I recently went over a small set back… or downshift. Back in 2009, a good friend of mine and I opened a company for web development. The idea was that I’ll make the websites and he’ll market the company and close on sales. So I quit my job and focus on building a company. Easier said than done. I was constantly dissatisfied with the pace we were going and lack of constant stream of new customers and since my partner was supposed to be specializing in the area of finding new customers, I was putting the blame on him. In reality, it wasn’t his fault because he had no clue how to get new customers, or guts to make cold calls. In other words – he wasn’t a sales person nor was he willing to learn how to be one. But the only one to blame here is myself for being unable to see this coming. My inability to gather a decent, competent and motivated team led to the self-destruction of the company. I assumed that since we knew each other since we were little kids, we’d run a company well. In fact we had comepletly different values and world views.
He believed that the diploma is everything and wanted to get a degree in something so he focused on his school and homework instead of the company. I already had mine and believed that the portfolio is everything and I knew that college is a scam. His goal was security – work from 8 to 5 then relax & have fun when you come back home. I believed in earning money with what I like doing and being independent… even if it meant staying up till 4+ AM on a Saturday night, waiting patiently on Stack Overflow for an answer 🙂 He just wanted to fit in the corporate machine and be perceived as a nice guy while my only goal was becoming a global asset; To be skillful and worldly great. REALLY great. Not just on paper. To actually solve real World problems.
Bottom line is: I felt like he wasn’t paying the price for being a valuable asset to the company and he felt like I should get a job, like everyone else, and forget about having a company.
So, naturally, we split up and the company went down.
What did I learn about business?
Do not start a business with anyone just because you are friends. When it comes to business or getting a job done, your friendship may even get in the way. The other way around works much better – when you have a professional relationship that slowly grows into a friendship. Friendship is better for business than business is for friendship.
A company is only as good as its employees. Look deeper into what people’s motivation to start or join a business is. Is it just the money? Is it getting experience? What is it? From what I’ve seen so far, if the members of the business are not individually, self-inspired and motivated to grow and succeed, the business won’t grow or succeed either. Good employees = great company. I’m speaking about start-ups here. In an already-established, big, corporate company… it’s a different story: You can slack and take it easy for months and you’ll still eat. In start-ups, however every member needs to give 120% of their effort and take the business seriously by putting time into the business and their own improvement as well.
Do not blame others for the unsuccess of the business. If they are slacking, or not living to your expectations, blame yourself for making a poor choice in business partners. Expecting them to change on the go will also be a big mistake. Being an inspirational being is good but don’t overestimate yourself. Think about how hard it is for you to make a change in your habit. Now imagine what would it take to make someone else change. Forget it. Stop the blaming. Move on. There are far too many people who want to give their best for you to be wasting your time and energy on trying to make someone else successful.
From being ashamed to being empowered.
There is something interesting that I noticed in me before and during the split up that is worth sharing. It’s the feeling of being ashamed. Shortly after opening the company, I began to identify as a business owner. It made me feel proud of myself. It made me feel “on the path to success” :). I was introducing myself as a business owner to new people that I meet and I could see that they were treating me differently than when I was just an employee. Little did they know that I was doing worse financially, psychologically and spiritually but I was getting a bit of self-esteem boost so I thought it was a good deal. I began liking this new business owner identity more than the employee identity and I was willing to fight for it. Big mistake. On my inevitable way down I started being ashamed because I was losing this “status”. I was resisting the downshift a lot. What was I ashamed of?
- Shame of losing my business.
- Shame of having to have a job.
- Shame of being perceived as a loser/failure.
- Shame of facing friends and admitting what happened.
I was hanging onto the edge of a cliff with no way to climb up but since I got this far I didn’t want to quit now. It would have been a lot easier to see it coming, let go, and start over as soon as possible.
As soon as I accepted my new fate and admitted to myself that this is how things are, the shame was gone. On top of that I saw a whole new perspective and opportunities open in front of me. It’s not that it was something completely new to me… it’s just that I have forgotten that I have more than one option to “make it” in the world.
I was empowered in many different ways:
- All the things that I found useless, boring and no-good-for-me began to come back, reanimate and have meaning again. (Ever heard the phrase: get off of your high hourse)
- My enthusiasm kicked back in
- Desire to share life and write blog posts. Explains why I haven’t been writing in a year.
- Appreciation for written text, typography and graphic design came back. I also find myself paying more attention to dialogue and how people say things when watching movies.
- Productivity increased. I was able to finish my new online portfolio and design a cool and creative resume.
- Confidence and level of sexual energy increased.
- Desire to self-promote, grow and learn new things.
- I find my humor and easy-goingness coming back as well. I have forgotten what that feels like 🙂
- I’m a lot more approachable, kind and friendly without my fake “business owner” filter.
- I have forgotten how good it feel to be a gangsta 😉
The moral of the story:
- Do not start a company if you don’t have the momentum necessary to support yourself for at least a year (freelance first; find clients; don’t quit your day job)
- Do not not resist change. Although it may seem bad at the time, it may very well be for the better.
- Your greatest asset is sitting in your shoes
- “Sometimes it takes a good fall to really know where you stand.”
– Hayley Williams
- “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one, which has been opened for us.”
– Helen Keller
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