Category Archives: Increase Revenue

Mad Respect for My HBS Profs

Day 29 | $31,450 paid | $59,267 till freedom

Per my post last night that highlighted a $5k+ delta to my $90k debt pay-off goal, there is no rest for the weary, and I have to go find more money if I want to be debt-free by the end of June.

I just got done with night one of SAT tutor training/interviewing, and it couldn’t have gone more poorly. To quickly recap the selection process, there is a Skype interview that starts the ball in motion, followed by three three-hour training sessions taking place over three consecutive days. After that, trainees must take the SAT and score 2100, a score which could get a high school junior into a level of schools just below the Ivies.

 Only 2% of all applicants are hired on to be SAT instructors for the company with which I’m interviewing–HBS’s acceptance rate at ~9% is actually better!

The three training sessions simply consist of “teach-backs,” where the “manager of instruction” opens the 300-page curriculum at random, selects a  page, chooses a trainee to deliver a three to five-minute lesson, or “teach-back” on it, and gives them 30 seconds to prepare. If the teach-back goes well, the trainee is invited back for the second training session, and if that goes well, for the third. 

In the delivery of the teach-back, the trainee is evaluated on five areas:

  • Concept mastery
  • Boardwork
  • Personality
  • Energy
  • Interaction

The main call-out from all of these was interaction. Each of the six actual classes is three hours long, and in order to keep highschoolers interested for that long of a time, the trainee must engage the class at a rate of 80/20–the class should be talking 80% of the time, the instructor 20%. This is very similar to the HBS class format which is all about the “case discussion” rather than a lecture format, and the professor utilizes the Socratic Method to get the class discussion heading in the right direction, making sure the students draw the right conclusions from the case study, but draw them on their own. Making this connection, I took solace in the fact that I had experienced top-notch student-led discussions for two years at the West Point of Capitalism, and assumed I would be fine in that regard.

That being said, I did not completely relax, and rightfully so, seeing as how I completely crashed and burned during my teach-back.

First off, three of the six trainees were actual teachers, so right away they had an advantage over me in the area of boardwork, if not everything else. Second, and this one was my fault, I didn’t prep for the training as well as I could have. Trainees were expected to come into the first training session being intimately familiar with the 300 pages of the curriculum and all ten hours of training videos on the website. I had every intention of prepping thoroughly over the weekend, but I worked on  the landscaping business from 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturday, printing flyers, hanging them, and working on Michael’s yard, testing our timing assumptions and ironing out best practices. I also went out with friends that night from 10 PM to 4 AM, got to sleep around 4:30 AM, and woke up at 1 PM on Sunday. Oops. Out of all the stuff I was supposed to do this past weekend–work on the landscaping business, prep for the SAT  training, go out with friends, wash my cars, mow my lawn, trim my shrubs, call my parents, go to church, go grocery shopping, and cook my lunches and dinners for the week–I managed to squeeze in grocery shopping, some work on the biz, going out with friends, and stumbling through 150 pages of the  SAT curriculum and five hours of videos.

(Balance. I need to work on it. I probabaly didn’t have to go out for six and a half hours on Saturday. That being said, I might have been too aggressive in building all of those chores into my weekend itinerary.)

So right off the bat, I wasn’t looking good on the mastery front or boardwork front, but I feel that I have a decent personality and I have a lot of energy, and I thought I could do the whole engagement/interaction thing based on my experience at HBS, watching HBS profs in action.

Wrong.

The manager of instruction, Ryan, asked me to teach page 18 of the curriculum, which is all about how to employ a three-step strategy for reading through a dense and boring critical reading passage. Several students had already done teach-backs on other topics and received public feedback from Ryan, so between the five evaluation points mentioned above and the customized feedback he gave each trainee, I had a good idea of what he was looking for. Beyond the five key areas, it was also important to create a “hook” that  grabs the students, personalizes  the upcoming lesson for them, requires their engagement, and pulls them in. When I turned to page 18 to figure it all out, I broke out into a cold sweat. While it seemed that there had been obvious hooks for the three trainees that preceded me, I had nothing! Literally nothing came to my mind. I had absolutely no idea how to make this interesting.

I’m fairly good at winging things, and I assumed that I could just wing it–this had to be easier than the kinds of presentations I give and the discussions I’m involved with in meetings with executive directors and VPs of the Fortune 500 tech company where I work.

On the other hand, I was sitting right next to the exit, and a part of me really wanted to head out to the parking lot rather than up to the front of the class.

I felt the clock ticking, so I got up from my seat, walked to the front of the class, turned around, put page 18 on the desk in front of me, looked out at the trainees and Ryan, then the looking turned into staring, and I stared at them some more, and I waited for the words to come to me. Nothing came. My visions of leading with a crazy hook and being an awesome MC of a super-intriguing discussion rather than a boring instructor of a boring lecture fell apart before my eyes.

I had no hook! I still had no freaking hook. I couldn’t believe it. My armpits immediately became geysers, and I could feel my face turn dark red. “Oh my gosh, no way. I’m actually doing far worse than the girl who went second, and she completely bombed this,” was basically all I could think. And then I just started lecturing. I didn’t even acknowledge anybody in the room for the first 120 seconds of my spiel, and I still can’t really remember exactly what I said. I do know that I tried to use some big words to try to compensate for the mess I was making. 

Finally, realizing I hadn’t engaged anyone worth a darn, I started asking the class completely random questions about the strategy, questions that provided absolutely zero value-add to the lesson. I couldn’t steer the discussion worth a darn by asking follow-up questions, either. I was in a tailspin, grasping at straws, and going down fast. All the trainees’ faces had this pained look of awkward embarrassment on their faces. Nobody could look me in the eyes. Beads of sweat were gathering on my forehead. I eventually pulled out of my tailspin by just letting them do the talking, which didn’t really work since they didn’t know what they were supposed to say, and I finally took them out of their misery by abruptly ending the lesson.

To any HBS profs who might have happened across this blog: My goodness. Never, ever, ever let anybody tell you that letting or trying to force a bunch of students do the talking is an easier teaching model than straight-up lecturing. The Socratic Method is chaos wanting and waiting to be unleashed, and only the most adept professors can control it. Bravo to each and every one of you. You had my admiration and respect while I was at HBS, and now you have it ten-fold.

The feedback from Ryan and the class was about what I thought it would be–extremely negative. I wanted to hand my curriculum binder to Ryan and drive away in my car, but since Ryan had said some people might give two teach-backs, I figured there might be a slim chance that I could salvage it.

