“Let me tell you where I went wrong,” he said. He began to explain to me how for the last year he got caught up in the whirlwind of what was fun, cool, exciting and challenging in his mind. “I focused on the artistic parts of the business and that is really what energized me! I didn’t want to sell a boring product, I wanted something I could be proud of so I went for something I would buy.” He explained how he had focused all of his energy on his logo which ended up being a piece of clip art not even meeting Amazon’s guidelines of letters or numbers and it ended up looking horrible once on the product, how he poured himself into his website and also focusing all his energy into building a social media following. “It was so cool to get people who cared and to see the number of people following me was insane, it was such a high to see those numbers!”
“Did you have trouble selling your product?” I asked. “Well, we couldn’t beat the competition. They had better materials then we did and even though we did the research and based on data…like according to the data this was a really good product to sell…it really was a good product we just couldn’t keep up.”
“So you just didn’t design your product the best way?” I asked.
“ Yeah, and then the competition came out with all these extra things, extra colors and they just had way more to invest into the product then we did. They started to add better perks and they upgraded their materials and ours kept falling apart and resulted in bad reviews.” He explained.
“So if you were to do this again, what would you do differently?” I asked with anticipation.
“I wouldn’t have cared as much about my logo, my website or the social media following. Instead, I would have really investigated how to be the best at producing the product. Had I known what was possible and what strategy I could have taken with it, then I could have stayed in the running. I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. I really thought I could succeed just because the data said I could.”
Silence followed for a moment. I could hear the pain of regret in his voice but I could also hear his passion for wanting to succeed. I thought back to how many times in my own life I had started a business based off of what sounded cool to me at the time and got caught up in similar things. How many hours I had spent on my own website which I would eventually change another hundred times over. Wanting to create a “brand” but not having the money to look like a company that was ten years farther into the business then myself. The high of starting something you are really proud of and the rush of being an entrepreneur with exciting ideas you get to execute on. It is easy to get caught up.
I even for a moment thought back to when I launched my coaching business but had no idea what I initially wanted to coach on. I was all over the place trying different approaches. I too didn’t want to limit myself to something boring but I also knew it takes starting with the boring to get to the exciting and variety.
“Aimee, I need you to help me design a product. I know enough to find the product and what will sell, but I need your help with understanding how I can succeed at this. I really want it to work, do you think you can help me?”
The following weeks we met every week and he was determined to try and find another product. But then I didn’t hear from him for two weeks. I reached back out to him and asked how things were going.
“Well I met this girl and she started a business that I really am excited about. I get to focus on the cool stuff that is fun to me. I want to do Amazon but just right now I think I really want to focus on her business.”
I hung up the phone wondering if he had found his calling with focusing on his definition of the cool stuff or if he was trying to date this woman he had met setting his own aspirations aside.
I think this story is like to many people who start Amazon FBA and think it is as easy as just following the data. That is only one aspect of being an entrepreneur and creating a business that will succeed. I believe that part of the process is understanding your personal strengths, what you know now and what you have no experience doing. Outsourcing where you have no experience and focus on what you know.
This young man chose a product he had no experience with. He didn’t know about the different materials it came in or could come in. He didn’t understand the market and what other products would be good to sell along with it. And he didn’t go into it preparing to beat the competition out of the gate.
Aside from all of that, he was going after what was exciting and shiny. Can I tell you how many times I have been guilty of the same thing? Whooo another business opportunity, another cool idea, another fun project! But that type of focus, although full of highs, is not what produces long term success. While it is ok to branch out in your business, learn new things and grow, it takes great focus on the foundational things that are sometimes a little bit boring to succeed.
If your desire is to just build a big following online, as soon as you get bored of doing what you are doing you will give up. I remember back when I started my first podcast. It was in 2008, and literally nobody was podcasting. I was told I was crazy for trying and that it would never work. But every week I got on the internet and interviewed another guest. Consistently for six years I interviewed people every week. When I first started out I had probably one of the worst stuttering problems you can imagine. I couldn’t get out of my head and get my words out. I talked over my guests and I had no idea how to listen. But as the years progressed I started to get better, I did less editing. In the beginning I had a mentor tell me, “What you are doing is going to get really boring after a while and what will determine if you succeed is if you choose to keep doing it when it is no longer fun to you.” That statement stuck in my mind whenever I wanted to give up. I grew that podcast to about 70,000 listeners until I decided to retire my podcast season of life and move to YouTube.
Something I have learned through this process is that we cannot be proud of ourselves and what we have done based upon the results, followers, and external payoffs. But who we become and how we are able to grow as a result really is the payoff long term. If you think about it, I went from someone who could barely speak to someone who is now doing TV hosting and making videos every week. The young man I coached went from someone who thought starting a business was easy and cool to learning what he was passionate about and liked doing, or at a minimum learned what not to do in the future.
As you consider creating a business remember that you are not in this just to make money, to create a large following, to be famous or to be appreciated by the world. But you are in this to become someone that you can wake up to in the morning and be proud of. To look at your life, step back, and realize you produced what matters in the long-term. Even if you have massive success and then tomorrow it is all lost due to some sort of economic crash, what will matter is who you are deep down inside, the skills you have acquired, the person you have become. Because who you are is not something that can be lost, when you invest in yourself your account of yourself will never be at zero. Choose to become over choosing to be popular and you will never lose at life.