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A-M-A What I would do if I started today... And Why...

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Kak

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This message is in response to a private message from @inputchip but it will likely be valuable in the open... It is short and sweet.

Let me start with what I do... I own 4 individual businesses in 3 very different industries, at least one of each B2C, B2B and B2G. I own a few cash-flowing assets and I am a semi-active investor that appreciates the control of managing my own money. Entrepreneur above all else. I have a lifestyle that doesn't strangle my finances or time. I own my life. I have my own worries and concerns, but it is never if the bills will be paid.

This conversation started with a question about my change of heart. I was once someone who thought Amazon was a great way to make ends meet for new entrepreneurs. I never considered it the one and only ticket, but it was hard not to recommend with most of us making a few grand in profit month one. Today is a different story with almost bubble like saturation. Extremely competitive brands racing to the bottom, cutting each other's throats and running up paid advertising to over 100% of ACOS to "prime the pump". It’s a dirty whore's market. Not to say there isn't still money to be made, but it isn't my kind of business any more.

So... With that said... If I started all over again with absolutely nothing.... I would think unbelievably bigger. Who the hell says you have to go in it alone with your first 2 or 3 grand to grow some consumer brand? Who says you have to bootstrap and hustle flipping bullshit and finding arbitrage strategies? Who says you have to be a onepreneur shop owner? You don't.

What you do have to be able do is competently explain your value to investors. Make them fight for you. If I were to start again I wouldn't touch a business without at least $500k in resources. Over and over again we see the biggest and most hyped over businesses were the ones that went after a lot of investor money in the beginning. (and 500 grand is far from a big investment)

Just think... No more budget websites. No more learning to code. No more giving stock away to resources. No more doing your own photography. No more trying to figure out the f*cking tax code once a year. You won't be fighting tooth and nail for the small stuff. Large investments are out there, available and ready for the taking. It is an investor’s job to give money to solid entrepreneurs. Businesses with huge resources make huge money faster.

So if I were to start today... I would think bigger. I would come up with a damn good plan. I would use that plan to raise a ton of money. I would use that money to buy every damn resource I always wished I could afford. I would take a stranglehold of the bottom line and make my investors as well as myself rich.

It’s not one size fits all, it’s not the only way, it’s just how I would do it.

Ask me anything...
 

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JByers210

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Would you go about it this way if you were creating a product?

How would you summarize a good plan to get investors more likely to jump on board?

I'm currently selling two products on Amazon and flipping random stuff to make money... thank you for posting this.
 
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Kak

Kak

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Awesome topic Kak!

I know everyone will hace differing opinions on whether or not to dilute your percentage of ownership to take on investors, but have you ever found yourself regretting taking an investment (and all the constraints that come with it)?
Never. In fact I wish I wouldn’t have held my stock so tight. It ultimately has led to a tighter squeeze, slower starts and cash flow constraints that I wish were never a problem. Not that they are hard to deal with, you just have to be crafty.

For the same overall stock value, I would rather own less of something bigger.
 
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Kak

Kak

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Would you go about it this way if you were creating a product?

How would you summarize a good plan to get investors more likely to jump on board?

I'm currently selling two products on Amazon and flipping random stuff to make money... thank you for posting this.
Yes I would. A well capitalized product launch is better than a lean one.

Your primary objective when seeking investment is to explain what you are going to do with the money and why using it that way will make everyone involved more money.

Keep it simple... Why do VC investors exist? To make money with money. Help them with the vision. Prove the concept to them.

Well capitalized you can go right to distributors, get in front of buyers and accept orders that would otherwise smoke your cash flows.
 

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Love this thinking bigger shit @Kak! We need more of that here.

I sell a $x,xxx product with tons of moving parts and lots of details to work out with the manufacturer. I've sold the first container and have a huge laundry list of improvements to make before I start production on the 2nd container. It will probably take 3 or 4 iterations to get the quality consistent enough to where I'm happy with it, and ready to hit the gas.

