A few posts ago I shared my plan to test the market demand for a business idea to pour stamped patios for people. The results were mixed, and I'll share them with you soon, but first I would like to discuss the important issue of RESISTANCE.
I'm at a crossroads. You'll understand more after reading the rest of the post, but the point is I can call it quits or invest another $165 to prove out the business idea. All logic points at continuing to test this idea, but I'm still having a hard time moving forward. My motivation is gone, and moving forward just doesn't "feel" like the right thing to do. What happened?
RESISTANCE! This feeling of resistance comes to me during the creation process of every business I have attempted. I always start out with a deep hunger to build and create the business. Nothing can stop me from continueing to develope the idea and the required systems to move forward
towards testing. Then, in the middle of testing my new creation I always hit a wall. My motivation to move forward vanishes. It starts to become increasing difficult to test and finish off the creation process of the business.
Have you experienced the same thing? Have you ever been really energetic about building something new and then towards the end, when you're nearing completion, it starts to get really hard to find the motivation to finish it off?
There are two shades of resistance that may hold you back:
1. Successfuly creating your new business conflicts with one of your values. Is the resistance because of the business idea itself, or would it occur with any business you tried to create? Your feeling of resistance could easily be a form of self sabotage you must disect before you can overcome. You'll have to identify what values are in conflict with moving forward before you can make a rational decision on the correct course to take.
2. You tried on your business, and you didn't like how it fit. When your business fits right, you won't feel this resistance and it will be easier to forge on.
In my particular case today, the resistance came in the shade of a conflicting value. I value money and providing for my family. The fear of wasting more money on another business idea that might not work (thus letting my family down) is creating my resistance.
You must confront and overcome resistance when it comes up. When you start to feel procrastination coming on, it's a good sign resistance is around corner. Don't ignore it. Don't try to forge on and work through it. Instead face it head on. Put all your energy into disecting and identifying the root cause of the resistance.
Identifying the cause of the resistance is HUGE. Now that I know my resistance is based out of fear, I can identify the fear, rationalize the situation, and move forward. If my resistance was the result of knowing I didn't want to identify with my new business because it didn't feel authentic to me, I would know I should quit and move to the next business idea.
So now that I've covered the important part, here are the details behind the results I have seen so far with Reunion Patios:
I spent $55 on facebook ads and received one phone call. I visited my one potential customer, took measurements behind her house, and did a full blown design and estimate for a fancy stamped patio behind her home. If you want, you can view the estimate I created here: (http://reunionpatios.weebly.com/2908-greensborough-drive).
My potential customer said she was interested, but hasn't got back to me yet. If I get the job, I will profit $600. Considering I spent $600 on ads and would make $550 from one day of work, the business seems viable.
However, there is a good chance I won't get the job. I can probably count on getting about 1 in 4 of the jobs I bid. Which means it will cost about $220 in Facebook ads to land each job, and
I would make about $380 per job and spend about a day of work on it. This all relies on my ability to continue getting one lead for every $55 spent on facebook ads.
What it comes down to is I really need to spend a few more dollars to know if the business will work. But I needed to stop and work through the resistance I was feeling before I could move forward. Look for future posts with more info on how this business turns out.
Have you had an experience with resistance when trying to start your own business? Comment below.
The 4-Hour Work Week is a popular book with a raving fan base. A lot of people have read the book and are die hard supporters of it's movement. If you read the book it's obvious that the author, Tim Ferris, is a brilliant person with a lot of great insight to give the reader. However, If you havn't read it yet, I strongly reccoment you DON'T READ IT until you read through this blog post first. You could waste years of your life trying to recover from the mind f*$k this book will do to your brain if you don't read it in context.
Here's a quick summary of the book:
You can work minimal hours if you just start an online business selling your chosen "muse" to people. The "muse" can be any product or service.
Step 1: Find someone else who already builds the product or provides the service your muse site will sell.
Step 2: Use online advertisements to drive traffic to your site and match buyers to the product or service you have chosen.
Step 3: Set up your pricing to have a high enough profit margin to cash flow the ads. Continue tweeking your landing pages, ads, and pricing until your online business cash flows enough to support your life style.
Sounds great, hun? Easy enough. Why not read the book and get started on your own "muse" website today? Because Tim Ferriss (the author) glosses over some very important peices that you need to focus on if you want succeed. Don't get sucked in, and don't try it, because it won't work as just outlined in his book.