Later on, the final two people who had to give a teach-back read through a part of a critical reading passage, each taking a paragraph and leading a class discussion around it. They got feedback from Ryan and the class at the end of their turn, so it became very clear how this was supposed to be done. Ryan called me up to to lead the class in discussion on the third paragraph, and because I had seen it twice–with post-mortem feedback to boot–I managed to emulate the prior two, add some flair, and–not too surprisingly, given all the prep–I actually did fairly well.

At the end of the class, Ryan sent us all into a room and called us out one-by-one to tell us in private if we would go to the Tuesday training session. If I had been Ryan, I would have been very split on whether or not to give me a second chance. Thankfully, he did, and he said that for tomorrow’s teach-back, I’ll need to have a very clear action plan on how to attack the lesson I’m given because that’s when I’m a much more effective and confident instructor–not when I try to build the plan on the fly. I couldn’t have agreed with him more. I shook his hand and thanked him for the probation.

I’m definitely nervous about tomorrow. The only reason I did well on the second teach-back was because I had a model to follow and build upon. I definitely won’t be so lucky tomorrow, but I don’t have time to prep since I have a full day of work before training. I do want this job. Good SAT performance is important, I want to help kids do well on it, but most importantly, the job pays fairly well at  $25/hour.

Cream of the Cream of the Crop
One of the teach-backs in training today was about why the SAT is important and why high-school kids need to take it seriously. That took me way, way back to my days as a 16-year-old. When I was 16, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted to go to an Ivy League school and make $100,000/year when I graduated. That was literally a goal of mine, and that was the salary I wanted.

My counselor shot that dream down, though, during the one-on-one session that all juniors were required to have with their counselors. I told her about my hopes to go to Harvard or Yale, and she advised me to look elsewhere because “only the cream of the cream of the crop go to schools like Harvard.” I can still remember her name, of course, and the lay-out of her office that I was sitting in when she delivered that tidbit of advice to me. I can even remember the visual I got in my head when she told me that line–a cup of coffee, with a little puddle of cream floating on the surface, and only the really, really white cream in the very center of that puddle was worthy of consideration to a top tier school. I remember being envious of that cream, and wondering why it was so much more special than I.

I ended up not applying to any Ivy League schools and instead went to Michigan. But that moment in the guidance counselor’s office has stayed with me today because that was the first time in my life somebody had ever discouraged me from reaching for my goals. My parents have always told me that everything will work out as long as I do my very best. I should have listened to them, instead of putting my trust in somebody whom I considered a subject matter expert.

(By the way, going to Michigan’s b-school for undergrad and rowing on the crew team is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me, so things have a funny way of working out.)

Could I have made it into any Ivy undergrad? I took some AP classes, graduated 12th out of my class of 453 students, had some decent extra-curriculars, and got  a 32 (99th percentile) on the ACT on the first try without a prep course. However, I also got a relatively lousy 1220 (85th percentile) on the SAT on the first try without a prep course, and for east coast schools, the SAT is the critical test. If I had received more positive feedback from my counselor, would I have taken an SAT prep course, scored better, applied to some Ivies, and been accepted? And if I had, where would I be now? I can’t really complain about how life has turned out thus far.

It turns out my parents were right. God bless them.

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We Have Lift-Off

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.

Impulsive

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.

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Another $500 Bike?

Day 19 | $24,666 paid | $66,051 till freedom

You know you’re on a mission to pay down $90k in 10 months when you write two blog posts on a Friday night!

Dating Then Not
So the girl and I are no longer. I called her up and we talked about it, and it seemed like the best thing to do was to end it. It wasn’t a money issue–she didn’t care about money. In fact, she probably lives more cheaply than I do. And while she didn’t want money–something I don’t have right now–she did want time, which is another thing I don’t have right now. It sucks that it ended that way, but at the end of the day, I’m not in marriage-mode right now, and I’m not going to lead somebody on for ten months in a relationship where we hardly see each other for something that’s probably not going to be very long-term, anyway.

Instead of seeing her tonight as planned, I’m going to be posting this blog (one hour) and working on the landscaping business website. At 9 AM tomorrow, I have a meeting with Michael, my friend who thought of the idea, to flesh out the rest of the business plan and launch the site.

Odd Friday Night
On the typical Friday night, I’d either be downtown with my friends or on a date. Tonight is the first Friday that I’ve spent at home in a long, long time–for as long as I can remember, in fact. Even last Friday, I wasn’t home–I was downtown pedi-cabbing. But it’s okay–I’m actually really looking forward to working on the site and planning the business. I think we have such an incredible opportunity on our hands. Michael is a really sharp guy who went to A&M and is a landscaping guru, and I think we’re going to be able to do something really special when we put our heads together. I’m energized.

A part of me definitely misses downtown and hanging out with my friends, and in fact, my buddy texted me to go smoke a hookah at Kasbah, get some Torchy’s Tacos, and go downtown. That sounded incredibly tempting, I was extremely close to saying yes, and it was only with serious willpower that I said no thanks. We’re all getting together at my buddy’s house tomorrow night to watch the fight and possibly go downtown after, so I have that to look forward to. I’ll bring the flask just in case we do end up DT. I haven’t had a guys’ night in a couple of weeks, and I’m looking forward to it.

The Modeling Thing
I met with Nicole from a local modeling agency today and while it went well, it took me to a critical decision point.

The agency has offices in Miami and Hong Kong, and they just started actively recruiting talent for their new Austin office three weeks ago. Nicole and I hit it off and we had a casual conversation for about 30 minutes before getting down to brass tacks.

She had me fill out a form with my measurements and skills. When I asked her if she just wanted my resume instead of a list of my skills, she gave me this really puzzled look and told me no thanks. When I pressed her for details on what kind of skills I should list, she told me to list whatever I can do that a potential client might be interested in when they’re casting models. I still had no idea what she meant, but I didn’t want to risk looking like a complete amateur and asking her to explain further, so I took the bull by the horns and wrote, “ride my motorcycle, run, lift weights, bicycle, hike, business.” I felt like a complete idiot.

Then Nicole told me I’d have to get some pictures taken with a local photographer, Steve, who charges about $400 for a portfolio. Visions of my $500 pedi-cab bike flashed in my head. Uh-oh…here we go again. I swallowed the lump in my throat as she went to explain that without my images, they wouldn’t be able to effectively market me to clients. That part makes sense. On top of that fee, the agency takes 20% of everything I make from their clients. That also makes sense. Both parts make complete sense if the model is awesome and gets assignments left and right. But me…? I wasn’t so sure, but I didn’t tell Nicole that. The meeting wrapped up as she she told me that she never asks anybody to sign on the spot, and that I should call her when I’m ready to proceed.

I went to the gym to work out and talked it over with a buddy who asked me how long it would take to make the $400 back. Valid question–why hadn’t I asked Nicole that?

