Now, some might look at that time as a failure and a financial loss, but it wasn’t. Instead, that journey was one of the most valuable education experiences I could have, and it set me up for success two years later when I started Frontier.
Here’s a few things that happened:
- learned the industry I wanted to work in (charity marketing) and met Frontier’s first client
- met the people I’d like to work with (Heath works at Frontier, and many of our network then is still connected to us now)
- used many of the admin tools I do today (thank you Dropbox, Kashoo)
- experienced the day to day of self employment
- started building a reputation that I could grow over time
Later, at 24 I set out on my own to run Frontier. I had spent lunches, evenings, and weekends hustling my way to a small client base before I left my job. I was out on my own again with a home office and a small family. Within four months I hired my first employee, and after a few years have a team of twelve, a national client list, and a million dollar budget.
What I can tell you is that the first years of entrepreneurship aren’t taught, they’re shared by mentors and experienced as you go. And, baring a bad idea or product, success is built on execution on a practical level.
How well do you manage your finances while you’re growing? Have you built a relationship with a lender so you can always pay your bills?
How do you process new decisions that keep coming to you? Do you have a mentor that can give guidance or hear your thought process?
When do you hire and fire? When is it time to get rid of a bad client? When are you most helpful to your own business?
Instead of getting an MBA, and spending $50-80,000 (and years of your life) do this instead:
Negotiate deals wherever you can.
Are you overpaying for your cell phone or home internet (the answer is always yes)? Then call up your supplier and work something out.
While you’re employed, try to re-structure how you're paid, or simply ask for a raise.
Finally, start to sell something to someone. The internet is great for this. Go through the process of making something or designing a service then put it up for sale and try to find buyers, a price, a pitch, a name. Imagine it as a hobby, night school, and second job all in one.
Build your future network.
A lot of MBA grads point to their network at business school as the most valuable return for their time and money. So, why not spend two years and thousands of dollars doing the same? Buy dinner, drinks, coffee, fly around the country, fly someone to your office, etc.
Don’t get trapped into conferences and networking events that don’t drive deep roots and are often just podiums for everyone to share their business, instead join a sports league, volunteer, or blog (you’d be surprised how the internet can build your network!).
Experiment = Spend your money
Fundamentally, an entrepreneur is someone who can create value. You take some parts, turn it into a product, add a name, and sell it for a profit. In the first days you need to get a feel for managing a budget, and spending wisely.
One of the greatest finds I had with my first business was experimenting with Facebook and Google ads in 2008. Now 7 years later it’s a fundamental part of my business and consulting.
You don’t know until you try, and when you try you’re ahead of the pack.
Taking this alternative path is both cheaper, and more fulfilling. The only question on the test is this:
Even if it fails, what do I gain?