Recently here in the Memphis area, Daymond John's Launch Academy came here to help entrepreneurs, small business owners, and even people with careers get to the next step. I knew this was an excellent opportunity to learn some new methods and also network with like-minded people (or so I thought). However, I knew there would be some caveat because this 3-hour seminar was free. I was very aware that someone was going to sell me something. When the presenter came out, he repeatedly said that Daymond John would not be there, which I thought was odd. I mean, in all of the promotional things that I saw it never stated that John would be present, and yet he emphasized this over and over again. Then, I started to look around the room, and it began to make sense. People were mad. It was written all over their face. A fellow attendee, who was very pleasant to me at the beginning, was suddenly icy and disengaged. Some people got up and left. It was at that moment that the presenter said, "that is how you weed out the successful and non-successful people." He then preceded with an excellent presentation with tons of value.
I became very confused. I thought to myself after I left, " what did they believe this was going to be"? A casting call for Shark Tank? A photo-op to post on Instagram? Oh, and that thing they were selling turned out to be access to Daymond John's resources from branding strategy to marketing which is a steal at $4000. However, people were still mad after it was reduced to $997 if you signed up that day. Even if you didn’t spend the money (and I didn’t), it was a worthwhile experience. At some point, I was reminded that not everyone who wants to be an entrepreneur has it in them. The people that left or were sitting there mad were so focused on "who was not there", that they were missing out on the wealth of information the presenter was giving for free. I was a bit embarrassed, not only as a Memphian but as an entrepreneur. I would hate for someone else to skip over our city when scheduling business seminars because of worry it will not be taken seriously or will only be attended for short term gain. So besides a great presentation, I did get a great idea to write this piece explaining why most entrepreneurs are actual "fakepreneurs" in disguise.
1. Champagne Taste, Beer Money
Far too often entrepreneurs spend their money on the wrong things. I have seen people spend money on parties to celebrate opening the business as opposed to spending the money on the actual business. That is the very reason most banks don't lend to startups. They want to see a proven model of success which is why, on average, they ask for tax returns that show you in business for two years and generating 100k in revenue each year. Great entrepreneurs are not ostentatious when it comes to their business. They learn early on that they must do more with less. Instead of buying everything brand new, purchase the cheaper and slightly used equipment when necessary. Don't worry about leasing a building so you can put your name on it only to be doomed to close in a few months time. Depending on the business I tell most of my clients to go the e-commerce route. That is not only cheaper but makes your store global instantly. Most entrepreneurs would tell you that they failed due to lack of funding but as we continue you will see that the problem is usually far deeper than that.
2. Too Concerned With Fear
No significant business has ever come to market without risks. It is part of the process of being an entrepreneur. My dad taught me a precious lesson as a kid that I hold on to and use at OWLS. There was an awful snow storm, the axel on the family car broke, and my dad needed to get to work. Did I mention it was 4 am? I was upset and was just flat out scared. My dad looked at me and said, " the time you spend complaining or being scared about something is the same amount of time you waste not fixing the problem you had in the first place." That is how I look at a business. Some people who start their business don't operate with fidelity because they keep nursing fears. They could designate that time to creating their new marketing plan to attract customers or to finding inefficiencies so the business can run more smoothly. Fear has killed so many great ideas because so many were too concerned with being laughed at, losing money, or even being called out of their mind. Those are only temporary annoyances. People put so much value in not losing that it leads them to believe winning is for the lucky few.
3. Lack Of Vision
Many failed entrepreneurs lack the vision of a successful business and replace it with the concept of being a millionaire. You cannot and must not have a " live for the moment" mentality in your business. That's why investors expect business plans to include the 1-year, 3-year, and 5- year projections for the firm. You have to have a roadmap for the company. I have had people tell me "I'm just trying to do it big for as long as I can until it is taken away from me." That tells me they are business owners merely for the prestige of being business owners. You cannot control the future, and I am not clairvoyant by a long shot. However, what I can assure is that if you have no vision, I see a business dying in your future.
4. Million Dollar Dreams With Minimum Wage Work Ethic
When I talk with potential clients about potential marketing plans and all they tell me is social media, it raises a huge red flag for me. I will be the first one to tell you that social media is huge for business. However, just randomly putting something on Facebook or Instagram ever so often and success you will not have. You must post consistently because your product or service is not merely going to sell itself. Setting your hours as entrepreneurs does not mean you will not work as long as the traditional 8-hour day. I work longer hours now than I ever did when I had a job. You must outwork your competition to succeed. Many people think you can work 4 hours a day in the start-up phase and become the next Walmart. Maybe once you are a multi-billion dollar corporation, and you hire other people to run the day-to-day operations, sure. In the start-up phase, that is highly unlikely. As a good friend of mine would say, " where they do that at?"
5. Focused On Profit And Not Value
Easily the biggest pet-peeve I have is with people who "play business". Consumers are always looking for value. That's why things like the dollar menu at Mcdonald's is famous or my wife’s favorite, the dollar section at Target. Some entrepreneurs are so concerned with turning a profit they try to monetize every single thing. Take OWLS for instance. We could easily monetize the content we post here. Nothing is stopping us from starting a private Facebook group and charging a $15/month subscription for the content we post. Most would think it's a good deal. However, providing value is what is more important to us. Real entrepreneurs get economies of scale correct which allows them to provide more value. For example, have you ever wondered why restaurants give you free refills? That's because even though you pay maybe $1.50 for your medium drink, it only costs the restaurant 10 to 20 cents a serving. Most of the time a customer will not refill more than twice which means tons of profit for the restaurant while providing the consumer with excellent value. The paper cup is more expensive than the serving of soft drink. The terrible entrepreneur will charge you .50 or .75 per refill! I wish I were making this up, but I have seen establishments do this. Great entrepreneurs follow their passion; everyone else chases profit.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Some people should just stick to their day job. The life of the entrepreneur sounds nice because they see the final product but they don't see (or value) the grind of stocking your shelves at 3:30 am or traveling 400 miles to an event with no guarantee of a sale. We understand that sometimes you have to go out on faith with a clear vision. Also, wisely spending your money will allow you to add value to the most valuable asset of your business, the consumer. Lastly, we understand that entrepreneurship is a craft you perfect over time and not a fly-by-night operation to brag about to friends and family. Who knows, if you start to scale your business, and it's successful you just might get to meet Daymond John one day and put together a transaction that sparks his interest. If you do, it will be because you go out and get it EVERY SINGLE DAY and earned his time. It will not be because you sat at a laptop or on your cell phone and signed up for a free seat to sell him something. If that's your plan, then you are doing entrepreneurship egregiously wrong, and you should probably go back to work. #AnOwlInYourCorner