My Entrepreneurial Full Circle (Part III)

Where do I begin talking about WhyGoSolo?!? I honestly still can’t talk about WhyGoSolo without feeling some pain, remorse, sadness and disappointment which is why I decided not to go into too many details.

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From February 12th, 2007 to August 15th, 2009 – WhyGoSolo was at the core of everything I did, although it was much more intense in the first year.  You can find out a lot about the start of WhyGoSolo at the original blog I started in May of 2007 http://whygosolo.blogspot.com/ – unfortunately, when I  canceled the hosting for WhyGoSolo.com the remainder of the story was deleted except for the last blog post which is on this blog: WhyGoSolo Coming Offline.

Looking back I’m still baffled by what we were able to accomplish with basically no resources. We created what I considered to be an excellent web startup that was ahead of it’s time. It actually stings to think about it.  We were a well oiled machine driven by a big dream. I wished the story would have had a happy ending.

The one question I still can’t answer to myself is “Why didn’t I move to San Francisco?” Why did I choose to waste my time in DC when WhyGoSolo would have had a better chance in S.F.   Given the opportunity to go back in time; the first thing I would do is move. Not moving is the only regret I have about the whole thing. I otherwise feel I did everything I knew to do and could think of doing.

Anyway, the first year or so working on WhyGoSolo was a total roller coaster ride.  Surreal good things would happen that would end up leading nowhere – it was tough to bounce back from the disappointments and always put on a strong face for everyone.  It was also tough to talk to investors who didn’t understand the web and where it was heading (where it is now).

I went completely broke while working on WhyGoSolo – I had been living off my savings since the summer 2005 and hadn’t really made any income. As I was losing my house and trying to get back on my feet; I got hit a few more times with two heartbreaks; one romantic and the other from a business partner. The pain and disappointment I lived through because of WhyGoSolo created a small black cloud of anger and hatred in me towards a lot of the things I believed in.  I still have to cope with the leftovers of that cloud today.

I did not easily bounce back from failing and letting people down this time around.  Thankfully, the opportunity to get away from DC and recover presented itself in the form of orders to Marine Forces Reserve, in New Orleans.

But in the end, besides all the lessons I’ve learned, what I take away is that I hope someday I can have as an exciting and fun time with another venture as I did with WhyGoSolo. I was blessed to work with amazing people and be part of a wonderful startup community…so although it didn’t end well and it was overall tough as hell – I can only wish I’ll get to do it again and have a happy ending this time. I really got to live the entrepreneurial startup life with WhyGoSolo.

Next blog post…I’ll do a quick mention of BeFitNOLA and get into what I’m working on now and why I say I’ve gone full circle.

My Entrepreneurial Full Circle (Part I)

In the next few blog posts, I’m going to recap my entrepreneurial endeavors so far, how they’ve taken me full circle and the business goals I have set for 2001.

In July of 2005, after ten years of active duty service in the Marine Corps I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey.  I started out as a solo practitioner – as a life coach.  Life coaching seemed like a perfect fit for me since I am very motivated to help people.  My first website was www.coachingyourfuture.com. I used Yahoo website builder and for my business cards I used one of Vista Print’s basic business card templates.  (Coaching Your Future eventually lead to Life’s Guiding Source) The biggest thing I learned starting my first business was the importance of having a network and how critical networking is to a business.  Since I had just left the Marine Corps – I had no civilian or even business contacts.  None the less, it didn’t take long, perhaps a couple of months, for me to realize that life coaching wasn’t for me because my clients just “moved too slow” so I began to focus more on business coaching.

There was something about business that naturally made sense to me, although I did not have any type of background in it.  Plus, people in business were much more willing to accomplish things at a higher tempo since what they did impacted their bottom line.  Again though, I realized business coaching wasn’t the answer either.  I ended up acting like the CEO for most of my clients’ businesses because they turn the reigns to me and this annoyed me.  This is also when I realized that being a solo practitioner was not the way to build the type/size of business I desired.  This is when I started LGS Coaching Agency – LGS stood for Life’s Guiding Source.

The plan for LGS Coaching Agency was to offer all types of coaching: Life, Business, and Executive.  I also envisioned a web base system that would handle matching clients to coaches, the tracking of a client’s progress and have other useful features. I would enlist coaches to work for the Agency and the Agency would handle all the promotional, administrative and logistical end of things and allow the coaches to do what they do best; coach.

