Some people are just blessed with knowing exactly what type of business they should start. But I wasn’t.
Maybe you have no idea what you’re doing and haven’t the faintest idea where to start. That’s where I was when I started my first business.
What I did was this.
I tried things.
I had just quit my job and decided that I wanted to start my own thing. The Great Recession had started, launching a financial avalanche that rumbled across the world.
During that time, I had a lot of free time and I decided to put it to good use by exploring as many ideas as I could. I thought about starting a white-gloved concierge service, a luxury fashion line, a photography business. I didn’t know anything about any of those businesses. But I dreamed. I pondered.
While I was pontificating, I also met with various people: friends, strangers, artists, business people, whoever would take the time to talk to me about their careers and businesses.
And one of the people that I really connected with became a mentor of sorts. A pattern emerged, where we met every month. And I should note that I was the one who initiated almost all of the meetings.
During that time, I realized that I needed to take responsibility for my life and work. If I was starting a business, then I needed to start everything else: initiating the conversations, being the first to ask for a lunch, sending the first thank you email, and asking for the follow up meeting. Sure, people cared about me, but they weren’t just going to give my business to me. I needed to do the work. At least, I needed to write the emails asking people to meet up, face rejection, set the time.
The meetings yielded amazing results.
While at a small little sushi restaurant in New York City, my new found mentor also became my first client. He asked me to help him market a hotel he owned in Ireland. So I searched for his website, and it looked terrible. And I told him how awful I thought it was and how I could help him with that. He was intrigued and asked me to put together a proposal for what I would do.
So I did.
Right now you may be thinking, “Well, how did he know how to write up a proposal?” The truth is that I had no idea. I was flying completely blind and had to figure it out. I just asked myself what would I want to see in a proposal for a website if I asked for one.
After a week of torturing myself trying to guess what a proposal should be, I sent it to my mentor/client; and he gave me a couple of thoughts and agreed to my price and wanted to know when I could start. I was shocked and relieved and awed, and I was terrified.
Did I know how to design or develop a website? Nope. I had to figure that out, too. I can talk more about that on a future post.
As I was figuring out how to create a creative services business in my bedroom, I also started a luxury t-shirt company. As I was verbally abusing my mentor’s website, I was looking at eco-friendly fabrics for these super-comfy shirts that I was trying to sell for stupid prices.
Like I said, I tried things.
And I had no idea what I was doing.
To this day, I’m still in creative services and grew that business to have multiple teams of full-time people with various lines of business. Now, we are working with only contractors (which I can also explain in a future post).
You need to know that my story is not unique. Every first-time entrepreneur doesn’t have a clue about what they are doing. That’s the nature of starting a business.
Those who do just did things. They attempt, try, experiment.
You don’t need to know what you are doing to get things done.
If I could go back and do things differently or were able to tell my younger self how to start, I would say something like this:
What are your strengths? Then cross your answer with the answer to this question. What type of life do I want to have?
And whatever answer intersects those questions would be where you should start venturing.
When you start a business, you should begin with your strengths. That can be domain expertise, or skillset, or talent and leverage that. I was good at networking, connecting the dots, and finding ways to execute.
There are so many ways to start a business. The number of ways that people make a living is astounding. The question is which way is a good fit for you.
Once you have that answer, try things.
And you’ll be amazed by what you can do.