Making other people money is a humbling task we have all endured at a certain point in our career. Usually as an intern or entry level position, our job was to provide the resources to our bosses and management to “look good” and succeed. Often, this helped our superiors climb the corporate ladder without a breath of “thank you’s” leaving us exasperated with the only way to vent the pain - on facebook in long thread form.
Yet, I am going to suggest you take your precious startup idea - throw it in a blender and go make other people money instead. Why? Because through the humbling process of providing favors the upside of building relationships and learning is too great for you to pass up. This virtue is one of the greatest learned skills an entrepreneur can acquire and can always repeat to continue to get ahead.
- A young scrappy entrepreneur enters into a new field of Dog Toys with the most interesting dog toy on the market. Without a single ally in the industry the entrepreneur is tasked with disrupting from 0 to 1. The capital, resources and time is monumental.
- A young entrepreneur goes and works for the largest dog toy manufacturer in the city. He works for a year and then tells the company about his idea - the most interesting dog toy on the market. The next year, the company tests the toy on thousands of dogs which leads to two possible outcomes:
- Dogs hate the toy - the project is scrapped.
- Dogs love the toy - the product is a hit.
This humble entrepreneur has created a no-lose situation in scenario B. If the product succeeds the company will produce a new dog toy at scale creating new opportunities of revenue and growth. If the product fails, the entrepreneur will lose absolutely nothing - assuming they are getting a paycheck every month - and enjoy the process of learning how to test a new dog toy. As long as the entrepreneur reduces his ego and remains humble he will not also consider it to be a loss that they were not recognized or promoted.
Alternatively, in the above scenario imagine if entrepreneur A spent 2 years developing his dog toy and customer base only to discover that the reviews of the toy are negative consistently? What a waste of time!
The Canvas Strategy
Ryan Holliday calls the process of “clearing the path for people above you, and you will create a path for yourself” the Canvas Strategy. A process in which you attach yourself to successful people and move them to be more successful while remaining humble and able. Along the way, you will learn a process that can either be replicated or modified and you will create countless new relationships. These relationships can be banked in your contact book to be called upon later when you do finally start that company - this time with knowledge or process.
At NineTwoThree we have provided our services in attempts to learn industries and build relationships many times. When we first started off we were asked by the largest baby manufacturer to assist in their first baby monitor. For the first 5-10 meetings we participated in brainstorming sessions without asking for financial returns. After the brainstorming sessions concluded a mobile app was introduced as a pairing device by the heads of the departments - meaning it was their idea - and we just happened to be the team in the room that could build such a product.
How Can I Help You
Even after some success, we spent hundreds of hours on the phone with other businesses in 2021 asking about their challenges and opportunities. We learned how Upside Builders was providing services to Agencies and how PBJ operated their Agency in New York City. Through these countless meetings we learned about different industries and services. In 2022, we will be starting a Joint Venture with Upside Builders just because we feel that we are the right partners - stemming from the humbling beginnings of asking “how can I help you.”
Startups Working For Free
Startups have the unique opportunity that their positioning in a niche should produce a handful of market leaders that can be reached without much effort. These market leaders are surely making money and not interested in a random disruption to reduce their profits - yet they will be surely open to consulting. There is always a way for your startup (or you as the leader) to help people succeed in their careers.