Passion alone does not make you Badass
This is a second in my series about the lessons from my business venture. Being a business owner can be tough but rewarding. if you miss the first blog, here it is Be badass
So you want to start your own business? Better to be a badass one. You cannot just be just another entrepreneur. You need to be you and you need to be different.
Entrepreneurship is to be in total control of your own destiny. It is freedom and independence combined. But slow down before you jump in. Have a quick read of the next few things to consider.
You have heard the advice to follow your passion?. It seems reasonable but it may not be enough. You may need to be badass to be successful. Just because you are passionate about something does not mean that customers will automatically share your love of it.
Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Is there a market for my passion? Is it close enough to the people willing to pay or at least get to them at a reasonable price? Are there enough of these people who share my passion? Do I love this thing enough that when the goings get tough, you will continue with dogged determination?
A dream fulfilled?
But how do you even know what your passion is? It turns out people around you may even know you better than you do. It took me years to finally take the plunge to become an academic but people around me knew that all the time. So don’t be afraid to ask people what they believe you are best at. Sometimes you may not have what it takes, but keep on developing your craft but don’t for all the stars to align. Practice makes perfect.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, I thought I was the dancing version of Don Cornelius of Soul Train. This link to Soul Train. Once I was introduced to salsa, it was love at first step and I was hooked. Then I realized that venues were not readily available for salsa dancers. Clubs make money from selling drinks at inflated prices and dancers rarely drink.
I saw an opportunity to provide a dedicated dance venue and take dancing to the masses, (lol). Was that arrogance or ignorance. Entrepreneurs have been known to have a bit of both. Next, I pitched the idea to a friend who instantly wanted to join in. Apparently, my passion was infectious. So we started the journey to find a venue. At the same time, I spoke to my brother who was a much better salsa dancer. He was happy to help.
We knew people were not into dancing, but we were adamant it will take off. This was well before “Strictly come dancing” started in 2004 and Dancing with the stars started in 2005 in the USA. Yes, we were 2 years before dancing took off. Perfect!
We were ready
The stage was set and we finally found a venue in Bilston, near Wolverhampton, UK. Our plan; to introduce salsa to the area of England where people rarely danced. The venue was licensed to hold 400 people. But we had no experience of running night clubs or of the licensing laws. We learned quickly and attended sessions, took courses and even became DJ’s (yes, there is a course on how to mix sounds).
As an accountant, I had the business plan, we formulated our strategy and did our marketing. On our first day, we had many curious onlookers and we did some quick business. We introduced large screen TV to attract football fans during the weekends when the venue was quieter. We brought in food, introduced slot machines, sold cigarettes etc. Most importantly, we made money.
The first lesson; to be badass, keep your business within easy commute. The 1.5 hours commute to the business meant that we could only open over the weekends. We kept our day jobs to keep the costs down. We started losing customer because they thought thought the business had closed, so when they were planning their weekend activities, we were not part of their plans. We should have promoted our opening hours more.
The second lesson stemmed from the first. Rather than stick to the plan of open weekends only, we decided to open during the week, but employed local staff. The business lost money during the week and even some of our stock went missing. More damage was done to our reputation.
The third lesson, build a business far beyond your immediate team. Our passion and enthusiasm brought in customers, but when we were away, the clients did not get the same feeling or treatment.
This goes without saying, keep tight control of your cash. We started making money from day one. Yes, success is a bad teacher as Bill Gates once said. The business was a cash business, money was going missing but it was difficult to trace. Remember this was 2002, cash was mainly used in venues.
Look closely at your numbers. With so many things to do, it was easy to let a few things slip. If your numbers don’t look right, get help. When the numbers didn’t add up, it took me several weeks to get a stock taker. Seek professional help. The stock taker was one of the best investments we ever made. He confirmed that money and stock were going missing and where.
This leads to my next lesson, take action fast. We didn’t take action fast enough because there are laws about getting rid of people without evidence. We needed proof and installed CCTV cameras. But the delay led to more losses. We had fantastic and dedicated staff, only one or two were the culprits, difficult to accuse anyone without proof.
Ask those in the know. Of course we spent time investigating the business and speaking to the customers before we started the business, remember the customers don’t always tell the full story. It is the reason why so many exit polls don’t really reflect the actual result of elections.
As the boss, you have to make decisions quickly, you may not be popular but be fair to everyone.
We employed people we liked because of how we believed they would fit into the business or be able to ‘pull in the punters’, in reality, if someone is incompetent, it will show through. Their work ethics will be sloppy, they will turn up late, be unreliable etc. So always conduct a proper interview and make things formal. We employed a manager without proper due diligence and reference checks. She nearly bankrupted the business.
Learn the ropes by working in the sector before starting. we set up a night club without ever spending one day as apprentices or worked in the sector. Start from the bottom and learn the business before jumping in with both feet. There were some aspects of the business that we would later hate, but we didn’t know about all the areas until we were in the business. It seems obvious now, but we were naïve. Alcohol turns sensible people into monsters. I did not like people fighting in my club. But barely any weekend would pass without a fight or two inside or outside of the club.
Communicate to your staff the reason for the business. Let them be as enthusiastic about the business as you are. Share your dream with everyone, so that when you are not physically present, they still share your dream with the customers.
You must have fun. Enjoying your business is infectious. If you feel stressed and unhappy, you are unlikely to be at your best. Not at your best can mean bad decisions.
I learned a lot from running the business. There are things that I wished I had known before starting. For example, we probably should have leased the venue rather than bought it. That would have given us more flexibility, but we preferred assets on my balance sheet.
Also be aware of the changing rules. We finally left the business when the government proposed to ban indoor smoking. That was the cue to get out of the business.
None at all. I am grateful for the experience, met some great friends. Glad I also did it when I did and got it out of my system.
The question is whether you have a burning desire or dream you want to pursue? Have you chased after the dream and how did you find it?
Another lesson is that your dreams and aspirations will change based on circumstances, experience, stage of your life and most importantly your plan for the future.
Mistakes? yes part of the lesson
Don’t be afraid to take risks or make mistakes, but remember the lessons. We could have taken more risks, give up my day job and be fully involved in the business. Like most things in life, I didn’t think I could cope working full time as night club owner. I love fried chicken and chips, but I would rather not have it everyday. You get my gist. http://www.enterprisedoctors.com/failing-forward/
There is nothing like failure, only lessons to be learned and experience to be gained
I wish you all the best in your journey.