7 Things I Wish I Had Known When Founding This Company

by Chris Young

Chris YoungOn September 4, 2001, I quit my “day job” as VP of Sales for a startup company to focus full time on my passion – The Rainmaker Group. It was heady times and scary as hell at the same time.  For 28 months, I plowed pretty much every single dollar back into the business. Living expenses were covered by credit cards…

Sound familiar? Keep reading…

There are many lessons I have learned the “hard way” over the last 12 plus years. The biggest ones are as follows:

Be clear about who you are (and are not).

Ask an employee team member what your company stands for and most will be unable to provide an answer. Many, if not most companies, have employees who do not understand what their company stands for despite investing significant resources to develop their mission, vision, and guiding values. While it is common that employee team members do not know, you need to help them get clarity ASAP.

Be clear about who your target Customer is (and is not).

You are defined by who your Customers are. Some have the money to invest in your solutions while others only window shop and nickel and dime you. Decide.

Evolve… Quickly… Find your “sweet spot”

Your “sweet spot” is where passion / purpose / profits align – what you love / purpose in life / and get paid for.

Every small business has a “shake down period” where you figure out what works and does not work.

The Rainmaker Group initially started out in customer service training locally and immediately ran head-to-head against the local community college. It was the best thing we ever had happen to us.We got beat by a taxpayer-funded competitor who charged and still charges peanuts for what we charged more for.

We were forced to differentiate or die. So we then focused our marketing nationally and opportunities and evolution came quickly.

We are still evolving.

Create tax problems…

We create high value companies by helping solve the most expensive kind of problems – human capital problems. Our Clients depend on us to provide clarity around hiring, development, and coaching of their most important “asset” – their management and sales people.

We charge accordingly…

The best solutions solve problems for your Clients and create tax problems for you.

Most people are committed to mediocrity and interested in winning.

There was a time when the phone rang that my heart just pounded in my chest. I would get very excited talking with someone I thought to be a prospective Client… All they had to do was show interest and talk with us.

And did they ever… I wish I had just 5 minutes for every hour I wasted talking with someone who did not get it.

If you lose enough – like I did – you begin looking for patterns. Now, I know within 5-10 minutes into a conversation whether or not the person I am speaking with is likely to understand and appreciate how we can help.

When a non-decision maker calls us – it’s probably a waste of our time. I call non-decision makers “Looky Lous”. When someone says, “How much?” without allowing for us to ask questions – it is likely a waste of time. They look but they do not buy.

Protect Your Culture – Hire only winners and smoke the losers sooner-than-later.

Every single human being has the potential to win in a position they are “wired for” – it may just not be with your company.

No one gets hired at Rainmaker without the completion of a valid personality test and thorough interviews. And from time to time, people lose their “edge” or “mojo”. When that happens, it is time to make a change for their sake and yours – sooner than later.

And hire people that scare the hell out of you – people who are smarter than you…

Never take advice from idiots. Most advisors are idiots.

I once had a boss who said, “You cannot possibly know what it is like to run a business if you have never worried about cash flow – paying yourself and your staff.”

Check… Been there – done that.

The consultant you hire… That business coach… That university professor who moonlights on afternoons when students are not around… Have they ever ran a company? Those who can – do and those who cannot teach and/or consult…

Sometimes the best advice comes from advisors who ask the “dumb question” – “Why do we do it this way?” I have a love/hate relationship with that question - mostly love.

That book you are reading about the “jerk boss” – check the author. Make sure what you are about to spend (waste) time reading was written by someone who actually ran a business. It is one thing to read about it – theorize and a complete other to have actually run a business.

If I had followed my own advice, I would be further ahead with a fewer PhDs from the “School of Hard Knocks”. The journey has been so worth it.

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