By Brian Gilb of Social Publishing House:
Nothing gets my imagination flowing like a cup of black coffee.
Two weeks passed since my last day in the Marine Corps, and my mind was fully rejuvenated. The Tuesday morning sun spilled through my window and onto my desk, illuminating the steam from my coffee cup. My fingers danced over the keyboard of my computer as I worked through summarizing my market research. The plan was coming together nicely and I felt comfortable, almost relaxed, as I took a sip and sat back for a moment admiring my near perfect plan.
A text came across my phone. It was Wes, my lawyer friend and fellow writer who gave me the motivation to start my business as a book publisher.
“Drinks tonight before the writers group?” he asked.
“Sure. I’m almost done with my business plan. Can you read it over so we can discuss it later?” I typed back.
The gratification of my early morning was crushed. I sat at the bar with Wes, my grip on my beer growing numb from the ice cool amber froth, listening to him give feedback on my plan.
“You’re fighting so many uphill battles,” he said pushing his glasses up. “I mean, you have no experience in publishing, no connections of any type, the legality of making contracts for books and distributing is a mountain within itself, and with your current model you won’t be making money for about two to three years. You’re going to have to figure out how to make money in the short run.”
The beer wasn’t as cold anymore. Half of it was in my gut trying to quell the anxiety as he spoke.
“The industry is spinning out of control. And you realize that they will do anything to survive? You’re going up against companies like Amazon, Random House, and other online companies that could spend a half a million dollars overnight and blow your concept right out of the water. They wouldn’t bat an eye crushing a small company like yours that poses a threat. You do realize this right? How are you going to mitigate this?”
Both my face and my beer were drained. I didn’t answer him. Not because I felt attacked, but because I didn’t have an answer. He gave a nervous chuckle and bought me another beer to bring the blood back into my face.
The beer helped for the moment, but when I returned home later that night, I didn’t sleep.
Two days passed and I barely made any progress on my plan. I sat at my desk the next morning rubbing my eyes. Every point he made swirled in my head constantly. I couldn’t find the answers no matter how hard I thought. As the steam from my coffee cup evaporated, so did the steam for my concept. I pushed aside my business plan and started looking for a regular job.
Then it happened. Without even realizing it, solutions to some of the questions Wes had brought about started to pour out faster than I could pour myself another cup of coffee. By the end of the day, I worked a new shell of a plan that was similar to the old model, but now evolved.
I had a solution. I evolved.
At the time, I thought that meeting with Wes and talking about my plan was the worst time I had ever had with him. It caused me to be down for two days straight. But it was because of him that my plan changed and helped evolve what it is today.
As a veteran entrepreneur, you are going to have meetings with people like this. You are going to leave feeling deflated, like your plan is going to fail. You’ll feel attacked and angered that they just tore apart your dream. It’s a different kind of low feeling, and unfortunately there’s no manual or Standard Operating Procedure that you can go to for the solution.
These are the best kind of people you can surround yourself with. They’re the kind of people who will not pull punches, will show you weaknesses in your plan, and help your mind to move to a solution to fix them.
I didn’t realize that at the time. So, I avoided seeing Wes for a few weeks. But now, I value his opinion more than anyone’s. Good friends won’t pull a punch, not because they enjoy hitting you, but because they don’t want to see you knocked out when the real fight happens.
So, find that friend that’s not afraid to hit your idea with all they have. That’s the kind of person you need to succeed.
That, and a giant cup of coffee helps too.