I called Nicole when I got home,  gave her the context of the pedi-cab situation, told her I didn’t want to get burned again, and asked her to be very, very candid with me and tell me if I even had a snowball’s chance in hell of modeling in Austin and how long it would take to earn back the $400. She assured me that they weren’t taking on models just to fill their roster, and that I wouldn’t have been at the interview if they weren’t seriously interested in me. She went on to say that I have a “clean-cut/businessman/fitness/guy next door” look that will do well for commercial print in Austin, which is apparently more lifestyle/commercial than a place like New York, where “edgy” models tend to do better than guys who look like me.

She also referenced the guy who came to see her after me–I had actually passed him on the way out, so I knew whom she was talking about. She told me that she told him his look might not actually sell in Austin. He has a great face, and while Austinites encourage everybody to “keep Austin weird,” she told me his tattoos might actually be an issue that will prevent him from being picked up. She claimed that she disclosed all of this to him.

I didn’t tell her this, but I’ve never been super confident about my looks. For the first nine years of my life, I had a dark red birthmark on my face that strangers used to stare at and kids at school used to tease me about. They’d laugh at me and ask me why I had “kool-aid” on my face. I got it lasered off at age ten and  had about two years to work on my less-than-stellar self-image until adolescence struck with a vengeance, putting severe acne all over my face, in my ears, and on my back.  To say that dates were hard to come by would be an understatement! I struggled with the acne for several years until I was 16 and got on a six-month Accutane treatment. It worked like a charm and no scars were left behind, but the damage was already done; I had developed a really negative self-image that lingered for years.

I’ve finally gotten over it during the past few years just by increasing my self-awareness and by dating enough attractive girls to realize that I can’t be too much of an ogre. But to go from what I looked like during my formative years to…modeling? I’m filled with skepticism. Nicole told me on the phone to think it over and not be impulsive–nobody has a gun to my head forcing me to sign. She does want me to sign and thinks I would do well, but I should do it only if I really want to do it.

I’m going to marinate on it for a bit and maybe see how the landscaping and SAT tutor jobs go before I commit. I’m leaning towards doing it. I just wish pictures had some sort of a return policy like the bike did! 

Finally Some Incremental Revenue
On a ver positive note, I deposited $1,943 today from the roommates’ first and last pro-rated months and security deposits, and I got an extra $287 on my bi-weekly paycheck by taking my 401k contribution down to nothing. Three weeks after establishing this goal, I’m finally banking some incremental revenue!

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Creepers and Scams

Day 17 | $24,666 paid | $66,051 till freedom

The last thing I should be doing right now is writing a blog–I’m neck-deep in stuff to do, so much so that the girl I’ve been seeing for the past three weeks who I’m really into told me she doesn’t like being a “weekend friend.” Little does she know that if the landscaping business does what it’s supposed to do, it’ll be difficult to see her even on the weekends. Sadness… I tried to explain to her that my friends have invited me out every night this week, but I’ve turned them down every single time. She didn’t text back. I’m hoping to get out this weekend, but also not hoping to get out because that will mean that we don’t have any customers for the new xeriscaping biz. Catch-22.

Anyway, I’m writing tonight despite my limited bandwidth because I just had to share this. I joined modelmayhem.com because of the slightly ajar door I mentioned yesterday. I figure this site might help me get some spokesmodeling and/or trade show gigs, which actually pay fairly well. I’ve heard terrible  things about this site, but whatever–it’s worth a shot. Here’s the first message I got after joining that corroborates what I’ve heard:

Ok, thanks for the heads-up. But did that prepare me for the message I got later today? Helllll nooooo….Gladiators, anyone?

PASS! But let’s marinate on that for two seconds, can we? A free trip to San Diego and $2k …that’s 10 weekends of pedi-cabbing for a day of work. Okay,.

I did get a possibly legitimate message, though…might follow up on it.

And I was pleasantly shocked to see that the feature film was not actually a porn of any sort.

Promotion
Bad news–the hiring manager went back to HR and a 6% raise is all I’m going to see. He went back and forth with them, but couldn’t budge the offer–he walked me through the reasons, but basically what it boiled down is that my new salary puts me in the middle of my pack of peers who have been in this pay grade that I’m just now entering for much longer than I have. In other words, I didn’t just squeak into the new pay grade near the bottom, but more like in the middle, which means I was at the top of my old pay grade and explains why the % increase is not significant. The reasoning sounded fine, and I was planning on accepting anyway–I just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t leaving money on the table.  

I start ramping up in the job immediately while still doing my former job since my backfill has not yet been identified. My already-busy life just got busier. And with a 6% raise instead of 10%, the delta to my goal now stands at $10.9k.

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Resilience

Day 17 | $24,666 paid | $66,051 till freedom

Word of the Week
Resilience: ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like (dictionary.com)

I’m done licking my pedi-cab wounds and I’m onto other ventures. To steal shamelessly:  “It doesn’t matter how far you fall, but how high you bounce back.”

Landscaping–I mean, Xeriscaping
On Sunday, I was pondering how much I could get for my Murano to bridge the monstrous delta to my goal that had swollen by $4.5k  to $9.3k the night before with the abrupt departure of my pedi-cabbing ambitions, when out of nowhere, I got a text from my buddy, Michael, who said he had found a job that would fit all of my criteria:

  • Fast-paced, steady work
  • Manual aspect
  • Outdoors preferred
  • Weekends only

I immediately called him. Apparently, in reaction to the severe drought that we’re currently experiencing, the city of Austin is paying people $20 to $30 per 100 sq ft to xeriscape their yards. Michael, who also works in tech, is a landscaping genius on the weekends, so this job will basically be he and I designing a xeriscape, pulling up sod and replacing it with weed barrier, gravel/rocks, and indigenous plants. I worked on the company website till 3 AM Tuesday morning, and we should be able to start promoting on Saturday.

We’ll be high-speed, low drag;  think Clay Christensen and his theory of disruptive innovation. We’ll be the Redbox to the Blockbusters of landscaping. For example, I called a few landscaping firms for a quote to xeriscape my yard and I asked for estimates on 100 sq ft, 500 sq ft, and 1,000 sq ft plots. I got a quote from only one company, and that was for the 1,000 sq ft plot only. According to him, he won’t consider any projects below $5k, and the only one that potentially fits the bill is the one at 1,000 sq ft.

We don’t need to serve people who have to have their hands held and/or have massive landscaping projects–we’ll go after the guys who just need “good enough.” And with our extremely low overhead costs–costs will be primarily COGS (direct material and labor) with limited capex and opex–we’ll be able to charge very affordable prices that the “good enough” customers can readily afford.

