Self Made | Raising Capital | Relationships [My Story]
“There is no such thing as a self-made man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.” – George Mathew Adams
Understanding the simple concept that all entrepreneurs at one time or another have had a helping hand is the essence that motivates those self guided innovators to give back. The challenging anomaly is that time constraints act as variables in regards to being able to consult those who ask for advice or mentorship. Through the years I have been asked the following questions by those seeking to further their entrepreneurship taste buds;
- What is leverage?
- How do I raise capital?
- How should I network?
- What type of work ethic should I have?
- How should I brainstorm?
- Should I be involved in a relationship?
Which leads me to the following; before I decide to start rambling I decided to give you all a taste of my personal preferential bias and what obstacles I had to go through to build my own foundation of entrepreneurship character traits. There were times when I had to do things that I was not personally proud of, but as Jay Z states, “Lord forgive me, because I could have never made it without sin.” On the contrary, I have been humbled by several of life’s lessons and am man enough to hold accountability for my mistakes. Now let the memoir begin…
The list goes on and on. After the initial startup up of my first 10 years in the world of entrepreneurship (from about age 15 till about 25) the beginning ladders of my career were based on a Real World (TACIT Knowledge) or street knowledge application. The early stages from about 15-18 years of age were commenced from several niches that I am not proud of. Let’s just say that I learned distribution, raising capital, networking, management, branding, marketing, reading people and body language, how to handle duress (getting robbed at gunpoint several times] losing capital, and starting over.
After completing my first day of high school my senior year, I decided to make the self reliant conceptual decision to enroll in the United States Marines. This was in fact one of the best decisions of my life. For a couple of reasons;
1. Did not have to worry about SAT’s and Grades my senior year. Had the pleasure of taking a one year vacation while enjoying the fruits of being a senior in High School while concentrating on finding myself through the enjoyment of several of earth’s natural and lab made pleasures.
2. The Marines taught me discipline, leadership, politics, and the art of handling duress and governing men.
3. Thanks to the government, the POST 9-11 GI-BILL has given me several avenues of pursuing and paying for 100% of my education. Which, I have had the privilege of taking advantage of till this day.
These ages were very critical in the development of my entrepreneurship conceptualization, as I would consider this the test phase of the application and apprenticeship ladder. During this period while all of my peers were enjoying themselves drinking and partying and basically doing what I was doing at the age 15. I was working 100hr weeks increasing my explicit knowledge via the application of book reading, seminars, conferences, certifications, and mentoring under several industry moguls. Thanks to two great mentors I was introduced to the capital markets, which further fed my pursuit for the love of economics. (By the way, I was also married and had to deal with the social pressures of making a mother in law and wife happy.) Disclosure: Please note that I will always love her and wish nothing but the best for her and her family.
I like to call this the application and tacit phase of my entrepreneurship career as I commingled several industries and niches and took on the norm and a recession. Starting several companies in the midst of a divorce and the start of a recession was probably one of the greatest real world lessons that one could have ever had the chance to take on. The lessons learned during this period and the opportunities that opened were incredible. As the quote, “The greatest fortunes were built during recessions and bear markets.” Definitely holds some accountability. During this phase of my entrepreneurship life cycle, I learned the essence of capitalizing on niche opportunities and building companies from the bottom. There were times when I had to literally beg friends and family for funding in order to satisfy cash-flow operational issues, but thank God that each and every one of my close friends and family came through. Thanks to some great colleagues, and NO THANKS TO THE BANKS!!! We squeezed by the storm and exponentially grew as a company. We even had the privilege of taking on several other niche industries.
There are three types of leverage in today’s world or entrepreneurship. Time, Money, People
Let’s start with the most precious commodity, Time. You need to learn early on in your career that there are only 24 hrs in a day and seven days a week. Your body and mind both need about 6hrs of sleep in order to perform at its peak level of performance. I think Napoleon says it best, “6 hrs for a man, 7 for a woman, and 8 for a failure.” This simple statement takes care of the fact that your body and mind, whether you like to hear it or not, needs rest. This leaves us with about 18hrs left to do some damage. Most of you who have NOT had the privilege to be born with a silver spoon in their mouth probably need to work a corporate job or a 9/5 to get bye. We have all been there, the world of bills compounds are every thought as we play the game of the corporate world to put food on the table and a roof over our head. For those who are dead set in starting a company from the ground up or jumping into the world of Entrepreneurship. I can’t help but to stress the fact that you have to crawl first, before you take the first step, or even sprint. If you take a look at the average corporate 40 hr work week, which usually consists of 9am -5pm, Monday to Friday, there is still ample time for you to start working on a part time hustle or apprenticeship.
Figuratively speaking, you can do some serious damage from the hours of 7pm-12am. That’s another 20 productive working hours that you can use to either master a craft, or build the foundation to your future venture. Multiply that times 50 weeks a year, and you have created 1000hrs of extra revenue generated activity. From a quantitative approach, 1000hrs / 8hr full time work day = 125 work days!
