My 10 Philosophies in being an Entrepreneur
Yeah, we all wanna start a business. It's what society has been telling us what to do. Be your own boss and make that money. And I seriously encourage you all to do just that. But, I'm not here to shine sunlight on your ass or blow smoke up it either. Doing your own thing is HARD. There's a reason why it's called a HUSTLE, cause you gotta move in some ways to get that gwop and establish yourself and a proper business. Here are some real life lessons your boy has learned along the way.
Entrepreneurship isn't for everybody, and that's okay.
Back in 2007 at The Wealth Expo in Toronto, the guest of honor was Donald Trump. This was back in the day when everyone liked him and he wasn't a Presidential pompous ass sneeze. He said said in his presentation that not everybody is cut out to run a business. Some people make better workers than entrepreneurs. Some people are really good at what they do, but it makes more sense to provide their skills to a company that appreciates them in return for good compensation and free time. Society today likes to make you feel bad for working for someone else, but every great team needs great player who contribute to greatness. A legacy can still be left based on your contribution and work ethic even if it's not towards your own business venture.
There is no idea too dumb that people won't buy into. So do what interests you.
No matter what you like to do, there's a market for it. You like cutting trees, you can make AXE's and CHAINSAWS. You like planting trees, you can have a tree farm. You like paper airplanes, you can form an enthusiasts group and eventually have a competition on ESPN. You like driving fast? Learn to race cars. You like socks, design some funky ones. You like talking out of your butt cheeks, then you're Jim Carey. Do what your like doing until you're great at it, then share it, then find others who are into it, then offer something to those people. Start small as a hobby, then grow to part time, then move to full time. The point is that you're life will be more fulfilling when you do that.
Learn as much as you can in what you do.
I grew up loving comic books. I loved the stories and the adventures and the different characters involved. More importantly, I loved the drawing. They were so captivating to me. It was like watching a mini action movie over and over again, and somehow I felt I had to be a part of it. I pulled out some paper and pencils and started drawing. I started by tracing my favorite pictures over and over again, then I went to copying them until I was able to draw whatever I imagined on my own. A lot of my friends were doing that too, but I discovered that there was more to the comics than what I was reading. There is an industry behind it. I started to learn about the artists and what they're like. I learned about Marvel and DC comics and other companies like Image. I paid attention to the politics and the news of the industry and everything that was going on. My friends began to look at me as a expert more than just an artist. Friends would call me all the time to settle disputes regarding comic book heroes and comic book film adaptations, and would use my word as the final word. Granted, I never got paid for any of that, but I felt real good that I was known as a comic book artist AND and expert
At the same time when I was child, comic books and drawing led to my love for animation. I would make it my mission to watch almost every cartoon I can on television after school and on Saturday morning. I would make my parents take my brother and I to see every Disney movie and animated film that came out. We'd rent videos on whatever we missed in the theaters just so I can be up on my game. I started paying attention to animation and how it's done. Who was the leaders and which production houses were best. I tried to get enrolled in Sheridan College in '97 and '98, but I didn't follow instructions on my portfolio requirements and wasn't accepted. I took other classed and animations courses and cartooning classes. I attended workshops on anatomy and life drawing. I did everything I can for me to be a better artist than what I was the day before.
At the same time when I was a child, comic books and cartoons led me being funny. I would imitate all my favorite cartoon characters and the funny bits they did. I would learn all the jokes and then perform them at school. I was addicted to the laughs and kept pushing the envelop. I would watch grown up comedians on shows like Evening At The Improv and Just For Laughs. Comedy greats like Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor had amazing stories to tell and I would dissect their acts and learn how to form a comedy bit so I can deliver my own material in class. I wasn't going to school to learn anything anymore. School was where my audience was and they were the one who would let me know if I had what it takes or not. I didn't start doing stand up comedy until I was 33, but once I hit the stage I got back into the swing of things. I started writing jokes and turning them into acts and went to as many open mics I could find. I still had a lot to learn about memorization of my acts, stage presence and timing, but I felt great actually DOING IT and learning along the way.
In high school, while I was drawing with my friends, one of my closest friend showed me something that has changed me life forever. He showed me a kick ass logo he did on a t-shirt. I was so blown away to discover that we can actually WEAR our artwork. He told me that it was done by the process of screen printing. Hence my new journey began. I was a kick ass artist and I didn't want my work to only appear on paper in my sketchbooks. I can feature my work on clothing and have other people wear my ideas and creativity. I began to learn about the new trend that was starting to make waves in fashion... urban clothing brands. I studied labels like Karl Kani, Fubu, Marc Ecko, Phat Farm and Mecca Jeans. I looked into how they got started and their creative means to get recognized. I looked at the designs they were doing and paying attention to the people wearing them. A year later at the very end of 1997, I started my own t-shirt brand, Fa.real Designz. It took a lot more learning than I thought and I had to scratch together money here and there every now and then to create new designs and find new opportunities, but after getting with my girlfriend who is now my wife, she saw my vision with Fa.real and invested along side with me and we finally got on our way in 2007 and made our grand launch in the summer of 2008. I kept learning about the business and the processes of printing t-shirts and how that industry works. It wasn't until 2011 when Fa.real also became a t-shirt print service as well as a t-shirt label and opened up it's first store on the Danforth in Toronto in 2013
I tried my best to learn everything about each industry I'm interested so I can advance in it. I make small steps in each thing I do knowing that the race is not for the swift, but I feel a sense of achievement with each closer step I take in everything I do.
