When I started out in business I didn’t know much. I was pretty naive (though being naive has it’s benefits or at least we think so) I had many mentors and read a bunch of books but I still didn’t have any real life experience.
I spent most of the money inside the gym on things like equipment and construction. The problem was I had hardly any money left over for marketing. I figured that if I built it people would come but I quickly found out that that’s a myth.
My business mentor saw me struggling.
He said “why don’t you build a billboard at the busy intersection?
I looked at him puzzled.
“What do you mean build a billboard?
He was a home builder so he said “we do it all the time when we’re developing a neighbourhood.”
I said “don’t I have to get a permit?”
He looked at me and said “just do it”
So my mentor sketched me up a rough plan on a piece of paper and I was off to Home Depot with my buddy to pick up some wood.
We got to the road and started building it. Cars passed by all day giving us curious looks as to what we were doing.
The sign read my business name “Free Form Fitness” with a giant arrow pointing towards my location.
The next day a by law officer showed up and said I needed to take down the billboard.
I told him I would do it but it would take me a few days.
They didn’t want to take it down themselves because it was a big job.
Of course I just wanted to leave it there as long as I could. So I was hoping they just wouldn’t come back for a while.
But at the end of the week he came back and told me he would fine me if it wasn’t down by the following week.
The following week he fined me $100.
I was thrilled, the cost of a billboard was $2500.
So I left it up.
Months went by and my billboard was still up. The guy kept coming in and the fines kept getting bigger until one day it didn’t make sense financially and I took it down.
I’m not proud that I broke the rules. But I’m using this story as an example that if you want to succeed in business you need to break the rules. Not physical rules like I did but rules of the status quo. Unwritten rules like getting up at 3am to put up a sign.
Companies like Amazon and Apple are breaking all the rules and that’s why they are who they are today. They’re reinventing the way we do things. Two rebel CEO’s starting the design process from a blank slate not from what their competitors are doing.
Apple is a master at this. That’s how they came up with all their i products including their amazing store layout. They listen to their customers than break the rules. It’s been at the heart of their company since the famous 1984 commercial that launched their brand.
I realize now that you have to be a bit crazy to be an entrepreneur.
But it’s fun. Join us if you haven’t already, would you?
Also published on Medium.