Get a Life!
At the age of five, my workday started in the early hours of the evening’s twilight. I would drag my parents’ faded garden hose out and let the cold, mountain water loose on the front lawn. A thorough soaking was all I needed to procure my product. I then crawled across the saturated lawn, pulling reluctant night crawlers from their earthy habitat.
My marketing manager, Mom, helped me paint a huge yellow sign depicting the happiest, juiciest worm imaginable. A large red arrow worthy of any Las Vegas casino pointed potential customers to our house. As advertising demands required, I hauled the sign down to the canyon road in the morning and propped it up against an old cottonwood tree in an effort to attract the attention of anglers on their way to favorite fishing holes.
I don’t recall which aspect of the venture was more invigorating: digging out worms, or collecting the 50 cents for a dozen night crawlers. Regardless, before my sixth birthday I had swallowed the bait of being my own boss—hook, line, and sinker.
At the age of 32 I found myself working as the General Manager of USA Operations for Mitsubishi Electrics, PC division. My MBA and BS degrees in Electronic Engineering Technology were behind me. Working my way up several corporate ladders, I experienced big wins with Novell, Mitsubishi Electrics, and About.com.
Along the way I discovered my natural aptitude for leading teams, particularly while kicking off new and innovative technology products. These successes filled me with a sense of accomplishment, and I valued the knowledge gained from the experiences. However, I grew increasingly dissatisfied with the politics and red tape, and felt held back by the rigid, unresponsive nature of big corporations in general. At a fundamental level, I craved facing the market forces eyeball to eyeball.
Even amid my success in the corporate world, I eventually came to see that corporate life had begun to demand more than it offered. I knew a decision had to be made. I knew that it was time to return to my roots. That it was time to get a life!
Build a Business
Since completing my MBA, I have founded or co-founded 27 businesses. Each of these ventures was Bootstrap Business with less than $10,000 of starting capital. Nine have been outright failures. Seven have been moderately successful, four are in process, and seven have become multimillion dollar businesses.
Countless times, while launching these companies, I have wished for a reference book or mentor to help me avoid the big mistakes. Fellow entrepreneurs were happy and willing to help with advice, but none could completely articulate the factors that had led to their success. In my search for the right reference guide, I found numerous, well-written books that were either bulging with theory or focused on high-end businesses with startup budgets of over a million dollars, but nothing credible for the person with a dream, unbridled drive and ambition, and a few thousand dollars.
Most people who aspire to start their own enterprises cannot cobble together the millions such books suggest are needed to launch a business. Understanding that, and drawing from my own experiences of bootstrapping businesses, Bootstrap Business outlines how a person can take $5,000 and build it into a successful business.
When my partner and coauthor, Ron, and I first started writing this book, we decided to create a company as a test case to prove the principles we are setting forth. So we each came to the table with $2,500 and started Everest Web SEO, a company built around search engine optimization. Within the first few months, we had won deals with S&K Menswear, Warner Music Group, Franklin Covey, Shop At Home, and the New York Times. During these early months, we generated over $70,000 in total sales, with net profit margins of approximately 85 percent. Six months into the business, we merged with a New York online marketing firm, Interactive Acquisition, forming a new company CastleWave, LLC. At the end of seven months, our monthly revenue was at $70,000 a month, with a $40,000-per-month net profit. At the time of making this book available, we just completed the first year of business. We now have sixteen employees. Last month (March 2008) we generated approximately $110,000 of revenue at over 65 percent net margin. All indicators point to this business growing at an accelerated level.
Bootstrap Business combines the art form that is found in any entrepreneurial venture with practical, step-by-step guidelines that a person can—and really must—follow in building a successful enterprise with a minimal amount of capital. Real-life examples are shared, followed by the extraction of the steps one must be mindful of in building a business. The book is, at once, engaging, entertaining, and motivating, even as it leads a person through proven formulas that lead to success.
Control Your Destiny
I started my career thinking that a corporate job would provide both security and financial stability. As I was climbing the corporate ladder at Novell, I was convinced that I would pay off my home and retire with the stock options this burgeoning company offered me. By the time I left, those options were worthless.
I did learn a lot of lessons on someone else’s dime, but I also made a lot of other people rich. One year, I received an end-of-the-year bonus of $10,000. I thought this was a lot of money until I learned that my boss had received a $1-million bonus—off of my work!
I found the same thing to be true with others I knew. One friend opened the Latin American market for his company, growing that market from $0 to $50 million in four short years. His reward? A 4-percent raise!
I also witnessed, over and over again, that corporations simply have no loyalty to their employees—only to their shareholders. I came to realize that as an employee the idea of security in companies large and small is a myth! It took several years, but I finally discovered that the best path to getting a life and taking control of my financial and personal future was to create my own businesses.
Today, nobody can lay me off. I get to have the rewards of my successes. I also get to decide how much risk I want to take. I used to have to be ready to fly across the country or the world at a moment’s notice. Now I get to decide when and where I travel. I used to get nine vacation days a year. Now I get to determine when and where I work.
Do I work any less? Definitely not—in fact, I probably work more. But I control my work instead of having my work control me. As a result, I have the ability to enjoy the more meaningful and important things in my life—and on my terms.
Bootstrap Business goes beyond simply telling a person how to start a business; indeed, it promotes the values of achieving balance, reaching for purposes higher than amassing wealth, and investing time and resource into those parts of a person’s life that matter the most.