If you die of starvation in the woods, you are retarded.
I’m a paraphrasing a key premise in the first couple of chapters of a book I recently read called “How to Stay Alive In the Woods” by Bradford Angier.
The book tells the brief story of four hunters who are stranded in a cabin in the wintry wilderness. Each of the them slowly starve to death, one by one. The last hunter uses what’s left of his strength to bury the third hunter, and then dies soon there after.
Angier explains that there was no reason these men should have died.
After all, they were surrounded by food.
Perhaps some of the most readily available options were unconventional, but nothing more than all the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that the human body would need to stay alive.
Now, if you’re running a startup company, the first few years are typically the most difficult because you’re laying the foundation of the business from scratch. You’re establishing a beachhead in the market and educating customers that you exist and what problems you can solve for them.
That being said, when you’re first getting started, it’s best to think of your company like a living body and cashflow is the blood that sustains its existance.
If you run out of cash, you die, just like if you run out of food when you’re lost in the wilderness.
You’re on your own and you have to hunt for food the same way you have to hunt for customers while laying down the base of your business.
So as long as you’re solving a problem the customers recognize as being a problem (key point there, and a big reason why most start-ups fail in the first 1-2 years), there’s no reason you should not be able to survive and grow the business.
If you’re starving for cash, you have to be willing to go out and hunt yourself, and you have to be willing to compromise on any expectations you had when you first started out. If you’re goal is survival and beginning to lay down a base, you have to be willing to compromise on everything (the exception being your morals and core values).
For instance, maybe you only eat chicken and beef, but if all you can find in “the woods” is porcupine, bear, and even insects, you’ve got to be willing to take what’s in front of you despite personal preference. Cash is cash, food is food, protein is protein.
Having started a few ventures previous to PetoVera, I’ve found myself stranded in the woods at times. The companies I was working on were young and weak so I had to hustle.
For instance, with BlueSkyLocal.com, my co-founder and I ran out of money at the end of the summer after we had just graduated. We had a product, but had only just begun to make sales. We decided to move down the Laurel, MD and scraped together what we could for another few months while sales increased very slowly and helped to cover the rent.
At end of the BlueSkyLocal venture, I moved back in with family, and even though the market was telling me to evolve the product into an email marketing tool, I was too stubborn and burnt out to listen.
I was tired of selling door-to-door and was beginning to realize that I would transition out of BSL and start a new company, but this time I would start with a strong philosophical base. The mistake is that I could have done both by pivoting the business. Being highly adaptable to market requests is an important lesson.
At times like those described above, the company bank accounts came close to zero on a few occasions and it was a choice between giving up and defaulting on debt and rent. Or going out and doing whatever it took find clients for whom our product or service could add value–networking, friends, family, emails, blogging, phone calls. All of it, making it work.
Are you willing to do what’s required to stay alive and form a survival footing when you’re stranded in the woods?