Crap Filter

 
I know it’s a gross title for a post but it is appropriate.

I watched an interview done at the Khan Academy with Elon Musk and it was his words that led to this title.

Entrepreneurship might be glamorous and could prove quite lucrative but it’s also the hardest work you’ll ever do. I’ll let Elon Musk take it from here.

Everyone thinks they want to be the boss but when you’re at the bottom of the “filter for the crapest problems in the company” it’s not a lot of fun. I can speak from experience and while my high points are not as high as Elon Musk’s neither are my low points. When SpaceX had three failed launches in a row and only had one last chance for a very big contract with NASA, that’s really low. When Tesla was a week away from running out of money with no investors willing to step in, that was very low.

In spite of all that, he still felt “quite compelled to do it” and that made all the difference.

In the face of skepticism and failure, to push forward anyway is the sign of a person who will be successful. I have wanted to give up many times, I have wanted to sell my business many times, but I have stuck it out and now it is beginning (these things take time) to pay off. I still have bad days but having come through past obstacles and problems makes the future problems easier to handle.

Feel free to share how you have been stuck at the bottom of the crap filter and come through it stronger than before.


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Are You Profitable?

 
Stack of cashAs a business owner you hear this question or one like it all the time. It starts as small talk – how’s business? – is usually the first question. Fairly quickly, because they want you to succeed, they’ll ask if you’re breaking even or making a profit.

If they’re asking that question then they probably haven’t been in business themselves because the answer is rather complicated.

Start-up costs are huge and can’t be recovered in a short time. While that money isn’t all out of pocket, loans need to be paid back and the term for business loans are not very long, 5-7 years, so payments are fairly high. I’ve had people ask me if my business was profitable after I was only open a few months. That’s the field of dreams concept of business, if you build it they will come, as if customers flood you with money the moment your doors open.

In addition to start-up costs there are the operational costs and, with a slow (but hopefully steady) increase in business, the money to keep things going needs to come from somewhere. Since it’s not coming from customers it has to come from the owner or investors. It’s called the burn rate and needs to be watched closely. There were plenty of weeks and months that I had to add cash to cover payroll, loan payments, or marketing expenses.

I have indeed seen businesses reach profitability in a short period of time but that’s the exception.

Patience and attention to all aspects of the business, revenue, expenses, marketing, and staff are the key things the entrepreneur needs to focus on. If there is progress then profits will come. Owning a business is a long-term prospect and success doesn’t come over night.

So my response to people who ask me these questions is: “If only it were that quick and easy everyone would own a business.”

What’s your response? Add your comment below.


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