The Secret to Starting a Successful Company

December 20, 2008

Stock Market Fail

Stock Market Fail

Are you sick and tired of losing money in the market and figuring out if you are going to keep your job?


I met an executive of a mid-sized company today that is awfully miserable in his position and has been dreaming about starting a company that he is passionate about. Get this – he’s been working on his business plan for 5 years. I asked him why he hasn’t started yet, this is what he said in bulletpoint form:

– I don’t even know how to get started

– I have no funding

– I don’t know if I can give up my salary

– It’s too risky, what if I fail

– If I had a nice retirement nest egg I’d start it now

Are you making excuses as well? Well, the answer to starting a successful company is really easy, you’ve got to get in the game and START. It may seem obvious, but it’s not – in order to win, you’ve got to start. There are too many dreamers and not enough executers, are you one of them? Often times, the biggest barrier to entry is YOU!

I’d always encourage people to jump with both feet in, sometimes it’s just not practical so building a company and getting started in the evenings when you’re not working is a great way to get started.

Here are some specifics that I’d encourage you to think about as you get serious about starting your business:

1) Be very passionate about the business. You will go through tough times, so give yourself ample time to get the model right. I’d recommend that you get comfortable with 2 years. You’ll probably want to quit at 3 months if you don’t see traction, that’s why you’ve got to be passionate enough to get through those times to make it successful.

2) Build a focus plan – 30, 60, 90 days out. Small wins lead to a big victory. Set out exactly what you plan to do much like a coach of football team often will plan out the first 20 offensive plays. Then, get ready to pivot as you see opportunity.

3) Be creative. These days you don’t need much money to startup and everything, I mean everything, is negotiable. Phone systems, Internet access (negotiate with your neighbor), rent, even computers (I negotiate with Dell on the phone). You can find help just about anywhere.

4) Network. Get your name out there, let everyone know you started a business, take meetings, go to social networking events, brand yourself! Set a goal to go out to lunch once a week with someone new in your industry. Don’t be an island.

5) Learn to sell. This is not something you learn from business school or academia. You’ve got to sell workers, customers, investors, buyers, vendors, etc. Find your selling formula, soft sells, hard sells, sales funnels, etc. One of my favorite lines from the movie “Boiler Room” is ABC – Always Be Closing! Practice selling today.
I’m often asked is it a good time to start a company right now in this environment. I always say, it’s always the best time to start a business right now for some obvious reasons and for some not so obvious reasons. If you don’t get off your butt and get started now, you’ll be sorry. Here’s why:

1) People are hunkering down. Most folks just want to stay at their comfortable jobs and not start businesses. Thus, if you start a business, there’s less competition and less noise in the marketplace. It’s much easier to get your name out there.

2) Costs are coming down. Like I mentioned above, everything is negotiable. The cost of doing business – hiring, rent, utilities, legal, etc are all getting cheaper. If you are very resourceful, you can even get some of them for free by exchanging equity or service or even being a reference client. You’d be amazed what you can get these days. You can build a product in less time for less money than during the boom times.

3) It’s easier to sell. Think about it, if you’re selling to businesses, there are less companies calling on companies, decision makers can take your calls now. If you focus your pitch on how you can help other companies or individuals save money, you’ve really hit on something people are looking for right now.

4) You’ve got an out. In these hard economic times, if you’re laid off, it’s increasingly difficult to find another job. In fact, it really sucks out there. If you have a startup already in the works, no big deal, you’ve already got something cooking where most people don’t. Remember, companies have no loyalty, in order to survive they also need to make hard decisions and that decision may not include you. So, build your out now!

5) You will kick-ass when the economy turns around. People will start building businesses again when the economy turns, but it will be too late. You will have already built a product, grabbed market share, and will be much better positioned to win and potentially even exit (since you’ll be the only one standing) when the economy turns. No better time to be building during the down times such that in the boom times you are the recognized leader. Make it happen!

So – forget about the stock market, if you’re like me, you like to play but you just get hurt everytime you try to play the market. Create your own market and get in the game today! Tell me in the notes if you think I’m smoking crack about starting companies in this crazy time or if you agree.

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Comment by Pachi Subscribed to comments via email
2009-01-05 23:04:53

Andy, Love this blog! Keep up the good tips! BTW, in your “About Andy” picture and summary you have a typo on ” entrepreneur. “

Comment by Pachi Subscribed to comments via email
2009-01-05 23:06:20

Hi Andy, love this blog. Keep up the good tips!
BTW, there’s a typo in the “About Andy” section for “entrepreneur.”

Comment by Andy
2009-01-05 23:46:13

Thanks for visiting Pachi and I got the typo!

