My first job out of college was at a bank. I was 22 and a senior in college when I got the job offer, which came in October of that year. My first thought after hanging up the phone with the lady at the bank who made me the offer was, “Sweet, I can mail it in the rest of the year and have fun and know I’ve got a job lined up after school!!!”
My grand plan at the time was to work my way up through the bank, busting my ass for years until one day I was a senior executive in some corner office in a tall office building, making a great income and having tons of responsibility. And I can’t be thankful enough that my plan didn’t work out. (I’ll talk about why those plans didn’t work in a future post).
Yesterday I was thinking about how glad I am to be a part of such a great business here at Schedulefly, and I imagined what I (now 38 years old) would tell the 22-year old me if I met me (or, him?) today.
Here’s what I quickly jotted down…
Learn how to write code. The internet has democratized business in so many ways and if you can write code you are half way to being able to build your own successful business with a web-based solution. Seriously, go learn how to write code. Now. Go…
Oh, and turn down the bank job.
Rather, spend the rest of the year when you are not learning code trying to figure out a problem you can solve for small businesses that you can solve with a web-based solution.
Target a niche if possible, but mostly focus on providing a solution for small businesses versus large corporations so you can get lots of small customers and not just a few big ones. You don’t want to deal with having large corporations as your primary customers. Trust me.
Find a like-minded business partner who shares your overall objective but also has strengths with skillsets you lack.
Plan to live like a pauper for a few years. No debt. No credit card. Get a part time job to make ends meet but just work enough to pay the bills.
No serious girlfriend for now. Focus on your business. You don’t need distractions.
Eat a healthy diet. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise often.
Agree with your biz partner you will both work really hard for three years and see where your biz is at. Make the commitment together and do everything possible to stick with it. Ignore the “overnight success” stories you read about all the time. The media likes those stories but they are not representative of the majority of success stories. Most successful businesses got that way slowly, with patience and persistence and optimism over years. Not days. Or months. So give yourself three years and then decide whether to stick with it.
Focus relentlessly on making your solution simple and intuitive so it doesn’t require lots of customer service and training but focus just as intently on taking GREAT care of customers any time they need anything. You are building an audience of fans, not just a group of people who pay you. In a world of noise and complexity, people want something easy to use, and they want to feel like they are talking to friends, not adversaries, when they need help or have questions. Most businesses have poor customer service – if you have great service it will make a huge, huge difference.
If you do these things you are taking less risk than you are taking if you go work for that bank, and you are setting yourself on a path to become the master of your own destiny.
And if it doesn’t work out, I promise you the experience will have been extremely valuable for countless reasons, and you will have opened up many more opportunities for yourself than you can possibly imagine right now.
Again, these were quick, rapid fire thoughts I jotted down, and they would have of course led to plenty of questions from 22-year old me (How is an inexperienced college senior supposed to know how to find a business problem to solve? What about the student loan debt I am going to graduate with … doesn’t that mean I have to get a full-time job? How is this not more risky than taking the bank job? Dude, aren’t you a little extreme with the “no girlfriend” edict? Etc.).
I’ll answer those questions in future posts on this topic. But if I could give advice to the 22-year old me, this is exactly what I’d start with…
P.s. If I were to meet the 38-year old me from an alternative reality who still worked at the bank, I would still start with, “Learn to write code.” Being able to write code gives you more leverage in this economy than nearly any other skillset.