There, in front of the building that housed one of the biggest digital agencies at the time of the .com boom, was a mountain of hundreds of black Herman Miller Aeron chairs, valued at $1,800 each. They were piled a story and a half high. It was that visual that led us to the philosophy of “don’t buy chairs.”
The statement is common sense. It’s about not wasting focus or cash on silly distractions. It’s about resisting the urge to buy expensive crap such as a waterfall for your lobby because you think it will spice up your business model. It’s about investing in the quality of your product, strengthening the perseverance of your team and ensuring that your customers tell their friends about your business. When you can check off these bullet points on your business plan, you’ve earned the right to buy your chairs. Here's why:
Value the cash trust of your early supporters. If you’ve started a business with startup cash from friends and family, and then gone out and bought yourself a new chair, shame on you. Don’t do that. Anyone that gave you money at the onset, as well as any future investor, will love the way you save your cash when seeking new business.
Remove the fun procrastinators. The other key traps to avoid are what we like to call fun procrastinators. It’s easy to start focusing on things that are not building, but breaking your model -- office space, decorations, a logo. That logo is not representing a business, but a couple of guys and girls playing business. Like playing house and raising a real family, there comes a time when you are actually going to have to man or woman up and create that business, its products and profit.
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There’s a reason it's called earnings. Coming from the .com boom era, we watched tons of companies shoot up around us. We would visit their spaces, which were always exquisite and chic -- and for a split second there’d be a glimmer of jealousy. Then we’d realize that none of it was real. Someone gave them a pile of cash and they used it to deck out their place. While it wasn’t visually mind-blowing, our place was always in order and we took great pride in being able to bring anybody through it. We talked about our customers, business and profit and that was way sexier than the illusions of a Cadillac-caliber office space.
This requires putting away your ego and having patience, because earning success takes time. You never want to be in a place where you have to admit business failure and then dismantle a Tiki Bar.
It’s human to procrastinate and natural to desire things that you don’t actually need. Someone actually believed they needed mountains of Herman Miller chairs to be profitable. If common sense is something that you and your partners value, this roadblock can be surpassed quite painlessly and you can then focus on the real core of your business plan.