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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Lean startup means lean personal living

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When I started Bearded Brothers 2.5 years ago I expected to be drawing a salary six months into the business. I didn’t expect it to be a lot, but I thought it would at least be something to contribute to the household income, but as most business planning goes everything is just a guess.

They key to a healthy startup is living lean. If you aren’t a tech company with a big VC behind you, expect to be eating rice and beans for at least two years, if not more. Businesses without huge amounts of startup capital are forced to be profitable from the start, which may mean forgoing a salary for a considerable amount of time.

When I got married three years ago my wife made less money than I did, and I thought I barely made anything at the time. Despite the decrease in income (less than $40K a year) we managed to survive for over two years, save money, pay for an unexpected birth, and pay off a car in the process.

Although we didn’t have to literally live on rice and beans we decided to give up many luxuries we were used to, such as buying all organic food and eating out several times a week. I was used to spending $600 a month in groceries for myself when I was single, we reduced our budget down to $400 a month to feed the both of us.

As long as you are living a lean personal life you will have more funding to fuel the business. It’s definitely a sacrifice and huge risk to start your own business. But as long as you go into it with the right mindset you will set yourself up for faster success. It also helps if you have a spouse that is 110% behind your dream, this way one of you can bring in an income, while the other one focuses on the new business.

I do realize that not everybody has the luxury of having a separate household income during the startup process. For those of you that don’t, it’s still possible to make your dreams a reality. I recommend the following books to get you started.

Quitter by Jon Acuff and No More Dreaded Mondays by Dan Miller. Both books will provide you with motivation to make your dreams a reality. While working on a business full time right from the start is nice, it’s not absolutely necessary. One of my biggest competitors started off about the same time we did, and their founders maintained full or part time jobs for at least the first year.

With a little bit of planning and a disciplined personal budget, anybody can startup a business!

There is no I in Entrepreneur

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I remember very vividly a poster my neighbor across the street gave me when I was in Jr. High. He was a coach for the University of North Texas football team – the poster depicted four very well built football players standing boldly together with the phrase “There is no I in the word team.” At a young age I learned the importance of teamwork, and that nothing is accomplished without the help of others. The same is true for any entrepreneur.

When starting a business, even if it’s not a partnership, you are never doing it alone. Recently, President Obama was criticized by Republicans and entrepreneurs everywhere for saying, “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” The saying was published across the Internet as several memes like the one below. I even remember being outraged by the statement myself, having only been a year into the start of Bearded Brothers. How dare Obama say that I didn’t build this business and provide people jobs.

You Didn't Build That

You Didn’t Build That

However, I see his point more clearly now, and it was actually well stated when he said, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges.” Sadly some of his words were taken out of context and the main point of his message missed.

Throughout my life I had had several influential people that have shaped who I am today, from parents to teachers, to mentors and career coaches. Without these people in my life I would have never had the boldness and faith to start the business I am so passionate about today.

Since starting the business we have had several people work for us that have helped our business grow. Currently we have three all-star team members that are helping us crush it and grow our business. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.

I have also learned through other entrepreneurs that it’s important to be willing to hire people smarter than you. Even though our company is only two years old I see the importance in this and I’m sure we will be making many great hires in the near future that will only compliment that current team we have in place. Having smart people on your team will only benefit you.

Businesses, while often started by individuals, don’t survive or thrive with individuals – they require a team. Most importantly, they require a team that believes in your mission and vision, and can help you grow your company in areas you are weak, or in ways that free you up to focus important tasks that help launch the business to the next level. No matter what the task is the individual performs it’s an integral part of the system that helps everything move forward. You can’t take any one person for granted on your team.

In Summary

– Your business isn’t a solo mission
– People in your past, and on your current team are helping you succeed
– Hire people smarter than you to ad some fuel to the fire
– Don’t take any of your team members for granted (always show them appreciation)
– It’s the team that makes your business thrive, not any one individual

Four ways running a business is like trail running

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Colorado Trail

As a business owner and avid trail runner I have realized lots of similarities in the two. Both are very challenging and rewarding. On a recent run after a day of hard work four ideas hit me for how running a business is like trail running. They are:

Ignore the naysayers

As soon as you start telling people you are a now a trail runner and plan on running your first 50 or 100 miler you are going to be called crazy. People will ask you why in the world would you want to do that. The same will happen when you decide to start your own business. Even family will show concern, mostly because they see it as a huge risk and don’t want to see you get hurt.

You have to ignore these people though, or you will never start. Fear wins in this situation if you give in. Yes, running an ultra marathon is crazy, but the rewards are many. The same is true with running your own business; you will have to work hard, just like you would have to train hard to run 100 miles. Neither endeavor is a walk in the park, but both have bountiful rewards.

Look up

In trail running it’s just as important, if not more important to look up (not down) while running. Looking up allows you to survey the trail ahead of you and avoid rocks, ruts, ledges, and branches. These are all obstacles that can slow you down or potentially injure you. Your feet tend to naturally adjust to the trail if you are constantly surveying the trail ahead.

When it comes to running your own business, look up – focus on what lies ahead. Survey for any potential pitfalls or dangers that could derail or slow down your business. For Bearded Brothers this means staying on top of industry standards and trends and taking care of the small but important things like paying taxes, and running payroll.

Start off slow

When running long distances, especially races, runners tend to start out too fast. I made this mistake when running my first 50 mile race, Cactus Rose. When I stopped at my first aid station 15 miles in I realized I was on pace to qualify for the coveted race Western States. It was at that point I knew I had started out too fast. It ended up catching up to me after I hit the 25 mile mark. The rest of my race was considerably painful and much slower.

When you run your business start off slow. Don’t be overly concerned with growth or the seemingly more rapid growth of your competition. If you go out too fast you risk not being able to meet demand, or meet your customer’s needs. Bearded Brothers has always grown at a sustainable speed. It’s also important to let your business grow naturally. If you have a great product, the demand will come to you.

Aid stations

Throughout the course of trail races are aid stations. They are different from aid stations you see in road races in that the tables are filled with not just water, but food for fuel, and people that will help encourage you along and help you when you are injured. If you have an awesome product or provide an excellent service you are sure to find aid stations (other people) along the way.

Aid stations in business can come in many forms. They can be investors that inject capital into your business to help it grow, or it can be somebody that is smarter than you in a certain area that helps your business grow even further, or it can be an avid customer that helps spread the word about your company. Don’t be afraid to stop at these aid stations.

The business beard has grown

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So, I’ve been toying around with the idea of starting a new blog for a long time now. Since launching Bearded Brothers back in 2011 I have learned a lot of valuable lessons, and continue to grow as an entrepreneur.

I hope to use this blog to share the things I have learned, thoughts on business, life, fitness, and health. I still may post a trail running or rock climbing trip report from time to time.

You may also remember my blog OrganicClimber.com. For now I’m letting that one go so I can focus on posting here. Look for my first post later this week, titled “How running a business is like trail running.”