Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Want people to read your whole post, your press release, your email?
It’s all in the opening line. If you don’t put in the work there, they stop reading. So I was excited to discover a talented new horror writer last week. In my LinkedIn feed.
Check out this opener from Tyler Caskey. Who is an accountant.
“Today I consulted to two middle aged guys about to quit their jobs and try to open a night club.”
Honestly, Stephen King couldn’t have crafted a more terrifying opening.
It’s up there with the Hemingway “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” line as one you could make into a movie.
Neither would be feel-good movies.
From that one brutal sentence, your mind fills in all the dramatic elements. The grand plans fleshed out over years as they work at jobs that suck. The satisfying bridge-burn moment as they say goodbye to working for The Man: “You know where you can shove this job”. The clothes too tight for men of that age. The warnings ignored. The kids eye-rolling at the peak-cringe Dadness of the music and decor choices. The DJ arms in the air, lights pulsing, cut to the reverse shot of an empty dancefloor, bar staff cleaning glasses and chatting among themselves. The villainous landlord paid in advance. He’s seen plenty of their type before. The sad, impoverished families as they watch their financial security go up in flames. The ominous lock-click as it closes for the final time.
Listen to Tyler people: start small, test your ideas, and don’t give up your day job. His post is here.
Stick to what you know
I’ve written on this topic before but it’s important enough to keep the reminders going.
Please don’t start new businesses in areas you know nothing about.
You will get eaten alive by people who have known that business all their lives.
When financial planners get together for drinks, they joke about clueless executives who get a redundancy payout and want to open a nice little café.
Because they think owning and working in a café would be a cool social lifestyle. Rather than backbreaking work and pre-dawn starts seven days a week for a net margin of 10-13%.
Those ex-executives will not be making even that, and will almost certainly lose money. Because they have no idea of purchasing, staffing, cost-control and all the other things that pro café owners know by pure instinct.
The sad tale of a guy who gave it a crack
I’ve only known one person to come into our industry cold and buy a business. Let’s call him Gerald. He made a lot of money in his executive job but now wanted to be an entrepreneur.
The business broker dangled this “strong cash flow business” – let’s call it Timebomb Technology – in front of him and he took the bait.
Back story: Timebomb was an old family business. The founder was great friends with their biggest client, which delivered well over half their revenue. After a long and profitable relationship, that client decided to shut their business down in two years time and retire. So he gave his friend the heads-up that he too should consider his own exit plans.
Over those two years Mr Timebomb did all the business sale things. Laid off as many staff as he could get away with without the business falling over. A freeze on reinvestment. Those margins looked healthy.
Like an old boxer shot full of steroids, stimulants and fake tan to make it through one last bout before they collapse.
The business was a hollowed-out shell by the time Gerald picked up the keys. He invested heavily in all the wrong areas. A leased flotilla of new vehicles. He bought the big name-brand enterprise database to run the company’s operations, a voraciously expensive system best suited to multinational manufacturing companies.
Then that biggest client closed down.
We met Gerald at this grim stage for a chat and a look through the numbers. He was a nice guy, we gave him some tips but it wasn’t a situation that could be turned around without sinking millions more into the pit.
He sold it to a competitor, presumably for much less than he paid for it.
You underestimate your skills
You underestimate the skills you bring to your own sector. You know which clients spend money. You know who to recruit. You know what’s been tried and failed. You’ll spend less time making expensive mistakes.
Your own industry is the first place to look when you’re thinking about starting a new business.
If you want to get out of your current job, try to find something that applies your existing skills in a different area. I wrote about this before, on transplanting your super skills into areas where they’ll stand out.
I really hope those two guys find something that realises their dream and makes them happy without burning all their cash.
Maybe there’s something closer to their skills that can deliver on their love of hospitality, beverages, music, sleeping in, wearing sunglasses indoors or whatever was drawing them down the nightclub path.
And they’re getting some advice about the financial realities before they take the leap, which puts them a long way ahead of most.
Good luck out there, nightclub guys.
Got a comment?
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Why not buy this nice book?
Want a step-by-step guide to how to set up a business that you don’t even have to work in day-to-day? Or just some light business-y entertainment? Get both in Undisruptable: Timeless Business Truths For Thriving In A World Of Nonstop Change out on Penguin Random House.
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For those of you in geo-blocked countries, here’s your non-Spotify audio: