A small group gathers to hear my pitch. I stress that I’m an engineer and will undercut Volt by 5 percent. As everyone leaves I lag behind, looking for a phone. Ducking into an empty office, I slide the crumpled copy of Inc. magazine from my back pocket with tingly wet hands. Dial the number. What if no one wants to work for me? Or what if dozens do, and I can’t handle it? Just dial. Ten minutes and 100 bucks later, I have a Delaware corporation. My mouth is tinny with the taste of fear.
Second call: I need a temporary office. Now.
Third call: “Dad, payroll-;how does it work?” He launches into a lengthy discourse. “Whoa!-;what’s the short version?”
“Outsource to a payroll service.”
The following morning I have e-mails from 35 contractors. Ohmygosh. I meet with each prospective employee in my office rented by the hour. I wipe clammy hands on my new Ross Dress for Less pantsuit before the shake that seals each deal. By evening I have 35 employees.
I am in way over my head.
“Hi, Richard, how’re you? It’s Christine.” I commence my positive thinking mantra: I like this man. He is nice. He will help me.Repeat.
“I just noticed that we haven’t received payment for our previous invoice. When shall we expect it?” Think positive. “Soon, Christine,” is what he’ll say. “I was just authorizing the payment, Christine” is what he’ll say.
“Listen, Christine, I pay when I want to. You have a problem with that, you work with someone else.” Click.
Okay, so maybe he’s not ready to receive my positive mental messages. Maybe he’s thinking something more along the lines of, Break her before she gets started. Break her. Break her. Break her.
Time for my Plan B: cash advances on my credit cards. I max them out and, bingo, I make payroll, with $1.05 to spare.
I need to raise $80,000 within two weeks for my next payroll. A week later, I’m a few pounds lighter since I have no money for food. While I’m pushing panic away, my inner critic-;I call her The Vile Beast Upstairs-;joins the party, trying to psych me out. Will the head of HR pry Richard’s talons off my invoices? Yes. She gets them routed to accounting. There they start to gather dust. Ultimately, I elevate the issue to HugeTech’s founder. He says I must have ticked Richard off (ya think?), but he’ll try to grease the skids for me.
And suddenly, my past-due invoices are all paid up-;one day before the $80,000 payroll is due. Sheesh, that was close.
Want to catapult your business to the next level? Want to launch a product or service that people need?
Find problems people have. Fix them. Prosper. Always remember: Problems + Pain = Profit.
CHRISTINE COMAFORD | Columnist
For over 30 years, Christine Comaford has been helping leaders create predictable revenue, deeply engaged teams, and profitable growth. She is the author of The New York Times bestseller Smart Tribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together.