I BLOG THEREFORE I AM
You know I joined TL back in 2004 and when I first started my entrepreneurial journey back in 2010, I blogged a lot. It was a way for me to make sense of what was happening, share things and most of all self-therapy. It's funny in that when I was an executive, I had or didn't think I needed the time for self reflection, but even today, with the situations I face, I find myself questioning so many things as if I was still a university student.
I'm lucky. I got a big consulting contract in the last few years, and finally, I get to cash out on it. It has nothing to do with my current businesses and it was something I engaged in because I had to, but in the end, it came down to timing. So my current industry, which I was a bigwig executive in before - has consolidated down to just a few major players and for a small time operation like me, the timing has passed. It's unlikely, even with all the power moves, investment and network that I have that I can make my current business -that I've been working on for the last 8 years - earn the tens of millions I had set out to make back in 2010. I had an offer to sell the brand last year, but just the brand and not the business and I passed on it. Wasn't ready to let it go.
GOING OUT TO PASTURE
I'm still not giving it up, but with the cash coming in from the big consulting contract (we sign the final agreement next Friday), I have had time to take stock and re-aligned my life, priorities, etc. The cash out is significant enough for me to retire on with a modest life with my wife and two boys, and the cash out has been pending for about 8 months now. So I've had 8 months to think about the next steps and honestly the first 4 months was thinking how I was going to use the cash to turn around my existing businesses, but as the cash out dragged on, perspective set in. For the next 2 months I thought of getting a house in the countryside and simply relaxing and do some consulting work on the side. Spent about a month with family, no travel, little work, and then the last 2 months I had a Eureka moment. -in terms of what I wanted to do next.
I'm not young, I'm 43 now. I've nearly died once, like on the hospital bed, I just got discharged from the hospital 4 days ago for a 3 day stay because I had a massive full body viral & bacterial infection and I'm due for at least 2 surgeries and the doctor told me I'm likely to be sterile (aka no more babies) because of a condition I've acquired over the last few years. But you know, I'm pretty excited and happy about my next project. But before I get into that. I will give you the top 10 things I have learned in my 8 years of entrepreneurial hell.
MIGHTY ATOM'S DEATH LIST OF ENTREPRENEURIAL WISDOM
1. Entrepreneurs aren't in it for the money.
If you want money, don't do it. Instead, graduate from a good school, go corporate and get assigned overseas (yeah get into that multinational) and then carefully and brutally work up the corporate ladder.
I think most for all the successful entrepreneurs that I've met, most if not all, really didn't have an option or didn't start on the corporate path. It was a burning desire or else there were no other paths for them to take.
If you're gonna create something and you're good at building cash flow from nothing, then you got a shot. But if you're neither of the two, there is nothing to regret, being an entrepreneur isn't something you can just pick up and learn, it is something that is all consuming and all encompassing because there is no security or safety nets.
To put things in perspective, if you're a top business grad and you're not dumb then by your mid 30's after you've done your MBA as an expat, you should be pulling in 250k USD a year plus benefits. If you end up going to a public company and being a public company CEO, the compensation could range anywhere from 500k- 12M a year (depending on the size of the company). While these positions are far and few in between, if you're already on track in this direction, switching gears to becoming an entrepreneur is 99.999% the wrong financial decision. If you're doing it for other reasons, like insanity, well then I can only speak for myself...
2. I'm not faking anything.
After 8 years, there is no doubt that when I say I know something or I don't know something, I know. When you're an entrepreneur, there is no where to hide, no way you can fake (you can but when you stop being able to pay suppliers, payroll and investors are trying to kill you, you're only making it worse). So sometimes when you work, you can have an off day, you can have a ton of off days, in fact you can do a shitty job and eventually, maybe, you get laid off.
When you're an entrepreneur and you take an off day, everything starts to fall apart, if you take too many off days, you're totally fucked. And so every action needs to be on point, or at least you're trying to really figure out a solution in the most quickest amount of time. There is no room for faking it or bullshitting because unlike a job, there it doesn't fucking matter who you are lying too when you're the one paying the bills. There is no boss to suck up to, there is no office politics to worm your way out responsibility, its just you and your staff and the cash flow.
So I use to be cocky as fuck as an executive, I thought I knew shit, but I knew just my part in a system -which is a great thing to be that blissfully ignorant- but now I'm never cocky or joyful or excited when it comes to operations or the outlook for a business. I'm steely fucking real. If I think it's good, I know it's a good opportunity, but I'm also extremely real on the risks and costs. I will lose 80k USD, or I will lose up to 80k USD on this particular deal, even if I think it's good, that is my potential loss and I'm very objective about it now. Can I take this loss on my cash flow? Is the risk/reward something I can handle. And I never ever think that anything will be a home run. Life doesn't work that way as an entrepreneur. As an executive, hell yeah, I can crush a competitor and get a big bonus, in real entrepreneur life, doesn't happen.
