Today I was informed by one of my advisors someone I previously spoke with in the investment community thought less of me, or looked down upon me and my business mainly because of my background and my previous career as a personal trainer.
This is after the individual had been very forthright in the meeting about how unique our concept was and how impressive we are currently positioned.
Let me be perfectly clear: my past does not determine my future.
Whatever someone studied or whomever they previously worked for has little effect on what they will do going forward. Does it influence them, yes. But does mean they are not capable of achieving other things outside of the specific industry? No.
It’s what we have determined we will do in the future that has the greatest influence on what happens in the future.
For all the doubters out there, let’s go ahead and get it all on the table.
No, I am not a CS major or a Stanford grad with an MBA. Yes I studied exercise physiology in college, and became a strength coach working all levels of the industry – from professional sports teams to athletic clubs and on to corporate fitness centers.
No, I didn’t come directly out of college and join a fast growing technology company. Yes, I bumped along as a trainer only to use any and all spare time (ask any of my past girlfriends) reading and studying the latest developments in technology and the web.
No, I didn’t succeed at my first attempt at a startup. I didn’t sell my first company to Google or Microsoft and I did not make F-you money in my early 20’s. Yes, my first startup failed. We failed miserably. We had no idea what we were doing and naively thought we could actually launch a company when we were all still working full time. Boy were we wrong.
No, I was not raised in wealthy family so I would be close to seed capital and afforded the luxury of launching my company with my grandfathers/fathers/uncles/stepfathers/father-in-laws/bothers/cousins money. Yes, I am now learning the “intangible” game of raising money by networking, connecting with people, illustrating our unique value in the marketplace and proving we are actually a great business opportunity. And heads are starting to turn.
No, we are not launching a social site that within the first few weeks is amazingly spreading throughout the Harvard campus without any of our help… and magically is a hit with all the college kids. And one where you have no idea the business value for the first few years of existence. Yes, we have built a platform so valuable we see small mom and pop shops as well as large corporations wanting to be a part of it. One in which we figured out how to make enough noise in just 3 short months after launching our product that we already find ourselves sitting across the table from NOT ONE BUT TWO multinational, multibillion dollar corporations – in different industries – wanting to somehow work together. The one I talked with today is probably in the back pocket of most of my doubters.
For all the doubters out there who are still reading but think I might still be missing something I will put you at ease and let you know that even though I studied exercise physiology in school, all is not lost. Here is my take away and how I see it in the business world.
Business, like the Human Body, is all about efficiency
Inefficiency will kill any living organism and it’s also true with any business organization. It’s the bane of any corporations existence and it’s also why you hear about six sigma, downsizing and social collaboration tools. Finding ways to make internal processes less laborious and easier to navigate will make employees more efficient. Fixing bugs and reworking the user experience of a website will streamline transactions and generate more revenue. Anyway you look at it, the human body always seeks to carry out processes with the least amount of energy possible. So does a business.
You must keep working or you will fade away
We all understand the concept of strengthening muscles – you must break them down to build them up. Exercise is vital to the human body and you must keep placing stress on the cardiac system to experience health benefits. Well, that’s true for the business as well. Name any business where it’s acceptable to coast along with no input and expecting to get something out of it. Even a piece of Real Estate needs upkeep if it is going to bring a return to the investor. You must keep working on a business, on yourself and your team if you are to experience continued success.
Sometimes Pain is good
We all know the feeling… the first mile of the run after a long hiatus, the last two reps of the exercise we though would be way to heavy, or the morning after soreness from a kick-butt workout. Yea, it hurts all right. But most of the time its damn good pain because your body is replenishing itself and growing stronger.
Well if you think starting a business is all sun and roses you are in for a little treat. It sucks. It hurts. You get tuned down more times than you can remember. You have people questioning you, your product, positioning, vision, funding status, your team and everything else under the sun. It takes twice as long as you think it will to achieve certain milestones. But the pain is good for you. See, you learn from all that doubt and questioning and through all of the crappy stuff you get stronger and become a better entrepreneur. Trust me, I am one strong individual.
I may not be the most “polished” “tie wearing” “Stanford MBA” or “Y-combinator grad” CEO you find strutting around Silicon Valley. And quite frankly I know I have a lot more to learn. But I am glad I am not the above described. I am quite happy with my past, because as I have just illustrated it provided me with a unique perspective I can successfully transition into my new life as an tech entrepreneur.
And for the doubters…. keep on. I dare you.