This is a question I was asked last week in a podcast interview and this is me 22 years ago.
I had just come back to Spain from Iran. I wanted to continue working as a consultant and lecturer, giving seminars but there was no demand. For one year I advertised in several newspapers and all I had was three phone calls.
While in the first year, I didn’t need the money to survive, what was for sure is that I couldn’t continue doing this if I wanted to stay in Spain. When I made the decision to move to Spain for good, I knew I had to change something and that something was dropping the consultancy and focusing on what the client really wanted.
I tried a few different advertisements, including; Rent a PC. However, the bottom line was more hassle than profit and soon I dropped it and focused on just one advert “PC Doctor”. The next advert that really paid off was “ADSL Helpline”. ADSL was the beginning of permanent internet connections. It was the equivalent of the fibre option of the 2000s era.
Everyone wanted an internet connection for a flat rate without occupying the phone line. The technology was there but the routers were clumsy and required command configuration and technical knowledge.
Within a year, I had signed a contract with several ADSL providers, we were re-selling services, getting commissions and also fixing problems.
The ride was good but of course, as well all know, it would only last so long. Routers became better and better, providers set up their own support lines and call centres and finally, people switched from ADSL to Fibre.
I knew this would be coming and I knew that commissions as good as they are, commissions are short-lived. I had already started analysing other possibilities and I had stumbled upon a software opportunity.
The only issue was that my company was focused on hardware services and I had no programmers. I started putting a team together, programmer, graphic designer, project manager, sales rep and before I knew it my costs were up drastically. I had built a cushion and I had €100k savings to pour into this project. The first year I burnt 50% and then the 2008 recession hit.
I was still confident that I can pull this through. I had a large enough clientele and various different revenue models to work through and generate income.
Unfortunately, none of my assumptions worked the way I had assumed, by 2012. I had burnt through my cash pile. Clients were still not ready for the product and many of my clients “Home Owners Associations” were deep in debt because of the property owners who had purchased and could not pay the mortgage or community fees.
2012 to 2015 were three of the toughest years I went through. I had to lay off all my staff. Everyone. I hired one sales manager. It was me, him and a 220 m2 office. It was a time when at times, we had to close the office door, divert phones to my mobile, run to visit clients and drive back as fast as possible back to the office, as not to miss any clients who might be trying to visit us.
Many people show you this picture to talk about an entrepreneur’s journey.
The reality is more like this. The journey is more like a ferocious river. You the current is fast and you are in it. You just haven’t got a clue where it is taking you. You crash into rocks and stones, left and right, yet there is hardly any time to stop to lick your wounds.
The truth is, that the journey is more than often extremely unpredictable and fast-paced. All the advice and metaphors that they give you are almost useless and the only thing that counts here is your attitude.
If I were to take one lesson from the last 20 years, is don’t fear. Fear was my biggest enemy during those turbulent times. There were many people who advised me against my idea, many who tried to benefit from my situation, people who posed as investors and people who pulled me in all directions.
If there was one thing that helped me was my “Passion and Vision”. I loved what I did, I believed in it and I knew where I wanted it to go. I had a clear vision of what the outcome should be. I was focused on this outcome and my passion helped me push towards the objective.
And the big question is where am I?
I am still on this journey. While most of my competitors dropped out of the race, I carried on and I still continue. I have not reached my goal yet. I have had some good years and we are going through some more turbulent times. Not as bad as the first round. I have stopped listening to the naysayers, I concentrate on what I can do and where I want to take my project.
It is my passion and it is my vision and I will go that extra mile to prove the nay-sayers wrong.
If I were to give you one piece of advice about your journey, don’t be afraid of what’s to come. The ups and downs are multidirectional and come from all sides. Just keep your focus on where you want to go and keep pushing against all odds.