Entrepreneurial Advice Nobody Gives You

Stairs to Success

You just have to go on a journey. Vital lessons every business person needs to learn.

By Lincoln W Daniel (Co-Founder and CEO, Tuurtle Labs, Inc.)

Growing up, you might of had the dream of being in the NBA. Your friends would laugh at you and say you are too short, not good enough for the NBA. They would tell you all the stats on the possibilities of ever reaching the limelight: “Joe, only one in every [insert discouraging denominator] boy makes it to the NBA!” But you know what they say about stats right? Ninety-nine percent of them are made up of no backing.

Still, you probably didn’t make it to the NBA, but you could have done something that would prove more beneficial to your life and the lives of your family. At the age of ten, I picked up a shovel one cold winter morning to venture through Swarthmore, PA. The city was a ghost town. A winter wonderland with no visitors anywhere to be found—the people had withdrawn from their normal activities.

We were poor, but we got by. My mom took good care of the family, and continues to this day. But on that snowy morning in 2003, when she offered me her five dollars to grab breakfast, I respectfully declined. I told her I had to go. You can’t get through life accepting handouts every step of the way. You need to make your own money, your own way. It’s waiting for you somewhere out there and you can find it if you just go on a journey through town.

I traveled the town for ten years parsing each block for the ones who either weren’t physically able to clear their own property of snow, or those who just didn’t feel like it. There’s this suggestion that if you look hard enough, you will find what you’re looking for. I was looking for the big bucks, so I did things that most others wouldn’t bother doing. Do the things other people won’t do and you will find what you’re looking for, as I did. I quickly became the richest kid in town. My elderly neighbors all spoiled me. They loved me, and I was their savior. Accordingly, they rewarded me hundreds of dollars for minutes of manual labor. While this is all great and all, their cash will not be the source of your wealth—it won’t be what you are looking for in the end.

You will travel for years and years, but if your journey is anything like mine, you won’t realize the source of my new found wealth until the latter years. You will come to see that it was the entrepreneurial sense your neighbors gave you—the gift of intelligence. You will become rich beyond your wildest dreams. One day, you will take a look back at all those years you spent exploring what had always been right there in front of you and see that they were making an entrepreneur out of you.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. -Confucius

Entrepreneurs Take Journeys: See & Do

Form Ideas, Make a Plan, Execute and Repeat

Step in a business class, forum, meeting, or gathering of any sort and ask the question, “what is the most important rule of thumb in business,” and a perfectly synced chant of “LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION” will return. They are not wrong but they are missing the biggest component: demand. Location means nothing when there is no demand… Not convinced? Try to start a business in the heart of New York City and let me know how that goes.

My location was great for earning money and the people needed my help. I went down the same road for years. It was as if I was in a simulation, like the one the prominent scientists today are suggesting we are all a part of. Ever written code? There’s a loop command in many programming languages which simply iterates through more commands to execute specific actions. As the snow covered the town and families retreated to their fireplace, I looped through the streets of Swarthmore as follows (written in loop form for my fellow programmers):

Trudge through Swarthmore;

for (var Journey= home1, Route < Swarthmore.length; Journey++;) {

__at each home knock{

____if (no answer){ proceed;}

____else if (answer){offer assistance;}

________if (accepts) {assist and collect reward;}

________else {wish great day and proceed;}

____else {proceed;}

That simply says: trudge through the entirety of Swarthmore until you’ve gone by each home; knock on each home and if they answer, offer to shovel their sidewalks, driveway and cars. If they accept, do it and collect your reward. However, If they don’t answer, go to the next home and repeat until there are no more homes in Swarthmore.

Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality. -Earl Nightingale

So I had the same route year after year. I would hit the same houses each time I looped through the town. They loved to see me at the break of dawn to shovel their snow. I was really taking a load off their backs, but it turns out that by the sixth year, I was breaking their banks as well.

Semi-Automation (Losing Ground to Machines)

The powerful snow machine tried to take my role in society.

Now in 2009, I was $2400 richer. I’ve never been fond of spending money, so I saved most of it. This year, I woke up a bit later than usual and continued on my journey through Swarthmore.