Right now, the limiting factor to my scale is not money, it's product quality. I'm purposefully taking my time, to get the quality right, and the manufacturing consistent. If I tried to scale now, I think things would blow up in my face. When the product is right, however, the limit is the moon, and I could use all the money I can get.

So my question for you, is, should I work on getting investment money now anyways, knowing that product improvement is all a part of the plan, and that the real scale will begin in a year? Or should I wait until the product quality is what it needs to be?

What sort of time-frame are we talking to get an investment of 500k - 2M onboard from someone?

Do you have any recommended resources on putting together an "investor ready" business plan?
 
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ZF Lee

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Just think... No more budget websites. No more learning to code. No more giving stock away to resources. No more doing your own photography. No more trying to figure out the f*cking tax code once a year. You won't be fighting tooth and nail for the small stuff. Large investments are out there, available and ready for the taking. It is an investor’s job to give money to solid entrepreneurs. Businesses with huge resources make huge money faster.

So if I were to start today... I would think bigger. I would come up with a damn good plan. I would use that plan to raise a ton of money. I would use that money to buy every damn resource I always wished I could afford. I would take a stranglehold of the bottom line and make my investors as well as myself rich.
Thank you @Kak for your generous offer.
I have been hearing a similar thing being said by Dan Pena.

I suppose that if we aren't going to do the coding and the photography, we'll have to hire it out.

How would you hire? Do you have a general doctrine on hiring?
Or do you get partners in the tech, finance and customer departments and have them use their technical skills and lingo to hire and pick more employees?

And on presenting your plan to investors, would you rather get some pre-sales first or no pre-sales as a track-record?
I have noticed some of the bigger companies starting out didn't really have that when they first went to the investors' table.

They may have only a prototype or so, but even then a prototype without first sales might be seen as weak.
 

inputchip

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First of all, thank you for taking the time to reply with such a well thought out answer.

Judging from your entrepreneurial resume, we have a lot to learn from you. Not that you needed to prove your value to this community again, as you've clearly done that for many years already.

This conversation started with a question about my change of heart. I was once someone who thought Amazon was a great way to make ends meet for new entrepreneurs. I never considered it the one and only ticket, but it was hard not to recommend with most of us making a few grand in profit month one. Today is a different story with almost bubble like saturation. Extremely competitive brands racing to the bottom, cutting each other's throats and running up paid advertising to over 100% of ACOS to "prime the pump". It’s a dirty whore's market. Not to say there isn't still money to be made, but it isn't my kind of business any more.
I need to drill it into my head that Amazon is just a sales platform, not a business model. Simply a slice of the market pie. If you have a product that is successful on Amazon, it can be successful without Amazon if you can get it in front of enough eyes.

I'm torn between stepping up to the plate and trying to hit a homerun, or as MJ says, stepping up to the plate to hit a single that has the chance to turn into a homerun.

So... With that said... If I started all over again with absolutely nothing.... I would think unbelievably bigger. Who the hell says you have to go in it alone with your first 2 or 3 grand to grow some consumer brand? Who says you have to bootstrap and hustle flipping bullshit and finding arbitrage strategies? Who says you have to be a onepreneur shop owner? You don't.

What you do have to be able do is competently explain your value to investors. Make them fight for you. If I were to start again I wouldn't touch a business without at least $500k in resources. Over and over again we see the biggest and most hyped over businesses were the ones that went after a lot of investor money in the beginning. (and 500 grand is far from a big investment)
So if I were to start today... I would think bigger. I would come up with a damn good plan. I would use that plan to raise a ton of money. I would use that money to buy every damn resource I always wished I could afford. I would take a stranglehold of the bottom line and make my investors as well as myself rich.
Honestly, this scares the crap out of me a little bit. It all sounds like rainbows and butterflies being able to have the backing to hire out professionals to do the dirty work. But what happens when investors start to have a say in how things are ran?

I feel too insignificant to raise that kind of money from strangers. What if I mess up and lose their money? This is a belief that needs to change, cause it's bullsh*t.

Kak, do you have any recommended resources that we can study to learn how to approach investors?

I know that in the tech Valley projects are often backed without even having the first sale. How can you put a number on what a company is worth if it is still in the idea or market validation phase? Some of these companies even run at a loss for years until they gain huge traction.