I pitched the idea of the Coaching Agency to a good friend of mine who agreed to help fund the Agency after I presented him with a business plan – this was the first but definitely not the last business I wrote.  Thankfully, I got better at writing business plans over time but I still hate them. I went all out at this point…renamed the LLC, found a web designer, got a logo and website made.  I rented an office space, got a sign made to hang outside the space, furnished the office and even got liability insurance. I spent a lot of unnecessary money!!

None of that took me very long…so before I knew it I was recruiting coaches.  I found a handful of great coaches…as we neared the Holidays (end of 2006) we began to design New Year’s Resolution program.  This is the blog we started at the time: New Year’s Resolution Blog.  This is also the time when I met and hired Geoff Livingston.  At the time he was just starting to dabble in Social Media…

With Geoff’s help I landed a bunch of interviews with reporters doing stories on New Year’s Resolution and made it into various papers across the country – I also ended up taping a segment with the local Fox News station.  This is also when I started my journey into Social Media. I joined BlogTalk Radio when it was only six months old. It was an incredible time and I felt that big things were going to happen but nothing did.  Nada. We had zero clients sign-up for our New Year’s Program.

Although I was extremely disappointed, I picked myself and kept on charging.  I kept networking and I started attending health fairs being held by one of my on-going clients.  I joined Toastmasters and started looking for speaking opportunities. A coach who also happened to be a developer joined the team right around the start of January…and this is when I took on my first partner and started scoping out the backend (engine) that was going to make LGS Coaching Agency a shining star!!

In the next blog post I’ll cover why LGS Coaching Agency came to a startling end and the start of WhyGoSolo!

A Chicken Who Couldn’t Lay an Egg

I had an idea yesterday!! A new innovative, creative and pack full of potential idea – it feels so GOOD. And by idea I mean something that is exciting, energizing, and motivating me. Something that ties-in some of my interests and for the first time, it’s a non-profit, social good type of idea. It’s a concept for New Orleans and eventually for other cities to use in order to promote opportunities in their respective city, bring people together and teach people about entrepreneurship.

I’m so relieved I was able to have an idea again; I can’t really explain the joy I feel from it. I’ve been somewhat lost these last few months…an entrepreneur that can’t come up with new amazing idea is like a chicken that can’t lay an egg – I was starting to wonder if I had it in me; if I could even call myself an entrepreneur anymore. I was thinking may be I needed to go back to school and find something “fall back on”. Crazy talk.

My Quest for Life Balance

Since moving to New Orleans my life has been very different. I mean, I moved here to have a different life; I moved with the purpose of HAVING A LIFE. When I made the move here and turned a new leaf on 2009 – I made the conscious decision to add some life balance to the mix. Yes, I actually had/have to put a conscious effort into having a life. Instead of my business being my focus these last three months – I have been the focus, love/relationship and friendships have been more important and so as health and fitness.

Per my blog post on April 17th , I set some different goals for myself but I knew they wouldn’t be enough – I didn’t write about this but I was going a little mad. I had a mental block that was driving me crazy.

Insanity Plea

Besides getting obsessed with working out (again); I was way too obsessed with wanting to be in a relationship. My frustrations with that area of my life quite frankly had left me…feeling way too much like a woman. It left me feeling needy, confused, wondering and slightly insecure. I spent entirely too much time reading into things, questioning my behavior, my needs, wants, desires and actions.

Sorry, but a man is not a healthy thing to focus on…particularly on a man not focused on me. That was NOT me. That was my mind having nothing to focus on.

My Mojo is Back!

I’m not going to shut the door on pursuing my fitness goals and my desire for a relationship…I’m also going to maintain my relationships with my new friends, plus the going out and having fun. However, now that mojo is back it’s back to business, baby!!

My identity, sanity, and happiness are tied to my ability to go forth and do entrepreneurial endeavors – the balancing act needs to revolve around that.

Fear of the Known?!?

I started my first business about three years ago upon getting out of the Marine Corps after ten years of service. At the time, people said to me “You’re very brave and courageous to start your own business” – I thought it was an odd thing to say. I was excited about the potential and wasn’t afraid of the unknown.

Fast forward three years…one failed venture, losing multiple partners and getting burn by a plethora of other things I didn’t know anything about; I now feel anxious and a certain amount of fear about launching my new company.

I get it now. I realize why people said I was brave and courageous to start my own business. (Although, I’d like to clarify that it’s easy to start your own business – what’s hard is turning it into a success.)

