Starting Your Own Business
We’re going to veer off our normal path here on RichDad.com a little bit. It’ll be good though. I’ve asked one of my longtime employees at Rich Dad, Dave Leong, to blog his journey as he starts his own business and enters into the realm of entrepreneurship. I believe it’ll be a good perspective for many of you. I’ve given him free reign to describe what he’s going through and what he’s learning. This will be an ongoing, near real-time blog of him, his opportunity and what it takes to get a small business up and running. He’s not a success story. He’s a learning story. Follow along.
As Robert mentioned, my name is Dave and I’ve been with The Rich Dad Company for nearly eight years. Prior to me being here, I was in the Air Force stationed in Mountain Home, Idaho. After three years in Idaho and a short deployment to Iraq, my commitment was up. After separating from the Air Force in 2007, I went on numerous interviews. With each successive interview, the less I wanted a corporate job. After passing on a number of opportunities and with no job lined up, I decided to move closer to family in Phoenix, Arizona. It was there that I came across an opportunity to work at Rich Dad. The environment was relaxed and I’d be able to work in fields I had zero experience with. Perfect.
While working at Rich Dad, it’s difficult to count the number of positions and responsibilities I’ve had; I stopped counting when I hit double digits on the positions. I’ve done work in accounting, marketing, business analysis, IT, intellectual property licensing, ecommerce, copy writing/editing, mobile app design, and mobile app marketing. While not a subject matter expert in each field, I’ve gleaned some nuggets of wisdom from each position I’ve held.
Robert often spouts his mantra of, “Don’t work to earn; work to learn!” Those aren’t hollow words. He lives by them and he runs his companies in the same way. The requirement for a job at Rich Dad was not necessarily based on your experience but on your potential and ability to work with the team. He’d allow you the opportunity to learn on the job, make mistakes, and get better.
If you have the opportunity at your current job, volunteer group, or other activity, sign yourself up for responsibilities you have no idea about. While it’s humbling and intimidating while you’re in the process, the learning is awesome and will only make you stronger when you want to venture out to start your own business.
While at Rich Dad, I’ve dived into some small investments as well as purchased gold and silver. I ventured out into starting my own business back in 2008 but failed miserably. It would be easy to blame the downturn in the economy. Even starting that business in a good economy would likely have been a disaster. A lot of it was naiveté. A lot of it was not taking it seriously.
Whatever “it” was, it was expensive. It’s very easy to run up expenses; it’s hard making the sale to pay those expenses off. It took me three years to pay off my debts from that short venture.
Since then, I’d gotten married and had a couple of great kids. As many of you know, or might assume, a marriage and kids take up a lot of your time. I’d gotten busy. Worse, I’d gotten comfortable (as comfortable as a new dad could get anyway).
After my first business venture and a new family in tow, it’s taken me a while to garner the courage to try a business again. But, here I am.
The most important thing I learned at Rich Dad is the context needed to see opportunities when they arise. You can have all the skills in the world but if you don’t have the right context, you’ll only utilize those skills working for someone else’s dream. You won’t be able to see the opportunities for yourself.
Think about what you’ve done throughout the day: the grocery store, the car wash, the gas station, etc. Those aren’t simply just places you go to take care of different tasks; those are assets that are supporting someone and their family. With the right context, that someone could be me. That someone could be you.
Whatever your context, we all have our reasons for the choices we make. While being financially free is an awesome possibility, for me I wanted to set the example for my kids and set them up for their future. I didn’t want to be a parent that kept talking about being an entrepreneur and an investor. I wanted to be the parents who showed our kids by doing – by being the example.
While constantly being challenged with different tasks and responsibilities at Rich Dad, ultimately I’m just supporting Robert’s business and his financial freedom. Great! It’s a great mission but it’s high time I apply that mission to my own life. I’ve been toying with different entrepreneurial endeavors the past few years: I’ve checked out different real estate opportunities and, most recently, looked into starting my own coffee shop.
Whether you’re staring at a startup cost of $5,000 or $500,000, the fear is real when you’re starting a business. The buck stops with you; there’s no manual that magically appears when you fork over the money.
