This is a guest post from my good friend Andy Drish. Andy has easily been one of my biggest influences when it comes to building a business and I turn to him on a regular basis when I’m feeling clueless about what I’m doing.
He’s the Co-Founder of The Foundation – the best community on the planet if you want to build a software business.
I may be a little slow on the comments as I’m currently flying somewhere over the midwest…
With that, I’ll turn it over to him. Take it away, Andy…
This is the story of my first big failure in business… and the lessons learned from it.
When I was 22, I was a year into my career at my corporate job and I wanted out…BAD.
I’ve always been someone risk averse financially, so I wanted my own business that could support me before I left. I tried everything: affiliate marketing, arbitrage, blogging, and the list goes on.
I couldn’t get traction with anything.
At the time, membership websites seemed to be on the rise. While doing some research, I stumbled across a site where people could buy and sell handmade goods called Etsy.
I had no idea about selling handmade goods. Or about launching membership websites.
After six weeks, and one hell of an emotional roller coaster, I launched a membership site and I was making $6,000 a month in revenue… all while working full-time in corporate america.
I had more progress in 6 weeks building the membership site than all of my other business ventures combined in the past few years.
9 months later the site crashed and burned.
Failing at all those businesses taught me way more than I could have ever learned from a book.
These are the 5 biggest things I’ve learned from this experience:
1. You Don’t Have To Be The Expert
I ran a blog for 2 years to build up my credibility as an “expert” and it never brought me any closer to leaving my corporate job. And after trying to build a business in many different fields that I was not an expert in, I learned about a new approach..
Let me ask you this: Would you rather be Michael Jordan… or Phil Jackson?
Michael gets all the fame. He’s the superstar.
And, at the end of the day, Phil Jackson still signs his paychecks.
The point? You don’t have to be the expert, you can publish the expert.
I didn’t know anything about Etsy and frankly, I didn’t care to.
Instead of trying to make myself into an ‘etsy expert’ by publishing a handful of articles like the Four Hour Work Week suggests, I went into the Etsy forums and asked, “If this site were a popularity contest, who would win?”
Instantly people went nuts. Some were pissed that I asked such a ‘childish question’. Others came to my defense and said, ‘Oh – he’s just new. Give him a break!”
Regardless, at the end of the week, I had a list of the top 15 or so most popular people on Etsy. I called one of them, asked if he ever thought of selling his advice. He told me no and we decided to start a partnership. I’d do marketing. He’d produce content.
6 weeks later, we launched the site and made over $6,000.
The Lesson: Most experts struggle with marketing. You don’t have to be an expert to start a business… Just focus on the two most valuable skills: sales and marketing.
2. Info Products Work… Ish
The first info product I ever bought was Arbitrage Conspiracy. It was $2,000 and I split it with a friend. I felt crazy for spending that much money…
I tore through the material while dreaming of sipping mai tais on the beaches of Thailand as my bank account increased hourly.
The problem? Doing arbitrage is soul sucking work. It felt like it was a constant game of cat and mouse, trying to ‘game Google’s system’ to make a few bucks here or there.
This left me kinda jaded about info products…
Until I came across Frank Kern’s Mass Control and Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula.
These two products together laid out a framework for me and my partner to launch our membership site in 6 weeks.
I followed them almost step by step and the launch went incredibly well.
But here’s the problem: eventually the course ends. Then what do you do?
After the site launched, I was lost. I didn’t know what direction to go. I didn’t know anything about marketing. I didn’t know how to think for myself.
All I knew how to do was follow someone else’s course.
The Lesson: Strategies and tactics work to a point, but developing your mindset is what will set you free…
3. Mindset is Everything
Mindset takes over where the strategies and tactics end. You can follow along step-by-step for a long time, but no matter how simple your business is, something will happen and you won’t have a manual for it.
And the more successful you become, the fewer ‘guides’ there are for what to do next.
This is where mindset comes in.
If you want true freedom in your life, you must focus on the mindset of building a business.
For me, that meant marketing. Understanding how to write compelling copy that converts, learning to master salesmanship, understanding terms like “cost-per-lead, average lifetime value, conversion rates, split testing and more.”
I stopped looking for the one course that would change my life. And I committed to studying the crap out of marketing.
This is a never ending pursuit. Five years later, I feel like I’m still just getting started.
The Lesson: Shaping your mindset is a lifelong journey. The more successful you become, the bigger challenges you’ll face. This is what makes the game of business fun.
4. Fear of Success is VERY Real
Gay Hendricks, in his book The Big Leap, says that we have a pleasure threshold in the same way we have a pain threshold. It sounds crazy, but too much pleasure can be just as damaging as too much pain.
When things are going too well your unconscious mind starts to become sceptical. It start with the “what ifs,” then you start to sabotage yourself and your business.
What if this site fails right after I leave the safety of my corporate job? What if my business partner tries something crazy and I get left high and dry? What if the site crashes and all the information gets lost?
What if…What if…What if…
So while my membership site was bringing in more cash that I was making at my day job, I still couldn’t bring myself to leave my corporate gig; my mind wasn’t ready for it.
And guess what happened? Nine months later, we shut the site down.
The Lesson: During periods of exponential growth, carefully monitor your thoughts to make sure you’re not unconsciously sabotaging yourself.
5. Take Relentless Action
The deadliest mistake you can make in starting your own business is waiting for the time to be right. For the stars to align. For everything to be perfect.
Instead, make mistakes of action, not procrastination.
When we launched the membership site, I hosted it on some crappy $6/month server and it crashed. Some customers were angry. Some people wanted refunds.
But you know what?
In the long term, none of that matters.
If we had waited for everything to be perfect we would have never made any progress. Even worse, we could have taken 6 months to build the whole thing only to find out no one wanted it.
I learned these lessons because I was relentlessly committed to taking action, making mistakes and correcting them as I went.
The Lesson: Both failure and success are temporary, the only thing that matters is learning and growth. The faster you move, the more you learn.
Andy Drish is the co-founder of The Foundation where they help entrepreneurs ‘Start From Nothing’ and build a successful business in six months.
To see a real life case study of this in action, check out how Carl quit his job at Tesla Motors six months after joining the Foundation… even though he didn’t have a business idea when he started.