Comment by Zsolt Balla Subscribed to comments via email
2009-01-06 05:17:13

Wow, that _is_ a great post, not the regular BS you often read on how to start a successful whatever.

I particularly like your prediction that one would want to quit after 3 months. It shows that you’ve been through it all a couple of times before.

Guess, I’m gonna be a religious reader of yours, pal


Comment by Andy
2009-01-06 22:46:07

Some of my best entrepreneurial friends were so close to quitting, but persistence or some would call total stubborness led to tremendous success. One friend even sold his motorcycle to meet payroll and turned it into a multi-million dollar business. That’s passion! Keep at it.

Comment by Daniel Nilsson
2009-01-06 13:22:39

Great blog Andy, found it through Dellanaves RSS-feed.

As someone who has just taken the first steps toward self-employment, posts like these are worth alot to keep the momentum going. I recognize myself in a lot of the pitfalls You are mentioning, even though I know I shouldnt fall for them. Thanks for the inspiration!

I will definitely come back and read more interesting things from You in the future.

Comment by Andy
2009-01-06 22:47:11

daniel – thanks for visiting and be sure to come back and let us know how your first steps are going. Keep your chin up!

Comment by Darin Carter
2009-01-06 15:37:57

Some great points in this article! Everyone … Just Jump In!


Comment by Andy
2009-01-06 22:47:44


Comment by ej-web-development
2009-01-06 17:06:25

One point you made is especially true, once the economy turns around you will kick ass. Companies that can make it in a bad economy will flourish in a good economy.

Comment by Andy
2009-01-06 22:49:26

my last company went through the downturn and we had to lay-off but we stuck through and emerged as a survivor and that’s when revenues really took off. hard lessons, but it paid off.

Comment by BrandC
2009-01-06 17:47:18

You’ve made some great points here. Thanks for the post! I’ve definitely been a procrastinator at some point or another but this is a new year so I’ll put to use some of this info.

Comment by Andy
2009-01-06 22:50:00

no better time than ’09!

Comment by Rama Vadakattu
2009-01-06 19:47:08

Really enjoyed your post.

Comment by Downloadic
2009-01-06 19:54:31

Everyone wants Successful Company. And I think everyone should read these tips πŸ˜‰

Comment by Pete Kennedy
2009-01-06 20:53:16

Andy, great stuff! I just came across your blog via Aaron Wall — and now I’m a subscriber.

I also find it inspiring how many powerhouse companies were founded during recessions – from Fedex and Hewlett Packward to Disney and Oracle and many, many more.

This entry encapsulates much of what we’ve been communicating to the entrepreneurs and soon-to-be entrepreneurs that we work with and speak with every day. I’ll be recommending this post and your blog to our network.

Comment by Andy
2009-01-06 22:51:34

Pete – appreciate you visiting and also for your work with entrepreneurs. Keep it up, as much as I like Obama, it’s really going to come down to ordinary folks that take risks to turn the economy around.

Comment by AJ Kumar
2009-01-06 21:17:37

Well said. I agree, now is your time to shine. If you can make it in the market, imagine how prosperous you will be when things turn around. No time like the present to ACT NOW. Judging by your amazing track record, if your smokin crack, Ima come join ya! πŸ˜‰

Comment by Andy
2009-01-06 22:54:34

thanks AJ – i’m more excited about ’09 than any other year – it’ll be fun to look back and see in hindsight what a great opportunity it was in 2009.

Comment by Roberto
2009-01-06 22:12:15

Great post Andy, I just found out this site and I got clicked with it, keep working on it.

Comment by Andy
2009-01-06 22:51:52

thanks roberto!

Comment by Adam T.
2009-01-07 00:15:59


Glad I came across your blog! You nailed it here in this post! I am preaching the same things to several entrepreneurs that I mentor and assist on a daily basis. Its time for the entrepreneurial spirit to shine BRIGHTLY!!

Looking forward to checking back to your blog often!

Comment by Andy
2009-01-09 01:30:59

Adam – thanks for visiting and thanks for your work with entrepreneurs… We need more entrepreneurs to lead our country out of this mess.

Comment by Charles
2009-01-07 00:24:40

Awesome Post Man, Love it, Analysis paralysis was my problem

Comment by Andy
2009-01-09 01:30:00

Yup, enough analysis – it’s time to execute:)

Comment by jtGraphic
2009-01-07 00:31:10

I started a successful business about 2 and a half years ago. It’s going great, and we’ve spun off multiple divisions covering different markets. It’s been great. What recession?

Comment by Shagun Vatsa
2009-01-07 07:25:39

Great blogpost Andy! You have some really valuable tips and I am looking forward to reading more on your blog!

