Day 21 | $24,666 paid | $66,051 till freedom
Exactly one week ago, Michael called me up to tell me about the money that the city of Austin is paying residents to xeriscape their yards. Today, after having spent 68 hours and seven days fleshing out the business model, we launched a website for our company that explicitly supports this initiative.
I went to Michael’s house at 10 AM on Saturday and Sunday. The old me would have still been sleeping. We worked until midnight on the first day, clocking 14 hours of straight work without any real breaks, and we put in another ten on Sunday for a total of 24 hours over the weekend. Leading up to the weekend, we had put in about ten hours each. All told, we’ve sunk 68 man hours and $50 into the business.
You would never catch me putting in over a single hour of work for my day job on a typical weekend, let alone 24, but it’s a completely different mentality since I’m working for myself.
You would also never catch me missing a night out with my friends, but I missed the fight-watching party on Saturday night that I mentioned in an earlier post. I was supposed to go to my friend’s house at 4:30 PM, but 4:30 came and went, and so did the next seven and a half hours–poof, into nothing.
I guess priorities change when you’re working for yourself.
The site for the business turned out far, far better than we expected it to, complete with an online design and quote process, a plethora of high-quality xeriscape images, and even an FAQ. It also includes a bio in which I had originally listed Michigan and HBS as my alma maters, and even included a link to my LinkedIn profile. A colleague at work advised me to remove HBS and the link because even if customers believe it, it looks–to use her words–“sketchy.”
That feedback gave me pause. It’s funny…it seems that HBS can sometimes be as much of a liability as an asset, depending on the career field in question. I’d argue, of course, that at least nine times out of ten, it’s a very big asset.
The site has gotten over 200 hits since we launched it at 8 PM, but I’m guessing those are just our curious Facebook friends clicking the link in our status updates.
Demand generation is going to be critical at this stage. Selling our used cars on Craigslist is about as entrepreneurial as Michael and I have ever been, so this will be a huge learning experience with a steep ramp. Word of mouth will be the main growth stimulant for the business, and we have fairly high hopes for that since Michael’s neighbors have frequently asked how much he charges for the xeriscaping work he did on his own yard. Now he has an answer–and a website and business email address, too.
I’m lucky to be friends with Michael. He’s well-paid and has made some very wise investments, so he’s probably not in this for the money. He also has a wife and kid, so any time he spends on the business is time away from his family. I believe he’s in it because he’s always wanted to do his own thing–when we worked in the same office together, we used to constantly talk about going into business together to build a hot start-up, but for whatever reason, it never went beyond talk. A low-budget landscaping business is definitely not what we anticipated, but at least we’re starting somewhere.
I always knew I was an impulsive guy, but my behavior over the past few weeks really highlights that. Who thinks that ped-cabbing looks like an interesting gig on one day (August 30th), and has already gone through the “interview” process, navigated multiple levels of bureaucracy to get a license, bought a bike, completed training, and started pedi-cabbing ten days later (September 9th)?
Likewise, who is pitched a business idea by their friend (September 10th) and launches the business seven days later?
Sometimes an interviewer will ask, “What’s a weakness of yours?” and the rule of thumb is to describe a weakness that could also subtly be interpreted as a strength. I think my response should be, “I’m incredibly impulsive. I dive right into a project and drive for results without understanding what temperature the water is, how deep it is, or if the liquid that I’m diving into is even water.” Good: I drive for results. Bad: I have no idea what the hell is going on.
This probably explains why I never seek out strategy roles at companies I work for.
The good thing is that the latest venture has a very low monetary cost to start. The time investment was somewhat high, of course, and although I have only ten months to achieve my goal, I think I can afford to spend a weekend investigating a business idea that looks reasonable, at least from a high level.