This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Our concept of entry-preneurship is about finding that entry point into your life as an entrepreneur. But life isn't linear. Sometimes, the search for that entry point is a process that happens again and again … and again.
Whether you're just starting out or midway into a startup, it's common to feel like you've run out of ideas and passion for your business.
So, you feel like you've stalled. What do you do?
The managing director of our Shack Shine startup, Dave Notte, had already built his painting company into a staff of 100. He had a stack of accolades, a good market share, and he'd more than proven himself as an entrepreneur. But he was bored. He needed a challenge, and he wasn't finding it through his business. So he hit the pause button and took a giant step back.
Ask the tough questions
Dave passed the reins of his painting business to people he could trust, and went on a one-year vacation to think.
During that time, he evaluated his entire life. What was the legacy he wanted to leave? What type of entrepreneur was he, anyway? Was he any good? Good enough to build a new business from the ground up?
To get the most from this process, he worked with an executive coach and opened up to his closest friends – the ones he knew would give him constructive feedback. He needed their objectivity to really challenge him.
Write it on a wall
When Dave started looking for a new business, he was all over the map. He was looking at everything, from the service industry and technology, to finance. And, of course, he became overwhelmed with the possibilities.
So one day, he wrote on the wall: "What does a beautiful business look like?" The answer was a business that is highly fragmented, with high occurring revenue, high margins and was what we like to call "dirty" – the sort of business that others would find too obvious or too easy, or too much of a hassle.
Dave knew those were the four boxes he had to tick, and once he saw that, written clearly on the wall, he got clarity.
His approach reminds me of business guru Jim Collins' "hedgehog concept." That's the sweet spot where your deepest passion, the driver of your economic engine, and your potential to do your best, intersect. It means you have to ask: What makes you excited? What are you good at? How can you achieve a profit?
When he stumbled upon the idea for a franchised window and gutter cleaning business, Dave found his sweet spot.
Consider it a science experiment
Of course, it took more than a phone call for Dave to persuade me of the merits of such a business. I hear a lot of pitches and needed convincing.
This process taught me to approach ideas like a scientist. If it doesn't work out in the lab, it's never considered a failure – it's just a result that needs tweaking. That's how Dave approached Shack Shine. He went away and tested his model for a full year, going door to door, drumming up business. He hadn't knocked on doors since was in his 20s – it's a humbling experience. At a financial level, he didn't need to put himself through that, but this was never about money for Dave. He knew that if he was going to get this thing right, he needed to put his ego aside and see firsthand if it connected with people.
Stick to your vision
Dave thought Shack Shine was a no-brainer for O2E Brands – the next 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. Because of his tenacity, and that obvious vision and purpose, he got me hooked. I liked the idea and the name – but more importantly, I liked Dave, and his entrepreneurial style. I liked that he had the courage to re-launch an entirely new business from the ground up.
By May 2015, Shack Shine was an official member of the O2E Brands family, to Dave's surprise. He thought it was going to take more testing and a few more franchises for me to get on board. But I'd seen the potential and Dave's commitment in that year.
The takeaway is this: In order to get off the wrong path and onto the right one, you've got to press pause and ask yourself the hard questions. That's how Shack Shine was born.
Brian Scudamore (@brianscudamore) is the founder and CEO of O2E (Ordinary to Exceptional) Brands, which includes companies like 1-800-GOT-JUNK1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, You Move Me and Shack Shine. He helps others grow small to medium businesses and corporate culture.