The book starts with defining your ideal life and then creating a muse business to fund it. From my own experience I am convinced the focus needs to be on creating value for others, followed with using the proceeds to materialize the missing parts of your ideal life.
To sum it up, my biggest rub with the 4HWW is my belief in the following statements:
The thing you are most qualified to provide for others is so engrained in who you are, that your ideal life is likely experienced through creating value for others with that thing. The "thing" you provide for others is NOT just a muse to create money and free up your time to experience your ideal life.
Here are the critical peices the book overlooks:
1. To be successful in any business, the focus needs to be on solving a problem for your customer. Your focus shouldn't be on finding suckers to pay a premium for something you found wholesale pricing on. It may work in the short run, but it's not sustainable for any significant amount of time. "Easy money" is the hardest money to make over the long haul.
2. If you do get your muse website to cashflow, over time competition will drive prices down to the point were your muse website will no longer cashflow. Since you don't produce the product, there will always be someone else who can step in and compete with you online to reduce your profit margin below the cost of driving online traffic.
3. What makes you more qualified than anyone else to sell your "muse"? Were you put on earth to be the guy/gal to provide your "muse" website to the population? The answer might be "Yes", but I doubt it if you started your muse with the mindset laid out for you in the 4-Hour Work Week.
Have you read the book? Have you tried to create your own muse? Please comment on how it went.
This blog post is the result of a lesson I learned the hard way through 2 years of pain. This lesson cost me 1,040 hours of hard work and an additional $20k of hard earned savings. Take this post to heart, and you’ll pay about 5 minutes of time for the same lesson.
Let's do this backwards and start with the "take aways" and then go into the story. There are many lessons to be learned from the story to come, but the key lessons are:
1. Always test every idea with the cheapest solution FIRST. For example, I should have just created the referral system landing page and tested it first (this will make more sense when you finish reading my store below).
2. If your business idea requires computer programming, always buy an out of the box system if you can't program yourself. Services like http://itduzzit, http://weebly.com, http://campaignmonitor.com, http://shopify, http://formstack, http://wufoo.com, and http://mailchimp can integrate to perform almost anything you can think of. Always try to avoid hiring someone to custom program something for you. Leave the custom websites to large corporations with money to burn (until you can become one yourself).
...And my story;
My wife runs the business Purse Gallery (http://pursegallery.com). Two years ago I had an elaborate idea to restructure her business with a referral program. The new referral program would not only incentivize Sara’s sales representative to refer new customers, but also incentivize her customers to refer new customers. In my mind it was a bullet proof plan to sky rocket my wife’s business to the top of her industry.
With excitement I made my first mistake and contacted a few website developers to price out the creation of this new idea. I didn't price out a simple web page to test the idea, instead I received quotes in the $60k range to build the entire system. I wasn’t willing to pay this kind of money, and decided to outsource the work to low cost labor overseas (my second mistake). I posted a description of what I needed on http://odesk.com and interviewed a few programming companies out of India. I went with the cheapest quote (my third mistake) which was $10k for the entire website with my brilliant referral system built in.
After a couple months of working with my new India based programmers, I started to realize I had made a mistake. The pages were coming out wrong and nothing was working as I had outlined and included in our contract. In an effort to still end up with what I needed for the cost I could afford, I started to stay up late and wake up early to work 2 hours every week day with the programmers over Skype. It was grueling, but after an entire year the site was complete and working properly. I paid out the last payment to my programmers (my fourth mistake) and started up my first ad to test out the new site. I was relieved and ready to start making money!
The results looked good for about three days, and then haulted. My landing page form stopped working properly. I spent the next 3 months working with the programmers to fix problem after problem. And now I was being charged extra for "website maintenance support"! It was becoming evident to me that the programmers were breaking my site and then charging me to fix it, so I hired a new company to fix the site.
The new company told me there were so many programming problems that I would have to pay $5k to have everything redone. I agreed, and off I went with the second company. In my head it would be great. The new company would fix my site and I would finaly reap the rewards for my great idea and all my hard work. My concept was so complex that I had to spend another grueling 6 months of 2 hours per day over skype (early morning and late night) working with the programmers to get everything fixed. They finished, the site worked great, and it continued to work great right up to the point were I released payment for their services. Magicly, the site quit working again and I was back to being charged for "maintenance"!
I was screwed by a programming company for the second time. This brings us to today. I'm going to use http://shopify.com and a few other web apps integrated together to acheive 90% of what I had envisionsed to start with. The cost will be minimal and I will finaly get to test my concept. Will it work? I'm not sure, but never again will I ever waste years of my life on an idea without proving it first.
