Well, it’s been a year now since I embarked on this crazy adventure. Seemed like a good time to look back on my foray into entrepreneurship.
It’s been grand, but it’s time for you to go. Here’s some money, now toddle off. A simple function of a declining business model, nothing personal.
It started with a subtle bang. After 18 years in the corporate world, it was my time to get cut. It’s been grand, but it’s time for you to go. Here’s some money, now toddle off. A simple function of a declining business model, nothing personal.
After 4 to 5 job offers rolled in to continue on an unfulfilling, soul-sucking with a slow leak career path and 48 hours to catch my breath, I knew my shot at becoming the professional master of my own destiny had to happen now or never.
The epiphany hit me like a punch to the face. I realized that I was running after something in the corporate world that I never really wanted. This was not what I was meant to be doing here on earth.
I turned to my wife Jody and said: “If I don’t do it now, I’m going to resent myself and resent you.” Without batting an eyelash, she said “You do what you gotta do.”
I knew I wanted to throw myself into helping youth with Generate U, but also was keenly aware that it would take years for that to become financially viable and it turns out that kids can’t wait that long to eat.
So after many discussions with people whose opinions I value, I decided to open up KarmaDharma. Even picking that name was a testament to my new found courage. I knew that it wouldn’t make sense to everyone. Or some might think we are some new age yoga studio, but it meant everything to me. It is my life philosophy in a name and anyone who didn’t want to work with us because of it could fuck off.
I lacked the courage to launch out on my own however thinking that I didn’t have the knowledge and know-how to run a business, so I partnered up with someone to get the agency off the ground. It took me a few months to figure out that was a mistake and 6 months to correct the situation. After being married to the corporate world for so long, I look back on that partnership as my entrepreneurial rebound girlfriend. He is a good guy, we just didn’t share the same values and vision for the business. Time to move on.
It is amazing how fear can cloud our vision of reality. Everyone around me thought I could do this on my own, except me. Strange really, as I left a world where I was very confident about my skill set and plunged into the unknown feeling bewildered and without familiar anchor points. Sad as I look back, but a source of tremendous learning, both in business and about myself.
It turns out that trying to figure out the right business model, the right service offering, the right pricing model, the right frameworks to use, the right balance of insourcing to outsourcing, setting the vision for long term success while keeping the lights on in the short term can be somewhat stressful. Who knew? ;o)
Then I ran across an article (and now there is a full on book which I would still like to read) on Effectual Entrepreneurship (as compared to causal entrepreneurship that put some of my stress to rest. Causal thinking is where you set a goal for the business and try and find your best way of getting there. Effectual thinking focuses more know figuring out who you are?, what you know? and who you know?. Building on these three things will ultimately get you to your goal rather than stressing on hitting a target and the workback plan from it. It certainly felt more manageable to me and more in line with how I think.
I did not have 60 page business plan or complete competitive analysis. I simply built out a Business Model Canvas of our customer segments, key activities, key partners and resources needed and built it up from there.
I took some time to take a personal inventory of what I knew and didn’t know. Where I felt confident and where I was nervous as all hell. A humbling exercise to say the least.
Then, despite dragging a constant low level imposter-syndrome feeling, I was able to get out there and bring on clients. I worked my network to the best of my ability. Hitting up as many Telfer EMBA alums and past Bell Media clients.
They saw that I could add value to their business. More importantly though, they knew that I would be there through thick and thin and work my ass off to make them successful. And that is just what I did and continue to strive for.
I concurrently went out to find strategic partners for websites, digital marketing, & copywriting to fill in the knowledge and skill gaps in the business. Plus, I started reading whatever I could get my hands on with regards to branding, digital marketing, & content marketing.
When we moved into our office in Westboro (after 3 months in various Starbucks locations), there was just my former partner, Tina, our graphic designer, and me. Fast forward a year later, we are now a team of 6 with tremendous talent and growing slowly but surely.
So what are my key takeaways from starting my own business?