On this night a week ago, I had just finished hustling downtown to meet with the pedi-cab guy and was pumped to pedi-cab during the coming weekend. Tonight, I just finished a meeting with my friend and I’m pumped to start promotiong the new “business” on Saturday. Hopefully I’m not setting myself up for another pedi-cabbing experience. At least the up-front costs are fairly low–the only thing we’ve had to purchase so far is the website domain. While the monetary costs are low, however, I have already sunk about 10 hours of my time into the new venture.

Tutoring
I had a Skype interview with an ACT/SAT/GMAT prep company today after work and I had to give a three-minute lesson on whatever I chose. They used tying a shoe as an example, so I chose to teach the interviewer how  to wash his car. He followed up with some questions at the end of my lesson, one of which was how this job would fit in with my full-time job. I explained to him the whole supplemental-income-so-I-can pay-off-my-debt-in-ten-months thing. The interview must have gone well because I was asked to attend training, which also doubles as a secondary screening process. If I successfully complete training–and get a 95th percentile on the SAT–I’ll not only get a job, but I’ll get a stipend, too. The problem with this situation is that I landed in the 85th percentile on the SAT when I took it  back in the day, 99th on the ACT (and 96th on the GMAT–I just got this question in the nomoreharvarddebt@gmail.com inbox, so there ya go), so they have picked the absolute worst test to give me.

Blue Steel
I sent some pics to a modeling agency that was advertising on Craigslist, got a call from someone at the company, and we set up a meeting downtown for this Friday afternoon. No idea where this will lead…probably nowhere. That being said, I’m not going to prematurely close any doors that are slightly ajar. And I don’t think there will be any requests for any gladiator action–their website looks professional and makes them look legit.

Roommates
The first roommate has officially moved in! So far, so good. It’s actually been kind of funny–she’s so quiet that I forget she’s here, and I was surprised when I found some of her food in the fridge–I had to remind myself that I have a roommate.

The second roommate is driving down from Colorado to move some of his stuff in on Wednesday, but he won’t officially move in till the end of the month. We talked over the phone and I saw his Facebook profile, but we haven’t actually met yet, so fingers crossed. I’m sure he’ll be fine. He sounds like a cool cat.

Promotion
I got my offer letter for the promotion on Monday–it’s an internal job transfer, but still handled via a letter. Anyway, the offer was a 6% raise, which was underwhelming and doesn’t help my cause, as I assumed a 10% raise in all of my $90k/10mos calculations. I talked to the hiring manager and laid out three reasons why the raise should be higher. (And no, NMHD wasn’t one of them.) He’s going to go back to HR and ask for more.

Reflection
The only other time I have ever felt this alive, this tired, and this poor simultaneously was when I was a student at Michigan. In undergrad, I was always busy and focused, always sleep-deprived, and I never had any money. The typical weekday started with class, immediately followed by crew practice, immediately followed by the library, with team project meetings interspersed randomly. These days, it’s work, immediately followed by the gym, then straight to my house to chase down leads, with interviews interspersed randomly. I have zero free-time.

 There’s something to be said about focusing maniacally on a stretch goal. When I was in undergrad, I had lots of goals: academic goals, career goals (e.g., landing a good internship and first job), and athletic goals goals regarding my performance on the rowing team.

When I graduated from undergrad, I stopped being as goal-oriented, and I feel like I lost some of my…je ne sais quoi…my edge? After undergrad, I had no need for academic goals. Even at HBS, my goal was to simply learn as much as possible, since most people end up in the middle of the boat grade-wise, anyway. Athletic goals became pointless after I stopped rowing–I continued to go to the gym, but I was no longer training with a purpose. And ever since I lost my friends during the summer I saved for a motorcycle, I have been averse to setting ambitious financial goals, other than establishing a healthy Screw You Fund, which I achieved a year out of undergrad. 

So the only goals I have are for my career, but in all honesty, I am perhaps not as career-oriented as one might expect for an HBS grad. Sure, upward mobility is important to me, and the last thing I want to do is get stagnant in a role, but unlike my dreams in high school of being a CEO, I don’t really care as much anymore. Ultimately, I do want to own my own business, but I’m not really in a big rush. Let’s put it this way: I don’t have the same focus and dedication on moving my career along as I did regarding my grades at Michigan, and the intensity with which I am approaching my career  goals today is a deathly shade of white in comparison to the red intensity with which I approached my athletic goals on the rowing team. I still show up to work and kill it every day, but the whole drive for the C-suite is…not super-strong.

But this financial goal–which I would actually consider a lifestyle goal more than anything, knowing that I can be debt-free in ten months–it excites me; it makes me feel alive again. 

My buddy was telling me stories today about his “insane trip to Dallas” over the weekend. He told me I missed an incredible time, getting bottle service and whatnot at a hype club, bypassing “a ton” of girls lined up out front waiting to get in while he went to his reserved table. He told me he would have invited me, but he knew that I was pedi-cabbing. Then he asked me why in the world I’m pursuing this financial goal, especially considering that the $42k interest is over “15 whole years,” or that I might possibly make a really wise investment in five or so years and find crazy wealth, rendering these upcoming ten months a waste.

I tried logic to explain to him how nice it will be not to pay $1,057 every month for 15 years, and that once I’m done paying this off, I’ll have an extra $1,057 a month for whatever, which might include trips to Dallas. He still didn’t get it.

I was frustrated with his lack of understanding. He thinks I’m having a terrible time and that the end goal is not worth the interim hardship. What he fails to understand is that I’m really not having a terrible time. Not yet, anyway. It’s fun. It’s a challenge. It’s something different. It gets me out of the same weekly routine of work/gym/bar. I mean, I freaking pedi-cabbed downtown! I have cool roommates! I got a promotion! I’m doing creative writing every night via my blog! I built a website for a business! I’m meeting with a modeling agency on Friday?

Do I miss bar nights with my friends? Of course I do, and this weekend, since I quit pedi-cabbing, the flask will star in a sequel. But I’m also having fun mixing it up in new ways that I suppose might be hard for some to understand.

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Cost of a Mistake and a $4.5k Swing

Day 15 | $24,666 paid | $66,051 till freedom

I brought the bike back to Bicycle Sport Shop yesterday since they have a 7-day return policy. Unfortunately, returned bikes must be in “like-new” condition, which mine definitely wasn’t. The seat post was scratched and dented up after having a trailer hitched to it three times, the crank arms were scuffed, and I had cut the handle bar grips to accommodate the bar-ends. Consequently, BSS pro-rated the return, and of the $620 I spent on the bike, I got $540 back for a loss of $80, which I consider fair. Add to that the cost of getting my pedi-cab license, which includes the criminal background report, defensive driving class, driving history report, notary for the application, and the application itself, and I’m looking at a loss of $80 + $100 = $180. I made $55 pedi-cabbing (+$72 to the first night, -$17 the second night) for a total cost of my mistake at $125.

