“I think branding is one of the most important things you should focus on, it’s the relationship between your company and the market it’s serving.” – Jake Anderson Have you ever wanted to start your own company, to become your own boss and manage your own schedule? Have you wished you were an entrepreneur but… have no idea where to start? Many Americans have been there, but only a few bite the bullet and just jump right into it. Jake Anderson was only 25 years old when he decided it was time to change his life and follow his dreams as an entrepreneur. It wasn’t always nice and pretty, but today, 10 years later, he’s proud to be enjoying the results of a profitable business and being able to step out of the day-to-day operations to spend quality time with his family and prepare for his next adventures. In the following paragraphs, you will read about his personal life philosophy, his experience as an entrepreneur and how he’s become a leader in his area of expertise. Amalie: How did you venture into the world of entrepreneurship? Jake: I had gotten started in entrepreneurship when I was 25 years old. I was out of college, working as a bank examiner, which was just driving around Virginia, examining banks and I had always wanted to get into entrepreneurship. I just had a really huge passion but I just wasn’t sure where to start. So I wrote a business plan — it was a terrible business plan, but it was at least a business plan. And I presented it to the most successful person I knew at the time and see if they’d be interested in being a mentor to me. He was one of my dad’s friends who was really big into concert productions in the entertainment field. To make a long story short, he accepted my terrible business plan which we didn’t even use, but he saw motivation and drive and let me operate under his flag. His brand had been around for 30 years, so it was going to help me get started, although in the end, I found a niche in weddings and events, whereas his specialty was concerts. Amalie: How did that go? Jake: His brand didn’t serve me at all. I was trying to book big national country bands because I had access to that type of talent through him. But I just couldn’t find any traction. So then I moved to Richmond, and I was like, “well, I want to pursue special events.” And there was a small like Boutique Hotel in northern Virginia that had a posting on LinkedIn about an open house they were having, so I reached out to this lady and I said, “Hey, I’ve got all these bands.” She wasn’t interested in my entertainment services, but she needed someone to help her out with the lightning for weddings. I didn’t know anything about lighting, but I thought I could figure this out. Thanks to this opportunity, I started getting referrals to other planners. And then before I know it, fast forward today I’ve got a six-figure lighting design company that’s in Richmond. I actually live 200 miles from the company. I grew up to a point where I was able to kind of step out of the day to day, focus more on the business and learn a lot about this industry and how it works. Janine: That’s a great story. I’m sure there’ve been lots of ups and downs. Jake: I’m a huge Tim Ferriss fan and there was this particular quote I remember hearing from his Ted Talk; it’s a real simple quote that’s not his, I can’t remember the guy’s name who said it, but it’s “easy choices, hard life; hard choices, easy life.” The hard decisions I’ve had to make in business is really what’s made running a business easier. But it’s taken those really, really hard, tough, tough decisions that have led it to become successful. And the partnership was certainly such a hard decision to make, but it led to things becoming a lot easier for me by disconnecting from that. Basically, he was a family friend. And when you mix friends and business together, it’s never really the best choice because you’re going to have this inherent conflict of interest. You’re not going to make good objective business decisions. So it was 2010 when I started doing lighting. I’ve finally started getting some traction and basically, we would just split things 50/50. But the problem with that was I was finding my own clients and driving a vehicle that I owned to these jobs, filled with the equipment I owned. I was just losing money because I needed that other 50% for growth, for reinvestment and for paying expenses, and all of that had to come out of my 50% where he was basically profiting the other 50 for himself. “I was new in business, I didn’t know any better.” Amalie: What happened once you started finding these little flaws in the partnership? Jake: I was new in business, I didn’t know any better. I was working with a really high-end event designer on some and I started seeing more regular work, and that’s when I really started to feel the flaws in the partnership, not to mention that his branding was awful. He hadn’t updated any of his branding since 1981 when he started the business. I think branding is like one of the most important things you should focus on, it’s the relationship between your company and the market it’s serving. Anyway, I finally came to the realization that I needed to end this. So I asked myself “how do I handle this?” So I addressed all my concerns in an e-mail where he could digest them. There was nothing in writing, so that made it a bit easier, but it was still kind of a dirty breakup because he took a system I paid for and didn’t give me any money. I think the biggest thing I learned from that particular partnership was you have to really make sure your business philosophies are like super aligned with each other. And then in 2013 once I separated from the partnership, that first-quarter I booked $30,000 worth of business in three months. it basically doubled in size with the first four years. It took that one big decision: I had to get rid of that partnership in order for this to be successful. Janine: So if you had to go back, what would you have told yourself before you got into that partnership? Jake: I would’ve sat myself down and said, “Listen, Jake, there are some mistakes you’re clearly about to make.” I would go through every single thing that was problematic in that partnership and point that out to myself. And the first one would be the differences in business philosophy. He was kind of advising me to be more of like a jack of all trades and that just didn’t work very well. That’s why I couldn’t find a lot of traction because I was trying to promote everything under the sun. I learned that once I focused just on lighting, that’s when things really started taking off for me. Janine: We see that so much at the startup level, it’s like people are afraid to narrow it down. Well, now you live so far from your business and you have extracted yourself from the operations. So I’d love to hear how you decided. Did you have any trouble getting to that point? Jake: You know, hard choices, easy life. The company was growing very quickly and I had a lot of control issues. I felt like I needed to be involved in everything. Then I had my first son, he was one year old and I noticed I can’t be working a hundred hours a week. I was getting to the point where I was having a mental breakdown and I knew I needed to start letting go So I actually did a lot of process documentation and spent a lot of time building systems and creating the blueprints for how the company needs to run. I remember the first half of the year it was a little bit shaky. It was a transition, but nothing fell apart. But after that, the company was doing pretty well. You have to look at your numbers, figure out your processes and figure out what it is that you need to do to be able to scale it to that next level. It sounds very simple and it kind of is, but it’s much harder to execute. Amalie: What does your future look like? I’m going to launch a YouTube channel as my primary publishing platform starting in August. I’m actually starting to record next week for that. That channel is called Eventure Minds. It’s “eventure”, like a venture but also an event, and then mind. I’m also building software for this industry that came from my own personal pain points and the available software solutions. So this is kind of a new venture that I’m starting. We hope this interview has been useful for you! Check out our website if you’d like to learn more about how processes can help you scale your business exponentially.
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