For example, if I come up with a great idea, how far would I need to take that idea before reaching out to investors? Do I prototype/MVP and prove market demand? Do I pre-sell to prove demand? I'm sure the techniques really depend on the type of company you want to start.
 

inputchip

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This methodology really makes the "money chasing, order the first thing I see on Alibaba" game look like childs-play.

Imagine the entry barriers you could establish when you have $500k of private backing!!
 

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Midas

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Very inspiring. I can't help but think of Shark Tank and how the deals go left after the guests mention they have little to no sales. Your insight however does make me want to ramp up much faster after I have a few sales and a decent suscriber list. Thank you.
 
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Kak

Kak

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Love this thinking bigger sh*t @Kak! We need more of that here.

I sell a $x,xxx product with tons of moving parts and lots of details to work out with the manufacturer. I've sold the first container and have a huge laundry list of improvements to make before I start production on the 2nd container. It will probably take 3 or 4 iterations to get the quality consistent enough to where I'm happy with it, and ready to hit the gas.

Right now, the limiting factor to my scale is not money, it's product quality. I'm purposefully taking my time, to get the quality right, and the manufacturing consistent. If I tried to scale now, I think things would blow up in my face. When the product is right, however, the limit is the moon, and I could use all the money I can get.

So my question for you, is, should I work on getting investment money now anyways, knowing that product improvement is all a part of the plan, and that the real scale will begin in a year? Or should I wait until the product quality is what it needs to be?

What sort of time-frame are we talking to get an investment of 500k - 2M onboard from someone?

Do you have any recommended resources on putting together an "investor ready" business plan?

You are on to something there. First of all you have a working model. Since you've sold through a container already you can prove concept and profitability pretty easily. Add to that your product improvements, hopefully at zero or minimal incremental cost and you could absolutely raise money.

The good part for you is that the farther along in the business you get, the more you can prove the concept, the more you can prove the concept the less ownership you will have to trade for investor money.

Never underestimate what that money could do for you. You could be very hands on overseas overseeing the production or design. You could be using that money to invest in systems or processes that increase profitability or quality. Investor money makes you more solid in a scale situation.

As far as a formal business plan is concerned, I have never used one to raise money, but I have only raised about 1 million so far in my life and for my particular ventures I considered that lean. I did however make what I titled an "investor guide" the topics were as follows (remember this was tailor made for my business, needs may vary):

-The Problem
-What has been done by others
-Introduce the concept and compare to what has been done
-How it will all work
-Strategic partners, milestones and accolades so far
-Customers voicing interest... Explain
-Our team or anticipated team
-How we plan to deploy the funds
-Financial potential of the company assuming conservative estimates over time
-Plans for the future of the company

Then just talk it over after you run through this. The more formal this becomes, in my opinion, the less results you should expect. They are also buying you, if you're a robot regurgitating only the best stuff I would be skeptical. CLEAR HONESTY WINS BIG!!!

To illustrate the honesty concept, I once raised 6 figures by telling someone I wouldn't invest in my company, I told him the momentum was lost and we weren't getting anywhere. Not that I recommend to use that strategy. I was just completely honest. He told me after he wrote the check on the spot that he had to invest in me for being so forthright. That sure gave me my confidence back in that venture. He and I have become great friends and have made some great money together.
 
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Kak

Kak

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Also, to bring up the Shark Tank VC situation...

The sharks are not normal VC investors, they are offering their services as media whores and investing in an immediate upswing. This is like televised online dating of the VC world. "Next. Next. Next. Hey there!" They have a buyers market of companies strolling through the shark tank, some that make money and some that don't. Wouldn't you rather buy a functioning company if you planned to inject a bunch of media hysteria?

The reality is, if you can make believers, you can raise money. The bigger believer you can make out of them the less you'll have to give up. Sales though absolutely not necessary in the real world, can make bigger believers. I also can't stress honesty enough.
 
