A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

How Do All Those "Idiots" Make So Much Money?

How do all those idiots make so much money? Does it drive you nuts that some idiot with a terrible product seems to be constantly making sales, when you know your product is better?

What’s the difference between you and that “idiot”?

Why Many “Idiots” Are So Successful

Idiots Successful entrepreneurs truly believe in their products/services, and aren’t afraid to show it.

When I was young, my dad told me, “Erica, no one wants to hear about your success.” What he meant was, “Don’t brag about all your stuff.” (For many of his cohorts, “stuff” equaled success; he’s an attorney.) Unfortunately, I took his comment literally. I almost never talked about my business.

I finally opened up at a conference several years ago. I talked about hiring my first employee, about how my business had hit 6 figures in annual revenue, and how we were growing like gangbusters. People’s jaws dropped. “How old are you?” they said over and over again. (I was 24 at the time.)

“But it’s no big deal, right?” I said. “Anyone can do this.” I truly believed that at the time.

Now, I know that’s not true. Very few people have what it takes to start and grow a successful business. Most of the people I met at that conference are still tinkering away, not really getting anywhere. Some of them gave up and got jobs. Only a few are true standouts.

Step 1: Be Confident in Yourself and Your Product

Not long after that, I was at another conference for up-and-coming entrepreneurs. The guy putting on the conference brought up an entrepreneur a year younger than me on stage and started talking about how great this guy’s product was.

I was infuriated! I had just started to believe in myself and stop believing that anyone could do what I do, and here was this “kid” on stage talking about how awesome he was. His company didn’t even sound that great! Unhappy about the situation, I resolved to corner the guy who ran the conference and talk to him about my business. I figured the problem was that he just didn’t know me, and I intended to resolve that.

I plopped down next to him at lunch, but he was swamped with conference logistics. He didn’t even give me the time of day, despite me waiting patiently for nearly an hour for him to finish lunch. In the meantime, other people kept coming up to him, and frankly, he looked exhausted. At the end of the hour, he walked away in conversation with someone else who was helping him run the conference.

I was so mad that I went straight to the elevator, intending to go up to my room and have a good cry! Instead, another conference attendee stopped the elevator door just as it was closing and noticed the tears running down my face. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

I blurted out the whole story, about how I had waited an hour for this guy and he completely ignored me the whole time. I was so angry that he hadn’t recognized me or my business. I mean, I was supposed to be this awesome young kid, right? So why was that dolt on stage while I was having to struggle to get this guy to even remember my name?

I was so angry I don’t remember the exact words he said to me, but later, in my room, as I cooled off, I got the gist of it. No one knew me because I wasn’t confident in my own abilities. I wasn’t showing this guy, or anyone else, for that matter, why my company was different and awesome. I was playing my cards like I was running just another web hosting company, instead of having a groundbreaking, Earth-changing idea.

I had brought this on myself. I was not happy.

I resolved then and there that I was going to be confident. I was going to have to act it, even if I didn’t believe it inside just yet.

Over the next year, I started to articulate why my business was better than every other web hosting company. I had to take on that role. I had to believe it myself. We weren’t just another web hosting company, we were changing the whole shitty web hosting industry by offering better service, a real office where our customers could hang out, top-of-the-line bandwidth, and real, personal relationships with our customers.

The company took off and soared. We were doubling in size every year.

Step 2: Stop Thinking of Sales as Manipulative

A side effect of this was that I no longer thought of sales as manipulative. Manipulation was when you had crap that you were trying to package as gold. Nope, we had the best stuff, and you either wanted the best or you didn’t. If price was your main objective when buying web hosting, we no longer wanted you as a customer. Go somewhere else and put up with their crap. We were for the people who wanted to run businesses and not have to deal with outsourced support, “What’s your customer ID?” as the first words out of a tech’s mouth when they called, and a staff who didn’t have a clue about your business. In short, we were the opposite of most cost-cutting, bureaucratic, run-by-robots hosting companies.

I closed 90% of the people who walked in the door. I gave each of them at least half an hour to just talk about their businesses without me interrupting them at all. Then I explained how we would be their partner, a part of their team, and there to support them as they grew. Their faces lit up. Most of them signed contracts and handed me the first month’s payment on the spot.

When I internalized that we were the best web hosting company out there in terms of dedicated servers and colocation, my business went from 6 figures to 7 figures.

Unsuccessful people either don’t have the best product, or they don’t believe they have the best. You have to have both to be really successful. The great news is that your best product can be for a tiny niche at the beginning. You can always grow it later.

Were there other great web hosting companies out there? Could my customers have gone with another one and have been just as happy? In some cases, sure. Was there another hosting company as good as mine in the San Jose metro area? To this day, I don’t believe there was. We had cornered the market on true personal service.

Make the best-in-class product, then believe it. Go out there and show people what you have. With confidence on the front end and a great product behind it, you won’t need to manipulate anyone into buying it. Instead, you will bring in happy customers for life.

“No fear or doubt; there’s one way out — you’ve got to believe.” DB Boulevard, “Believe”

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After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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