How Not To Start A Business
I’ve tried a few different business models and businesses in the past, none of which has been successful enough to be sustainable.
My last venture was to private label Bluetooth headphones that I had ordered from China and sell them on Amazon. Things started off slow and started to pick up, but stalled out and crashed after a few competitors bought our products and left fake reviews.
I tried, unsuccessfully, to get things back up off the ground, but after a few months I finally liquidated my inventory and called it good.
That being said, I learned a lot, and I’d like to share some of that with you.
Partners Are Critical
With my Amazon business, I teamed up with a friend and his friend. I was going to handle most of the business operations. My friend agreed to provide most of the capital we would need to purchase our inventory, and we brought his friend on because he had experience running an Amazon business for one of his clients at work.
At the time, both seemed like logical moves.
The First Partner
My friend and I have known each other since grade school, and have talked a lot in the past about how we both want to be entrepreneurs and create our own businesses. I felt that he would be dedicated to making sure that our business succeeded.
I soon learned, however, that there’s a big difference between talking the talk and walking the walk.
As much as my friend and I both think owning our own businesses is the path to eventual financial independence, it didn’t take me long to realize that he just wasn’t going to put the work in to make it happen.
In the beginning, we would meet every two weeks to discuss how things were going, decide on our business strategy, make assignments between the three of us, and agree to complete them before the next meeting.
Unfortunately, I was, for the most part, the only one of us that would complete my assignments. My friend and his friend would frequently spend time doing other things like rebuilding cars or playing video games, make promises, and never keep them.
To make matters worse, my program in school is extremely rigorous, so I only had a little time to work on the business and I needed to rely on my partners to get things done.
At first, I was frustrated with my friend for failing to follow through, but I eventually realized that I was to blame.
Not because I wasn’t trying to do what it took to make the business succeed, but because I picked a partner that was never going to make the business his priority. As much as he said he wanted to own a business, he wasn’t willing to treat it like one. Instead, our business was a hobby, and not one that he wanted to spend a lot of time on.
As far as his friend goes, I learned that it’s important to select partners that have an entrepreneurial mindset and are willing to take risks.
The Second Partner
Aside from the fact that our third partner spent his time selling on Amazon for work but couldn’t seem to get our own products off the ground, he had a terrible habit for any entrepreneur.
He said no. All the time.
All the time.
During the months that we were trying to get sales back off the ground, I would bring ideas to him and my friend, and his default answer was always no.
He didn’t want to take any risks or experiment at all.
In his mind, there was a right way and a wrong way to sell products online and a right product or a wrong product to sell. If what I suggested wasn’t on his list, he said no.
To make matters worse, he offered no alternative options when he did so. Instead of saying something along the lines of, “I don’t think that would work, but we could try this…” he would just say no.
You can’t build a business that way. Decision making became a painful experience that typically consisted of me bringing ideas and then having to argue every little point and justify everything to him.
When we finally agreed to take a specific course of action and made assignments, both he and my friend would get involved in other things and never do it.
Eventually, I decided to cut my losses and leave.
The Business Lesson
The main lesson I learned from this latest failure is that if you’re going to start a business you need to surround yourself with people who are like-minded.
That’s not a novel piece of advice, but it took this business failing for me to really understand it.
You should never jump into a business relationship with someone unless you are sure that your goals, vision, and work ethic align with theirs. Make sure they’re willing to put in the work and will treat your business like a business, even if you’re doing it on the side while you wait for things to take off. Find people who are willing to take calculated risks and want to experiment.
Starting a business requires all of those things.
And dysfunctional partnership spells doom for your business no matter who you are.