You are not your own boss, everyone else is.
A lot of people would like to tell you that when you start your own business, you are in control and you're your own boss. You can start when you like, finish when you like and have your free time for your family and loved ones. I gotta say that's PARTIALLY true. What I have discovered that when you start your own business, the only things you got control over is your systematic policies. And those policies are there mainly there to cover your ass when shit is about the hit the fan. Other than that, you're clients are who you work for and they are your bosses. They don't tell you WHAT you do and WHEN, but you have to do WHAT they WANT at a reasonable deadline, or have the products they want from you available.
I was happy to have a store on The Danforth. It was one of the busiest commercial strips in Toronto. Hundreds and thousands of car drove by my shop every day seeing my big store sign CUSTOM T-SHIRTS along with an easy phone number... 696-TEES! I was getting tonnes of calls and orders via email as well as walk in traffic. Business what booming, and so was my work load. The more clients I had, the more I had to do the please them. I ended up working all night and during the weekend just to meet deadlines. I had to learn to design LIGHTNING fast so I can produce pleasing samples for my clients right away. Although I was my own boss, I discovered I was working for EVERYBODY else, especially my family. I had to get that paper so my wife can pay bills, and get food on the table. I can tell you, it wasn't easy, but my time wasn't my own anymore. I had to dedicate a lot more of myself to everyone else to grow my business. And that's when I learned that.....
Business owners are somewhat INSANE
A lady came into my shop one day and said she wished she can be her own woman and do her own thing like how I do. I told her that was a very appealing dream. Then I asked her what time is she finished her job? She said 5pm and she goes home, makes dinner and relax with husband and family. I told her that I don't get to do that. If I wanted to maintain the shop and our bills, I didn't have a "home time", I just worked until the jobs were done. I didn't have one boss or supervisor to please, I had to please every person who pays their deposit for their job. I didn't have only one task to do in a 9-5, I had to wear many hats and do different things every day and be on the ball. She looked at me and told me she never thought about that before. I told her that to be a serious entrepreneur, you gotta be somewhat INSANE to put yourself at suck inconvenience for your business with no guarantee your actions is going to get you results you. We put our reputations on the line and have to be creative as much as possible to create lucrative results. You're constantly in need of the RIGHT help, and will give your blood to your business if you have to. She said... "...that IS insane," It's not a bad insanity, it's more of a dedication, like serving in the military. You know what you want to do, have a goal of what you want, and have to be open to the rigorous training and punishment to get there. But for each obstacle you overcome, you're WAY better than your were before.
Market, market, market. Even TV's needs sales
One of my biggest regrets in the past was not marketing and advertising enough. But the question is, is it even enough? Marketing your business should be ONE HALF of your business. Getting as much people to see your name is one thing, but brand familiarity is based on consistency. Everyone has television sets, most of us have at least two, but that doesn't stop TV set companies from trying to sell you more. ROLEX and ROLLS ROYCE says they never have to advertise to the market, which is bullshit because they depend on rich fat cats to buy their shit and brag about it to us common folk. Today, it's all about social media. Especially in this age of smartphones. You can be speaking of a seminar you're going to for a friend, and before you finish tell them where and when, that person you're gonna see is already googled by your homie with reviews and all that. They can check the popularity on anything based on how many likes, or what their instagram or twitter following is like. Social media take some dedication to find follower and to boost your stuff on their platforms, but it can create some tremendous results. Pair that along with some old school grass root marketing techniques and promotions, you'll get the buzz you've been looking for. But once you get that, there is a very important component you need to be truly successful.
You need a team.
Growing in the 80's and 90's, we all loved watching those one man action movies. Rambo, Commando, Bruce Lee, Die Hard, Van Damn, Delta Force, Action Jackson, Blade, come on. It was GREAT watching these dudes single handily take out all the bad guys all bloodies, bruised and broken using nothing but sweet sweet heavy machine guns, muscles and fists. But there were also those shows that have a team of experts that can collaborate and achieve their goal with amazing precision, tact and finesse. Like The A-Team, G.I.Joe, The Transformers, Thundercats, Bionic SIX, The Ghostbusters and to some extent, The Muppet Babies.
In my shop, I didn't have any money to put anybody on salary. I wasn't even paying myself. But I was fortunate enough to have two young girls willing to work with me during the summer of 2014 for whatever I can pay them. They just wanted to learn and have experience in the same industry I'm in. I taught them how to print and showed them the ropes and gave them some challenging tasks to see if they can handle the load on their own. I also had help from other students along the way for very short stints and was able to accomplish a lot with them. Some people don't want to be part of a team because they think they're contributing to "someone else getting rich". Which is far from the truth. When you help in a team, you're contributing and building something within yourself. It takes A LOT of people to build everything we see around us. Everything was created by a team of people, so your idea needs that as well.
