When I started JibberJobber I learned a little about how venture capitalists and angel investors fund businesses. It was a fascinating journey into a world that seemed exciting and a little dirty/sleazy. I learned about the Four F’s… have you heard about these? These are the four sources of funding that an entrepreneur should look at before they go to a VC or an angel. They are:
I used two of these sources to fund the early days of my business. It was necessary, and I’m forever grateful to have had those sources of funding to help JibberJobber get onto it’s own two feet.
But it bugged me that that is what I needed to do. I had this novel idea that my business should have been funded by… get this… people paying for it! That’s what you might call “self-funding.” Many companies are not self-funding… they rely on continual investments to fund their payroll, rent, parties, etc. Companies like Amazon, who seems to own the retail world, did this for years.
Anything wrong with self-funding?
For most of you, starting your own business, getting funding from VCs or angels isn’t the right route, and you might not be able to tap into the Four F’s. So how do you fund your venture (aka, pay your rent and buy food) in the early days?
The answer sits in understanding the basic nature of your business, and whether you are offering products (that you are creating) or services.
JibberJobber is a product, which meant that we spent months to develop it before we went live. A book is a product… you spend months writing and editing and preparing for the publisher, and then you have one, or a thousand, or a million. Your job is to take this *thing* and market it.
A service might be something where you charge an hourly rate to do something, like an hour of consulting, a day of speaking, doing a haircut, writing a resume, mowing a lawn. Typically, you can start doing a service, for money, right now, today, without any investment. I have plenty of ideas of things you can do in exchange for money today.
Is one better than the other? A product can require a significant investment up-front, with the idea that you could sell it when it’s made, or you could sell the company if you prove it successful. Expect to continue to invest in R&D. The payout could be crazy. The failure could be ruinous.
A service might take no money to start, and you could get gobs of money per hour immediately (for example, consulting for $250/hour, or speaking for $5k an engagement). But you might not be able to sell your company later, no matter how good it performs, because for a while, YOUR ARE THE PRODUCT.
When I started JibberJobber I had illusions of grandeur about how much money I was going to make. All the while, I required investment from family and my 401k. It took a couple of years before my company was in the black. A COUPLE OF YEARS. That was not in the business plan!
The same month I started JibberJobber, I had a friend, also laid off, who started a business, but his was a consulting business. He was billing clients in week 1, and every week since then. Where I was burning through lots of money, he had very low overhead and was bringing in more per hour than he had ever done.
Who was the fool? Was it me, for not self-funding, or was it him, for going down a path that would not have a big payday (acquisition) in the end?
I’d say neither were the fool. But looking back on it now, I wish that I would have figured out how to consult for one to two hours per day back in the early days. That would have been a way to self-fund.
I know a guy who was starting a business while working at the grocery store at nights stocking shelves. Glamorous? Hardly. But it worked for him and his family. It was his way of finding funding for his venture.
Let’s wrap this up… funding a business can be hard. But there are many, many options. You don’t have to just hope to get on Shark Tank, or get laughed out of one hundred VC offices. Be creative. Many of the businesses that we enjoy today were started in someone’s basement, garage, or even bathtub (ecolabs). Without funding. With a dream and hope and elbow-grease.
Just don’t be too proud to consult for a couple of hours a day, or to work at the grocery store at night. Eventually, your own little business will be self-funding.
Even though I wrote a book about alternatives to a job (51 Alternatives to a Real Job), and I talk about multiple streams of income, and I regularly present to youth and adults about starting their own business, and I think that being creators trumps being consumers any day, I know that being an entrepreneur is hard.
It’s not for everyone.
And at times, it’s not for anyone.
In a recent email from a JibberJobber user, I read: “One of the discoveries I made is that I am an entrepreneur at heart, but not at the moment.”
Not at the moment. Sometimes the timing is right, but that doesn’t mean the timing is always right.
A few months ago a close friend who has owned a software business for years closed shop and got a “real job.” The emotions in this type of transition has to include:
Elation beyond measure, to get a regular paycheck (no more high ups and low downs).
Sadness, because of having to move on from having built something that is just not buildable anymore.
