Being an entrepreneur is not always fun. Recently, I experienced the ugly side of having a business. It was probably one of the toughest moments I have had with my online company in the past 5 years. No… I’m sure, it was the toughest moment I have ever had.
Martin, mostly known as MD on this blog has been working for me for over three years. I first hired him for his passion and writing style that connects with my personality. I rarely meet people in the financial blogosphere who are a little crazy like me. This is why I have enjoyed working with Martin so much. He is always on top of things, ready to do more to help and is creative. Definitively, there was nothing wrong with his work. This is why it sucked so much to tell him that he won’t be working for me anymore.
This is when being an entrepreneur sucks; when things are not going the way you want. It’s been roughly 18 months that Google targeted link selling sites in the financial industry. It was no secret that back then, I was making tons of money from this industry. I even averaged over 10K/month for 6 months in a row with no indication of this slowing by any means. Then one day, it all fell like a brick on my head coming from the Empire State Building. Google started penalizing sites that were buying or selling links and it was more effective than a witch hunt.
In the span of 2 months, my private advertising business dropped by 70% and there was nothing to bring it back. I had to turn on a dime and work on another business model with my friend. We came up with several great ideas and saved most of our income. To this date, we are still in line to generate a 6 figure gross revenue. But the difference is that we don’t have much growth anymore and we are keeping it in the low 6 figures. Unfortunately, Martin’s work was directly linked to the private advertising segment of our business. Therefore, most of what he used to do that was highly lucrative for us isn’t generating much anymore.
I’ve personally struggled a lot since 2012 to thinking of a better business model to keep producing growth. When it comes down to my performance, I’m not easily satisfied. The status quo is synonymous of failure for me. Not showing a 20-25% growth of income last year was a total failure. In fact, for the first time in 5 years, we dropped by 4%. I just can’t accept that. Not while other website owners are still increasing their income.
The point is that we didn’t prioritize the right business model at first. That’s not a big deal when you realize it and you start working on something else. But this is not what we did. We let the company drift for a while thinking the business would come back by itself. The plan was simple: find other ways to keep our existing income streams as is and a better way for private advertising to come back like a tsunami. We kept Martin for this reason thinking that we could wait a while and still make money from this business later on in time. Unfortunately, this scenario never materialized.
We took life for granted a little bit too much for the past 18 months. After saving our income in 2012, we were relatively happy with the result and thought growth would come back in 2013. But it’s not. And the reason why is simple; because we are not fully invested in our company.
With the birth of my third child and my partner’s first baby, we completely stalled our involvement in the company and made sure someone else was paid to handle everything. But the truth about entrepreneurship is that it’s always rolling and you can’t sit on your couch for too long. The business changed quickly and we didn’t follow the parade. This is why we are now trailing.
By cutting an employee, we force ourselves to work more hours. This is the only way that we will get the real feel for our company back. We will be able to create a real direction and come up with better projects. We will become more hands-on and this is the kind of factor that will bring the business to life again.
I can imagine that it wasn’t Martin’s best day of the year when I had to tell him that he will not be working for us anymore. This was truly not a great moment for either of us. On his side, he lost a stable source of income. Since he was working on several projects, having a reliable source of income is always welcome. On my side, I put a friendship at risk and I have a feeling of failure. I failed to keep him on our team and failed to produce enough income to keep him on contract.
But this is a situation most entrepreneurs encounter on the path. Nonetheless, trust me, it really sucks.
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