Monday, December 25, 2006

More From Bob Parsons of

I just read this.....from Bob Parsons of

Starting a new business isn't easy. How to go broke without losing your smile.
The most frequent question I get on my weekly “Life OnLine” podcast goes something like this: “I want to be in business for myself. I have lots of really good ideas. How do I know which idea I should turn into a business?" To me, the answer is to look for the opportunity where the most important ingredient is present.

Years ago I had the same dilemma.
I wanted my own business but wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I could have made a business out of what I did during the day – that was equipment leasing. I also thought about opening an accounting practice – I was a Certified Public Accountant. But what excited me the most was the possibility of making a business out of my hobby. I liked to tinker with personal computers.

I was a “do-it-yourself” PC hobbyist.
When the first Apple became available, I bought one. A few years later, I sold the Apple and bought an IBM PC. Unlike most, I rarely purchased software – instead whenever I wanted my little computer to do anything – I wrote the program code. Because of this “do-it-yourself” trait of mine, I got to know my PC inside and out.

I loved personal computing.
Unlike equipment leasing and accounting, I had no formal education, actual work experience or business contacts to speak of in the personal computer arena. Personal computing was simply my hobby. But unlike equipment leasing and accounting, I absolutely loved personal computing. I could spend hours upon hours digging through poorly written manuals, or simply tinkering with program code – there was no Internet back then.

I wrote a program to manage my family’s finances.
Eventually I decided to write a program to manage my family’s finances. I called it MoneyCounts and in addition to doing a good job of printing and tracking checks, balancing our checkbook, and doing a budget, it was also a pretty good small business accounting program in its own right.

I decided to go into business for myself.
In November 1984, I decided it was time for me to be in business for myself. Out of the three options I had in front of me I selected my hobby — personal computing. I chose personal computing because I absolutely loved it. If I had the choice as to where to spend my time, I’d be in front of my personal computer. So if I was going to be working lots of extra hours – and when you start a new business you will be working lots of extra hours — that’s what I wanted to be doing.

World headquarters was located in my basement.
I named my little business Parsons Technology and my office was a desk in my basement. During the first two and one half years I operated Parsons Technology in addition to working my day job. Most of the time I was dead tired – but I was much younger then and because I loved what I did at Parsons Technology, I immediately “woke up” whenever I stepped into that little office.

I took a beating during the first two years.
When I first opened Parsons Technology and tried selling my MoneyCounts software, I was like a young guy walking into jail for the first time. There were many hard lessons I had to learn. I lost all my savings of $15,000 during that first year. During the second year, I received a bonus from my day job, a tax refund from the first year’s loss, saved a few bucks and got some new credit cards. All in all I raised about $25,000 – and during the second year I lost all of that.

I never did it for the money.
During this difficult time, my friends could not understand why I would continue to take such a beating, and why I completely disappeared from the social scene – all I did was work my two jobs. What no one understood was that I didn’t do it for the money. People simply don’t work that hard for money. Instead I worked and persevered, and kept taking all those losses month in and month out because I had a dream. I never dreamed about making money. Instead it was my dream to build a solid company, one with excellent products and great customer support. That was it!

I did it for a dream that continues today.
I used to look through the computer magazines back then and dream about Parsons Technology having ads right alongside the big companies. And although it’s a different company and it’s a different time, the fact that was an advertiser on the Super Bowl and now sponsors Danica Patrick is every bit as much about that dream as it was for Parsons Technology back then.

My break came during the third year.
During the third year I finally learned how to sell PC software and was able to quit my day job. It was at this point that Parsons Technology literally took off. The company grew to about 1,000 employees, over 3 million customers and 100 million in annual sales – with a 4% market share of North American unit software sales. My then wife and I sold the company in 1994 to Intuit for $64 million.

As part of my deal with Intuit, I had to retire for a year and couldn’t work again until 1997. During my year of “forced” time off I realized that retirement wasn’t for me and that I needed to be back in the game. So in 1997 I started what is now, and like Parsons Technology before it, it has never been about making money. It’s always been about loving what I do and following my dreams.

So here’s my answer to the question I get so much about which idea to pursue for your own business:

Choose something that you love to do.
Find something that you love to do. Ideally, whatever you choose to do, you should be doing it without regard for money. Trust me, if you dig in and do well, the money will come. However, if money is your primary motivation you have two strikes against you before you start: If money is the driver you will tend to make short-sighted decisions. People who work just for the money tend not to work as hard as those who love what they do.

Don’t let crowded markets frighten you.
I’ve heard people say that “I love this idea, but this particular business is already crowded.” In response to that I say “there is always room in any industry or business for someone who truly makes a difference.” And I can tell you that someone who loves what they are doing often makes a wonderful difference. People who make a difference tend to stand out from the crowd – and they are the ones who survive shakeouts.

When you love something…
My father used to tell me “When you love something, it tells you all its secrets.” There is so much truth to this statement. It’s the accumulation and use of all those big and little secrets that separate the great companies from all the also-rans. People who are in it just for the money never learn any of the secrets.

I was warned not to make GoDaddy a registrar.
When I decided that would become a domain name registrar I was told that there were already too many registrars and that it was a crowded business. But I thought we could make a difference. I loved the technology around it all, and have always loved delivering top notch customer service. So I decided to plunge ahead anyhow. It turned out that becoming a registrar was the decision that made our company. went from losing money to generating significant positive cash flow every month. is now the market leader by far, and now has more domain names under registration than its closest three competitors combined!

The love needs to be there.
If you decide on a business and you literally love the idea of being in it, there is an excellent chance that you WILL find a way to be different. You will tend to work hard enough so one day, your business will tell you the secrets you need to know that will set you apart from the crowd.

Then there's Tony Hawk.
Consider Tony Hawk. He was able to take something that he loved doing — skateboarding — and make a career out of it. In fact, he's been a professional "skateboarder" for over 24 years now. Try as I might, I can't name another professional skateboarder, though I'm sure there probably are others. But the point is, Mr. Hawk loved skateboarding so much he has able to make an excellent living at it. To me that says it all.

So there you have it. Do what you love doing. It’s that simple. There’s also one more reason why you should do what you love. Life’s short. Why spend your time at something that isn’t fun?

It’s all about enjoying what you do.
Remember my little brother’s saying: “We’re not here for a long time. We’re here for a good time.”

Mark is the Chief Sales Officer of SCT Product Sales.
We have been in business 15 years, online for 8 & a Power Seller
on eBay for 4 years with annual eBay sales of $1,000,000.

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