Monday, July 23, 2007

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

It's been awhile since I posted updates on the NewBiz.

Topline : I've committed to a location, started renovation and will be able to get on with some real work by August.

The edge of my exuberance has dulled somewhat, especially compared to a month ago when I first signed on for the location.

I've always believed that money is a necessity, but passion & hard work create the adrenaline that keeps you going. I still believe this but my rose tinted glasses have been tempered by reality.

A truth: Money = Time

If you have alot of money, things get done quickly. If you don't have alot, be prepared to scale your timeline and expectations accordingly. I didn't, and searching for a location has been a huge learning. On hindsight, I should have been prepared. Sahar & Bobby Hashemi wrote that it took almost a year to find their first Coffee Republic outlet after they'd secured their funding. I laughed in disbelief at the time, but I sho' ain't laughing now.

With a (very) conservative budget:

  • You're not a priority with the estate agents and will have to physically drive around looking for places, knocking on doors.
  • The majority of available property listings are beyond your reach, either in terms of monthly rental, deposits and/or the amount of renovation work needed to get things in order, especially if you need a kitchen like I do.
  • ALOT of flexibility is required on your part re professional standards.
  • You can't be picky (no-one's ever praised a persnickety beggar in a proverb)
  • You have to deal with unsavoury characters because....well...that's the pond you're swimming in.
But here's what no-one tells you in the books - if you're an optimist and haven't prepared yourself for the realities, every pitfall sucks you in. The time spent chasing leads that end at a dead end, starting negotiations over, not being given the time of day, being dismissed as that small fry making so much noise....the sleepless nights, the self-doubt, every dead-end or obstacle translating into endless dialogue inside your head at 4am in the morning.

And to add to the jamboree let's not forget watching your bank digits slide into the grey area between singular and plural, because you had planned on two months MAX without income to set everything up, and you're into your 4th or 5th month... way beyond your buffer, isolating yourself from friends out of shame & pride, eyeing the money you'd put aside for the start-up capital, thinking about going back to your old job and asking yourself over & over how much you really believe in your idea and IS IT FUCKING WORTH IT?!!??

I wasn't prepared for this Vicious Spiral. It's not even a circle because when you come around again you find you're at now Square One, Basement One! I have picked & dusted myself off so many times and on the outside, I'm always ready for the next round. But inside, it feels like I've been compromised. Adulterated. There is a loss of innocence.

It's like seeing snow for the first time, thrilled with the crystalline purity, marvelling at the sparkling magic all around you. Then you dive in, and you realise it's cold. And you're not dressed warmly enough. And the snowflakes are dirty. And it's deeper than you thought it was. And there's something brushing against your legs that you can't see.

I recognize that beast so well now, I can smell it approaching. Fear.

Now is the time to ask yourself how much you want it. If you're truly passionate, and you've done your homework and your intentions are pure then get ready for the fight. Lean into the problem and brace yourself. Fear separates the weak from the strong. It's natural selection.

  • Pick your allies and recognize your foes early on. I have been naive and far too trusting. I didn't respect the environment I was in, I was like a goldfish trying to make friends with pirhanas. It was my ego in a way, thinking I could charm people into doing the right thing. I will not make that mistake again.
  • Keep your values safe. Bend, but don't break. That's a whole lesson in humility - to get fucked and not be tempted to bring out your biggest, blackest, spikiest dildo and fuck them right back in the ass. Ok, I admit I'm always tempted but I try very, very hard not to do it (but here's a tune for those moments of weakness).

    Cock the Hammer - Cypress Hill (Black Sunday, 1993)

    Don't let your pride corrupt your intentions. It's tempting to lose sight of your goal, your perspective changes and your pride makes you greedy to prove all of them wrong.
  • Value your allies, now more than ever. You find one diamond in every 100 useless piece-of-shit pile of dungstone so treat them well. If you have managed to retain your integrity, you will recognize each other. If they're a supplier/provider then pay them as much as you can afford, and pay them first. I have met some real gems throughout this process - my designers (esp Jee who enthused with me right from the beginning, and offered help without being asked), my lawyer (who has refused payment despite my protests), my contractor (who has been as inconvenienced as I have but always wants to help) and the Fruitcake who, a stranger until recently, has so generously volunteered as a sounding board and shown a huge vote of confidence by offering partnership. I will value all these connections for life.
  • Learn from the bad eggs. Remember their lessons because one day you will be a Big Person and you will come across a Little Person so you should know what not to do. This is also a good time to differentiate between professionals and amateurs. Professionals will do their best no matter what the price.
  • Be realistic about what your money can buy and don't be discouraged by the truth. Make it work. Scale down. Stripped naked, a great idea should still be great. Focus. Be single-minded.
  • Don't get greedy. Desperation will do that to you. Don't be tempted to beg, borrow & steal by luring investors under false pretences to dilute your gamble unless there's a genuine advantage for everyone. Responsibly managing risk is about being assiduous with everyone's exposure, not just your own.
  • Treat everyone with respect, even the assholes, because that's just good karma.
And last but not least, appreciate the ones who love you and support you. Our problems always suck the best out of us leaving dregs for the ones waiting on the other side of the pillow. That's not the way it should be.

I leave you with one of my favourite TV commercials of all time, Apple's "Think Different".

Of course, if you've got tonnes of money then skip this epic post and go make another million instead.

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