I’m seriously thinking about writing a book about my last year. I’d write it as a non-fiction novel, explaining everything that happened in detail.
It’s unlikely anyone would believe me, so the book would end up in the fiction category of Amazon. I still can’t believe some of the stuff that happened.
On a personal level, I had some changes that I never thought would happen. I won’t share it here (I’m still working through it), but if we meet in person some time, I’ll happily swap stories.
But everyone, and I mean everyone, had huge personal challenges over the past year. If the pandemic didn’t effect your home life, it likely rocked your professional world. So, I’m not going to pretend to be a unique snowflake.
I’ll focus on the stuff you actually care about, and leave my home-life-drama for a late night discussion in some cool locale. The stuff you care about, I assume, is more along the lines of travel, business, and investing… Right?
For starters, I stopped writing on my blog ( codyshirk.com ), as I was completely overwhelmed with my ‘normal’ daily duties. Although I regret not writing for nearly a year, I simply did not have the time (or at least it was not a top priority).
Writing is something that comes easy for some and is extremely difficult for others. I’d put myself in the middle of the spectrum. When I’m in ‘the flow’ I can get my thoughts down very quickly. But sometimes it takes me forever to write something.
Over the years, I have gotten some great feedback from readers. Some of it encouraging and some of it very critical. I’m now much more calculated about what I write, which often ends with me not writing anything at all.
Writing can be extremely therapeutic, as it allows you to do some serious self-reflection. It’s always a humbling experience to write down a thought, and then realize you are completely nuts for thinking that thought in the first place.
Writing can also be very strategic for business and investing. By putting your thoughts down on paper, you enable yourself to gain perspective and realize new opportunities that you may have previously overlooked.
Also, putting words down on paper has a “I got something done today” effect. Just like Lao Tzu’s quote of, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,” writing can be that first step.
So, I’ll try to write over the coming weeks all about what I’ve been up to… And more importantly, share some incredible opportunities coming up that you can participate in, with me.
I’m not really sure where to start off from, to catch you up to speed. But, I’m going to try to recap all of the important stuff (as in, all of the dumb mistakes I made, that ended up becoming huge learning experiences for me).
One of the articles I wrote last year was about how I was going to start some companies. Considering that I was, and still am, a very active investor, I thought it’d be important to build some companies so I could get some first hand experience.
Although I’ve built companies before, at the time, I couldn’t really point to anything that I built from scratch that grew to something big.
Now, I can say that I have done that. Three times in the past year.
I’ll start off with the first company, which is a lighter company. I wrote about it here (don’t click any of the links within the article – the ‘offer’ is no longer on the table!), but there was A LOT of follow up that happened after we launched the product.
The initial launch of the lighter was extremely successful. We pre-sold well over $300,000 worth of inventory in one month, which meant we had thousands of orders to fulfill.
Immediately after our launch, we realized that we had to ramp up manufacturing immediately. When selling a product, there is a tricky balance between how much inventory you have on hand and how much you sell. The best case scenario is that you sell just the right amount of inventory, so your manufacturer can keep up with the pace of sales.
We had a big problem though… We literally needed tens of thousands of lighters manufactured in a short amount of time, so we immediately ramped up production. Eventually, an entire shipping container was filled with brand new product and sent to our fulfillment center, to ship out to our customers.
Before we shipped these new lighters out, we did quality control testing on dozens of lighters, and everything checked out fine. But… what we later found out is that there were some issues with a small number of lighters.
Of course, we had a lifetime warranty on these lighters, so we ended up shipping out replacement lighters to those who received faulty products.
Initially, this wasn’t a big deal. We were able to keep up with the problems that a small number of customers were having. However, we realized that we’d need to check all the brand new lighters that we had in inventory, before shipping them out, to ensure that we weren’t cutting into any profits that were being eaten away by the fulfillment of our lifetime warranty.
Fast forward a week… We had a big problem.
There was absolutely no way we could keep up with orders. Again, it was a great problem to have, but it was still a problem. In addition to the extra quality control we were doing, we had distributors from around the world calling us for large bulk orders.
We found ourselves in a situation where we needed a large warehouse, a team of workers, and receiving/shipping infrastructure for large volumes of packages. Keep in mind that the total size of our team was just four people, and two of those four were in different states.
We were stuck in a situation where we either had to:
- Turn off sales
- Scale up massive back-end infrastructure
The first option was basically not an option. Of course we could have just said ‘sold out’ but we were having tremendous sales growth and we didn’t want to stop the momentum. Plus, we technically weren’t sold out, we just needed to scale up our fulfillment process.
The second option was really the true solution, but would have required several hundred thousand dollars of investment… And, we weren’t even experts at actually running a warehouse with workers.
I ended up figuring out a third option, where we sold the company.
Literally, in a matter of one week, I contacted a publicly traded company that specializes in sales of lighters and negotiated a deal with them. I can’t share the exact deal, but essentially they acquired Dissim and now handle everything… And we get a royalty on sales.
We went from launching a company on Kickstarter, all the way to getting acquired by a public company in about two months.
Although the ultimate result was not at all what we anticipated, the venture ended up being successful despite our numerous lessons learned. Speaking of those lessons, here are my top three:
Scaling is hard. Real hard. There are books written just about scaling businesses, and I wish I had read some before launching our lighter company. There is a tightrope walk you have to perform that balances everything from sales, to inventory, to personnel, to marketing, and everything in between. You can’t over-invest in any one area, or else the entire process will get our of whack. As an entrepreneur or investor, I will now always obsess over the scaling process.
Expect the unexpected. We had quality control issues with our product, even though we literally did everything possible. In addition to our actual inspections prior and post manufacturing, we had a third-party internationally recognized inspection firm go to our factory to audit everything. I honestly don’t know how we had issues, and I guess that’s the point. Unexpected things happen for entrepreneurs and investors, and the only way to succeed is to just figure things out.
Be prepared to pivot very quickly. Selling the company almost immediately after launching was not in our plans at all. Instead, we thought we could build a company that would make great passive income for all of us over several years. Now, looking back, I am so glad we sold. Because, if we didn’t, the company wouldn’t have survived and there would be no way to come close to the sales numbers that are happening today. Pivoting is tough, especially because it goes against your internal dream… But sometimes you can’t be stubborn and instead have to be realistic to what the immediate needs are.
Alright… I got this story out of the way. I have two other, much more interesting (and exciting!) companies to share with you over the coming weeks.