December 17, 2012 marks our 9th year in business…if you’ve ever started a business you probably know that only 4% of businesses make the 10th year. 9 Years ago we loaded up our ships and set out into the wilds. Today we celebrated by taking the entire crew out to the Japanese restaurant.
It was just about 10 years ago that my wife urged me to get out of the large global integrator who, three years prior, had purchased the firm I was working with. I told her there was no way I was going to start another business…but a few months later I found myself planning and considering different ideas for something new.
Then, 6 months later I was ready to go, but not ready to quit my regular job. That very morning my manager called me. I was at 150% of quota – but not enjoying my work…when I got on the phone I simply said, “Today’s my last day, isn’t it?” He stuttered, and finally said, “Yeah, how did you know.” I replied, “I don’t know, I just had a feeling – but I am ready to go…” An hour later my wife came into my office and I announced, “We’re starting our new business today.”
Since that day, I have not looked back – it’s been absolutely the most fulfilling job I have ever held. Every day I find myself doing things I love. There are no politics, I work with companies I like working with, and I find helping companies succeed in their business to be my number one work passion. There is nothing better than seeing a sales person close a difficult deal after collaborating on a strategy to get around a prospect’s gatekeepers, or working through a financial downturn and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
When I speak at conferences and channel events and see the light coming on, people getting excited about their business, and new ideas emerging, I get excited. Getting my family involved by serving those who came to last week’s business planning and strategy meeting in Charlotte was just one more thing I was not able to do in a large corporation. My family members found it extremely rewarding, not just to see what I actually do for a living, but in being part of it. They cooked, conversed, greeted, and got to know the business leaders in a way that allowed them to invest in the lives of others. Those who attended all agreed that this made the event far more powerful than the typical sterile environment you find in a hotel setting.
Some of the funny stories I like to tell at these dinners remind my children of the struggles a small business owner experiences when a company first starts up.
- We recall my first office set up…unlike the high-end furniture I had in my first job, working for Johnson & Johnson, I started this business in an unfinished extra room in our new home ten years ago. I had a card table, folding chair, and lots of boxes yet to be unpacked.
- My first check came from a company that is now out of business. A security software firm that had a good idea, but never made it off the ground. The check was for $1250 – for one day of consulting. I still have a photo copy of it.
- My father invested in my company by purchasing my first computer – a Dell laptop. It kept me going for the first two years of my business. Several Dells later I finally made the move to Mac on the day Windows 7 went live.
- My first coaching client once remarked, “You have an amazing ability to always be there when I need you…I always feel like I am your number one priority.” Of course he was my only client at the time of that comment!
- I projected that it might take 6 months to get to a point of stability – it always takes twice as long as you think. Sure enough, one year later, almost exactly…I received a giant contract that paved the way for the next two years.
As I reflect back on the months of wondering, almost daily, if our business would actually make it, I am grateful. This kind of stretching grows us. It allows me and my family to really see what it takes to build a business. And as I work with others who may be facing difficult times, I know what its like to wonder if you’ll make payroll, or if you’ll be forced to move or take a job. These experiences refine us and challenge us. They show us what kind of resolve we really have inside of us.
The past eight years have been profitable. Some more than others – but never have I regretted going into this business. It’s always a challenge, and always rewarding.
As I meet with my family each year on December 17th, I share these things with my children in hopes that when its there turn, they will rise to the occasion and work diligently through whatever trials they face.
© 2012, David Stelzl