And yes, this is my mistake. When I brought my bike back to the store to return it, the salesperson told me that the pedi-cab market was over-saturated. When I look back on it now, of course I remember seeing a bunch of pedi-cabs on every street corner without any fares, and this is before I even knew I wanted to be a pedi-cabbie! Why didn’t I factor their inactivity into my decision to be a pedi-cabbie? Such a rookie mistake.

Hopefully I won’t beat myself up over this for too long. For now, I’m replacing the pedi-cab job revenue of $4,480 on the roadmap with ($125). I now have line of site to about $81k of my loans being paid off in ten months, with a delta of about $9k.

Where will I find it? How will I bridge that gap?

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Back to the Drawing Board

Day 14 | $24,666 paid | $66,051 till freedom

I Quit
I’ve had time to chill out, so you’re getting the calm, cool, collected me. If you had seen me earlier, you would have seen a raving lunatic. I was reminded tonight that I’m a terrible quitter. I’ll happily quit something when I’m successful at it, but can see that it’s not worth pursuing. On the other hand, I hate quitting something because I’ve failed, especially when I can see the potential in doing it. It’s very difficult for me to take that kind of quitting in stride.

But quit pedi-cabbing tonight I did, even though I can see so much potential in it. I quit not because I failed to make money at it, but because I couldn’t tolerate the boredom and isolation that I experienced while I did it.

Okay, So What Happened?
So I started tonight’s shift with a very positive and upbeat attitude, optimistic that I would clear $150. Last night, all the pedi-cabbies said Saturday would be much better than Friday because so many people come downtown after the game. 60 minutes into the shift, I had given only one 5-minute $20 ride, and had sat around and ridden around aimlessly for the other 55 minutes. I was making $20/hour, which is $4/hour better than last night, but you know you’re in need of job change when a transvestite taps you on the shoulder while you’re sitting on your pedi-cab in front of the gay bars on 4th and says, “Quit looking so sad!”

She/he was right. I had been sitting around for fifteen minute without any rides and was bored to tears, and it was starting to show on my face. Unfortunately, that look only feeds a negative cycle since pedi-cab drivers have to appear approachable in order to actually get rides.

It was right around the time I got that tap on the shoulder when I decided that pedi-cabbing was, sadly, not a good fit for me due to the dynamics currently at play in the Austin pedi-cabbing industry, dynamics best characterized as supply greatly outstripping demand due to the exorbitantly high price of a pedi-cab ride. There are way too many pedi-cab drivers and far too few people willing to pay for the service, and I am not the right kind of person to work in an industry with those characteristics–even if I can make $20/hour.

If pedi-cabbing work was more regular, it would be the perfect gig for me because I love biking, I love downtown, and I love being outside. However, I also like steady, dependable, fast-paced work, and pedi-cabbing is none of those. The low demand (relative to the supply) which is due to the high price prohibits any type of regular, consistent demand. Because of the high price, people consider pedi-cabs a luxury and hardly ever hail them. For every full pedi-cab, there are usually four empty ones.

Tonight, for the one ride I gave, I charged the two women the “special event price” of $10 per person, or $20 total. Today was game day, so this special event price is what all the pedi-cabbies were charging. I drove them from the Hilton to Rain on 4th street. That’s a distance of less than a half-mile. Really? $20 to ride a half-mile? Exorbitant. I enjoyed it and I didn’t even break a sweat and  I would have done the whole thing for $5. The costs of pedi-cabbing do not dictate $20 rides, nor does the supply, so I have no idea why the price is so high, especially since it appears to be killing demand.

However, the price–just like the trailer rental fees that the pedi-cabbies pay–is pretty much standard. Every pedi-cab driver was charging $10 a person per ride tonight. Last night, I met a pedi-cabbie and we were complaining about how slow it was, and he said it was because nobody who’s from Austin takes pedi-cabs because they’re an expensive gimmick akin to a tourist trap. Even the non-special event price of $5/person/ride is too high. (That’s exactly why I raced my friends on foot that one night when they took a pedi-cab. I refused to pay the ridiculous rate.)

Because of my desire for a fast-paced work environment, I’d be glad to give more rides per hour and make the same amount of money. Let me lay out two scenarios: In the first one, I transport only one group of two for only 15 minutes every hour and I make $20 on the ride ($10/person/ride). In the second one, I transport three groups of two for 15 minutes each every hour and I make $20 for the hour ($3.33/person/ride). I will choose scenario two every single time. I don’t care if I’d be working three times as much–I’m not out there to sit around or ride around with an empty trailer, I’m out there to work. Furthermore, it’s far more fun giving rides to people and interacting with them than sitting or riding around alone, which is completely isolating.

I’m not the kind of guy who can wait for opportunities to come to me. I can’t just park outside of a bar or some venue or ride around and wait for people to come to me. That passive kind of demand generation is completely unappealing to me. For example, whenever I visit a car dealership, I always think the same thing: I could never sit around and just wait for somebody to wander onto the lot so that I can pitch them a car. It’s like, for every x number of guys who meander onto the lot, the salesman will make a sale, and it will be huge, but what the hell is he doing with himself when he’s not pitching, when the dealership is dead? I need something more fast-paced.

So based on the current nature of the industry and what I know about my need for steady, fast-paced work, the only logical conclusion that I can draw is that pedi-cabbing and I are not a good match. The only way we’re going to see eye-to-eye is if the industry drops the going rate to something more reasonable so that demand picks up. And I don’t think the industry stakeholders have anything to worry about if they drop price–it’s not like supply would pick up in reaction to the increased demand and then force prices even lower because I don’t think there are a lot of guys like me who would prefer to do more work for less money just to avoid mind-numbing boredom.

I don’t know who regulates the price–whether it’s through the city or through unspoken collusion of the network of pedi-cabs, but it’s way too high. And as much as I’d love to be the Wal-Mart of pedi-cabbing–stack ’em high and sell ’em cheap–the general stigma of pedi-cabs has already been well established as being too pricey, and one guy riding around with his $3 price tag posted on the side of his trailer shouting his price out and audibly undercutting the competition probably 1) won’t be enough to change the stigma and materially increase demand, or 2) isn’t legal.