Research and Plan
When you're going into a business, learn the steps of how to get the goal first. Find out how other have gotten there and see if it' formulation or was it luck? See if those steps and principles apply to you.
I didn’t have money to do ANYTHING when I started Fa.real, all I had were questions, a phone and a phonebook. (This was the days when the internet was brand spanking new, so no one was on that shit at the time.) I called up printing companies and asked them basic questions on what I should do to get started and how much. A lot of business weren’t willing to print my ideas, so they drowned me with charges and set up fees to consider if I was willing to proceed. I called equipment and garment suppliers and got info on what it took to have an account and what I need to buy for my business. I got information for every single detail in everything I wanted to do. I had main companies I wanted to use, and back up companies and back up companies to those back up companies. I build my production idea based on the information I had and designed my ideas accordingly. It wasn’t until my wife who was my girlfriend at the time took out a $10,000 line of credit and said to me “where do we start?” Lucky for her, I knew EXACTLY what needed to be done. I pulled out my notebook and immediately made calls and got to work. In less than 3 months we had 400 clothing items that were bagged and tagged and really for sale. We also had catalogues and marketing material. That summer we absolutely CRUSHED it by going to as much outdoor events as possible, and hitting the people with our new line, Fa.real. That summer was such a learning experience for my girl and I and our 4 year old son. We still had a lot to learn but we both were grateful that I did my homework in advance and was ready to strike as soon as the opportunity came up.
Create a FUNCTIONING SYSTEM and FOLLOW IT
This is one of the HARDEST things about running your business. Creating a functioning work system will be your biggest obstacle. It’s really what makes or break you out there. Money, work, clients and marketing need to flow together and interact with each other. And all of those things need AUTOMATION in order for you to survive. How do you prepare a system? Simple, but not easy. Pretend you’re training someone under you. What would you have them do from start to finish. How would they answer the phones? What information should they give and what should they get? Where are they putting that information? How do they interact with personal customers? What should they do if the customer is angry, if there was a mistake, if there was praise, if there were inquiries? How are payments accepted? What do you gotta do first to start the job? How can they ensure quality control in the process? I can ask a lot more questions, but it’s the answers to these questions that create a system everyone must follow. Create rules, policies, routines and procedures. Some things aren’t comfortable to do, but I learned the hard way that it doesn’t matter. Some things just HAS to be done like it or not for your business to survive. Like how you NEED to eat or drink to survive, your business needs it’s nourishment. I personally KNEW I had to go out and market for my shop, but I kept thinking of the store owners who will take my card and blow me off, and that discouraged me to go out. Everyone kept telling me to market myself on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. Take pictures and post it online or shoot a tweet. I didn’t understand how that would help me and I was too busy doing the work. It was a stupid frame of mind, it cost me big time. After things fell apart for me I learned the most valuable lesson of all…
The difference between doing it and not doing it is doing it, so DO IT.
If you know what you NEED to do, you gotta DO it. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it, it’s beyond your feelings. You gotta do what needs to be done.
There’s a Simpsons episode where the town of Springfield was visited by motivational speaker Brad Goodman who encouraged everyone to be like Bart Simpson and “DO WHAT YOU FEEL LIKE.” The town accepted the stupid idea and created their very first “Do What You Feel Like Festival” where you can do, say, eat and act however you please. The event was headlined by none other than James Brown as he sings his hit song to suit the mood of the festival, I Feel Good. However, in the middle of the song, the bleachers supporting the band that was accompanying James Brown fell apart causing the band to crash to the floor. It was then when James Brown picked up a screw and noticed the band stand wasn’t double bolted. Everyone looked at the construction serviceman who was holding a coffee and casually said, “I didn’t FEEL like it” The same way how Grounds Keeper Willy didn’t FEEL like oiling the Ferris wheel, as it immediately started to grind, came lose from its support, rolled away and crash into the zoo freeing all the wild animals.
(The Simpsons is property of 20th Century Fox. Don't sue me to using this, I'm just using your show to illustrate a point. Please don't come after me.)
The lesson in that… WHO CARES HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT A TASK, IF IT NEEDS TO BE DONE, JUST DO IT! Or else when shit hits the fan, you’re NOT gonna bring up how you felt or your fears or inconveniences, you’ll just say, “If only I had DONE this or DONE that” You regret the ACTIONS you didn’t take despite how you felt about them previously. So JUST DO IT!
There are a lot more lessons you will learn on your own, but these practical lessons are based on experience. You can ignore them if you want, that’s up to you. But you can take them into serious consideration and save yourself the most precious commodity in your life… TIME. MONEY is the lifeblood of every business, but TIME is the most precious thing you have PERIOD. So to make your money, do these things to save you TIME.