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Kak

Kak

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I know that in the tech Valley projects are often backed without even having the first sale. How can you put a number on what a company is worth if it is still in the idea or market validation phase? Some of these companies even run at a loss for years until they gain huge traction.
Valuations in this instance are purely speculative. That is why we make believers. Why would an entrepreneur invest his own money in his own small venture if he didn't believe in the concept? Same deal.

It's capitalism at its finest. X% in some company is worth $X to them. It is about what owning a piece of your company is worth to them. If their $X is worth giving up X% to them, the deal is done.
 

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One of the only TV shows I watch is The Profit and this is what Marcus does just with his own money. He uses it to fund the business so all the annoying little stuff (marketing, copacking) is done and then he and the business owners can focus on growth. Yes it's a TV Show and you still need to take things with a grain of salt but you can still learn a lot.
 
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Kak

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How would you hire? Do you have a general doctrine on hiring?
Or do you get partners in the tech, finance and customer departments and have them use their technical skills and lingo to hire and pick more employees?
I have hired almost exclusively from my network. This is not to say just people I know, but every person I ever hired was a recommendation from someone else OR very well known in certain circles for X, Y or Z... OR hired by someone in my organization.

So no, no doctrine on hiring. Now I have had some experience in firing too...

I’m a sucker for giving people the benefit of the doubt even though they might do something that pisses me off. My experience is that if you even have the faintest thought that the individual needs to go, trust your gut. Start making provisions to replace them. I say this because every time I have been there, I didn’t, and I was caught with a hole in my organization because I fired them hard for something else soon thereafter. This last one was not my hire... So I felt I needed to tread carefully firing someone my team brought on, but I should have done it a month sooner.
 
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JAJT

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I have to say - I agree 100%.

(and 500 grand is far from a big investment)
This is so amazingly true.

There are entire funds setup, invested into, and managed by folks who literally don't get out of bed for opportunities that require less than 5-10 million dollars.

There are even broker-dealers who help match investors to businesses looking for investment for a finder's fee if the deal goes through (this is complicated and I know very little about it but it's good to know it exists).

I'm privy to some pretty exciting behind the scenes info on a new business that just went through a round of funding and everything KAK is saying is so true. The money is out there waiting for you to bring a viable sounding idea to it. You don't need to be a "big shot" to get funded. You don't need to be the next Facebook. You just need to show that the investment will be worth it for the investor.

The truth is - investors have just as hard of a time finding good ideas to invest into as the folks with good ideas struggle to find investors to partner with.

I struggle quite a bit with 'thinking big', as I think most folks do. Posts like this are a great little reminder that there's nothing stopping us from getting funded if we think large enough to require it.
 

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...My experience is that if you even have the faintest thought that the individual needs to go, trust your gut. Start making provisions to replace them...
To me, this is hardest part of management. Firing... And in my business, evictions -- putting people out on the street. But, this is all part of my job.
Also, over the years, when someone has given me a 2 week notice, I cut them a check and show them the door right then and there. I send them off with my sincere best wishes. If they no longer want to be there, I don't want to prolong the pain of them leaving. It's kinder to them and to me. Life goes on with or without them...
 
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Thank you @Kak
I've benefited tremendously from your posts and my admiration for you is as high as possible, right up there with Vigilante. Also I've never met someone with such an air of magnificence so your persona in my head does not go away. Sometimes, I'd just have a thought or do something and tell myself, yeah, just like Kak.

So if I were to start today... I would think bigger. I would come up with a damn good plan. I would use that plan to raise a ton of money. I would use that money to buy every damn resource I always wished I could afford. I would take a stranglehold of the bottom line and make my investors as well as myself rich.
I totally agree with everything you said. My questions are, 1) how do you think bigger? (I remember you mentioned reading WSJ?) & 2) build up your position so no parties can take you out?

For a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs, thinking big and coming up with a great plan is way out their league so many start with selling on Amazon or doing website design. This type of work provides an opportunity to learn how to spot and validate a need, how to add value and serve people. (not defending the two hustles. I'd rather be rich than right.)