Of course, I don’t know about point #2–hell, I could be just the guy to turn the industry on its head and give it the kind of shake-up it’s been waiting for. The problem there is that other pedi-cab drivers would find out as I’d have to be very obvious about my low rate (read: yell it out loud as I’m riding down the street) in order to shift customers’ perceptions–and at any one time there are usually at least three pedi-cab drivers, all with empty trailers, within earshot of each other. Once they find out how badly I’m undercutting them, I might find myself with a few enemies and a couple of broken knees.

While very disappointed with the way this has turned out, I do take solace in that I’m not a complete failure since I overcame my fear of feeling subservient. I enjoyed the job last night–and even tonight–when I was actually giving rides, but I never got over detesting the down-time. I walk away from this venture not with frustration with myself, but frustration with the industry.

So pedi-cabbing is out. What’s next? I know that I want fast-paced, steady work, and I want it to have a manual aspect to it. Outdoors would be preferred. Weekends only, as my day job tends to run into the evenings. That being said, tutoring is one thing that has caught my eye, even though it doesn’t align with most of the characteristics I just listed. I also listed myself on mommymixer.com. Male nanny, anyone? There’s got to be a niche for that. Heck, I’ve even considered consulting, which more than one reader has suggested.

One thing is for sure: I need to do more objective due diligence in gig-searching, especially regarding jobs that are so far outside my realm of familiarity. I glamorized pedi-cabbing. I wanted it to be awesome. The depot owners hyped it up and oversold it because they need somebody to rent their trailers, and I completely fell for it because I wanted to believe it was as fun and as lucrative as they described it. Which isn’t to say that it’s not–I’m sure most guys enjoy the pace. But not me.

If you want a gently used Trek FX 7.2, black/gray, size 20″ for $500 tax-free (purchased for $519, comes with free $20 bar-ends and a $10 bell), please let me know.

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Pedi-Cab Chronicles

Day 13 | $24,666 paid | $66,051 till freedom

This is a low-quality post in terms of actual story-telling, but I will push forward with what I have to say anyway since tonight was fairly eventful and I want to get it down before I forget it all.

Observations from My First Night of Pedi-Cabbing

  • The owner convinced me it would be a good idea to ride without my shirt to get more attention and therefore make better money. I was treated like a piece of meat all night long, and while it was  funny, flattering, and novel at first, it quickly grew old.
  • Some drunk girl I gave a ride to literally humped my bike seat. Awkward. Her friend pinched my nipples. Hard.
  • I will wear a shirt next time I go out.
  • I got comfortable calling out to complete strangers, and I did it quite a bit.
  • But out of the seven rides I gave, not a single one of them was from “hustling.” Four of them were from just parking in a spot and sitting in the trailer and waiting for a fare. The othe three were for riding along the road, not saying anything.
  • I’m done hustling.
  • I hate just parking in a spot and sitting in the trailer. I feel so lazy. I’d rather be giving rides the entire time and making as much money if I were to give rides only half the time and sit around the other half.
  • I was riding around for an hour with no fares, growing more and more frustrated, ten seconds away from getting on my bike and riding back to the depot to quit, when three people came up to me asking me for a ride. They turned out to be really cool. I took them to get hot dogs and then dropped them off at Chinatown.
  • Giving rides to three drunk and wild dudes from New York who each weighed at least 200 pounds and want me to race their two friends in another pedi-cab is exhausting. I lost. But I still got a great tip.
  • I broke only three traffic laws tonight.
  • I rode my bike 14 miles.
  • I gave 7  rides to 15 people.
  • I gave a ride to a couple of girls even though they warned me that they didn’t have the cash and wouldn’t be able to pay me anything. I figured that I needed the practice.
  • Other pedi-cab drivers are friendly. Most of them all seem a little off in some way.
  • I made some new friends.
  • In 4.5 hours, I grossed $107 and netted $72 after the trailer rental. That’s $16/hr. (Which would be tax-free if it weren’t for this blog!)
  • All the pedi-cabbies I talked to agreed that tonight was slow.
  • I’m exhausted. It’s now 3:36 AM.
  • I had a good time overall. It didn’t  feel like work.
  • I’ll do it again–next Friday and Saturday if I can get on the schedule.
  • I’m concerned that it won’t be as lucrative as I was led to believe.

The best part…

  • I ended up making $10 more than Joel, my trainer from last night, even though we worked the same hours.

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My Comfort Zone. I’m Outside of It.

Day 12 | $24,666 paid | $66,051 till freedom

Pedi-cabbing and I have a funny relationship. I used to be the guy who would tailgate pedi-cabs with my car on my way to the bar, wishing they would go faster than 10 mph and not take up the entire lane so I could park my car and start partying. Coming out of the club at the end of the night with my buddies, I’d look at them sitting on their bikes, waiting for somebody to pay them money to give them a ride. They seemed so subservient. It’s embarrassing and more than a little awkward for me to admit this, but for the sake of maintaining the transparency that I have tried to establish in this blog, I will: I judged them. While I was having a blast with my friends, spending money freely on drinks, they were out there working for $10 fares, doing very, very difficult servant-like manual labor.

Besides the tailgating, I’ve had direct interaction with pedi-cabbies on only two other occassions. Once, when I was 22, I was getting a ride in a trailer with two of my friends and the pedi-cab driver was not moving at what I considered a sufficient rate of speed. So I got out of the trailer while it was moving, got behind it, and pushed it. I thought I was helping him out, but now that I’m on the other side, I realize that I wasn’t. The other interaction occured about four months ago, when I bet my friends who had hailed a pedi-cab that I would beat them from Ranch to Qua, a half-mile away, by running. I had already gotten a drink at the bar by the time they walked in.

And now I’m pedi-cabbing on the weekends to pay off my Harvard loans. Ah, the irony.

Tonight was the mandatory training ride, and I was towing a pedi-cab trailer while following a pedi-cab driver whom we’ll call Joel. Out of all the employees at the company, he’s been there the longest–a year. Apparently retention is horrible like that at all the pedi-cab places because the job is so taxing and people burn out so quickly. There is supposedly money to be made, but most people can’t phsyically keep up with it for long.

We went past a pretty hot nightspot called Roial, and Joel pointed at it and told me, “Lots of clientele at this place with lots of money. You’ll make good tips if you can pick up people here.” I wanted to tell him, “Yeah, that place is sweet, I go there every weekend,” but it didn’t seem apropos.  Then he followed up with, “Another good spot is the W. Lots of money, lots of high-end clientele.” I could have said, “Yeah, my buddy was in town three weekends ago and he had a suite there and invited me over for a pool party.” Again, I just felt that that reply would have seemed out of place, so I held back.