Embarrassment and shame to quit on your dreams of so many years, and admit that you simply weren’t good enough to make it work.
But circumstances shift, needs change, support from family changes, markets evolve. At the intersection where dreams meets reality, you learn just how hard it is to get something close to break even, much less highly profitable.
Your respect for those who founded and created businesses from yesteryear skyrockets as you realize that to get to what looks like an easy, privileged and exotic lifestyle, founders had to sacrifice health, relationships, and sanity.
I’ve seen this over and over.
I’ve seen entrepreneurs-at-heart pull the plug on their dreams and get a job.
And here’s what I think: THAT IS OKAY.
I read Seth Godin’s book, The Dip, and what I got out of it was you have to learn when to quit or change course. He’s not talking about quitting in a depression and giving up on life. He’s talking about figuring out when to change what you are doing, either in a big way (close your business) or a small way (change your strategy, offering, packaging, etc.). Change, re-evaluating, and some-might-call-it-failure, is OKAY. It’s necessary. It’s expected. It’s important.
You’ve heard that you should fail quickly, learn from it, and move on, right?
This is a really, really hard pill to swallow when it’s your idea, your business, your attempt. It’s your ego, and eventually, your identity.
Quitting means you don’t believe in yourself. You slip into a depression where you have validated, once again, that you weren’t as competent and qualified as you thought you were. Perhaps you will only amount to being a cog in someone else’s wheel. This is not the career you envisioned.
But in reality, you shouldn’t think that way. Whether you are a cog in someone else’s wheel, or you create the next Facebook, you have value. And as I mentioned earlier, circumstances change. Maybe your role as cog today will lead you to successful entrepreneur in the future. Or maybe you’ll be a great cog, with a great career, with financial stability and all the joys that can come from having a fulfilled life.
I admit that I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I couldn’t figure it out until the idea for JibberJobber came. There were a few false starts with other businesses, but my heart wasn’t in it, and they weren’t the right path. I eventually pulled the plug on them. But when JibberJobber came, it was like a calling from God. And for parts of the last nine years, that calling has been hard to fulfill. I’ve done the stuff I’d heard about from other entrepreneurs: lived off of credit cards, borrowed ridiculous amounts of money from family, burned through my 401k, payed my employees for months without taking any salary, etc.
Glamorous? Only in the movies.
Hard? Indescribably hard.
Did I think about giving up? Many times.
Did I have any way out? I’ve had job offers and buyout offers over the years, but none of them were right.
For now, this is my calling. I’m blessed to have a wife who is all-in, and gets the vision of what I’m doing. Not to say that there haven’t been times when she wanted something different (like a paycheck every other week), but she gets it. She supports it. And that’s the reason why I can still be here, as an entrepreneur, fighting the fight, while I might otherwise get a high-paying job with benefits and vacation, and some facade of security.
Luckily we figured out the money part of this business, which is something that my ex-competitors can’t say.
I choose to fight this bloody, messy fight.
Getting a job? Pulling the plug on entrepreneurship? If it’s right, right now, then do it.
I think that’s only a step in the big journey of being an entrepreneur. After all, with the state of job security being what it is now, aren’t’ we all taking entrepreneurial risks?
Last week in Utah there was a crazy wind storm… it caused all kinds of accidents, and blew people’s stuff around their backyards. And, of course, it caused a few Globe Willows to fall down. Globe Willows are called “garbage trees” because of the amount of branches that fall from them… they grow very, very fast, but are also susceptible to having big branches fall in a storm. Last week a friend posted a picture on Facebook of his tree that had fallen towards his house.
I had only had one occasion to use a chainsaw before, and it was pretty fun, so I jumped on the chance to do it again. On Facebook he said he would chop it up best he could… he said he didn’t have a chainsaw, but he had an ax. I’m sure he was joking about using an ax… have you ever used an ax? It’s very hard work, especially on a job like this.
A chainsaw is the tool that can make this a job to do in less than an hour. Using an ax would be a full day of frustrating and tiring work. It is NOT the right tool for this job.