In your earlier post, you used an airline industry example. You'd come up with an outsourcing idea for airlines. Have the executives in the industry buy the plan and take them to meet with venture capitalists. I thought, this is awesome! But I don't have such a great idea and I don't know if the two would just cut a deal on the side and marginalize me. Since I cannot sit around and try to come up with great ideas all day, I need to take some action doing something like selling stuff on Amazon or doing website design.:eek:

This is just my logic. I understand this post may not bring much value to this thread but I admire you so much that an opportunity to get your opinion is worth anything.:happy:
 

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amp0193

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You are on to something there. First of all you have a working model. Since you've sold through a container already you can prove concept and profitability pretty easily. Add to that your product improvements, hopefully at zero or minimal incremental cost and you could absolutely raise money.

The good part for you is that the farther along in the business you get, the more you can prove the concept, the more you can prove the concept the less ownership you will have to trade for investor money.
Makes total sense, thanks. I think the position of my business, especially given the bright future of the market, and the lack of competition, puts me in a great place to start the investment conversations. I'll let you know how it goes!

Never underestimate what that money could do for you. You could be very hands on overseas overseeing the production or design. You could be using that money to invest in systems or processes that increase profitability or quality. Investor money makes you more solid in a scale situation.
I am 100% guilty of underestimating. My vision has been narrow. I have plenty of money from the sale of my last business, but never stopped to think about what I could do with even more.

I did however make what I titled an "investor guide" the topics were as follows (remember this was tailor made for my business, needs may vary):
Solid gold outline of topics. That gets me headed in the right direction with this.

CLEAR HONESTY WINS BIG!!!
Great tip. I think it'll be easy to be honest, as I'm not in a position of needing the money.
 

amp0193

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The truth is - investors have just as hard of a time finding good ideas to invest into as the folks with good ideas struggle to find investors to partner with.
Breaking down the barriers man, I love this.

Not only do I need them... they need me!


With that in mind, I think it makes putting a presentation together way easier.
 

amp0193

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Thank you @Kak
For a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs, thinking big and coming up with a great plan is way out their league so many start with selling on Amazon or doing website design. This type of work provides an opportunity to learn how to spot and validate a need, how to add value and serve people.
Start with the end in mind.

I know where I want my business to be in 5 years, and how much I want it to be worth to a buyer. Now, this thread has me stretching that number higher than I had planned, but still, I've got a plan.

What's the plan in "just gonna try selling some stuff on Amazon"? There probably isn't one. There's gotta be a clear path to something more. "Getting experience" or "getting feet wet" isn't really a justification for the existence of a business.

Thinking big is not out of anyone's league. Maybe the practical experience to make it happen is. But the best way to get practical experience is trying to break down and solve the BHAG you created in your mind.
 

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As I read this i think there is a big assumption. When you ask someone what would they do differently you are asking them based on their current experience. So you assume they retained all their knowledge and Experience.

But what if future bio from 2018 comes back in time to present day 2012 bio and says go big, trust me? I would probably believe my future self and do what he says. But i can you that the confidence wouldn’t be there.

For example, when i started my first import order was $5500. Knowing what i know now and having experience and confidence if I started over i would be placing a $50000 order.

But going back in time, my experience at that time dictated a $5500 investment.
 

ZF Lee

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What's the plan in "just gonna try selling some stuff on Amazon"? There probably isn't one. There's gotta be a clear path to something more. "Getting experience" or "getting feet wet" isn't really a justification for the existence of a business.
It hit me that way too!

I've wondered in the past whether such a thought was merely action-fake or not.

A business is too complex, too valuable and too large for such starter reasons. Sure, getting experience and feet wet are important.

But I wonder if they are the de-facto requirements of a roaring business. Or some kind of frankenphrase.

As I read this i think there is a big assumption. When you ask someone what would they do differently you are asking them based on their current experience. So you assume they retained all their knowledge and Experience.

But what if future bio from 2018 comes back in time to present day 2012 bio and says go big, trust me? I would probably believe my future self and do what he says. But i can you that the confidence wouldn’t be there.

For example, when i started my first import order was $5500. Knowing what i know now and having experience and confidence if I started over i would be placing a $50000 order.

