Can I share a little secret about being an entrepreneur?
- You don’t have to have the best idea.
- You don’t have to have the best team.
- You don’t have to spend the most money.
- You don’t even have to be the most popular.
So what are my keys to making it? I’m 3-0 in start-ups, batting 1.00 lifetime in a role most people fail.
Some of my keys towards making it are:
- Have a vision but not a plan. (Still never done a business plan. I think business plans lock you in too soon.)
- Offer something people want but existing players say is impossible or have tried and failed. (There’s a ton of great ideas out there failing because of poor execution.)
- Have a posture of collaborating and completing but never competing. (This is a classic mistake.)
But what’s the secret sauce? What’s the thing that has kept stuff afloat when others have failed?
The Hustle Factor
It started the summer I turned 18. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to college but I knew I needed to go anyway. They were supportive and wanted to help. They just didn’t have it.
When I got my first school bill, about $3000, due in just 12 weeks, I got out a calculator and did the math. The job I had painting dorms paid $4.80/hour from 6 AM to 2 PM. That wasn’t going to get me there even if I didn’t spend a dime on food. The math simply didn’t work.
So I walked around my neighborhood in Chicago looking for help wanted signs. That day I walked into a little ice cream parlor on Oak Street and talked to the owner… he’d pay me $6/hour and I could work from 5 to close 6 days per week. I started the next day.
I worked as many hours as I could the summer of 1994. Monday-Friday I got up at 5:30 and painted until 2, then I went home for a couple hours to clean up before working 5 PM to about 1 AM scooping ice cream.
Week-by-week I’d head over to the bank and deposit checks for $200 or $300. I limited myself to just $20/week for food. And by early August I had the $3000 I needed. (In the last couple weeks I earned enough money to buy some new clothes & even my first Mac!)
I’ll never forget the pride of walking into that office at Moody and writing a check to cover my first semester. (This was a process I’d repeat every semester.)
I’d paid my own way. But I’d also learned that I can out-hustle my peers to get ahead.
We Are Team Hustle
I’ve applied that same learning to everything I do. It’s become the motto of something I jokingly call, Team Hustle.” The motto of Team Hustle is… we get ahead while you sleep.
And that’s quite literally true. It’s easy to waste time in meetings or farting around being social at work, I’m guilty as charged. And a lot of people count that as work time. (e.g. Employees always do! Business owners know better.)
But the key to getting ahead isn’t just allowing that wasted time to fall away into the bin… but instead finding places where you can get ahead of your peers when they aren’t working.
It’s Not Just Me…
Not all creators are the same. For some people, they are better resourced than I am and can find huge success relatively easily, making it look effortless.
That’s not my story. I’ve never been able to succeed that way. I wasn’t born in the right neighborhood and I married a missionary’s daughter. Instead, I grind out success in the blue-collar-kind-of-way.
In reality, things aren’t much easier today than they were in 1994. I still work like crazy and I still pay my own way. And you better believe I carry some pride about that. I take pleasure in taking care of business.
What’s fun is that a lot of my friends are the exact same way. (That’s why it’s Team Hustle and not “Adam’s a lunatic who likes to work when others sleep.”) When I look at my start-up friends who are successful, they fit into two categories.
- Come from a well-resourced place. They are just über talented and/or über financed, connected, etc. It doesn’t matter what they do, they’ll be successful.
- Have a plumbers attitude. When you own a plumbing business, Monday-Friday is kind of meaningless. You work when crap stops flowing. And when the phone rings at 4 AM you don’t see it as an annoyance, you see it as an opportunity to do a good job.
So, I have no idea how that applies to you. But Team Hustle is a learned behavior and the invitation to join is always open.
I guess my challenge is to embrace the reality that hustle is the X factor between where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow.
p.s. We accept applications for Team Hustle after midnight most nights.