New registrations to my latest business project, The Bootstrapper Guild, closed last Thursday, and I’m happy to report we have over 100 new members just getting started on their journey to micro-business ownership.
I want to share some quick stories from the launch to illustrate a few lessons I’ve learned about launching a business project, how to treat customers, and the importance of your attitude when it comes to success.
Hugo Makes the Most of His $1 Trial
One of our new members, Hugo, came into The Guild the other day and immediately put up a progress report with all kinds of goals and big numbers that he wanted to see happen in his new business right away.
This happens once in a while and, normally, I jump in and say, “Whoa, let’s back up a few steps here. Do you have any idea how you’re going to do these things? Let’s work on that.”
But in Hugo’s case, he didn’t just have big goals, he had a plan to meet them, too. So, I told him I was going to sit back and watch for now, and that he could ask any questions he liked.
Two days later, Hugo reported his very first sale—$100 for doing some custom web design work.
I think pretty highly of The Bootstrapper Guild, but this success so early is clearly more of a result of Hugo’s attitude and determination than two days worth of instruction.
Lesson: Education can tell you what to do, but only your own motivation can make you actually do it. The Bootstrapper Guild helps do-it-yourself entrepreneurs figure out the right steps to take, but our most successful members are the ones who actually take them. Never substitute learning for doing.
How I Accidentally Hired My First Employee
On day 2 of the launch, a new member, Mike, signed up, and revealed he already had a successful business going, but wanted to see what he could learn from TBG.
When the first few lessons were clearly beneath him, rather than ignoring them or dropping out, he started helping other members with their questions.
What was I to do? Mike was clearly too advanced for the lessons—at least in the beginning. I saw two options: Wait for Mike to see that he’s beyond the instruction he’s getting and drop out, or offer him his $1 back and send him off with some pointers he could actually use.
Then, I thought of a third option: What if I hired him?
A few emails later and we had a deal. The Bootstrapper Guild just got a lot better.
Lesson: If you run a business and have a customer that’s talented with a desire to help people, don’t try to figure out how to keep them as a customer—hire them!
Celebrate Your Mistakes (And Apologize for Them, Too)
On the opening day of the launch, my developer and I were scrambling to get a few last-minute bugs worked out of the system before opening the doors.
We thought we’d fixed everything, but guess what: We didn’t get it perfect!
That first day, some people came to the site but weren’t able to order because of a technical problem that we’d missed.
We fixed the issue, and my first thought was to just sweep it under the rug and move on with the launch. That’s usually the best solution; you can’t change the past so you might as well embrace right now and get on with your day.
Then, I thought, “What if I’d been a customer that wanted to buy something but couldn’t through no fault of my own?” I’d probably be a little annoyed. So, I decided to send a humble email to everyone apologizing for the mistake.
The result of that email? An immediate 25 sales.
Lesson: Sometimes, being the nice guy and doing the right thing pays off.
A Very Good Reason to not be a Used Car Salesman
I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to sell things. If you want to run a business, this is not optional education!
Last week, I bought a car. I thought it was a good one, but I honestly don’t know much about them. Turns out it was a lemon. I returned it (less $150 for the salesman’s “trouble”).
The guy who sold me this car was a classic used car salesman. “Look at these cup holders. Nice rear view mirror, right? Isn’t this car a pretty color?”
“How many miles does it have on it?”
“Don’t worry about the miles! Worry about how hot this cigarette lighter gets! Look, the horn works!”
Through the whole process, this guy gave me the hard sale. “You need this car today. I’ve got a buddy who’ll give me $100 more than you’re offering. Are you ready to buy?”
When I launched TBG on Monday, I was determined to use Mike (the sleazy salesman) as an example of how not to sell something.
Most books you read about sales will tell you that Mike did everything right. And in a way, it’s true. He did sell me the car, after all. But then I returned it, and I’m not planning to buy one from him ever again.
Where most books about sales fail is in forgetting to mention that a good relationship is far more valuable than a one-off sale.
If you sell cheap things and never plan to see or work with your customers again, then go ahead and follow the old “ABC” sales advice: Always Be Closing. But if you sell something even remotely expensive or have any kind of interest in building long-term relationships, put that first.
Just before we closed down registration this morning, I sent out one last email. It was brief and basically said, “The doors are closing. If you want in, get in now. If you don’t, no problem!”
No hard sale, no pushing, no guilt trip or distractions. There will be more opportunities, and when they come, people will think about signing up then, not about how annoyed they were the last time around.
Lesson: A customer that stays with you for the long-term is far more valuable than 10 that come and go. Try to sell in a way that builds relationships and not animosity.
Treat people well, look for opportunities, and take action when something good is right in front of your face.
Best of luck with whatever you’re working on now. If you missed this round of registration for The Bootrstrapper Guild, you can get on the waiting list over here, and I’ll let you know when we open again.
Image by: DavidDMuir