But going back in time, my experience at that time dictated a $5500 investment.
Likewise, if I knew TFLF existed in my high school time, I would have went to look for it earlier! And start the biz earlier too....

Is there a way to push past the confidence issue? In this case, we might not get the privilege of having our future selves come to us, but we may have an upcoming demand to take bigger and bold steps. :smile2:
 
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This message is in response to a private message from @inputchip but it will likely be valuable in the open... It is short and sweet.

Let me start with what I do... I own 4 individual businesses in 3 very different industries, at least one of each B2C, B2B and B2G. I own a few cash-flowing assets and I am a semi-active investor that appreciates the control of managing my own money. Entrepreneur above all else. I have a lifestyle that doesn't strangle my finances or time. I own my life. I have my own worries and concerns, but it is never if the bills will be paid.

This conversation started with a question about my change of heart. I was once someone who thought Amazon was a great way to make ends meet for new entrepreneurs. I never considered it the one and only ticket, but it was hard not to recommend with most of us making a few grand in profit month one. Today is a different story with almost bubble like saturation. Extremely competitive brands racing to the bottom, cutting each other's throats and running up paid advertising to over 100% of ACOS to "prime the pump". It’s a dirty whore's market. Not to say there isn't still money to be made, but it isn't my kind of business any more.

So... With that said... If I started all over again with absolutely nothing.... I would think unbelievably bigger. Who the hell says you have to go in it alone with your first 2 or 3 grand to grow some consumer brand? Who says you have to bootstrap and hustle flipping bullshit and finding arbitrage strategies? Who says you have to be a onepreneur shop owner? You don't.

What you do have to be able do is competently explain your value to investors. Make them fight for you. If I were to start again I wouldn't touch a business without at least $500k in resources. Over and over again we see the biggest and most hyped over businesses were the ones that went after a lot of investor money in the beginning. (and 500 grand is far from a big investment)

Just think... No more budget websites. No more learning to code. No more giving stock away to resources. No more doing your own photography. No more trying to figure out the f*cking tax code once a year. You won't be fighting tooth and nail for the small stuff. Large investments are out there, available and ready for the taking. It is an investor’s job to give money to solid entrepreneurs. Businesses with huge resources make huge money faster.

So if I were to start today... I would think bigger. I would come up with a damn good plan. I would use that plan to raise a ton of money. I would use that money to buy every damn resource I always wished I could afford. I would take a stranglehold of the bottom line and make my investors as well as myself rich.

It’s not one size fits all, it’s not the only way, it’s just how I would do it.

Ask me anything...
I remember the day a investor invited you to lunch and handed you a larger than life six-figure check that you didn't even want. Money chases value.

It is difficult for me to not just automatically mark everything that you write as notable.
 
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ironman150

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when someone has given me a 2 week notice, I cut them a check and show them the door right then and there. I send them off with my sincere best wishes. If they no longer want to be there, I don't want to prolong the pain of them leaving
This is GOLD...get rid of them ASAP. They no longer care about your company and should be shown the exit 10 seconds after they give notice....politely of course.
 
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As I read this i think there is a big assumption. When you ask someone what would they do differently you are asking them based on their current experience. So you assume they retained all their knowledge and Experience.

But what if future bio from 2018 comes back in time to present day 2012 bio and says go big, trust me? I would probably believe my future self and do what he says. But i can you that the confidence wouldn’t be there.

For example, when i started my first import order was $5500. Knowing what i know now and having experience and confidence if I started over i would be placing a $50000 order.

But going back in time, my experience at that time dictated a $5500 investment.
While I get what you are saying and agree wholeheartedly... I also must say I was more leaning more towards a focus on well capitalizing a new venture VS going huge for the sake of going huge.

Well capitalizing and going big go hand in hand, so I see how people landed there, but one is a cause and the other is an effect. So yes while this advice may seem like a bit much for some, I still think most people who truly set their sights on well capitalizing a venture can probably do it.

But hey, I prefaced this thread on the first post with the fact that this was just what I would do, not what people should do. They should absolutely know it’s a realistic option.
 
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