I clearly remember all my struggles, pains, disappointments, lessons learned, and heart breaks. I lost my house, went into the debt and isolated myself from many of my friends and family.

With all that being said, the truth is that the anxiety and fears are based on more than knowing what launching a business and trying to grow it is about – it’s mostly based on the fact that there is nothing else in the world I rather be doing. What happens now that I’ve found my calling if I can’t make things happen? This is the proverbial fear of failure. Many people never try or do the things they really love and are passionate about because they can’t face the possibility that once they try; they might fail.

Three years ago I didn’t realize how passionate and in love with business/entrepreneurship I was. I didn’t know that my world would come to revolve around it and that it would bring me such a high level of satisfaction and happiness. I never would have guessed that being in business would challenge me and push me to grow faster than anything else I had ever done before. I definitely didn’t have a clue of how free being an entrepreneur would make me feel. As a matter of fact, I didn’t actually realize the depth of those things until I took a billet back in the Marine Corps. But now I know.

Defining Moment – This Fear is a GOOD Thing

I will soon step back out from having steady income (from being back in the Marine Corps) to running my own business full time again. My hunger to succeed is greater than ever before. The anxiety and fear that exist is new and actually welcomed.

It’s not the absence of fear that makes us brave – it’s doing those very things we fear in the presence of fear. I’m glad I’m feeling this fear. It will keep me conscious of not repeating any past mistakes. It will keep me on my toes and make me think things thoroughly instead of my former “jumping into everything head first.” This new fear is making me a wiser entrepreneur and although, I have never in the past appreciated having fears – this time, it’s a good thing.

Foundation: What Makes You Qualified?

Scenario: You are a new entrepreneur and you go in to pitch an investor or a potential client – your pitch goes really well. You hear…

Client/Investor: Hmmm…good stuff. We like it. But who the heck are you? Why should we buy (or invest) in you?

This is the point where you think – I’m the guy who brought you the idea. But then they go on and say…

Client/Investor: We had two other guys in here before you that pitched us the same thing – so why are you different and why should we do business with you?

Ouch! Yep, that hurts…particularly if you haven’t properly established a strong foundation. If you have you’ll be ready to list off the reasons why you are the guy to make this happen – if you haven’t, you’ll walk out of that meeting with your tail between your legs.

Establishing your Foundation

We’re going to cover this in multiple posts but here are some of the highlights of areas you need to beef up before going into a meeting like the one above:

Background/Area of Expertise: What is your background and therefore, your area of expertise? Your background will directly help justify your qualifications or completely throw them off. If you are a male with no kids who has been in the meat packaging business for the last 10 years and you want to get into running a kid’s social network with an entirely new spin – your background is of no help to you and you are obviously not leveraging your area of expertise…so this actually hurts you. (Thinking it actually throws a few red flags in the air…but I digress) You’ll need to work on establishing a relevant background.

Knowledge: Much like your background – your proven knowledge base is critical. By proven, I mean you’ve had active involvement that has demonstrated success base on applying your knowledge.

Contacts and Network: This is extremely important – you better build up one heck of an armory of powerful contacts – the old saying that “it’s not what you know but who you know” will eventually come into play!

Familiarity with Market: This goes beyond having knowledge about your market or being part of your market’s background – this is embedding your presence in your market and making allies within your target market. This is becoming a go-to person to folks in your market.

Like I said – we’ll thoroughly discuss building a foundation because you might find out that before you even get into starting your startup, you have to first ensure you’re qualified to do so!

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Do I Have a Business or a Startup?

Answering this question has nothing to do with longevity, yearly revenue/profitability, funding received, or the size of the staff – it has everything to do with being at the cutting edge of innovation.

Innovation is the main distinguishing factor that propels all other distinguishing factors between a business and a startup.

So What are Those Other Distinguishing Factors?

  • A Startup is built from nothing based on innovation and thin air. Vs. A Business is built from nothing based on established concepts, models, and examples.
  • A Startup is focused on development of specific innovation/technology/product Vs. A Business is focused on sales and marketing to acquire clients
  • A Startup is established on assumptions that need to be validated Vs. A Business is established on confirmed notions
  • Startups are built from gaps that exist in businesses and markets
  • Startups fulfill unmet needs Vs. Businesses cater to current needs
  • A flourishing startup grows up to become a business or to get acquired by a successful business – and than the cycle starts all over again.
  • Entrepreneurs create startups Vs. Businessman/woman run businesses.

What other distinguishing factors can you think of??

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