I took my kids over and we had a fun time with two chainsaws. My 14 year old did a lot of the work, and two of my girls got a chance to use the chainsaw… their first experience. We are all more experienced now… and on the way home we got some ice cream cones, and unloaded a van full of firewood.
If we used an ax, we would not have finished even half of the tree, it would have been a lot messier, and I would have been completely worn out. None of that was the case… because we had the right tool.
In your job search, JibberJobber is the chainsaw. Your spreadsheet is the ax.
Yes, the spreadsheet can do the job. But it will require more time, and be more tedious, and take more mental energy, leaving you drained.
Put your effort into networking, not into forcing your tools to work.
The night before we did this job, we went to a friend’s house to borrow his chainsaw. He said “most people want to push down on the branch they are cutting. Don’t do that… let the chainsaw do the work.”
If you are muscling through a spreadsheet, you will have to “push down” and do a lot of work. You’ll get tired, and wear yourself out. Or, more realistically in a job search, you’ll become less organized, and spend too much time making the tool work.
It’s your choice. You can even use a steak knife or garden shears to do this job…. but in a job search you don’t have to go for the wrong tool. Simply get an account on JibberJobber. It’s like a free chainsaw.
Last week I was asked what profound idea or inspiration I had in the last year. It took a while to think through things… not because I had a lot but because it’s easy to underestimate the power of the thoughts we have, and realize that they are profound.
Finally, I thought about where my head has been the last 6+ months. We have been making marginal improvements to JibberJobber. Not just in the last six months, but for the last almost-nine-years, since we launched.
If you add up those marginal, seemingly small changes, over the years, you get something pretty great. Or, on the road to great.
For me, marginal improvements means something that is better, but it doesn’t have to be tons better. We’re not talking about a full make-over… for example, you don’t have to get rid of all of your clothes and buy all new ones. But maybe you buy new socks, or new shoes, or a new tie, or a new blouse. That is a small, bite-sized, manageable, affordable improvement.
Maybe a marginal improvement is that today you work on smiling more, even though you will not see anyone. Smile while you are on the phone. Smile while you write that email. Heck, I just smiled while writing this line, and THINGS CHANGED in my brain! My attitude changed a little bit. It sounds crazy, and I have no science or links to back it up, but what if you smiled more. An affordable improvement that is so small, but it might just take you down a better path.
A business mentor I’ve had for years, Mark LeBlanc, sent me a card that I have in front of me… on the front it says “consistency trumps commitment.” The power of consistent actions, and consistent improvements, no matter how small, has played a big part in my business, and the fact that we’re still around even while a half-dozen competitors have come and gone over the years.
I invite you to think about marginal improvements you can make in your job search, or personal life. Move forward without becoming overwhelmed by the idea that you can’t improve because improvement costs too much, either in time or money. Make the tiny, doable, bite-sized changes that you can, and let those accumulate over the days, weeks and months.
I recently got an email from a friend who just got laid off… and thought I would share how I would coach this person to write it differently. I know this person, trust this person, and would help this person as much as I can… which is a little different than those out-of-the-blue, cold-contact from strangers emails you get from LinkedIn. I’m sure you’ve either sent something similar, or you’ve gotten something like this. First, the email:
I was delighted to get this email since it was from a friend I hadn’t heard from in at least a couple of years, probably more. The email was good, but it was definitely lacking. Here’s what I recommend:
(1) Keep my first name there just like you have it (and don’t put “dear”). This makes it personal and I know I’m not on a bulk email, althought if I were on a bulk email from this person, it would be okay (because of our past relationship and trust).
(2) Keep the first sentence, which puts it at the friend-level, before anything else.
(3) I’m glad to cut to the chase and hear that you are looking for a new gig (or, opportunities). Immediately my attention is gotten and kept. Good.
(4) The sentence that you got let go, and keeping it from sounding bitter, is perfect. Nothing more to say. Don’t lay blame, don’t assume blame, don’t sound jaded… just state that much and let’s move on to the purpose of this communication.
(5) Good… let me know how I can help you… is essentially tapping into the hidden job market.
