Tyler the founder of The Startup Garage and previous founder of Vavi Sports and Social Club spoke exclusively with George Meszaros of Success Harbor.
Success Harbor is a podcast, “where it’s all about making success happen for you.”
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Tyler Jensen Success Harbor Podcast
12 Key Take Aways from Serial Enterpreneur Tyler Jensen:
Question1 What was one of the greatest challenges you were faced with during the first year of business?
Tyler Jensen: I think that most of the challenges entrepreneurs face are personal challenges.
I didn’t really put into place a `pay my bills plan’ before we started. I just thought the company would start making money really quickly, and I could pay myself a salary. The reality was that that wasn’t true, and isn’t true for most start-ups, so I struggled for a while just trying to figure out how to pay my bills, while still having time to get the business started.
Question2 Not only were you starting a business, but you were starting something that hasn’t really been done here locally. How did you approach marketing your business?
Tyler Jensen: We had $2,000 and so our marketing plan was to print out some flyers, go out to the beach and hand out flyers one-on-one, and have conversations with people that we thought would be in our target market.
Once we got the first couple hundred people interested (which was the hardest) and in specifically in having those conversations, I really got to learn how to present the brand in a way that would really resonate with potential customers.
Now, whenever I start a new business, I always go out and talk to a whole bunch of customers about it. I pitch to people one-on-one to really learn about the brand, and getting the message out in the right way.
Question3 Now, why did you sell VAVi? What was the reason for selling it? It sounds like it was going really well.
Tyler Jensen: You know, it was more personal than business related. I had read online a whole bunch of places where there was something about the 6th or 7th mark for entrepreneurs where they get burnt out and that was…I felt `oh well, people are different’ but looking back (like) that’s about the time when I really got burnt out. I just wasn’t as excited and motivated anymore to continue to build the company
Question4 Do you think it’s possible, or do you think it would have been possible to build VAVi without burning yourself out or you think it’s just part of the territory when you build a business?
Tyler Jensen: No, I absolutely think that it’s possible and that’s what I am doing now. I have a consulting company and I advise other entrepreneurs on how to go through the start-up process. One of the big pieces of our business really is around writing business plans and helping start-ups raise capital.
One of the things that is motivating for me is to help coach them through the personal process of it and how do you make sure that you plan the right way so that you are not in crisis mode all the time and how do you make sure that you have enough capital to do what you need to do.
Question5 So when did you start that business and why did you start it?
Tyler Jensen: The Startup Garage started around 2009 when we picked up our first client. I had learned so much through the process of starting and running and eventually selling VAVi and if I had known what I knew at the end, at the beginning then I would have done it very, very differently.
I wish I had somebody like me at the beginning to teach me what I teach other entrepreneurs now. That has been my real motivation and so for the last five years I’ve helped over a hundred different companies get started all over the world.
Question6 What were the biggest mistakes that you made with VAVi, maybe in the beginning or maybe later on in the business that were a good learning experience?
Tyler Jensen:The under-capitalization problem that was a big issue. I was personally not set up so I didn’t have a good `pay the bills plan’ and so I didn’t know how I was going to pay my bills each month.
I was making business decisions that would lead to being able to pay my bills when they weren’t the best business decisions.
Question7 If you had to start VAVi over again what would be the biggest change that you would make? Would it be the capitalization part? What would you do differently?
Tyler Jensen: I had a lack of planning, I didn’t plan ahead, I didn’t understand the financial part of the business.
I really had a huge passion for the product, but I really didn’t understand the financials and that includes more than just capitalization.
I didn’t understand how I was going to make money, what were the expenses that it was going to take to actually do it the right way.
I didn’t put the financial projections together the right way and I didn’t put a business plan together beforehand, which would have saved me a lot of headache, heartache and a lot of mistakes if I had done that before I started the business.
Question8Early on in business what do you think is the biggest time waster for entrepreneurs? Stuff they shouldn’t spend their time on but they insist on spending all their time on it?
Tyler Jensen: Well, I can answer this a couple of different ways. The first thing that pops into my mind is that entrepreneurs end up falling in love with their product or service.
In the big picture of things the product and service is really only about 5% of building a company and so I find that you can spend so much time just diving in, doing product development…product development and reiterating it…reiterating it which is important, but they ignore all the other parts of the business as well.
Question9 ”What advice do you have for others to deal with the roller coaster ride of being an entrepreneur?
Tyler Jensen: What works for me is having a really good personal practice, focussing on making health my number 1 priority. That includes not only physical health but mental and spiritual and emotional health as well.
I would put a daily practice into place, like I have now, where I get up and either run or walk in the morning and then I do about 30 minutes of meditation and prayer.
I also make sure that I have a very clear plan, and I take breaks to make sure that I’m not getting off track, this really helps me stay efficient and focused.
Question10 Today you working with entrepreneurs and start ups consulting with them, what do you think are areas that they need help with?
Tyler Jensen: There are two types of entrepreneurs that I generally work with: one is the brand new entrepreneur and one is the serial entrepreneur and they have different needs.
For the beginning entrepreneur they generally come to me and say `I’ve got this great idea for product and service and to be really honest I don’t know how to make this into a business.’
So, it’s really just learning how the whole process works. There is a step by step process that really makes sense when you are starting a business and a lot of times just understanding what to focus on when changes the whole game for entrepreneurs.
They start doing things that really don’t need to be done for 12 months or 18 months and ignore things that are really important earlier on in the process. For the first-time entrepreneurs I think the biggest thing is just understanding what to focus on.
For the serial entrepreneurs when they come to us they generally have gone through the process and they know how it works and everything and they just need help, they just don’t have the bandwidth to do the work that we do,
Business Planning and the financial model.
They just need a great service provider to provide objective opinion and really poke holes in their plans before they go to investors.
It’s already been picked apart and put back together so that investors don’t have to pick it apart as much.
Question11 What do you think serial entrepreneurs successful over and over?
Tyler Jensen: You know, this is my opinion and I’m certain many people will disagree with me, but having worked with so many people,
I really think it has little to do with the business and more with their personal practices.
Their personal beliefs of who they are and really ultimately their spiritual grounding. I find that the ones who are most successful have something that grounds them in life.
No one knows all the things in business.
Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses as entrepreneurs.
Question12 If a first-time entrepreneur came to you, what would you teach that person about becoming an entrepreneur?
Tyler Jensen: The first thing I would say is `don’t quit your job’.
You want to hang on to your job for as long as you can because that takes care of the bills.
The place that I tell them to start is the research. So, specifically, industry research, market research and competitor research. Generally they have a new idea and sometimes they are going into an industry, that they are not that familiar with, they don’t know all the different types of competitors and they don’t know who their target market is.