THE “EASY” STARTUP - (Psst, it takes hard work)

easy startup takes hard work planning determination starting a lean business

During my Navy career, I often found myself in a consultant type role. My area of expertise was ship maintenance and project management. I advised the commanding officer and other senior officers in matters related to those areas. I would frequently be asked this question in one form or another, “Is there an easy way to do this?” More often than people want to acknowledge, the answer to that question is sometimes no. Some things just require hard work. Some things are just tedious and mundane. That’s why I like the Navy’s new tagline, “Forged by the sea.” 

Forging is an intense process of change by extreme heat and pressure. Doing things the easy way, doesn’t change you. It doesn’t cause you to appreciate the details. It doesn’t change the way you think. Now, I’m not dismissing the technology that makes all of our lives easier. I use and appreciate all of the tools that automate many aspects of running a business. An excellent example of technology we all use is GPS. In my twenties, I drove all over the country without GPS. I used an atlas and road signs to reach my destination. If GPS were not available today, I would still be able to do that. My children would be lost completely. But more serious than that, people who have never done it the “hard” way sometimes don’t appreciate the details of driving. 

For instance, many times they don’t drive with anticipation. Using and depending on GPS often leads to sudden turns or lane changes. When you are using an atlas and road signs, you start preparing to change lanes, slow down, or merge in anticipation of turning. You’ve looked at the road and understand what’s happening. You know the details. If you drove much before GPS, you still have the innate sense to drive with anticipation because of the hard work you’ve done in the past. 

You Need An Education 

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school” - Albert Einstein 

I’m not taking about a college degree. In 2016, after I transitioned from the military, my plan was to start an HVAC business. I was basically clueless about running my own business. I had never done it in my life. I had skills that transferred, management, leadership, and technical knowledge but nothing about business plans, human resources, or business administration. To gain understanding, I started on the Small Business Administration website. I soon realized there was much more that I didn’t know. This is a different kind of learning. It’s no longer about passing a test and moving on to the next course. This learning is being put immediately into practice. In the quote above, the education that Einstein refers to is how you were changed by the information that you studied. What kind of person are you as a result of the learning? How has that information affected your decision making? You must devote yourself to learning. Tip: LinkedIn partners with Lynda to provide excellent online training videos. It’s not that expensive. Those I’ve watched were very well done. 

Ask For Help 

“Sometimes, asking for help is the most meaningful example of self-reliance” -Unknown 

Late in 2016, I read about an Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans. I applied and was selected. This course was an online education in developing and writing a business plan followed by 9 days of intense classroom teaching. I didn’t realize how badly I needed this help until I received it. It brought all of the scattered information together. If you are a veteran, there are several programs geared toward helping veterans start businesses. If not, there are other programs that you may fit into. If you don’t fit into one of these groups, there are still a number of valuable resources. The Tennessee Small Business Development (TSBDC) website is an excellent resource. Specifically, their survival training video series are very well done. Your local SBDC also provides classroom training and counseling. Another tremendous program is SCORE mentors. SCORE mentors are all business owners that volunteer to mentor startup business owners. It was a valuable resource in reviewing my business plan to present it to a bank for a business loan. The SBA website has links to a number of other programs. This help doesn’t just fall into your lap. You have to seek it out. Finding the right help, good help can be hard work. 

Tip: There are a number of bookkeepers or CPAs that offer a free hour of consultation. Do it. You need it. 

No One Has Ever Heard Of You 

“Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.” – Dan Zarrella 

Marketing takes up 60% of my time. Business cards, flyers, website, social media, signage… you must present a consistent image of your business. If you start a weekly blog, keep doing it even if you only get a few readers. Keep social media and your websites fresh. Research your field. There’s that learning thing a again. Find out what is working for everyone else. Identify your ideal customer type. Use online resources to find out what areas those people live in, where they shop, what websites they go to, what they use to go to those websites, and what interests them. Get out and meet people, talk to them, tell them about your company. Find the areas that set you apart from other businesses like yours. Exploit your differences in your marketing plan. 

Tip: Take advantage of every opportunity. When newspapers, radio stations, news channels, and other advertising media contact me, I always meet with them or talk with them on the phone. I’ve found that just in meeting with them I gain insight on marketing and marketing strategies. 

Do The Job Well 

“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more” – Jonas Salk 

Don’t forget to do the job well. Regardless of how much marketing you do, you won’t be painting houses very long if you do a bad job. Gordon Ramsey would say, “Standards!” You must have high standards. There must be a non-negotiable level of quality in everything you do. Do it right even if you have to do it free. It’s not a loss. It’s an investment. We once made a mistake that caused water damage to a ceiling. I could have found a run of the mill guy to finish the sheetrock and tried to preserve the profit on the job. But I chose to hire an experienced, highly recommended sheet rock finisher to do the repair. When he finished, you could not tell anything had ever happened. It turned out that the homeowner was the president of the local area association of realtors. Tip: Don’t be satisfied where your skill level is. Find ways to improve your product and service. Send your employees to school. Offer training opportunities and incentives for completing them.


I hope you enjoyed this article about how to be successful in creating a new startup and why it takes a lot of hard work and planning.

Interested in reading more articles about starting a business? 

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