The fact is that you have to learn to capitalize on the energy that your youth admits, while you are young, so you can reap the fruits of your labor in the long term (when you are old). This means that you have to take on as much responsibility and accountability while you are young, in order to augment enough tacit (street) knowledge that you can use towards starting your dream venture.
As most of you know, it takes money to make money. Cash flow is the lifeblood of all Entrepreneurs dreams. Without it, dreams become nightmares and nightmares do not pay bills. When starting out; there are three ways to raise capital for ventures. If you’re lucky enough, you can borrow it, from either friends or family. You can seek out investors to invest in your company or venture for a return on investment. You can be amongst the lucky few and obtain for free government grants. The truth is that there is plenty of money or greenback out there; you just have to have the tenacity and will power to ask and search for it. You will be surprised how many doors will open with investors or friends and family that are willing to fund your projects if you just ask and do your homework.
In regards to leveraging people, Isaac Newton states, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.” Simply put, you need to surround yourself around successful people. This is probably the most important form of leverage. The truth is that you are who you associate with. If you associate with successful entrepreneurs, than you will become a successful entrepreneur. If you associate with losers than guess what, you will become a loser. When starting out, you need to find mentors that will bring you under their wing. This is called the apprenticeship phase. If you have to work for free, than pay your dues and work for free. All great entrepreneurs have paid their dues by learning the craft from someone who has already mastered it. By leveraging off of someone else’s strengths, you will learn your trade and add your touch to it when the time comes. This process takes time, but it will pay off.
Like I stated before, the most precious commodity that you have is time. When it comes to relationships, if you want to succeed when you’re first starting in entrepreneurship. You need to have the self discipline to marry your business. The path of entrepreneurship is a very lonely road when you are first starting out. It is not for everyone. Your business becomes your life and your life becomes your business. You will eat, sleep, and dream your business. If you ask any of my ex girlfriends what was the number 1 reason why we broke up, they would state that it was because I did not give them anytime. I even lost my first wife over the fact that I gave up a secure corporate career to launch my first company. The truth is that your venture will take time to grow and start bringing in a decent return of investment. Not just a monetary investment, but a life investment. Because you will dedicate your life to your business, and overtime, your business will take care of your life. So you need to have the mental tenacity, patience, and self belief in your vision. Your significant other, wife, or girlfriend might not have the same mentality as you. They might even bad mouth what you’re trying to accomplish, but fuck em. If you put in the time, you will reap the fruits of your labor. Just have the patience to build your company, and in time you will find someone who shares the same values that you have. You need to pick your goals in life first, and then pick the woman to match them. You might even have the privilege to start a family built on great values and norms. If not, than you will at least have a good time enjoying your fruits and spreading your seeds.
When it comes to raising capital the 80/20 rule, or Pareto’s principle, comes into play. 80% of investors do not invest in the company or idea, they are investing in you! The other 20% had the patience to actually read the business plan or proposal you created and sift through the qualitative and quantitative data and return of investment criteria. The challenge with young entrepreneurs is that they do not take the time to do their due diligence. Over and over again, investors turn down deals because young entrepreneurs do not plan their work. We here it over and over again, you have to plan your work and work your plan. This does not mean that you have to take a year off to put together a business plan. All you really need is the basics, an Executive summary summarizing the proposal or venture that you are putting together. The management summary, stating the credentials of who is running the project. The market analysis or swot analysis stating your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the company and of your market and competitors. A marketing plan or marketing strategy which contains how you plan on attacking the market, and finally the financial plan. How you plan on paying your investors back. It seems like a significant amount of information to put together, but it’s really not. I call this the weekend project; one weekend of Starbucks mocas could fund your dream. If not, than you at least did your due diligence to see if there is a market for your project, or not. 99% of businesses fail because they do not plan their game of attack. The other 1% were just lucky enough to make it by in a niche market. There is nothing wrong with luck; you just have to make sure that it’s on your side.
