Getting a website on the net as a novice isn’t exactly cake. It requires registering a domain name (example.com), hiring a web designer, and paying a monthly fee to host the site. A content management system is also preferable over paying a web designer hourly to make updates when he can fit it into his schedule. Therefore, a website can run several thousand dollars not including the monthly hosting fee or the occasional updates. These are the reasons that paved the way for me to separate myself from the rat race and become an entrepreneur. I decided to create a web-based application called Posima.com that does all of the above for a low monthly fee. I hired 4 contractors from 4 different countries to complete all the necessary work for the project. I’ve learned many things over the course of the past 14 months, but have 5 suggestions I would like to pass on to any entrepreneurs who are ready for battle.
1. Don’t Panic
Panicking is overrated and doesn’t help anybody do anything. If you are buried alive in a coffin, you will use air less quickly and have a better chance of surviving by keeping a calm head vs. panicking. I’ve had contractors try to quit on me or turn MIA for weeks at a time. At first I flipped out, and flipped out often. But I realized that it wasn’t the end of the world and I’d figure out how to get the work done one way or another. Panicking wasted valuable time I could have been utilizing elsewhere. If a problem arises that needs a fast solution, panicking will do nothing but burn up your remaining air.
2. Reframe problems
I got this from a book about Alexander the Great. Reframing means find the correct problem first then follow with the proper solution. For example, during the sales process my host told me I could do “x” with my shared hosting account. Later I clarified with support how to accomplish “x.” Once “x” started being done, my host shut down my account saying I was taking up too much of the shared servers resources. I started talking with a lawyer, compiled all the conversations where the company said “x” was OK, etc etc. Upon further review I decided going this route was a bad idea, it would cost money and headache with no obvious solution. I originally thought the problem was the host lying to me. The real problem was that “x” needed to be in working order for me to continue. I solved the problem by leasing a server from the same host on which I can do whatever I please. The host gave me some extra goodies for the trouble.
Budget is a fake word made up to explain a fake process. A budget is how much you have or are planning on spending. You will go over budget; it’s inevitable. If you have $10,000 to spend, why make your budget $10,000 when we know you’ll go over? I think it’s smart to make your budget 50% of what you have to spend. Plan your project around $5,000. When those inevitable issues arise (having my own server costs $250 a month more than what I had before), you’ll still be in the black vs. trying to figure out where you’re going to find that extra cash. If by some miracle you stay within budget, you’ll have extra cash to allocate elsewhere or put into savings.
Outsourcing usually has a negative connotation. We outsource every day a hundred different ways. When I need food, I don’t go outside, shoot a cow and pick tomatoes from my garden. I go to a grocery store. When I want to talk to a friend, I don’t send up smoke signals or talk into a can attached to a long string. I pick up the phone and dial. Just because you have a tech guy on staff, doesn’t mean he knows the finite details about making a standards based web site. Just because you have an office manager that keeps the books, doesn’t mean come January she’s a CPA. I’m a one-man show. I came up with the idea for my service but didn’t have any of the necessary skills to fulfill my dream. I could have raised venture capital or brought in “co-founders” to help me, but then I’d get less pie at the end (and I like my pie). Instead I contracted out all work I couldn’t do myself. It took a little longer, but cost less in the long run. Don’t be afraid to hire a professional to do certain tasks.
5. Forget the Others
This one I hold dear to my heart. After graduating college from the University of Texas I worked at a large corporation as a cubicle monkey for a year. I couldn’t handle the bureaucracy and quit knowing I wanted to start my own business. I worked the pick axe and shovel for months digging holes for septic systems while toying with different ideas for a business. When I finally got my idea, I dug holes during the day and molded my software with my contractors at night via email. During this process I received an uncanny amount of pushback from my friends and family telling me to get a real job. No one quite understood what I was trying to accomplish with my software and wrote it off as a dumb idea. I blew everyone off and stayed the course. I now have those same skeptics eating their words, calling my software a multi-million dollar idea. My point is don’t worry about what the skeptics say, it’s not their life to lead.
All in all, be agile in whatever you do. Just as nothing goes exactly right in life, it doesn’t in the business realm either. At 24 years old, it took me 13 months to create my web application. Often times it was rough and I was poor, but I now have a very cool product to offer small businesses that I believe they will be very pleased with. The experience was incredibly rewarding emotionally and have my fingers crossed that it will be just as rewarding financially. I highly recommend starting your own business if not for the experience alone. If you happen to need a website for that business, why not check out my web application?
Chad Sakonchick is a 24-year old entrepreneur from Austin, Texas. His business, Posima, is a web application that makes it easy for small businesses and non-profits to get up and running on the web. It provides the domain name, the hosting, the design and a content management system all rolled into one.