Pretend You Have The Money: An Epilogue of My Failure to Launch
By Paul Shumlich
Imagine yourself having an awesome idea for a new venture. It could be one that you have been dreaming about for a while, or you might even be working on one as you read this. Perhaps, you have taken the first few steps to turn your dream into a reality and validated that there is demand for your offering. If you are already taking these steps, then kudos to you!
These are exciting times for anyone who is developing a venture and taking the entrepreneurial steps to grow it organically, from the ground up. When you find your target market, identify their pains, and find out that your value offering alleviates those pains, you begin to build momentum. You have identified real opportunity and a venture that could launch.
What’s holding you back from actually doing it at this point? Depending on your venture it could be anything. However, for a lot of you reading this— I bet its money. Do you ever find yourself saying; if I just had $1,000, $5,000, maybe even $10,000, I could make this happen!?
That’s what I was telling myself when working on my urban farming venture, Deepwater Farms. The model was to grow food year round, using leading edge urban agriculture technology that’s completely sustainable. I even went out and found several high-end restaurants that were willing to pay premium for culinary herbs, if I could grow them.
I built several prototype systems that produced a variety of herbs and lettuce year-round. I even managed to get into a commercial greenhouse to test the systems. However, these were prototype systems and they only grew enough herbs to test with chefs.
People would always ask me; how’s the plant business going? I would respond with enthusiasm; our customers love the herbs; we can’t keep up with demand. The next question was always; why aren’t you growing more? My response was always; well we really need $10,000 to get things off the ground.
Now, imagine you had $10,000 to put towards your venture idea. You could make it happen, right? Money is the key to your venture’s overnight success. Trust me, I know! All I needed was money— with it I could buy the equipment and grow more herbs.
That’s what I truly believed and that’s why I wasn’t growing more. However, it turns out I was lying to myself. Money was not the key to my overnight success. Good chance that it’s not yours either. Despite feeling it’s exactly what you need, money’s not always the solution. How do I know? I learned the hard way.
Every April, the Bissett School of Business holds the annual LaunchPad Pitch Competition with $50,000 cash up for grabs. That night I hit it big and went home with $25,000. I now had more than I needed to launch. I went home that night, sat down at my table and in disbelief stared at the money. It blew my mind; I could now make this happen. But want to know what really blew my mind? I had no fucking clue what to do with the money.
You’re probably reading this and saying; how did you not have a clue what to do with the money? Geeze, relax I know! It sounds crazy, but ask yourself what you would do. Imagine having more money than you think you need to launch your venture. Now ask yourself exactly what you need to do to launch your venture. How are you going to get your product in the customer's hands? What are the exact next steps you need to take to develop your offering and get it out the door? I’m talking start to finish— the whole shebang.
That night it occurred to me, I was making a lot of assumptions about how my business was going to function. I did not have solid idea of how production, packaging, distribution, marketing, customer service, and the things I haven’t even thought of yet, are all going to work. I quickly realized I didn’t have a clear path with actionable steps. Actually breaking everything down into milestones takes a lot of time and energy, not money.
Despite feeling ready for a cash injection it was clear to me that I overlooked far too many details. Listen my friends, this is where the devil lies— in the details! Deal with them! Money is not what you need to get your venture to the next level. You need to be better prepared for the money and find the critical path to getting shit done.
How do you become better prepared? Simple, you dig in and you grind it out. I’ve had the opportunity to work beside some very successful people, and they simply focus on what needs to be done next. Think no tomorrow. Identify what needs to be done and avoid mañana syndrome at all cost. Do not open a new tab, do not get distracted. Figure out the critical path. How you will spend your first $1,000, your second, to infinity and beyond. My best advice— pretend you already have the money.
Seriously, pretend you have the money and think about the critical path you need to take. From the hardware to software, production to distribution, marketing to customer service, and everything in between, before, and after. What products or services, people or companies, communities or professionals do you need to identify and work with to develop your offering? You need this information to execute for when you have a budget. A good idea without execution is like multiplying by zero, you get zero.