(6) Okay… now this is where you lost me. You see… I don’t know what your current skill-set is. It has been a long time since we worked together. But honestly, even if we worked together yesterday, I think you should explicitly state what your skill-set is. I don’t know if you want me to focus on your software skills, or your customer skills, or your product management skills, or your project management skills, or your management skills. Or, you could be interested in some other skill-set that I don’t associate with you, but others might. I need you to explicitely spell this out, and I would do it concisely (not all of your skills, but the ones you are most interested in) in another paragraph (just to keep a good amount of white space in this email).
Here’s what I would include in this email, which I think will immensely help others help you (which is what you want to do, right?):
The first part of this short paragraph expands their vision of where I want to end up, and what I want to do. The last two questions are yes/no questions… easy for them to answer.
(7) I was a little on the fence about this, but this totally fits this guy’s personality.
(8)Get ending… but….
(9) I would LOVE to get a link to your LinkedIn Profile, at a minimum, and perhaps a personal website or blog where I can read up on you, your projects, etc. Give me some meat so I can “stalk” you for a few minutes, and perhaps jog my memory of all of your professional coolness so I feel confident in recommending you.
So that’s about it… a real world email from someone looking for help, and two main things I would add.
I have some video courses you can watch to bring you up to speed on some of these things. Remember, watch a full course, at no cost, and you get an additional 7 days of premium on JibberJobber. Video explaining this here.
Pluralsight courses I recommend related to this post:
Informational Interviews (once you get introductions, this is your next step)
Effective Email Communication
Designing a Killer Job Search Strategy
Developing a Killer Personal Brand
LinkedIn Strategy: Optimize Your Profile
LinkedIn: Proactive Strategies
Resumes and Self-marketing for Software Developers
Career Management 2.0
To watch these for free, and get 7 days JibberJobber premium for each course you watch, watch this video:
This is a course on what to do with your resume… how to use it to self-market, and basic understanding of the resume as a marketing tool.
Remember, for any Jason Alba course you watch on Pluralsight, and as many times as you watch it, you can get an additional 7 days of JibberJobber Premium… no limit! Follow these steps (or scroll down and watch the new video below the image to see exactly how to watch this for free, and get additional Premium on JibberJobber!).
Here’s Pluralsight’s announcement on Facebook:
Not sure if I’ve had anything on Facebook associated to me with that many likes!
I got this email from a sales professional last week:
My initial response was, YES, definitely do this.
I’ve been marketing myself, as a job seeker, and then my business, for 9+ years. What I’ve learned is that if you do not put yourself in front of people, they forget about you. You are responsible for getting and staying in front of your audience.
I’ve also learned that the initial contact is just barely breaking the ice. They key is to get in front of them regularly, as appropriate. That is one reason why you have CRM systems. If your company doesn’t provide a CRM system to you, then use JibberJobber. If your company does provide a CRM to you, but you are making great friendships and professional contacts that you want to take to your next job, then use JibberJobber
Here are my specific thoughts and reactions to this person’s questions:
Is this going to be okay with your company/boss? I can’t imagine a sales professional getting into trouble for sending this type of email, but you might want to check with your boss. They might know something about a customer they fired (that you shouldn’t get in touch with), or they might point you to some tools or queries to make what you want to do easier.
Should it be one bulk email (BCC, of course!) or multiple individual emails? Pros and cons of both. I would say it depends on a few things… where are you sending it from? If you send from a Gmail or Verizon or a personal account (which I wouldn’t recommend), they have daily sending limits. Going over those limits might get you in trouble (ie, getting locked out of sending email for 24 hours). If you bulk send from your work account, and your email server is on blacklists, count on maybe 5% of your emails getting through (I don’t know the percentage, but just assume hardly any get through). The idea of doing one bulk email is nice because it’s faster, but I’m not convinced it’s that reliable.
Sending individual emails is more reliable, I think, and you might do 20 – 50 each day. This will even help you manage the responses, over days, instead of all in the first day or two. But it will obviously take more time. The real question is how many emails are you sending? If it’s 10,000, do bulk and go from there. If it’s just a few hundred, send a few dozen each day until you finish.