If you’re trying to network. The objective is simple. You need to meet as many qualified and credible people that will help you obtain your goals as fast as possible. The key to networking is building and creating a circle of influence that will help you obtain your goals today. If you are networking to build strategic partnerships or find mentors to look up to, there are plenty of networking groups or meetings locally that you can attend. But for the sake of leveraging time, in which most of us do not have, and for the sake of your future. You need to leverage the greatest technological networking tool of them all. “Google” . Google has already done the research and due diligence you need to find credible mentors within your field, and the best part of it is that do to the analytics and algorithm that Google uses, the names that pop up are probably within a 90 mile radius. If you’re looking to find mentors in real estate investment, look up the words, “real estate investors” and put down your city. Once you can target an email address, phone number, or any form of contact information, start contacting them. The equation is simple. The more contacts you make the more qualified leads and mentors you will have. Since we live in a world of egos, one of the leveraging tools that I personally use is simple. I either call them direct or send them an email asking them for an interview. I simply let them know that I am a young entrepreneur and would like 5 minutes of their time to ask them 5 questions about how they achieved their success for a school project. You might not even be in school, but for the sake of your future, just impromptu and schedule a time and date to speak. Rather on the phone, or in person. Have the self belief to ask. We currently live in a world of interpersonal communication where everyone contacts each other by either text or facebook. People do not have the time, nor want to speak to someone in person. This alone will get you an appointment. Once you have your sit down or initial meeting, start asking questions and build report. Concentrate on them, let them talk, and most importantly…listen. If they seem like they would be a great mentor, than take the time to contact them via email or phone at least 5 times before asking them if they could use any help on any projects or even mentor you. 9/10 times, after building enough report, they would be honored to. If not, start googling another list… Just be honest with yourself, and do not be afraid to put in the work. There is a thin line between those who succeed and those who don’t. In the eyes of those who have made it or your mentors, you have not paid your dues yet. You still have to go through the cycle. This cycle in chemistry is known as auto cataclysm. In business this is known as the cycle of accelerated returns. Your passion and your ability to learn will compound to produce effective results. You just have to put in the work. There was a time when I would drive from Palm Springs to Los Angeles to visit my mentor three times a week. That’s a three hour drive one way. So if you do the math, I would drive 18 hrs a week to spend 6 hours with my mentor in person. Those 4-6 hrs of week were priceless. The lessons learned in Real Estate, Business, Negotiations, Relationships, Networking, Management, were priceless. You can’t learn real world application from books, or explicit knowledge. You have to be willing to hit the pavements and apply tacit knowledge. This is known as street smarts or real world application. So find mentors or people that you can build strategic relationships with. Let the cycle take its course.
The faster that you build a team that has the same goals and visions that you have that faster that you will reach your final objective. In entrepreneurship, this means finding others who have the same intense work ethic, goals and synergy that you have. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Do not be afraid to fire or eliminate friendships in business. Business is business, and if you are blessed enough to find others that have the same mentality and focus that you have. The stronger your links will be. A family that builds a business on loyalty and intense work ethic will eat. The transgression to this is that the road to the top is very lonely, and alterior psychological motives will always come into play. So stick to your gut feeling….. If it feels like one of your partners is cheating you, than there us a 99% chance that he is. So never ever, be afraid of terminating a business relationship. It is what it is, and that’s business.
The truth is that there are no shortcuts, You have to put in the work and do the best that you can to put yourself in a position that where if you’re lucky enough, you will have the vision to see problems and turn them into opportunities. The challenge is that most entrepreneurs lie to themselves. They think that they have all the skills needed to take on the competition. Which is exactly what the competition thinks? Talent is not enough in Entrepreneurship. You have to play your strengths and make others aware of your strengths. You need to remember that you will get turned down several times, but each time you will gain more knowledge and you will achieve greater results. As long as you’re honest with yourself and your beliefs and you’re honest when you first wake up in the morning, you will succeed. Don’t allow others to stagnate your success with criticism. You can’t move mountains without moving the mountain. So move those naysayers. When my partner and I started FDIS-Tampa, which is a Merchant Credit Card Processing Company in 2008, everyone thought we were insane. At that time I was heavily vested in Real Estate and was managing a Correspondent Lender in Florida, and decided to leave the industry prior to the late 2007 Bear Stearns Crash. My friends, family, and even wife at the time thought I was insane to leave the world of corporate security for a business model that collects nickels and dimes per transaction. Remember: Through knowledge you gain vision, and through vision you gain the ability to spot economic problems and turn them into economic opportunities. With God’s help, I had the vision earlier on that year to notice the Real Estate Implosion. Thank God that luck and most importantly the man above was able to provide me with the knowledge and vision to see the market divergence. So as a young Entrepreneur I changed the game, before the game changed me. I did my due diligence and homework and found a niche market. I went against all my colleagues, friends, and families naysing views and attacked the credit card processing industry like a marine in war. After four years of intense work ethic, FDIS-Tampa now manages a merchant portfolio of over 10 Million dollars a year. Not bad for going against the norm.
After 100 hrs weeks, your brain gets bombarded and clouded with what I call the “duh” effect. So in order to develop and create intense brain storm sessions, you need to step outside of your comfort zone and do the opposite of what it is that you do. If you spend time in an office all week, guess what? You are going to have to leave the office. After an intense work and physical training week, I like to personally meditate by sleeping 10hrs. That’s right; I will clear my mind and mental stress by taking a 10hr power nap.. Usually on Friday or Saturday night, I will take a natural melatonin pill to intensify my sleeping pattern. Your brain performs well at this state as your subconscious kicks in to overdrive. The following day, I am up to par for the course. That’s where I either pick up a book that I am currently reading at the time, a lap top, and a notebook and head to the local coffee shop or library for a 10-15 minute brain storm session. The ambiances that these places emit provide me with the energy needed to brain storm. This is what works for me..