As I did, you will learn that if you sleep in, you might start losing ground to machines. The first block of my journey had outsourced my job to machines. It would not be wise to try to blame the employer for this. Everyone has an agenda where making and keeping money are usually at the top as they probably are at yours, too. With that said, ditch the finger pointing and adjust to the situation.

Provide Marginal Value & Better Quality

If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete. -Jack Welch

Present your once loyal customers with something their robotic servants can’t. This will be the only way to win over your customers from the competition: those darn red snow blowing machines had not seen the last of me.

In 2010, my journey continued. Now smarter and stronger than before, I had something new to present to my customers. I had something the robots didn’t: hands. My hands could hold more than a shovel, so I equipped a salt bag, a strong snow blower (yeah, if you can’t beat them, join them) and my companion, Mr. Shovel.

Here is a simple but powerful rule — always give people more than what they expect to get. -Nelson Boswell

Now you’re not just shoveling their property, you are doing it faster, better, and you are also preventing more snow from accumulating. You could even start to shovel pathways to areas of their property they’d like to have access to without even being asked to. Do this all at little to no extra charge.

I was now able to cover more ground in a quicker time and with better quality services. Yes quality; if you take nothing else from this story, make sure you understand that the quality of your service is worth much more than the quantity of services you provide.

The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory. -Aldo Gucci

Now when you go to collect your reward, your customers will be more joyful than in years past. They will appreciate the extra effort you volutarily put in—some may even tip you 50% like one of my customers once did. I used to think it was some sort of magic, but as you grow in business, you’ll learn that its simple logic: give more → get more.

No Squeezing Customers

This is bad, don’t do it, please?

Over my decade long journey through Swarthmore, I made many mistakes that I can’t take back. In fact, I don’t want any of them back. If Confucius is right in saying reflection is the noblest means of learning wisdom, in reminiscing of your journey, you will see that your mistakes served you well. My biggest mistake was getting greedy at the end of my days, so I started squeezing my customers for more money. Subsequently, I got no money from them.

“The true business of every company is to make and keep customers.” -Peter Drucker

Cater to & Befriend Your Customers

Customer-empathy has been proven very effective in marketing, and building a successful business. You’ve been practicing this for as long as I can remember. When your friend asks you to perform a task for them, they trust you to get the job done timely and efficiently. They will keep coming back to you as long as this trust stays true. Your customers are no different.

Nancy and I exchanged phone numbers. (I’m a Computer Science Major at SUNY Oswego)

However, you can’t befriend every customer, they have to be open and willing to be your friend back. For that reason, whenever I got the opportunity to befriend a customer, I jumped on it. Part of being a good friend is doing right by your friend. Again, your customers are no different. Listen to your customers. When they feel there is more that needs to be done, fulfill that demand. Along the way, we chatted a bit; we exchanged names, education history, personal interests, and most times, contact info.

Now that you are friends, you both understand the other’s motives. You understand that your customer needs his driveway cleared of snow to get to work, your customer knows you need money to live, and you trust one another to help the other reach their goal. This is the power of catering to and befriending your customers. Your following on Twitter, one of the greatest marketing tools in this age, will grow almost uncontrollably.

Treat Your Employees Well: They Will Perform Better

Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. -Steven Covey

 

 

There’s a reason Google is consecutively the best company to work for in America.

An elderly lady named Nancy Dellmuth was a common stop for me on my trip through Swarthmore. This year was the coldest its been in a decade. I was ready to quit and head back home to mommy, but I pushed through because Nancy counted on me to come every year. Realizing I was a bit debilitated by the cold, she invited me inside to warm up before I got to clearing her driveway.

Because she treated me so well and cared about me, I felt I needed to do more for her than she asked me to. After doing all the things she requested, I decided I would go further and create a path to her shed just in case she needed to get to it for any reason.

Words that Transform

All through your journey, you will receive words that either pave the way to your next step or adjust your path.

The more I grew up, the more I was given words of motivation, inspiration, and acceptance for my perseverance. These people’s words kept me going and often changed the direction in which I would proceed.

That’s what an entrepreneur needs: a dream, a will, and some support. Likewise, an entrepreneur should be able to inspire others just as he/she has been.

Say something to somebody that may transform their life or light up the road to their goal.