Why should you read about my latest business idea and how well it is working? Because I'm laying out the path for how you should go about starting your business. Here's an inside look into what I'm up to right now.
I work for Pinkard Construction Company as a Superintendent. One of the carpenters that I have been working with for the past couple years is extremely talented when it comes to concrete flatwork. Raoul has done several stamped patio side jobs over the last few years that have turned out looking beautiful. What's more important about Raoul than his skill with stamped patios is his drive to start his own business installing stamped patios.
A lack of experience with paperwork and tecknowlegy is holding Raoul back the most. I think my abillity to create websites and advertise online will compliment his skills nicely. But before I get too excited, I know the first step is to prove their is a demand for our solution (stamped patios). I spent a few hours creating this website to run traffic too: http://reunionpatios.weebly.com
My next step is to target home owners with Facebook ads to see how big of a demand exists for the services Raoul can provide. I didn't buy the domain name reunionpatios.com, I didn't register the business name or file for a EIN yet. I didn't create an email autoresponder or pay someone to create a logo. All these items need to wait until a demand has been proven.
The plan is to fail as quickly as possible as many times as is necessary until I land on a winner.
My latest business idea was to install a drainage system in people's window wells to avoid flooding from heavy rains. My inlaws were having problems with their window wells flooding, and so were a couple of their neighbors. In the past, I would have assumed this meant there was a big demand and I would have started to create systems to efficiently solve the problem and market the solution. Not this time. This time I knew I had to flyer the neighborhood first and see how big the response was before I really knew if I had a problem worth solving.
Just because YOU really care about a business idea doesn't mean there are enough other people with an existing demand to make the business worth pursuing. The higher the existing demand, the lower your marketing costs will be, and the easier it will be to cash flow your solution.
In addition to testing for real demand for your solution. You must also test to make sure you can efficiently solve the problem. In addition to sending out flyers in the neighborhood, I also knew I had to do a little research to make sure my proposed solution to the problem would work. In my situation this meant having a quick conversation with the home builder.
It turned out the foundation drain was on the inside of the foundation wall (which isn't typical). The required solution to the problem included digging under the foundation spread footer, which not only triples the cost, but also opens me up to a lot of risk from potentional future lawsuits. I also learned there was another contractor who was already working in the neighborhood to solve the problem at a low cost.
With this new information I decided to throw in the towel on my window well drainage idea and move onto my next idea. I didn't spend months building a complex website. I didn't register a business name or work on a logo. I didn't open a business checking account or set up a new accounting software. I didn't tell all my friends and family I was starting this business.
A business idea is worthless until you can prove there is an existing demand for a problem you can efficiently solve. Don't get excited about a business idea until you have proved there is a demand for a problem you can solve.
My next business idea is simple. I'm installing a drainage system in people's window wells to avoid flooding. After the flood problems we have recently had in Colorado, I think there is a demand for a solution to this real problem. To find out, I'm going to flyer a neighborhood and see what kind of response I get. If no one responds, I know there is no demand for my solution, and I can move on to another idea without wasting months of time on infrastructure.
In the past I would have spent months setting up a website and arranging crews to do the work before seeing if there was a demand. Why? Because I was scared to ask people if they had a demand for my solution before I was ready to deliver. That fear cost me months of time I'll never get back. If you share the same fear, conquer it now and fast track your path to freedom from your job. Instead, start by answering these two questions:
1. Does your business idea solve a real problem?
2. Did you answer question #1 by asking real people to buy the solution you want to sell?
Whether you are in the middle of creating your own business or still trying to figure out what direction to go in, being able to answer both of the above questions with "Yes" before continuing to build your business will save you a ton of time and effort.
Building a business is a process. I've created 5 different businesses to date, of which 3 were failures. I could have saved 3 years of time and effort on the 3 that failed if I would have stopped to answer the two questions above at the start of the process.
How do you ask people to buy your solution if you are not ready to provide the solution yet? Easy, you ask forgiveness after the fact. Tell your prospective future client the truth. Tell them you were testing for market demand and appreciate their feedback. Let them know you will get back in touch when you are ready to solve their problem.
If you have ever tried to sell a product or service you weren't ready to deliver on, please share your experience in the comments below.
My name is Eric Young. I started this blog to share my ideas around helping people create success online businesses.