and purpose are given a chance to be bought into, believed in, and shared by others; others with lots and lots of money.
After this temporary elation, the reality set it. Pictures of the room, the table, the men, how loud, what do I handout, what do I wear, what they’re wearing – all of it, everything – started filling my brain and chemically changing me. Worry, to say the least, was back. This is not good. It’s like a dream you’re trying to act in but something won’t let you. You think you should have better control of yourself but you don’t. I called a friend. He said, “Pick five scenarios that you think MIGHT happen at this investor presentation, write them down, and get it out of your head.” It reminded me of the chorus to The Cranberries’ Zombie. I’ve been here before, I’ll keep fighting.
Everything that I thought might be, creating an mirage expectation of the future, will most likely and often never happen. When I’m in the thick of worry, it’s a hard thing to get back into the present. What logically needed to happen was to figure out what options I’d give them, as investors, and how much of the heart and soul I’d be exchanging for a financially beneficial (or horribly tragic) position in my company. My business plan was created along with the guidance of Larry Ray, a damn good business adviser through the CSUB’s Small Business Development Center, months before.
My 8-to-5 is for a data management and software company. If you want to meet with me, it has to be before or after work. And I’m an early riser so mornings work better for me. The more often I speak with someone from the East Coast, or a developer in another country, I’m more convinced that Pacific Standard Time means less to me. When stuff needs to get done, and you’re the one with the passion, time becomes a moot point. If I can get it done now, why do I need to wait, even if it’s 3am. We confirmed our initial hour and a half meeting for Wednesday, October 29th at Lorene’s Coffee Shop in Downtown Bakersfield. 6am.
I left with a stack of papers, guidelines and sincere advice. We exchanged emails and had one other follow up meeting.
And on January 26th, 2015, a three month process, the business plan was complete. Total out-of-pocket expenses: One Coffee and One Senior Menu Breakfast Entrée, and I was not required to pay for that. I was grateful. If you are in need of help for a business idea, or you’re currently in business looking for help, may I highly recommend the Small Business Development Center. Don’t be fooled, Larry didn’t do my plan for me. He was a guide that kept me accountable for the tasks ahead, and a voice of clarity when my written word confused him. This whole entrepreneur thing isn’t about making gigantic chomps in all you do. It’s a nibbling process, especially on stuff you DON’T feel like doing. Tasks need done, and you’re pretty much the only option when you can’t afford an employee to delegate it to. The SBDC can help your business or idea, especially when you are limited on resources, just like me.
The plan has seen three revisions since the day I said it was first completed; minor edits that bent the plan at its slightest. I’ve sent it out to friends and family, and a few family law attorneys that have expressed interest. No one wants to read a business plan, I sure in the hell don’t want to. Expressing interest, and actual interest, are two separate things; I know that now. Without knowing whether he read the plan or not, I called another friend. We share lots of stories together, mostly absurd ones but he really is a smart guy. I look up to him, how he does business, and with his straight-shooting, handshake mentality, I needed simplicity in what I’d try to exchange with these investors. Ten minutes was all I was getting and I needed to make the best of it.
So we created a plan, and shared ideas for about an hour over a 1500-mile phone call. I felt confident about what we came up with. The anxiety withered away. The comfortable feeling of gratitude showered me. Within the next three days, I needed to create a presentation, a business plan to bind professionally, and make this the best ten minutes of my life. I knew exactly what I’d be doing. Now it’s time for the literal executions of the requirements. It became time to get it done.
Then later that night, I received a text from him. It started with, “How about this…” but basically went on saying that he’d provide the funds I needed. My business plan had been funded. The innermost parts of me went wild until it ended with him needing to get his wife’s blessing first. Okay, minor snag. Like a condition to a sale, this wasn’t a guaranteed thing. She could say no, or that I joke around on Facebook too much. This was another situation I had no control over except this time, I realized this new worry wasn’t worth it. I’d go ahead and believe it would happen exactly as I hoped, and started working on it anyway. The next day I received a text from him:
Green light buddy.
Parts of me believe my friend truly believes in the passion and determination I’ve had for the last four years, and that’s why he is doing this. The other parts of me believe my friend didn’t want me walking into a Shark Tank-stylepitch in a desperate position. The truth is that I’ve put blood, sweat and tears into my business yet has little-to-no value for an investor. Most investors want to see projected gains, and for an LLC that’s made diddlysquat in income, it’s hard to prove your valuation. And that’s exactly what they would want, along with a solid business plan. I had one but not the other. Now, I’d come to the table with both.
And on March 17th, 2015, the 13th birthday of Genesis herself, I walked towards Wool Grower’s with bagpipers bellowing Irish sound in an Old Town Kern parking lot. This was ten times better than my worry could have imagined. The luck of the day was upon me. Right before I got to the door of the restaurant, an old friend called. “Hey Jon, how’ve you been man,” he started but I had to stop him and explain, as quick and best as I could, the situation I was walking into. There were no worries given or taken, he understood entirely. All he wanted was the domain for my app because his friend was going through a divorce and wanted it. It was the best phone call at the worst time. Maybe it was the best time. Whatever time is was, it was perfect, in retrospect.
I’m not going to discuss the details of the 10-minute pitch that turned to 20, and a request for another presentation in the near future. I did good. Scratch that. I did great! The restaurant, a place where Ronald Reagan was known to love their fries, was bustling with St. Paddy Day celebrations and shenanigans. And though I had the money already, I wasn’t going to ruin an opportunity to present my plan to these guys. Many entrepreneurs struggle with this, venture funds and angel investors controlling our future, only if you are so lucky to get the opportunity. If you ever get the chance to present to legitimate investors, give it your best. If you are waiting for that chance, add value in the meantime. Do more with less – and make it a point to keep that mindset.
The Bible says to be anxious for nothing. To me, it’s a verse that can mean two things. One is more literal meaning in that it’s good to be anxious for absolutely nothing. There is a teaching in worry, and worry is a-ok; we are human, remember. In a sense, worry can help us grow as long as you are aware that it is affecting you. The other meaning suggests to me to not worry about anything, and just acknowledge Jesus in all I do and he’ll take care of the rest.
Either way, it doesn’t matter. God knows I haven’t given up. And sometimes, that’s all that really matters. Exactly a year ago, I was interviewing for the position I’m in now, still working full-time. And nibble by nibble, countless 5am mornings at Starbucks (just like today), and tons of undue worries later, I now prepare for the launch of theGenesis Child Custody Manager to the American Bar Association TechShow in Chicago next month. April 16th & 17th to be exact.
And Genesis herself will get to go with me. That’s the best part of all, even if I walk in with regurgitated deep dish pizza all over my shirt. It will all be worth it.
Photo: Flickr/Nick Sherman