So when I talk to people now, I think they can really feel that I'm just not bullshitting about anything I say. If I say, thank you, or, fuck you. They really know I'm saying one or the other. (As an aside ... I don't think that has come out in the last few blogs because I've been trying to write something and I've been trying to figure somethings out in the fly - obviously doing that on a public blog maybe isn't the best place for that, but has worked in the past...)
3. Every entrepreneur creates something.
Ok, ideas are not even worth the paper it's written on, you gotta be able to build it, and when I mean build it, I mean you. If you think you have this idea and you're gonna go hire people to do it for you and make this awesome team where you are founder, you're fucked from the start.
The only think that gives any entrepreneur a fighting chance to succeed is that their own labour is at cost. But that is just part of it.
I was a senior executive manager in my ex-company and my yearly wage was half a million. But when I did my own company, I am really saving my company half a million or giving half a million in benefits to my company? HELL NO. Why? Because even if I'm the worlds fucking best manager in the world, I am not creating something and if you aren't contributing to the product then you're likely to be an unnecessary cost and then times that by months and years, even the shit salary that you are taking is fucking the company's runway of funds.
I grossly overestimated my own worth and over the next 8 years I went deeper down the rabbit hole until I knew about project management, web designer, programming, servers, advert buys, hiring/HR, accounting,-basically everything that you would need to know in my industry - I am now the fucking expert- But did even knowing all that help the company? . . . HELL NO. Because I still needed to hire people to do the actual programming and product.
You know how long it took me to realize what I'm telling you? It took me 6 fucking years to really figure out that I was useless to the bottom line, in fact my leadership skills and managerial skills was actually killing the bottom line. If it's not a major established company with over 150 employees, my skill set is not just over kill, its useless and a financial burden on a start-up that needs cash flow and a product for the market.
So 2 years ago, I had a come to Jesus moment and thought, what the fuck can I do to help my companies or just cash flow in general where I actually make something that has value that if we paid someone to do it, it would cost a fuck ton? No, I didn't suddenly take up coding (but I should have lol) - I got back into consulting for joint venture agreements and partnerships. I am, with no bullshit, a fucking great strategic business negotiator. You're project is 100 M plus and you need to either get a joint venture or partner in place that is going to make the project work and get it done quickly and with the right cooperative framework, I'm your fucking man.
No fucking person in Asia can do it faster, cleaner and better than me. It's 10 billion a year revenue plus company and the owner's dad is one of the richest men in Asia and that's who I have to negotiate with? Fuck, bring him on, no worries, I can fucking drink, smoke, dance, sing, with him and in between it all write the LOI, MOU, coordinate the lawyers so they don't charge us shit, revise the agreements and negotiate the final payment terms without breaking a sweat. I'm that good at what I do. And so I can shit out these golden multi-million dollar contracts and that is actually worth something - something where it would hurt to hire someone/team to do the same thing.
In the same way, if you're going to be an entrepreneur, then you either need to be that good in what you make, or contribute in a way that it really gives so much value to your company as if you got this free awesome killer resource. And whatever you do, it has to not save money but it needs to be contributing to making money.
At the end of the day, it's been the last 2 years where I've made more opportunity by doing what I can produce outside of my industry than inside as a retarded executive who can't code in an IT based industry.
4. Don't ever fucking start into a declining/mature industry.
Declining means, only the big companies are making money and everyone is struggling. Trust me, even if you are the smartest little shit in the world, and you have figured out how to take out google, you're better off not trying and keep your idea to yourself for some mental masturbation on how smart you are.
When you're in a declining/mature industry, then getting investment is much harder and if you have no experience in that industry, then you have no chance.
Also, when you make a mistake in that environment, you get smashed every time on every business metric, i.e. credit goes down, reputation goes down, staff leave, etc.
Conversely you want to be in an industry where it's booming hand over fist. You are in the right place when you meet someone who you think is a complete fucking idiot and they are making money hand over fist. And you say, that guys is a complete fucking tool, why the fuck am I not in that industry.
OF COURSE the trick is to get in early, but regardless, I'm not God, I can't predict shit, but if you get lucky and you're on to something and it's growing like a mofo, then jump into that RATHER than jump into something declining/mature.
5. You can't lone wolf it forever.
I am a lone wolf. I was raised as a management consultant and unless you're a fucking machine, you're gonna slow me down. Now, I am still a lone wolf, except that I'm limp, with a gut and can only work 2 hours a day, if that, with full productivity. My time is done, even the knowledge I have, I can't get it out of my head because my body and mind and spirit are scarred, battered and broken by the war of being a shitty entrepreneur (i.e. I did the wrong way).
