Josh James, December 8, 2009 from Rollins Center at BYU on Vimeo.
I’m a big fan of successful entrepreneurs who visit schools and play a big role in the entrepreneurship classes. I recently watched this video of Josh James going back to Brigham Young and sharing some insights. Here are some of the tidbits I took out of it:
Josh dropped out of school, but took the most out of his classes. The only reason he dropped out was that he had learnt so much from his economics, statistics, and entrepreneurship classes, and applied them so well, that it didn’t make sense for him to stay in class when he was bringing in $125 an hour building websites for companies.
As a 4th year student, him and his buddy turned a $12,000 investment in a CGI script business into a $200,000 sale of the company, which he describes as being “really cool. Like really cool. It beat selling out billable hours by a longshot, even at $125 per hour.”
In their next business, they had 50 employees, and in February 2000, they were sure they were going to fail. They moved to a paid model, and converted 0.05% (that’s not a typo) of customers. They were losing 800 customers a month, mainly small businesses. Of the 50 employees they had, 48 were working on retaining small business users, and just two were working on building the enterprise side. Then, they got calls from eBay and CNet encouraging them to keep doing what they were doing, at which point they took 46 people off of the small business side and put them on the enterprise side. That’s when it really took off, almost exponentially, ultimately leading to the $1.8 billion dollar sale of Omniture to Adobe last October.
Things he did personally that helped make it work:
1) Reads a ton. Was reading books and magazines by the truckload. He used to read between 30-40 magazines a month, cover to cover.
- Books and Magazines helped him shape his mentorship. He would read 15 books on a topic, and find the 5 best ones and just really absorb them. He did it on all the stuff he wasn’t familiar with, and when he was done, he would have 5 different opinions by experts, helping him formulate very strong opinions, and gave him more confidence as a young entrepreneur.
2) Take alot of vacation time. Never work Saturday and Sundays, but work like a dog during the week. And when he vacations, he makes sure he vacations really, REALLY well, not just for himself, but for his kids and his family too.
3) Puts the same passion at home as he does at the office. There are responsibilities at home that need to be paid attention to (i.e kids, family) that will help fuel you even more at the office.
4) Get an Assistant as soon as you can afford one.
On where he got his ideas for business:
“They say necessity is the father of invention. Things that annoy me end up fuelling my ideas. Then I heard someone in an entrepreneurial lecture series tell us to make ideabooks. The idea is you write an idea down, you write the marketing plan, the sales plan, the employees you’re gonna get, the profile you want, your competitive advantages, and you just keep writing and writing and writing, and the next day, you move on to the next idea, unless you’re still so drawn to the last idea, in which case keep writing. And when you find one that you just can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably a good one to pursue.”
On starting a business:
“First of all, you have to make sure you have the right profile. If you’re too averse to risk, just don’t start a business. The number one problem people have is that they have ideas and they talk about it, talk about it, talk about it, but never do anything about it. And then they go to some professors, and the professors tell them “well you have to think about this this and that”… NO YOU DON’T. Just start it, and I promise you, when you’re spending your own money on it, you’re going to pay a lot of attention on it!”
On getting your first sale:
“Do anything .. ANYTHING.. you can to win your first customers. As long as it’s not … (long awkward pause)... immoral… it might be borderline not legal, but as long as it’s not immoral, then whatever it takes. You gotta win those first customers. We had a customer come visit us, and i had all my friends come visit us wearing suits like they’re working on who-knows-what, pretending like they were working on stuff! Do whatever it takes to get those sales”
More on the first customers:
“Never give anything away for nothing. You may find you need to discount your price, but never give stuff away for nothing. If someone wants to pay less, you have to come back and ask them what they’re going to do to make up that difference. What kind of press release are you going to get? What kind of events are you going to speak and tout us at? What else are you going to do to make up the price difference? Never give away stuff for nothing”
On First-Time Entrepreneurs:
“It boggles my mind that people aren’t focussing more on revenue, revenue, revenue. Who cares if the desk isn’t put together, or some guy sent you an email you haven’t replied to, or some other guy wants you to attend some chamber of commerce meeting? Go after revenues. Sales is all that matters in the beginning. And if you can’t get a sale, THEN you go back and fix the product. But as soon as it is barely good enough to sell it, you sell it!”
On Business Ideas:
“For the most part, I don’t want a unique ideas There’s maybe a couple unique ideas that have turned into big businesses. But if there’s alot of people in the space, it’s vindication that people are willing to pay for it, it means there’s a market, it means you can make some money, it means you can compete, and it means you can be better faster stronger, especially if there’s only small players in the field.”
There’s a ton of good stuff in this video, and this is already a way longer blog post than I like to write, so I strongly suggest you check it out.
By Japman Bajaj