In 2009, I co-founded my first business, Go Green Energy Consulting, helping homeowners be more comfortable at home and lower their energy bills by making energy efficiency upgrades to the home. Winter was our best season because people are very conscious of drafts and high bills. Leading into winter 2011, with business going very well, we were braced for growth and excited to capitalize on a bitter Michigan winter. We borrowed $50,000, invested in additional equipment and personnel, and printed boxes full of pamphlets urging our potential customers to "Stay warm at home this winter!"
What Went Wrong
It never got cold! In fact, it was one of the warmest winters in recorded history. The shockingly warm winter rendered our marketing messaging (“Stay warm”) virtually useless, and instead of growing, our sales took a major hit. Worst of all, we were extremely hesitant to change our messaging, since little did we know, it would suddenly get cold in the middle of the winter. Needless to say, this was a completely unforeseen obstacle, and we spent a majority of the winter struggling to reshape our strategy.
We solved the problem by gritting our teeth and grinding it out. While it was an extremely unfortunate setback, it was not the end of the world, and we were able to get back on track by mid-Spring.
The two lessons I take away from this experience:
1. Be both optimistic and conservative: As an entrepreneur, it’s imperative to set ambitious goals. At the same time, you should always respect the worst-case scenario, calculate your risks, and plan accordingly.
2. Don’t be afraid to dive in: Getting started, or investing in growth, can be scary. The best advice I can give is to dive in head first and start swimming. Unforeseen obstacles are inevitable, and no amount of planning can prepare you for them.