A version of this post ran in the San Antonio Express News.
In late high school and college I travelled to Mexico as often as I could. Some trips I went for ten days, later trips for a semester of school, then a whole summer. Finally, after graduating from college, I lived and studied in Mexico for a year.
I always carried the student travel bible at the time, Let’s Go Mexico, whenever I crossed the border.
I memorized two pieces of advice in the Introduction to my Let’s Go Mexico book.
“First, lay out all of your clothes and other luggage you intend to take in one pile on your bed. Next to that pile, place all of the money you think you will need to spend.
Now, pack half the stuff and take twice the money.”
The second piece of advice from Let’s Go Mexico was of a similar vein, something along the lines of “Take no more luggage than you could – if necessary – carry at a dead run in the middle of the night for a mile.”
I loved that advice and it always – for me at least – put me in the right adventurous frame of mind for border crossing.
Advice for Entrepreneurs
I’ve written before that it helps entrepreneurs to be a bit ignorant and maybe a touch funny in the head in order to launch themselves into a new business venture.
Entrepreneurs are risk takers. They exhibit the kind of crazy that would enjoy situations involving a dead run for a mile at midnight on the streets of Juarez.
Lately I’ve thought about the Let’s Go Mexico advice, and how that’s exactly the advice I would give to first-time entrepreneurs.
Instead of luggage, of course, you have your business start-up costs.
First, in your business plan, lay out all of the costs of things you think you need to get started. Next to that, figure out how much money you already have available for your venture. Here’s the thing: To survive your first year in business, you’ll have to make do with half those things, and you’ll need twice the money.
Also, if luggage in my analogy equals costs, try to start your business with no more costs than you can carry at a dead run for a mile in the middle of the night. Ok, the metaphor doesn’t quite work. But I hope my point is clear(-ish.) Entrepreneurship is incredibly difficult, your business will encounter the unexpected, and you’ve got to be ready to pivot in a totally unanticipated direction.
Writing a Business Plan
I work on educational videos for a regional non-profit microlender LiftFund that offers training for new (and experienced) entrepreneurs. Writing a business plan is one of those things which every business owner does.
A couple of my videos walk folks through the different component parts of a business plan. What I want to say at the end of the videos, however, is that – no matter what your plan says – you’ll need to cut your planned costs in half and figure out a way to put your hands on twice the cash.
Everybody’s Got a Plan
I guess the following is a true story, since I found it on the interwebs.
Boxing great Mike Tyson was peppered, pre-fight, with journalists’ questions, asking how he would respond to his opponent’s plan for delivering a devastating left uppercut.
Mike responded sagely “Everybody has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.”
(In my mind’s ear, I always hear that quote in a high-pitched voice, the final word pronounced ‘mouf.’)
Anyway, the point is, an entrepreneur’s written business plan only gets you so far. Because, at some point, everything goes into complete disarray.
Metaphorically speaking, you’ll be bleeding from the mouth, running your business at top speed for a mile in the middle of the night, just praying you make it to safety.
So remember, you entrepreneurs: carry half the luggage, and bring twice the money.
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