I’m an analytical person by nature. It’s a blessing and a curse. I can get into the details and see what a venture is going to take, what’s required of me, and the best practices to get going. I can also research ad nauseam and never actually do anything.
I can also find a million reasons why something won’t work. I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this. Ultimately, I only needed one reason to make it work: my kids.
Taking that first step to starting a business
As I mentioned, I’ve been looking at different opportunities the past 12-15 months. With each, I’d found reasons why I shouldn’t make the jump. Or, I stalled because I had fears and then the opportunity was lost. I’m guilty of feeling relieved of the responsibility of making a decision to make that jump.
Recently, while I wasn’t actively looking to start my own business, I came across a business opportunity from Combat Flip Flops. They were launching a program for independent resellers of their product line of flip-flops, shemagh scarves, sarong cover ups, messenger bags and other apparel.
I can tell you with absolute certainty that I’d never dreamt of selling flip-flops – far from it. As Robert always says though, the product is the least important aspect when you start a business.
If you’re familiar with Robert’s B-I Triangle though, you’ll notice that Mission is one of the three pillars upon which a business must have as part of its foundation. Combat Flip Flops’ mission drew me in since I’d first heard of them over a year ago: Provide awesome gear, give back to people living and working in dangerous places, and support organizations making a difference. Creating cool stuff in dangerous places, they placed a premium on being socially conscious with giving back being the core of their business. With every sale of their flip-flops, shemagh scarves, and sarong cover ups, enough proceeds were donated to send an Afghan woman to secondary school from one to 30 days. They’ve also partnered with organizations to clear mines in Laos, provide military veteran re-assimilation services, and provide medical/surgical services in hard-to-reach places around the world.
I hadn’t given back to anything in years. I wanted to but never made it a priority, so it never happened. Again, I wanted to be an example for my kids. This was making too much sense for me not to get involved.
I was motivated. I was excited. I dropped an email to Combat Flip Flops stating my interest asking a multitude of questions (remember how I said I was analytical?). Having dabbled in a multitude of different career fields, I was able to ask multi-faceted questions:
Do we license the Combat Flip Flops name?
Are we a separate entity?
Is this a franchise?
What marketing support does Combat Flip Flops provide?
How are territorial disputes handled?
What payment terms are available for purchase of inventory?
What kind of financing is available?
What benchmarks and milestones must be met as part of the agreement?
Griff from Combat Flip Flops and I exchanged a few barrages of emails for Q&A. After I felt sufficiently satisfied, I decided to go ahead and apply.
While I didn’t have to submit a business plan, I did have to think through and provide a lot of details to include my marketing plans, business plans, team, and sale projections. I spent over a week just working on my answers to their application.
When I had entered in all my information, I was all set to submit my application. I don’t know why but I had a legitimate pause in my finger before clicking my mouse on the submit button. Kind of ridiculous since it didn’t really obligate me to anything. But, it did subject my plans to start my business to being critiqued and either accepted or rejected.
I only bring it up as it’s a reminder that our brain will constantly fight to avoid judgment or being wrong on something. Be cognizant of that. In the end, the worst decision you can make is to not make one at all.
After a few days, I received an email from Griff. He wanted to have an interview over the phone. The excitement, and almost instantaneous dread that followed it, was an awesome feeling. While as terrifying as it was exciting, I felt alive. I felt driven.
I was scheduled to speak with him in three days time. It couldn’t come fast enough. I was excited. As it got closer, that excitement morphed into a level of nervousness that I hadn’t experienced since I reported to lead my first team in Iraq with the Air Force.
I’d been in a professional career for 11-plus years, been all over the world, been in all kinds of difficult and uncomfortable scenarios. Being this nervous threw me off. I was telling my wife how nervous I was for the call.
She smiled a small, wry smile, and said, “You want this.” It hit me. I did want it.
Stay tuned for Dave’s next blog as he gets into the steps he took, the lessons learned, and things to consider when starting a small business.
Dave is now owner/operator for New Leaf Outfitters.