This is a guest post from Jake Thompson, Compete Every Day
“What did I get myself into?”
Those are the words that consistently ran through my mind for the first two years of starting my own business. I was overwhelmed, and to be honest, had no idea what I was doing half of the time. It was a trial by fire, where every day you are learning on the fly. I think it’s a position most of us who start a business can relate to. We have an idea, we launch the idea, yet we don’t know everything that we will encounter.
And that’s the fun of it.
There’s nothing like finally taking that leap and launching your idea, turning a dream into a reality. It’s exhilarating, frustrating, motivating, and humbling all at the same time. I had spent a few years designing plans and strategies for businesses that never left the ground. Some were of my own creation, others of clients. Regardless, they ended up staying on paper and never found life. I started Compete Every Day with no retail experience, no fashion experience, and no ecommerce experience. But I had a lot of passion and I was going to be damned if this idea never came to life. So I launched it.
I’ve spent the last two-plus years grinding. I started with a small investment of my own and decided to bootstrap this business without investors for as long as I possible could. My goal was to build the business the right way – not by forcing a product down customers’ throats, but instead, building a powerful story and inviting others to be a part of it. I feel that’s the area we’ve been hugely successful with at Compete Every Day. I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way. Budgeting was one of my hardest skills, and it showed, but the experience gained from experimenting different projects has been valuable.
We grew over ten-fold in the last two years. We’ve already surpassed our 2012 sales only six months through 2013, and are anticipating a big remainder of the year with upcoming events. The same shirts that were sold out of the back of my car when I launched are now the same products being worn by professional athletes, country music stars, and individuals worldwide. The support and success has been overwhelming, but it was far from easy. The road has been long, difficult, and full of many failures along the way. But it’s a learning experience you could never find inside of a classroom or staring at pages writing a business plan that you’ll eventually lock away in a cabinet.
If you’re passionate about an idea want to launch, here’s what I’ve learned that should prepare you for the road ahead.
1. Hustle harder than you ever thought possible.
I never knew how much work would be involved when I launched Compete Every Day. I’ve put in thousands and thousands of hours without paying myself a dime. I’ve spent weekends on the road, sleeping in my truck, driving from one event to another, and I’ve skipped nights out with friends to finish projects. You have to be prepared to invest yourself into this project – never above family and never above your own health – but invest greatly. Success will not come overnight – don’t expect it to.
2. Failure will happen. Don’t give up.
It’s the natural part of life. Every success story comes after bouts of failure. Ideas flop. Projects cave in. What matters most is how we respond to those failures. Successful businesses learn from their mistakes, revise their game plan, and press onward. Use the failure as motivation for your future success.
3. Surround yourself with mentors & positive people.
I cannot stress this note enough. Find solid business leaders who you can lean on for advice and learn from them. Pick their brains and find out how they reached success. Leadership & positivity are two things you can never get enough of while trying to build a business.
4. Reflect & refocus every month.
Take a time-out each month to reread your goals for the business, and check your current status. I did a horrendous job of this starting out and I would lead the company away from the direction I wanted it going. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind that you forget to focus on the big picture. A short time-out every 30 days will help you keep things on track and make any necessary changes.
5. Never underestimate the human touch.
Never underestimate the power of a “thank you” phone call, handwritten card, or timeout to grab coffee and simply “check up” on someone without a business agenda. Relationships make or break businesses – take all of your relationships incredibly serious.
6. Celebrate the small successes.
It’s hard to celebrate the small “wins” when your sole focus is on the big win (whatever that may look like). Building a business can mentally wear a person down unless you take time to step back and celebrate the small goals and steps you’ve reached along the path to today. Keep the end goal in mind, but don’t be afraid to take a minute to smile and enjoy how far you’ve come thus far.
7. Focus on what’s important.
Don’t get caught up in the day-to-day “crap.” It’s very easy to start doing activities and work that isn’t important in the long run. Don’t let yourself get caught in the rut. Focus on the activities that enhance your brand, your sales, and your successes. And checking Facebook every hour is not one of those activities!
It’s that simple. Well, not that simple. These are difficult reminders, but invaluable if you abide by them. The road will be hard, and at times seemingly impossible, but maintain your focus and ultimate goal. Success will arrive if you continue to work hard and surround yourself with those who help you – and your business – continually get better.
And when you feel like you don’t have much energy left, remember back to why you started. That’ll light all the fire you need to compete.
Note from Jessie: I came across the Compete Every Day brand on Twitter a while back, and I find the energy, spirit, and enthusiasm behind this brand to be completely contagious. I have never even met Jake in person, but based on the brand he is building and the audience he is cultivating on a daily basis, I can’t help but rally in his corner for great things to come. Check out his website, rock some of the Compete gear, and say hello to him on Twitter! #COMPETE