Starting a business can provide you with greater income and skill growth, and personal growth than any other activity. The only thing is starting a business sucks. You have to work for a year before you know if your work is actually working.
When you hear about someone working for a year and they only have 10 customers (and they’re not selling a $50,000 product) then it sounds like their business sucks. It might. Until you know if that’s working for you, take comfort knowing your income growth is exponential, too.
However, when doing almost anything new, realize your personal growth isn’t linear. In most areas of life, especially related to money, you’re going to start incredibly slowly and build over time. You get 10% returns a year, reinvest, and that slightly greater sum earns you another 10%, etc.
Starting a business is this process on steroids. If your goal is 1000 customers, you’ll spend a long time with only single- or double-digit number of customers. E.g. a whole year getting 10 customers. Then another year getting 20 more.
This kind of sucks, especially when you’re banking on getting more customers as fast as possible, or if you’re burning through money faster than you can bring it in.
Nevertheless, if you can pull this off, it only gets easier over time.
Note: this guy is an experienced entrepreneur. He already has one company making him millions. He knows the process. And yet it still took him months and months to even get to a sustainable baseline. He obviously could handle the wait because he already had money, but understand the time cost he still sunk into his new endeavor (and no one can get their time back).
Personal Growth Sucks (Sometimes)
Practically, your first customers will be recruited very manually. Sure, set up your inbound landing page, do your sales and marketing funnels, but expect to get your first 100 customers all manually. You’ll pitch them all one by one, and 1 in 20 might say yes.
This isn’t my original thought, but from Paul Graham’s fantastic essay Do Things that Don’t Scale. Graham is one of the founders of Y-Combinator, the OG of startup accelerators that produced the likes of Airbnb, Doordash, Coinbase, Dropbox, Reddit, and many more.
Doing it by hand sucks, but it’s the best path towards personal growth in resilience, commitment, and vision.
The fearful and the engineers want to automate everything because it removes emotional risk. That’s why sales is hard. If you can toughen up enough to handle 1000 rejections, you’ll eventually win. Maybe it’ll take you 5 years, but you’ll win (if you don’t die).
In the Beginning, Everything is Manual
Even if you’re a coder, you’ll be doing so much manually. You can’t afford to outsource to other people yet, and the ROI on automating via code isn’t worth the trade-off of simply getting more customers.
The weight shifts once you get so good at acquiring new customers that they come in faster than you can handle. At that point, you start giving more attention to your systems and personnel because now you’re running down the hill trying to catch the boulder instead of pushing it up with all your might. It’s a different kind of skill set.
Kaizen: the 1% Growth Path
Kaizen is a Japanese word referring to continuous improvement. It’s a manufacturing approach pioneered by Toyota. The goal is to improve just 1% every day (or month, or year). You can always be 1% better, and that’s a very achievable goal.
Even when growth is slow, you’re constantly growing. On top of this, 1% growth this year is slightly more than 1% last year. As long as you stick to 1% growth on a consistent timeline, you’re constantly accelerating at a greater pace—even if you feel like you’re barely moving at all.
No Shortcuts to Personal Growth
Again, it’s fun to talk about systems and it makes you feel like you’re making progress. But until you actually have customers to please, it’s 99% a distraction. Get customers. Then worry about scaling up.
It looks slow when you’re looking at the absolute numbers, but not when you zoom out and see an exponential curve beginning to form.