According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start business fail within the first 18 months. Or, for every 5 business ideas you attempt implement, one will hit and four will fail.
How can you increase your odds of success? Well, I great place to start is to learn about how entrepreneurs who’ve been successful in starting up a business were able to do so.
Franco Harris, NFL Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers running back, has two booming businesses in completely unrelated fields – the food and silver industries. In our recent conversation, he offered tips, based on his experience, on how to successful startup a business from scratch.
Q: After 13 successful years in the NFL, how did you smoothly transition into a new career field?
A: When football was over, I said to myself, “Franco, you need to get busy.” Upon retirement, one thing you definitely don’t want to do is stay idle. Even if that meant I’d go work in a fast food restaurant, I had to do something.
I decided to start a food distribution company, and I called it Franco’s All Natural. I wanted to serve all natural food products. And I dove in feet first. I loaded and unloaded trucks, delivered, and partook in all the day-to-day operations. Eventually, we rebranded the company to Super Foods, and it has been beyond my wildest dreams where we’ve taken that.
Q: Are you actively involved in all the businesses you’ve started?
A: Yes. I prefer building businesses from the ground up, so learning the lowest level operations of the business is advantageous, and I believe a requirement, to scaling a business. That philosophy really helped me grow Super Foods.
This is also the advice I provide to NFL players when they’re transitioning out of the league. I say, “Don’t buy your way to the top. Learn the business. Learn every aspect of the business.” As I said before, that really helped me scale Super Foods. I delivered the products and worked in the warehouse, so I knew every aspect of the business and how it feels to perform the multitude of duties. I know how it feels to unload the tractor trailer. I know how it feels to drive an hour to deliver something or drive three hours for a business appointment.
Q: Since you have such a hands-on approach to your businesses, in order to make the most out of your time, how do you determine which business ideas to pursue and which to push aside?
A: The first thing I look at is if the idea is unique enough and if there is space for it. For example, when I started Franco’s All Natural, all natural foods were not the norm yet, but it is obvious today that there was space to grow.
I also co-founded SilverSport, which incorporates the odor killing properties of silver into clothing and paints. That is another area that was kind of new and not saturated, but in demand. Everyone wants a product that eliminates their body odor, right?
So, I’ve been successful by looking at unique things, things that are different, and things that have potential.
Q: What is your specific as the co-founder of SilverSport?
A: I focus on the company’s long-term strategy. I try to build the culture to align with what the company stands for, which is to provide the best odor-free clothing and paint lines in the world. I strategize to determine what the company needs to focus on to accomplish that mission, and make sure we have all those pieces in place.
I love this creative part of the business, doing new things, and exploring new ideas about how we can be different and the best. When you talk sports, that’s one of the things that you always work on. You want to be the best player on the team, right? I was fortunate enough in sports to experience that, and I leverage the experience to continually improve my businesses.
Q: Based on your business experience, what is your best advice ever?
A: I think you’re lucky enough if you’re able to do what your passion is, what you love to do, and really jump into it. But, a lot of the time, we hesitate. So, my advice is if you have something that you love to do, jump in. It doesn’t matter where you start, but if you do the right things and you put the time and effort into it, you can really make great things happen, and at the same time, do something that you really love to do.
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