It turns out you have to hustle in this line of business to make any money. Joel’s version of hustling was yelling out loudly, “Pedi-cab! Pedi-cab!” Then he’d make this weird whistling noise with his lips, let out some whoops, and repeat the entire process. I was embarrassed for him, and embarrassed to be seen with him. I wanted to tell him, “Shh! Somebody might hear you! Keep it down!” But apparently that’s what you have to do to be successful. I had heard from a couple pedi-cab drivers that you have to hustle to make money, but when I saw it in action, when I saw what Joel was doing, I almost turned around and rode back to my car, figuring that I could sell my bike at a $200 loss and find something better to do.

I’m beginning to think that I might not be cut out for this after all. After training was over, Joel encouraged me to go out and try to find people to give rides to. I declined, and went home, using the excuse of a 7 AM meeting tomorrow to bail out.  Truth be told, I was terrified of riding that pedi-cab by myself and approaching random people for rides. What if they don’t like me? What if they reject me? On my way back to the rental place, I passed a lot of people walking along the sidewalk, but I couldn’t bring myself to do what Joel had done so well–ask them how they were doing. According to Joel, it was that simple. He told me not to ask people if they want a ride because as he explained it, “All the pedi-cabbies are asking people if they want a ride. Be different. Set yourself apart. Asking them how they’re doing gets a conversation going, it leads to their tellling you what they’re up to, at which point you can offer a ride. These people are so used to being asked for rides that they automatically say no when they hear you ask. So don’t ask them if they want a ride. Ask them how they’re doing.”

On my way back to the rental place, I was faced with numerous opportunities to ask people how they were doing, but I couldn’t do it. I was way too shy. I would look at them, the words would be on the tip of my tongue, I’d open my mouth to utter the words, but then I would suddenly freeze up. A part of me was shy, but a part of me also knew that if I were walking down the street, I wouldn’t want to be asked how I was doing by some random dude on a bike.

Or would I? I don’t know…thinking about it now, it seems kind of innocuous. Maybe Joel’s on to something.

It’s funny, but when I drink downtown, I have no problem making a ton of new friends when I’m out. Maybe I’ll bring some liquid courage in that flask and pedi-cab drunk…

I worked at a pizzeria right before I took the job bagging groceries when I was 14 years old, and part of my job was to take orders over the phone. I was so shy, though, that whenever the phone rang, I would run away from it and find something better to do–even if it was just scraping pans–letting somebody else take the call. I would watch them take the call, and I’d even listen in with another phone to get pointers. Everybody made it look easy, but just the thought of talking to a stranger killed me.

One day, we were working a skeleton crew and there weren’t enough people to do all the jobs, let alone do my phone job for me, too. If the phone rang and I didn’t pick it up, we would lose a sale. The first time the phone rang, I was nowhere to be found and the supervisor yelled at me when he eventually found me.  

I was basically out of my comfort zone. After I took my first four or five phone calls that day, I got into a groove, and I actually got good at it–my orders were always accurate, and I became really good at pricing orders on the fly so the customer wouldn’t have to wait a long time for their total charge. And then a funny thing happened–I started enjoying it. I started to like interacting with the  customers, and then I started looking forward to the phone ringing.

With this pedi-cab gig, I  just have to get out of my comfort zone. I have to take that plunge. I have to  get used to talking to random people walking down the street. I have to stop thinking that I’m below everybody as a pedi-cabbie. I have a service to perform, and I know that I can perform the service well. I just have to get over myself and get out of my comfort zone. I have to believe in myself.

I think the real secret here is that I just have to chill out with this thing and have fun. I’m putting a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to get out there and absolutely kill it and pull down $200+ a night, but nobody is going to want to get a ride from me if I’m super serious and super intense. I’m realizing that a huge part of pedi-cabbing is being approachable, and potential riders want an easy-going pedi-cab driver who’s laid back and just looking to have fun. Fun first, money follows. I have to stop thinking of customers as fares, and start thinking in terms of just helping people get to where they’re going. I think that’s where Joel’s whole “How are you doing?” tactic originates from. Did I mention that he’s actually a genius? I have to find a way to take my focus off of the money, even though that is the single reason I’m doing this. Actually, if I remember one of my first posts correctly, the other benefits were health and that it takes me out of the bars where I waste money. I’ll focus on those.

In my day job, I don’t interact with customers, but in my future job–if I get the promotion (more to come on that in a bit), then I’ll interact with customers, albeit business-to-business, since I’ll be in a strategic alliance/joint venture position. That’s a special skill set–the ability to interact and sell ideas and things and services and interact well with customers. It’s more difficult, in my opinion, than working with internal business partners and trying to influence them. It’s funny, but I know I’m going to do well at this new job because we’ll all be professionals talking about tech, something I’m very familar with. But for some reason, something about pedi-cabbing is shaking my confidence. It’s very bizarre.

Tonight was free–there was no trailer rental fee. When I show up tomorrow at 9 PM, I’ll pay $35 to rent a trailer, so I’ll start in the red. My goal is to take home $150 tomorrow night, net of the rental. Can I do it? Will I force myself to pick up that phone when it rings? First things first–I have to put the financial target out of my mind and just have fun.

Roommate Status
The potential roommate visited today with her uncle. She was cool and we got along well. It’s crazy–she got her MBA from a great school and has a ton of debt to pay down, so that’s why she’s going the room rental route. I was happy to see that she was driving a car that probably cost around $5k. I’m a fan of this girl already–she knows what it takes t pay down debt. I’ll be even more impressed if she gets a second job and doesn’t spend all of her money downtown. I’ll definitely recommend both actions to her.

She told me her uncle thinks she should should live in a gated apartment complex for the sake of her safety, but she doesn’t think she can afford it. When her uncle was out of earshot, she told me that she’s going to look at other apartment complexes, but it will be just to placate him and she plans on signing with me. I will hear back from her on Tuesday wether it’s a go or no-go, and if it’s a go, she’ll move in on Friday. I hope she comes through. I want this room rented. Based on the numerous responses to the ad, however, I don’t think I’ll have much of a problem with that if she falls through. It would just be nice to rent it to her since she seems cool and is planning on staying at least six months.

Promotion Status
The hiring manager assured me today that I will get an offer letter either tomorrow or Monday, so the hiring freeze will not affect the hiring decision. I was thrilled to hear that.

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Loyal Steed

Day 8 | $0 paid | $90,717 till freedom

I bought a new Trek FX 7.2 from Bicycle Sport Shop on Lamar and am one very significant step closer to being a pedi-cab driver. It cost $519 excluding tax, and I saved $30–it was originally $549–by going with last year’s model which Trek left basically unchanged for 2012. It’s a hybrid, so unlike a mountain bike, it has a rigid front fork  that is lighter and will conserve more energy than a suspension fork, it has smooth tires that will roll better than knobbies, and it has higher gears so I can top out at a higher speed. And unlike a roadbike, it has v-brakes for better stopping power, a stronger aluminum frame that (hopefully) won’t crack, and lower gears for climbing hills more easily.