About the “personal touch,” you can easily do that with individual emails… but you can also do it in bulk. There are programs you can use (like mailchimp, and even outlook) that can merge names with a general body of text…
What information should the email have? The number one purpose of this email is to introduce yourself. In doing that, you’ll reinforce the branding of your company (in other words, remind the customer that your company exists and has stuff for them). You should give them contact information… work and cell # (that’s how salespeople roll, right?). Keep the email short… don’t go into new products, etc. I would let them know I’m the new rep, I’m excited to be there, and I’m easy to reach (and I’m responsive). I want them to know that I’m their partner and want to help their projects be successful. I will include a one-liner about my company, like “we manufacture the best widgets for the _______.” so people can remember where I fit into their life. And, as overwhelming as this might sound, I invite them to call me in the next week (or two) and tell me what projects they are working on, what they have coming up, any issues from past projects with our stuff, etc.
I want this email to start the relationship, and invite them to let us take it to the next level. That might be a emails, it might be a phone call, it might be a face-to-face… but let me introduce you to me and let’s start a relationship.
How often should I follow-up? What should the follow-up have? Make sure this first email is not the last email. As a customer I know I need multiple communications before I trust you, and I need you to hit me at or around the right time (or, when I’m in the market to buy your stuff). I suggest doing a blast, en bulk, each month. This can be short, it can talk about new products, or it can talk about case studies where your products/services helped other customers. The last thing would be the most interesting read for me. It keeps me engaged (because it’s fun to read), and shows me that you understand that my success is important to me, and it’s also important to you. I’m not just a customer to help you meet your quota, but you really care. The key? MONTHLY.
How do I justify future follow-ups? What if I have nothing new to say or report? Then create something. Talk to your customers and ask them if they could share some of their wins with your list. If you don’t get those stories, then create information that will help others… suggestions, tips, best practices, industry news, etc. Don’t write too much – we all suffer from information overload, and you don’t want to be that email that I’m sure to delete.
Is that it? Will I be successful with this strategy? I don’t think so. I think you need to have an integrated sales/marketing approach… that is, pick up the phone. Meet customers in person. Don’t just rely on email. But you already knew that.
Now, get your email constructed, proof it for type-os and grammar, and make sure the messaging is exactly what your customers should understand, and then send it.
I’m excited to finally get this project to a point where I can announce it – I’ve been thinking about it for way too long, and this week I finally made it a priority! This should help a lot of people “get started” on JibberJobber. If you recommend JibberJobber to friends, family, job clubs, etc., point them here! You get here by clicking on Videos, and then it’s right up at the top.
Since October of last year the Focus Friday calls have been structured so that they were in order for someone new to get off on the right foot. I’ve taken those videos and removed the Q&A, and reduced the time to considerably less than what is in the Focus Friday series… and put them in the right order.
When you come to the Getting Startedpage you’ll see them numbered so it’s easy to keep track of where you left off. You can also see which videos you have seen.
Confused about what to do next in JibberJobber? Start watching the short videos, in order.
Want help on specific functionality in JibberJobber? Scroll through the list of topics and pick the one that will help you get unstuck.
As of right now, the videos are (each week we should add another topic):
Getting Started: Introduction (1)
Getting Started: Overwhelmed? Watch this! (1.5)
Getting Started: Homepage & Widgets (2)
Getting Started: Setting Up Tags (3)
Getting Started: Log Entries and Action Items (6)
Getting Started: Verifying Action Items and Log Entries Got In (7)
Getting Started: Log Entries and Action Item List Panel (8)
Getting Started: Optimizing the List Panel (9)
Getting Started: Managing Duplicates (10)
Getting Started: Exporting from LinkedIn (11)
Getting Started: Importing from a CSV File (12)
Getting Started: Recurring Action Items (13)
Getting Started: Calendar Views (14)
Getting Started: Interview Prep (15)
Getting Started: Job Description Analysis (16)
Getting Started: Events on Jobs (17)
Getting Started: The Job Journal (18)
The “viewed” shows whether you have watched it or not:
Do you have requests for other topics? Let me know!
Because I’ve heard that JibberJobber is too confusing, and there are too many things you can do. I’ve tried to figure out how to create a visualization of the what and why, and a few nights ago I finally figured it out. Without further ado, check it out: