Rich Christiansen is an entrepreneur, a teacher, a consultant, and a philanthropist. This is his story, in his own words.
I’ve achieved a work and life balance and I love it. I don’t apologize for the fact that I spent the first half of my career in the corporate world. Admittedly, I was far from enjoying a work and life balance, but I wasn’t ready for entrepreneurship at the time (and I still had to learn some things about business). I wasn’t ready for self-employment either. I have a very low threshold for financial instability. I had to pay off my home and get to a situation where my entrepreneurial attempts wouldn’t jeopardize my family. I needed all that before I could start making mistakes on my own!
I made the big jump into entrepreneurship about 11 years ago. I felt ready to take on the world. I wanted to travel the road to success and strike the perfect work and life balance. However, the world had something different in mind for me. Three weeks after I jumped out of the corporate window, I blew my Achilles tendon. I was expecting to sprint down the road to success, instead I found myself in bed for a year.
I found myself eyeball to eyeball with myself, so to speak. I relied on my ingenuity, and came up with ideas for companies. I am perhaps the premier bootstrap entrepreneur in the country. I have founded 33 companies. All of them created from $5,000 or $10,000 in start-up funds.
I set out to travel the road to success and succeed. But first I had to fail…efficiently. The more failures we have, the more powerful we get. The trick is not to make the same mistakes over and over. A stupid man never learns from his mistakes. A smart man learns from his mistakes. And a wise man learns from other people’s mistakes. You can now be wise, thanks to my mistakes (and successes, too).
I have built businesses, and failed at building businesses, and in the end have done well, by failing efficiently. Failing efficiently is one key to moving along the road to success, quickly. Countless times I’ve heard someone say, “I’m going to build this business,” and they spend 15 years trying to build a business, a business which might actually be a bad business to begin with, a business which never really takes off. That’s not failing efficiently. I fail efficiently by taking the right steps: 1. Bounding the money I use. 2. Setting the amount of time I’ll be in a particular business. 3. Getting it open and over with. If there’s pain, it’ll be brief, and then it’s on to the next thing. This method also helps me maintain a work and life balance, by keeping me from getting sucked into a sinking ship.
Many people think you can only do one kind of thing, build one kind of company. But I have built over 30 companies. I’m not a serial entrepreneur. I’m a parallel entrepreneur and I enjoy a work and life balance. Start three companies, one will do well, one will be mediocre, and one will peter out. One of those three will be a success. That’s how I put together my process. That’s how I move along the road to success.
Let me give you examples of my failures — to show how I learned. I had a company called Dreamriff. It was a party invitation service where people could create birthday announcements and automatically send little birthday postcards. The problem was, it failed because it was just too niche, and there wasn’t enough volume to justify the margins. I’m impatient — maybe I could have built it out, in five or six years. But it was not worth the money or effort or sacrificing my work and life balance. It had to fail, so I could move on. I don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road to success, I want to move!
Another failure was Everest Web Design. We were going to build websites for small businesses. But I had too many employees and the company was ultimately under-capitalized. I didn’t have enough runway to take off. I had the wrong team aligned. I was coming off another company that had dried up in the mortgage market. It was a series of things. I had to shut the office down. But I learned from that failure. Now I always keep a three-month operating buffer.
You will learn about this more the further you delve into my blog, my book The Zig Zag Principle, my tele-seminars, and my events and coaching. I’ve worked with a lot of people on the road to success, who in the end have, like me, learned how to build businesses well and still strike a work and life balance. They have learned how to fail efficiently and how to travel the road to success quickly. Let me show you — get in touch, and we can start together.