The plan has to go beyond the back of the napkin. It has to be clear and fairly detailed, but not rigid. Most importantly, go with the flow and remain nimble, be quick to adapt and do what calls you with intent. Reverse engineer your goals. Maybe even lower the bar for a bit. Just stay focused on the tasks you can progress. When you’re stagnating, invest in yourself by building new skills. Do things for the sake of doing them. I’m willing to bet there are some details you're either avoiding, delaying, or overlooking that you could be gracefully completing today— not tomorrow.
You might be saying; buddy, I need money to do that! Truth is— you don’t. I have a hat, it’s called my bullshit hat and we all have one. When I put mine on, I pretend to know what I’m talking about. Give people the impression that you’re the decision maker and you're about to make one. You have got to front like you have the money.
Go out and talk to the people you need to talk to. Pick up the phone and call the people you need to call. If this scares you, good, you should feel uncomfortable. The more uncomfortable situations you put yourself in, the more comfortable you are in them!
If it helps, use a fake name or company to get the information you need. I actually do this all the time— call up your competitors and pretend to be a customer to find out their prices; pretend to be a business and call customers to validate ideas; call suppliers, distributors, and anyone else you need information from and pretend like you’re from a big company— hack the system!
You’ll shock yourself when you get away from the keyboard, out of your comfort zone and into the real world where things happen. It’s hella scary going out there because there’s a good chance you're going to hear what you don’t want to hear. But guess what— it’s exactly what you need to hear.
If you're persistent you’ll find a better solution or somebody who can help you out, often in a big way. In my opinion, that's entrepreneurship— finding the resources you need when you don’t have the resources to make it happen! Sure, you might need money to actually get your product out the door, but it’s free to figure it out before.
Money was going to put everything in motion for me. However, it occurred to me that other than vague ideas, I had nothing to put in motion. Things do not just figure themselves out. Money will not solve your problems. You MUST go through the process of testing your assumptions and discovering how your business will actually function— not just testing if people value your offering!
If just for a moment I pretended that I had the money I needed, months of feeling overwhelmed would have been avoided. By skipping this step, I wasted an incredible amount of time, energy, and money. Actually going through the motions would have given me a clear understanding of everything that needed to fall in place. Be patient. Pretend you have what you need, put in the hard work, get the details. In return, you will have an action plan to quickly execute and build momentum, which might lead to some money.
If your big pay day comes and you’re not prepared, you’ll quickly be disillusioned. That night at my kitchen table, I reflected on one of my biggest success by winning $25,000, but also my biggest failure by not being prepared. There were so many pieces to the puzzle left unsolved. Things were not about happen quickly, and I had a mountain of daunting work in front of me. This was a huge moment for me. I had failed to plan for the only thing I planned for— getting money.
Do not let this happen to you. It’s easily avoided. Face your fears and prepare for an absolute grind, because that’s all it is. If you prepare properly, you will prevent poor performance. The process is a lot more enjoyable when you have clear objectives and a path to get there. Accept the grind. If you grind it out long enough, you’ll be fully prepared for your big payday. Pull up your entrepreneurial pants, get out the front door and make some connections. It’s a must, not a should!
We lie to ourselves about what we need and that’s why we don’t have what we want. Find joy in the challenges your venture presents you by appreciating the blessing of being able to find solutions. In a minute, you can do anything. It just takes action. There is no excuse to not work on something for fifteen minutes. There is no better time than NOW— take action.
Understand the power of now and you’ll master the art of achievement. Stop telling yourself you should do something. Start telling yourself you MUST do that something. Get disturbed about stagnating. We have absolute control of our inside world. Everyday we gotta have a vision, something to move towards. Find out the next steps that you need to take to launch your venture, because when your pay day comes— you’ll be ready.