I added a bell because the pedi-cab drivers said I need it to get customers’ attention.

I think I might have overanalyzed my bell choice a bit–I was trying to figure out what bell would sound the most inviting to potential customers as I ride up behind them without being either 1) creepy, or 2) completely emasculating. I’m convinced that there has to be some sort of marketing study that has analyzed bell sounds and found the ones that optimize take-up rate. Unfortunately, I don’t know where to get that data. I probably spent about ten whole minutes testing the huge selection of bells at the shop and irritating the hell out of every single customer within earshot–which would have meant every single customer in the store because the bells were loud and the store was fairly small. Sorry I’m not sorry, folks–this is my livelihood! My livelihood!!!

I also added bar-ends–they’ll be helpful during out-of-the-saddle hill climbs.

I also added a couple of inner tubes just in case. Having an operations background–I supervised a team of 25 material handlers in a computer assembly plant as my first job out of undergrad–I know that equipment downtime can make or break a shift.

Out-the-door costs totaled $600 (including tax).

The Cost of Pedi-Cabbing
Up-front fixed costs
• Bike and accessories: $600
• Criminal background report: $35
• Defensive driving (since I got a ticket within the past 6 months): $25
• Driving history: $12
• Another set of bar-ends because I stripped the threads on the first set: $20

Total pedi-cab fixed cost investment: $692

Variable costs
• $35 trailer rental on Fri/Sat ($10 Sun-Mon, $20 Thurs)
• Brake pads: $TBD
• Chain lube: $TBD
• Energy bars: $2/ea

Income: $100-150/weekend night + $TBD for special events (e.g., games, ACL, etc.)

There will also be a salvage value (net of depreciation) that I will hope to capture next July. $200, maybe?

Payback Period
If I make $200/weekend, it will take me three and a half weeks to pay back the bike before I start generating positive cash flow. I’ve heard that game days can be lucrative, and that during the three-day ACL event, pedi-cab drivers can make $600/day. I really hope that’s true, as my original calculations assumed pedi-cabbing would be only a $500 investment and I overshot that by $200.

Why New?
Tom, the pedi-cab driver I quizzed two nights ago, told me he bought his bike for $70. Let me see if I can make a pre-emptive strike on any of the flack I’m sure to get in the comments section for getting a brand new bike at $519. 🙂

I went new because I wasn’t finding what I wanted on Craigslist. I wanted a hybrid bike for the reasons already mentioned in the beginning, and there were about three hybrid bikes to choose from on Craigslist which were either in poor condition, the wrong size, or not priced to move.

I’m going to be using this pedi-cab to pull human lives. Having everything in working order–especially the brakes–is critical. If I plow into an intersection and get into an accident because I bought a bike that had bad brakes, that’s on me. (And I could technically get away with–oddly enough, the city inspects trailers but not the bikes.) Sure, a brake job might be only $50 to $100. But what condition is the chain in on these CL bikes? The cables? Cogs? Hubs? Are the wheels true? Pulling a trailer full of people is going to put a lot of stress on the bike, and I want to start from a good place.

I’m going to be using this pedi-cab to pull 300+ pounds of weight for five+ hours at a time. If it’s not the right size, I could get hurt–knee and wrist ergo injuries come to mind–and spend thousands of dollars in medical bills to fix injuries resulting from a mistake that could have been prevented with $500.

Why $500? Cheap vs. Frugal vs. Excessive
I had a tough time finding the proper definitions of “cheap” and “frugal” online that will help express what I want to convey, but I feel like the entire bike decision came down to a choice between being cheap or being frugal. I could have been cheap, spent $70, and regretted it later (no offense, Tom). Or, I could have spent $1,000+ and bought way too much bike–truth be told, I came very close to buying a bike for $800 because it had disc brakes.

I think the $519 purchase was a sound one. A cheap person buys the cheapest thing they can find without regard to anything other than the cost of that object or service at that point in time. A frugal person buys the thing that might cost a little more, but will ultimately deliver greater value in the long run than whatever is cheapest at that moment. Hemorrhaging $600 on the bike when I’m facing such an audacious goal was not easy, but I think it was a better decision than spending only $70.

Why Now?
This was a time-sensitive purchase decision. I couldn’t patiently wait for a deal to come along, or even wait to order something online. I have to train with the pedi-cab company this week if I want to be hired on and assured of getting on their ACL schedule, where $600/day opportunities supposedly exist.

$1200 Parts Bike
I bought a full-carbon roadbike on Craigslist for $1200 last October as my main mode of transportation when my license was suspended for three months for accumulating four moving violations within 12 months. I haven’t gotten a chance to ride it as much as I would have liked to this summer because of the ridiculous heat, and now that it’s going to start cooling down, I was looking forward to putting some mileage on it.

Today, sadly, it became a parts bike, and I won’t be riding it until I’m done pedi-cabbing in ten months, when it will be July. And if next July is anything like this past July, it’ll be too hot to ride it again, and I’ll have to wait till the fall. Woe is me!

Step one of taking the roadbike out of commission was transferring its pedals to the pedi-cab bike. That way, I can wear special shoes that clip into the pedals so that I can apply pressure on upward strokes as well as downward strokes, basically increasing the efficiency and doubling and smoothing the power application. I also transferred the tire pump, water bottles and cages, headlight, computer (to track distance), and the bike bag to hold the innertubes and a small tool set.

Nickels and Dimes
I reviewed the bike receipt today–not for the blog, but out of curiosity. I literally can’t remember the last time I actually took the time to review a receipt. Anyway, I’m glad I did because the cashier charged me $549 for the bike. I called the shop, they confirmed the mistake, and told me to come in for a refund. I live up north, the shop is downtown, and I have a very full day. What a PITA! The old me would have said screw it, not worth my time, keep your lousy 30 bucks. Not the new me! Off to the shop I went.

It turns out I had to go back to the shop, anyway. While I was putting one of the bar-ends on the handlebars, I over-torqued the bolt and ended up stripping the threads and ruining the $20 set. I flipped out! 20 bucks is basically the equivalent of two or three pedi-cab rides downtown, I already have a fair amount of money sunk into the bike, and with that amateur mistake, I’m only extending an already long payback period. The old me would have not have made a big deal about that and minimized it by equating it to about three drinks downtown. The new me was not so understanding…

Next Steps
I’m picking up my criminal background report tomorrow, then calling up the pedi-cab place to get signed. I hope to train on Thursday and start pedi-cabbing on Friday.

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