The $15,000 Mistake That Could Have Been Avoided

12:18 pm
Austin, Texas

Did you know that I have failed more times than I can count?

My first “real business” was with a direct sales company back in college. I spent a few thousand dollars buying the product (a home cleaning product) because I thought it was an entire no-brainer for people to buy it.

Turns out, I had no idea how to sell the product. I was just getting started with my business and hadn’t spent years studying and learning about marketing, sales and how to run an actual business yet.

It was pretty devastating realizing I was a failure. I mean, I got good grades in high school, I played sports and I was on the honor roll. Everything seemed like it would just go along perfectly.

Turns out that my potential customers for that original business didn’t care about me. I walked around door-to-door in my neighborhood in Binghamton, NY trying to sell the cleaning solution. Sometimes it worked, other times I got the door slammed in my face.

I don’t talk about this much, in fact, I don’t even think my parents knew about that particular time in my life.

You see, when I walked up to these peoples houses… none of them gave a shit about my high school or college grades. No one cared that I was in college and just starting my business. No one cared that I had a dream to be rich and have my own island.

Not one person cares until you do something for them.

It’s a harsh reality. We don’t live in a world full of sunshine and unicorn rainbows with people just giving you money because they liked how you said “hello”. People are busy. People have their own problems to worry about.

It was a rough time period for me. 

I considered myself a failure.

Man… I feel weird writing that.

Don’t worry though, the story gets better… but at times it also gets worse.

like the time I spent over $15,000 trying to build a business in a niche that I knew absolutely NOTHING about.

$15,000 on something you don’t understand? WTF?

Crazy, right? I mean… what kind of an idiot thinks he can build a business in an industry where he knows nothing about the niche?

THIS GUY!

How did it happen?

Well. I didn’t have a clear image in mind of what I needed to do. I knew I needed a “team”, but I had no idea what that meant. I mean, with entrepreneurship, we’re often doing this all on our own.

It sometimes looks like this…

Photo from the Internet Business Manifesto by Rich Schefren.

That looks terrifying, doesn’t it? If you’re the one doing all of that work, it IS terrifying.

The truth is that…way too often that’s exactly what happens when we’re building up businesses. We try to bootstrap everything because money is tight and we think we can’t afford to hire people to handle other tasks for us.

I made the opposite mistake with this particular business. I hired people before I had the system in place because I had built the same type of business in a different industry. So, naturally I felt like a genius and that nothing could go wrong.

I know, I know… what a silly mistake.

The truth is, I was all jacked up and excited after going to a mastermind that I just kinda jumped in headfirst before taking the time to build up the systems first. When you surround yourself with others who are at levels way above your current level, you sometimes forget to drop back down to where you’re currently at and reflect from that position before making decisions.

I am 100% for surrounding yourself with people who are doing bigger things than you currently do and especially for masterminds and hiring mentors. It significantly cuts down on your learning curve and as you know, you become like the 5 people you spend the most time with

In that image that you saw above with “You” in the middle and all the tasks around it, you see all of the different day-to-day things that happen in a business. That report is from I believe 2012 so it’s a little out of date for the current reality, but the concept is the same.

Little Things Make Big Differences

If you’ve been running your business for a while, you know that you have little things that have to operate each and every day to make your business work. Everything from writing blog posts like I am doing right now, to emailing your list, to posting all over your social media properties. Every single thing comes down to a system you create and follow.

Each and every single thing in your business should have a process map.

Ideally, a step-by-step checklist that you can use so that when you get ready to grow your business, you can hire someone and have them come in, follow your process and produce a similar result each time.

Here’s just a brief look into one of the systems I have, this doesn’t show the video tutorials and emails/chats about the system… but you get the idea.

You see in my trello board that it starts off with the mindmap, showing what the structure for the template should look like. It then includes 3 attached images to show the process and at the bottom, there is the checklist to follow along.

This is the type of systems you want to have for every step of your business. Here’s just another example of process mapping, this is a proces for my team members who are uploaded blog posts to a particular site I own.

Every time I have a new blogger come onboard, I have a series of video tutorials and checklists to follow to make sure that everything goes to plan…every time.

When I first started, I had no templates for anything.

I was just doing everything myself, not recording anything or writing out the reasons WHY I did something. I originally didn’t know any better. As a beginner, we’re expected to do it all. So, that’s what I did. I did everything in my business. I built the websites, I wrote the copy for the articles, I researched the niche, I set up emails, I, I, I…. it was miserable.

This stuff is an absolute pain in the ass to create, its extremely time-consuming and isn’t the glamorous side of entrepreneurship that is often marketed by people selling courses on being an entrepreneur.

But, taking the time to do this makes a major difference in your business and an even bigger impact on your life.

Think about this for just a second… McDonald’s was founded on May 15, 1940. Right now it’s the year 2017 and the McDonald’s system has been operating pretty much the same way for all that time.

It’s so easy that high-school kids with no other job experience can do it. That right there… that is how simple you want your processes to be. If your business isn’t at that point yet, you have some work to do. But don’t worry. I’ve got some recommendations to help you out.

What happened to that business where you lost $15k?

I’m glad you asked! Even if you didn’t ask, I’ll let you know.

Over the last few years, as my processes have improved, I applied some of them to that particular business… you know, to harden the blow a little bit of losing that much money. Since then, the business has been earning money every single month with minimal work from myself.

I realized I wasn’t meant to write about the niche, email people about the niche or even post pictures to the fans I acquired in the niche. My job was simply to identify opportunities and have my team handle the content and distribution.

The only reason that happened was because I spent the time to build the systems and partner up with people who are better than me with the work.

What To Do About It

The first recommendation is to get the book Work The System by Sam Carpenter.

The second recommendation is to actually read the book and apply what is taught in the book. Yes, it’s going to suck. No, it won’t be glamorous like the entrepreneur hashtag on Instagram.

It’s going to be work. Boring, tedious work. But, this is work that you only have to do one time. After you have written out the process and created the tutorials, someone else can handle the work so that you can focus on your strengths. The hours you spend creating these tutorials will save you days, weeks and even months of your time in the future…

and time is the only resource we can’t get back.

Chris Hughes

Chris loves learning, going on adventures, surfing and having fun. Chris on Google+

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