In return, they may just share your words with another person or two, and before you know it, you’ll have a new following. As an entrepreneur, your words carry greater weight so make them worth something.

Failure is but a Stepping Stone a Mile Shy of Success

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity. -Richard Nixon

Don’t give up. You could be one swing away from fortunes.

What if I told you that you were going to fail more times than you can count, and perhaps never achieve what you purported to? Would you advance or retreat?

Sometimes, you will fail because it just won’t be the right time, rarely because you are late, other times because the other person doesn’t like your face, and the remaining times may be because you give up right before you reach the diamonds.

The danger of failing is simply not succeeding in that moment, but the opportunity that results may be a new, perhaps better, way of going about achieving that goal. When I failed, which you probably will many times, I had done so for one reason or another. Faulty parts won’t always be apparent, but once they are, you need to fix the problem and continue on your way. Don’t retreat.

A corporation is a living organism; it has to continue to shed its skin. Methods have to change. Focus has to change. Values have to change. The sum total of those changes is transformation.
—Andrew Grove

The Innovative Entrepreneur

Life is beautiful, only shield yourself from it as much as needed for survival. What remains is for you to craft in to something greater.

Its too beautiful a gift we have been given, but life could be better. That’s what you are here for. You need to make this life better. Increase the quality of life. The mission of an entrepreneur is to find a new solution to something and ultimately capitalize on it. We all want to make money, but we first have to create value.

As I journeyed through Swarthmore for all those years learning all these lessons, I didn’t realize until now that I was learning how to be a better entrepreneur.

Here’s what I want to do, and if you are an entrepreneur, this shouldn’t be too far off from your goal: innovate and create value.

This quote shared by @lumi-nation really inspired me to write this article:

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. -Richard Buckminster Fuller

Read that quote a couple times before going on, it could change your life. That quote was the inspiration behind my newest business pursuit—the Ace Plate—which I have been pursuing for some time now with my team at Savannah College of Art and Design (I’m a CS major & marketing enthusiast at Oswego State, so I just handle business).

I have always believed that change is the product of discomfort and action. I’ve never liked the idea of completely wrapping your phone in a in a block of plastic and calling it protection, so I decided to act and change it.

An entrepreneur needs to always be thinking of bettering everything.What will be ideal for the customer? How could you take a bulky phone case that obstructs the functionality of the phone and make it better without sacrificing protection? Then you validate your ideal solution with reasoning. Well since all you need are bumpers on the corners of a phone, a back plate to keep the back of it safe, and a screen protector for its display, there’s no reason to wrap it in three layers of plastic and rubber.

Now you have a phone case that provides maximum protection, and lets you show off your phone, all without sacrificing functionality and usability.

Finally, draw up the concept, name it, and explain how it works to everyone you know, may be even call up Apple and pitch. Voila, you’ve solved an issue, created value, possibly shaken an industry, and excited consumers.

Your journey has been long, but it has been filled with lessons you might have never learned without such an endeavor.

The Journey Continues (Take-Aways)

What will you do when the robots come: you could be at risk of losing your role/business to machines, what are you going to do about it?

  1. Provide Added Value at little to no extra cost to your customer
  2. Without Quality, Quantity may be counterintuitive
  3. Befriend and Cater to Your Customers
  4. Treat Your Employees Well: Treat them as you would your best customer. If you don’t, they won’t be happy, and if they aren’t happy, they’ll treat your best customer like crap. If your best customer feels like crap, your business fails. If your business fails, you’ll have to move back in Mommy’s garage. Don’t have unhappy employees!
  5. Make Failure Propel You to Success: “Success is a product of previous efforts; remember to practice what got you there” — Alec Konstantin
  6. Innovate and inspire others!

I will leave you with the signature on every email I send:

Thrive to realize your dreams, or somebody will pay you 9 to 5 to achieve theirs.

This post originally appeared on Medium via LincolnWDaniel.com.

What is something you had to learn on your own as an entrepreneur?

Lincoln W Daniel

About the guest blogger: Lincoln W Daniel, marketer, web designer and developer, is a versatile entrepreneur with years of experience in technology and design. Lincoln is a Co-Founder and CEO of Tuurtle Labs, Inc.