You need a team. You need a family. You need a mafia or cult as Peter Thiel would say. 100% of nothing is nothing. 15% of a family who will work as hard as you and protect your interest is a fucking lot.
Is getting that team together pretty tough, yes, and it's an organic process and when you're young, everyone overestimates their 'people skills'. But if you're serious about being an entrepreneur you need a team. It's simply not possible to do it by yourself. It's not possible and even it were, it wouldn't be sustainable.
It's funny that in being an entrepreneur, I've learned more about what made me tick as as a consultant and executive. And the one major take away was that as a consultant, my job was to crush others on a competitive level. And crushing is a lone wolf type of job. I figure out the weakness, then I zero in on it, then I fucking blast that one point until it cracks and then I bring down the defenses and let everyone rush in for the spoils. It's a purely mental exercise. There is a team, but they are just doing exactly what I'm telling them to do, executing my plan to a t.
But having a start-up and being an entrepreneur is about making something from nothing. It's like a baby bird that hasn't ever flown, but is going to jump off the branch and mommy bird hopes to hell it starts to flap. But in the case of the start-up, sometimes it crashes and burns and you start again, but it requires multiple skill sets that need to make a framework that -no matter how messy- starts to take off. The objective isn't clear like kill that or crush that, even the definition of 'flying' or where to fly to (i.e. what direction is this business going, what does the product really do or can pivot to, etc), requires a team to figure out and adjust and hold up the wings while someone else screws in some parts.
You can try to do it alone, but you'll eventually fail.
Everyone gets lucky though, but, fuck man, betting years of your life on just being lucky, that is just dumb or naive.
Well I said 10, but I think these 5 are it. I could probably write up some more, but they'd be all derivatives of the 5. Except one last one - ok- 6...
6. You need 3x the cash you think you need.
Don't question me, don't even think about it.
Write down what is the minimum you think you need, times it by 3, not 2, by 3, and that is the real minimum that you need to do your start-up.
yes, less is more, but we all assume that the first launch of the product will make cash, but what if it doesn't?
You need runway and worse is if you have key staff that you can't hold on to and they will walk away with all that knowledge if you can't keep the lights on.
OK I NEED SOME FEEDBACK
Alright, so that's that.
Now I'm starting my new venture with a very close friend, so no more lone wolf shit. He is 6 years younger and unmarried, and he is good where I'm not, so it's a good fit. The project is pretty confidential as I am making a new team for it. I am in last phases of the planning - all the partnerships are done (lol using my skill set), but for the business docs I need some help with the editing, design, and proof reading of the docs.
I just need some feedback because my brain is fried and my partner isn't a native English speaker and my current designer left for a bigger company -so I'm gunning it lone wolf style for one last time-. There is no fee/payment for you doing this, I just need some real feedback like, 'this doesn't make sense,' you should make the graphic like this,''this is flat out wrong' etc. BUT, you will have my eternal gratitude for the feedback.
It is a blockchain project (surprise surprise), if anyone at TL is into it, then I'd love to get your feedback as well. You'll need to sign an NDA and we will need to do a skype call, yeah I am serious, and if you don't have the background in the industry, business or technical, then sorry, it's just not just for fun reading.
But if the project progresses, then yeah, there could be a 2 month consulting role, doing some writing and PR stuff related to the project.
Ok FAQ at the below.
Why ask on TL?
-I'm old as fuck, I don't know a lot of younger people
-I'm in Asia, like China/Philippines. There isn't anyone to ask who is young and and native speaker.
-I really only have this community that I'm a part of and while I have done blockchain projects as an adviser, all my work is very confidential, most of my projects involve legal gov't licensing etc. So I haven't interacted with the greater blockchain crypto community yet, only those I am doing the project with i.e the partners.
Did I write this blog post to ask for help?
Yes and no. I asked permission from the higher up if I could ask for help on TL first, but I have been meaning to write for sometime now, I just didn't want to write until I had something to say. Actually this post on the 6 entrepreneurial lessons from hell, I was going to start writing on a new blog within the blockchain community site. But yes, I am asking for help and yes, it wouldn't be very un-TL if I didn't contribute something first before asking.
Why I am not paying for feedback?
-Because its for feedback and if was going to pay, then I would get a professional editor, but my intention is that really I am looking to possibly hire for a division for this project and it is kinda like an interview, but I can't promise anything yet, but that's the plan, like I said I'm looking for a team and this is as good as a place to start to find young talent.
-And I need a wide range of feedback and I need it before I really start to present to the industry