May 1

How To Launch A Company

Three years and two weeks ago I called my wife to tell her I would become unemployed on May 1, 2010. I had accomplished my three year goal at the agency I was working at and it was time to move on to a new challenge — namely to return to a life of leisure more commonly referred to as Entrepreneurship. It was time for me to leave a life of 50-60 hour weeks working in an office for the 100+ hour weeks of the start-up. And three years ago today, I did just that. I launched Converse Digital.

The Five Rules For Launching A Company

If you’re thinking you want to launch your own company, allow me to share some advice and learning I’ve picked up along the way.

First, don’t bother to save up some money. The common rule of thumb is to have at least a few months income in your bank. Why bother? I mean, would it really help you to have at least six months of income in the bank before you need to actually earn a dollar that you can keep in the form of income? Would it really help to have the runway you need to make the right decisions versus the ones that will pay your mortgage?

Second, don’t believe that you can compete with the biggest names in your industry. Why would you want to pitch a Fortune 100 company anyhow? So what if they have more money, are more committed to marketing (in my case) and might just impress other companies as business proof that you’re company is the real deal. Just sell to the folks you can get to right now… the ones that are going to be an easier sale.

Third, don’t hire anyone to work for you. Holy shit — why would you want to take on that commitment? That would just mean you’d need to sell more widgets or bill more hours or something. Just save the money, ease the pressure on yourself and hire the cheapest employee you’ll ever find — YOU!

Fourth, don’t make it a point to sell yourself to your friends (online and offline). People will just figure out what you do. You’re awesome right? So why would you need to sell yourself to anyone?

Fifth, place family before business… as much as humanly possible. Those work-life-hippy-love folks got it all wrong. You’re starting a freakin business here. You’re an entrepreneur. If you’re not billing your dying man… so get your butt back to work — right after you finish reading this post — cause if you just work harder you’ll succeed. Trust me, I read a book about it.

The Real Secrets To Launching A Successful Company

Obviously I jest above. I’ve tried really hard to do exactly the opposite of each of those rule. Well except for the first one. When I launched Converse Digital I didn’t have anything saved, no investors… not even a line of credit to draw on and I regret it every day. There are so many great ideas just sitting on my chalkboard waiting for the day I can take my foot off the billing pedal and do a bit of investment spending in my own company in the form of money and time. So don’t make that mistake. Whatever you do…. give yourself that runway. I promise you if you take that one piece of advice, you’ll buy me a drink the next time you see me because it will make you a more successful company.

Now on to the real advice and learning that I truly believe is responsible for my still being here three years later.

Whatever you do — be fearless. There is no shame in failure or falling down. There is only shame in not getting your ass back up. And that goes for those of you that aren’t starting your own company. Too many people are scared of failure in this world. From where I sit, there is only one time in your life to fear failure — skydiving. When you jump out of a perfectly good airplane and finding yourself hurtling towards the earth at hundreds of miles an hour, then fear failure. Because if that chute doesn’t open you’re probably going to die. But in pretty much everything else, you’re just going to bruise an ego and scrape a leg, but you’ll live to fight another day. Trust me, I know of which I speak.

Surround yourself with people that love and support you. It’s easy to place business in front of family. And try as hard as you might, it will happen. You’re going to miss a baseball game, birthday or anniversary. But by God, please try not to. Your son will only pitch so many no hitters — do you really want to miss one? Your daughter will only learn to drive once. And your spouse, while they’ll put up with it, will grow to resent you. And then what will you have? Hell, half the fun of owning your own company is sharing it and the joy it brings you with the ones you love. So do your level best to see those folks more than your desktop.

Believe in God. Ok, for you non-religous folks, this one may be kind of a stretch. But hear it out non-the-less. If you truly think your success is completely in your own hands, that you and you alone are driving your destiny, great. But man that’s a whole lotta stress. And not that you won’t feel that even if you do believe in God, but believe me when I tell you, over the last three years I’ve had so many times where I truly needed a miracle to keep the doors open and the lights on. Funny thing — they always came. There are those out there that will tell you they are just “killing it” and “they can’t field all the business they have” and in some cases they might just be telling the truth. But for every one of those “killing it” companies there are a hundred, maybe a thousand that have dodged their fair share of close calls. And in those cases, sometimes believing that someone bigger than you has your back can be the thing you need to keep your sanity, focus your attention and find a way to live another day.

And that’s it folks — I truly believe that at the end of the day, the difference between those that succeed and those that fail in business is often as simple as just believing you can. So when you’re ready to pull that trigger, just believe.

Oh….. and work your arse off 😉

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  1. Tom,
    Thank you for sharing the story of your first three years. I was thoroughly impressed with your insights and knowledge when you presented to a group of marketing professionals from the Boy Scouts of America who met in New Orleans last July. (I was the guy who struck up a conversation with you about C.C. Chapman while going through the buffet line at lunch.)
    I enjoy your blog and am learning a lot as I add some adrenalin to my wife’s communications consulting business. If you’re ever in St. Louis, I’d love to buy you lunch or coffee.
    Take care!

  2. Hi Tom,
    Thank you so much for this. I found it very inspirational. I have been working on launching my own content marketing business over the last month or so and have been busy learning everything I can. I am an award-winning writer and I had a really challenging job as a marketing manager for an online travel company before getting laid off during a restructure. So I am hoping to combine those skill sets to build something for myself. I particularly like what you wrote about the importance of family time. I have a daughter and she is growing up so fast. I really regret all of the time that I spent working during the evening hours at my last job instead of playing with her. I excelled at my job, but in the end it didn’t mean anything and I lost precious time that I won’t get back. I also liked what you said about believing in God. I have noticed that if I really need something to work out somehow and I pray hard about it, it always does. Thank you again for a very informative, inspirational post.

    1. Nikki

      Thanks… always nice to hear that folks appreciate some of the softer advice here. Best of luck with the new company. It’s a great ride… wouldn’t go back to corp life ever — well unless I stop getting clients 😉

      Don’t be a stranger.

  3. Great article Tom! I just took the plunge into entrepreneurship word 3 months ago. I just decided that it’s now or never. Believing in myself and trust that I can only succeed if I keep trying really go a long way. It has been a run ride so far and I am now working my arse off but having a blast!

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