We met at the cash register of the breakfast place. His name was Mike, and he had a reputation for being a great leader and consultant. Just the kind of guy I like to put money behind if his dream is to own his own business.
I said, “It is great to finally meet you. Your reputation in the industry precedes you.”
Helping Achieve Dreams
He said, “I’ve heard about you, too. You have been talking to some of the best people who used to work for me. They say you are interested in helping them achieve their dream of starting and running their own business.”
“That’s what I do,” I said. “How about you? Do you have a dream of starting your own business? Isn’t it time you started using your talent and contacts to build your own company?”
“I am interested, but I am not sure of the timing,” he said.
“Let’s get together and see if the timing is right for you. I believe you owe it to you and your family to investigate it,” I said.
History Reveals Truth
When we met, I had him walk me through his life story. I did this because we all show patterns which indicate our interests. Our interests lead to the decisions we make and the careers we create.
He had it all. He was a lifelong consultant with an excellent reputation as well as employees and customers who would follow him.
I convinced him, given market conditions, the timing was right. But was it?
First Day Is the Best
Although Mike appeared to have all it would take to start his own business, he was missing a vital piece. It wasn’t a burning life desire. Building a business is hard. The best day of a startup is the first day.
After that, it is all ridiculously hard work which tests the entrepreneur’s character and resolve. The people who know they are called to start their own business are the entrepreneurs with the best chance to succeed.
So he started a new business because I convinced him he should start a business. Bad start and almost bad ending.
Break Even Pressure
He built the business quickly but was using too much cash. After two years, he was generating three million in revenue and burning cash at $50k per month.
My CFO got Mike and his partners on the phone and said, “It is over. No more cash. You need to figure out how to make money starting next month.”
They got to break even quickly, but the pressure got to Mike. He came to me and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore. It isn’t enjoyable, and it isn’t what I want. I am going to quit.”
There Is No Plan B
“You can’t quit. It is your business! I don’t have a Plan B. You are the founder, and you have to lead this business to success,” I said.
He agreed to think about our discussion and get back to me. Within two weeks, he came to me with a potential buyer for the business. Three months later, the business was sold, and it was a happy ending for everyone.
True Proof of Character
If Mike had quit, I would have lost $1mm. But Mike was a man of character. He realized he had made a mistake in starting this business, but he was going to make good on his commitment to me and the other people with whom he had partnered. In an amazing stroke of luck and timing, he was able to do it.
There are a few key elements which make for a great entrepreneur. The most important is character.
Also published on Medium.