I want to help people be successful in business and that underpins what we do at Add1Zero; boosting sales and revenue for B2B tech-focused clients.
I also have plenty of experience in building a business – I’m something of a serial entrepreneur and this is my 13th company. I’m always happy to give people advice, even though I know many younger founders are unlikely to listen – I know this because I didn’t listen to advice when I set up my first company!
I look back at all the advice I didn’t listen to, from people who were telling me that what I was doing was nuts – we had no plan at all. If I had listened to them, I would probably be a million dollars richer. I was young and dumb and I thought I was something special.
Now I work with a lot of founders who are similarly advice-resistant. It’s easy to say: “We’re so close, we’re just one deal from making this work.” You can keep moving the goalposts and chasing a mirage, and that drives many early-stage entrepreneurs into debt and insolvency.
You can convince yourself of a lot, particularly if you’re a good sales person. Watch out. You can convince yourself of your own lies and sell yourself a story of why this business is going to be successful.
I’ll tell it straight to people, especially young and inexperienced founders, if their idea is terrible or if their business is awful and that’s why nobody wants to buy what they’re selling.
Yes, you may have spent half a million dollars building software that you think is a good idea, but it’s not – and if we don’t reposition this, you’re going to go bankrupt.
Get people in your life who can help you to pivot
Unfortunately, there are people who push back on that because they’re so hell-bent on their vision. At some stage I have to say I’m letting go, because I’m not going over the cliff with them. Some people have to learn the hard way. I know I did!
I hate seeing somebody in their late forties with three kids, who is the sole income earner, betting everything on something that’s not likely to work. As I tell people, what I’m saying isn’t wisdom; this is just me having done it wrong so many times that I can recognize what it looks and feels like. I just hope people in that situation can challenge themselves, or surround themselves with some mentorship, and welcome people in their life they’ll listen to so that they pivot. This adjustment could save their business.
As I say, this is my 13th business and for 13 years I’ve been slugging it out. I think the only reason you ever eventually succeed is that you just keep trying. Our business is healthy, but it’s hard. I’m congruent with 99% of entrepreneurs. We tend to look at the stories of the big wins and forget how many people got swept away by the undertow on the way there. My perspectives on business have changed. I’m a lot less arrogant than I was and I just want to do something we’re good at; I want to focus on revenue, and grow at a reasonable pace that keeps the money flowing in.
How my 9/11 experience changed the course of my life
I can remember exactly where I was when I decided to set up my own company. I’d graduated from college in 1999, and at that time everybody wanted to be a consultant. The idea was that we’d jet-set around the world and be a partner at a global consulting firm by 30, making millions of dollars. It turned out that I didn’t want to do that.
I worked in downtown New York and on 9/11 I was in my office about a block away when the towers collapsed. I was hiding under a desk and it came to me: “Wow, I hate this job – and I don’t want to die under a desk doing something I hate.”
I moved to Nashville with some friends to start a company, which was just insane. We had no idea what we were doing.
In some ways I’m glad we were that naïve because at least I was on the path that got me to where I am today. After 13 companies, I’ve finally gotten my “MBA in hard knocks” and I think we’ve hit the target this time.
My first business collapse taught me the importance of cash flow
The biggest learning experience I had along the way was that first company getting wiped out in 2009 just after the 2008 recession hit. In the last 20 years, I’ve been through three economic collapses, each of which was supposed to be a once-in-a-century event!
I learned in 2009 that revenue can fall to zero, and that all your clients can leave. You really need to think about how to manage your cash flow. I’m glad now that we went through that because we started Add1Zero in 2019, and when the recent economic collapse happened, we had kept 150 days’ cash in the bank because of prior business experience.
Just having the perspective of knowing it’s possible to lose all your money is good for your business health, so I’m grateful for the learning experience – even though it came at a great cost at the time.
Building the right systems is key to revenue growth
I have worked on the technology, operations, and finance sides of business and finally I realized the thing that keeps the door open is revenue. I figured out how to do that – and now we close millions of dollars for other people and take a tiny little slice for us.
The key to successful revenue is the operation behind the scenes, the systems. I believe that’s 80% of the process. I’m lucky that I get to sit on the stage and be “the star” as the closer. What’s really important to remember is that it’s a bit like a Broadway show. The actor who gets to be center stage gets all the adulation from the crowd, but there’s a whole lot going on backstage that makes it possible: the scenery, the lights, the ticket office – that’s the engine that makes everything work.
Business owners may think they need a closer, a really great salesperson, which is true. But that’s just the cherry on the sundae.
Our vision is that you will never have to worry about cash flow again
We build revenue machines like that in line with our vision, which is that any founder we work with should never have to worry about cash flow again.
We work with B2B tech-enabled services companies in the six-figure revenue range that are looking to scale to the next level. They have clients, testimonials, and product-market fit, but now they want to grow a revenue operation and close a lot of deals.
If we can do that for you, the world is your oyster as a company. You won’t need to get stressed and wake up in the middle of the night staring at the ceiling. Entrepreneurs do that only because they’re worrying about sales and revenue. We like to put people in that happy position of running a successful company.
I just wish I had known what I know now in my early, very pivot-worthy experiments that cost me millions of dollars.