Comment by Andy
2009-01-09 01:29:05

Thanks Shagun! Appreciate you visiting as well.

Comment by Aly Abdullah
2009-01-07 08:15:21

Hi Andy, thanks for such a detailed and inspiring post.

Comment by Andy
2009-01-09 01:28:28

Sure thing!

Comment by Custom T-Shirts Guy
2009-01-07 11:15:56

This is great advice about starting up a business. I’ll have to try out these ideas (coming up with new products to sell) on one of my many ideas I pitch to my boss.

Comment by Morgan Subscribed to comments via email
2009-01-07 15:02:45

Really really nice to see, and you sum it up at the beginning the only way to get going is to get in there and start doing business.

For us games are doing well anyway, so we are looking forward to 2009!

Rock on and Kick ass

Comment by Andy
2009-01-09 01:27:54

thanks morgan!

Comment by Kay Rennie
2009-01-07 21:33:32

Thanks for this. Very motivational. I specially like the focus plan advice. It’s sometimes easy to lose track of where we are and what we have achieved.

Comment by Andy
2009-01-09 01:27:29

Kay – totally agree. For me, it’s easy to get lost in the details and get pulled in too many directions. Focus is so important, yet hard to do.

Comment by Jesse Witham
2009-01-07 22:03:34

Have you read “Ready, Fire, Aim” ?? If not, then you should. You would like it and it’s on point with many of your blog posts

Comment by Will Atkinson
2009-01-08 10:44:02

I found your website via a link from, and am enjoying reading over your posts. Great advice in this article! My wife and I started a service business seven years ago during a local recession, prospered every year doing exactly what you suggested in this post, and recently sold it for over six figures. Again, great advice!

Comment by Andy
2009-01-09 01:26:29

Will – thanks for your comment and congrats on your success! It’s stories like yours that are very encouraging to read.

Comment by DJNiyi
2009-01-13 02:41:10

I love the paragraph on “Learn to sell”.

I’ll add by stating that there are three types of skills required build a successful business:
1) Building – with the engineer’s hat
2) Selling – with the salesman’s hat
3) Counting – with the financial controller’s hat.

The beauty is that they are not necessarily mutually-exclusive in any given individual.


Comment by Local Price
2009-01-13 12:36:48

Just doing it is huge. I still love the old Nike ad JUST DO IT. That is really a huge part of success. We’ve all heard people talk about their great ideas, but we never see them do anything about it. If you don’t try you’ll never know…

Comment by Winning Solutions
2009-01-15 01:42:46

Andy, we gonna need you writing on what is success for a business. When can we decide that we are running a successful business or project? This will help many of internet entrepreneurs to decide on when to jump on to their next project. Deciding on next project or niche affects the previous business a lot for most of the internet entrepreneurs.

Comment by Guillaume Subscribed to comments via email
2009-01-16 10:27:28

point 3 is absolute bullshit… in won’t be more easier to sell in a depressed environment such as our actually !
But what you’ll be able to sell will be Pure Gold, because it means you’ve got the convaincing formula / business model. Making it more difficult to sell will make entrepreneur more concentrating on getting the wright BM.
Regarding to this, it is a chance.. but it stay more difficult to sell. definitively..

Comment by Article Spinning
2009-01-20 16:18:59

What made it for me was this statement – “These days you don’t need much money to startup and everything, I mean everything, is negotiable. Phone systems, Internet access (negotiate with your neighbor), rent, even computers (I negotiate with Dell on the phone). You can find help just about anywhere.” I agree 100%. It’s not whether you have the money or not, what’s more important is whether you have the idea, commitment and willingness to start up a business. I know, I have been there and done that… without needing money to get started. So, yes, Andy, you are right… as usual, :)

Comment by Harnish
2009-01-26 16:35:08

More millionaires were created during the Great Depression than in any other time.

Comment by Right Way International
2010-06-06 06:02:02

This blog refules evry one. Keep it up, well done

Comment by Gevin
2011-04-10 23:19:59

Hi Andy. I’m probably a little late, however this blog is extremely inspirational. I am sixteen and want to start my own business, so it is always nice to get a good pep up. Job well done.

Comment by Ugo Subscribed to comments via email
2011-04-16 01:27:34

Andy, I hav just received great education from this article. I hav also been giving excuses for not starting up but this has laid out a frame work for me and strengthed my earlier resolve t carry on.

Many tanks Andy.

Comment by Felicia Laryea Subscribed to comments via email
2011-09-09 06:04:18

Andy am realy motivated. Excuses are things we should prevent in our daily lives. Keep it up.

Comment by kamam Subscribed to comments via email
2012-05-31 13:46:53

Thanx for this article am beginning a boutique and i believe it will work out .

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