Business

And Caesar wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer

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Ryan Gosling’s character says this in the film “The Big Short.”  I looked it up, and it’s a misquote of Alan Rickman in “Die Hard,” who attributes the grief to Alexander the Great and not Caesar; and who himself misattributes the quote to Plutarch, who never said that shit.

Also thanks to “The Big Short,” I have “Shake Your Money Maker” by Ludacris stuck in my head.  It’s really kind of annoying.

Many of the books I read on business-building and sales had practical tips that helped me build the DVB site into a profitable business.  They usually had an undercurrent, though, a recurring theme that I didn’t really appreciate.  I wanted nuts, bolts, and strategies, not a re-imagining of who I was or what make me tick.

These successful businessmen-turned-authors stressed conquest, competition, dominance, being the best, striving to be ubiquitous in your market and synonymous with your product.

I was having none of it.  That was fine for them to share – if that’s what makes them tick as entrepreneurs and as men, more power to them.  It’s obviously working.

My goals were more modest.  I just wanted my little slice of an outsized pie.  If digital hardware sales is an $18 billion industry, all I wanted was a few hundred thousand of that – maybe a million or two if I was really dreaming.  I didn’t need “Roseman” to become the next “Sony” or “Panasonic.”  I’m pretty sure Panasonic isn’t even a guy’s name.

The writers of these books act like the will to think big, achieve big, and earn big are the only things that get them out of bed in the morning.

Frankly, if my dream was to own 100,000 apartment units like Grant Cardone, or own the New York Jets like Gary Vaynerchuk, I don’t think I could get out of bed.  It would be like swallowing a baby grand – I wouldn’t even know where to start.  Hell, these guys were compelled to write books – multiple books.  I’m not even sure how long I’ll keep up with this blog!

In that way, though, I still think my modest goals were a blessing more so than a curse.  Building an empire sounds like an impossible task … but making one sale is something I can do.  And from there, we move on to two sales.  Then ten.  And so on.  I mean, that’s how they built Rome, where Plutarch may or may not have been born … one brick at a time.  Right?

Well, funny thing about thinking maybe you’re smarter and have a better bead on a subject than the guys who secured book deals to write about that subject …

My modest goals got me started.  They got me to ten sales, to twenty, and beyond.  And as each goal was surpassed, a new one emerged.  It was fine.  It felt like progress.

But then a kind of obsession came over.  I don’t want to call it greed, or money just making madmen out of all of us … but my eyes just kept getting bigger and bigger.

When I had a $10,000 month, I said to myself “That was awesome.  Can I have a $20,000 month now?”

When revenue finally covered our bills, the wife and I literally popped champagne.  In the sober light of the very next day, I asked myself “All right … can our revenue now cover double our bills?”  When they did … “How about triple?”

When we lost ranking in search, I nearly lost my mind.  I went on a madman mission to get it back.  I don’t even think sales dropped off when it happened … maybe because I pounced so hard and pulled all-nighters to regain the position we had lost.  And the guys who out-ranked us … I started seething a little.  I wanted their blood.

There were a lot of reasons to sell the business.  It’s nice not to have the daily grind; to cash out instead of remaining vulnerable in the marketplace; to hand my baby over to more experienced hands who know how to scale better than I do.

But maybe the best reason was that I was scaring myself a little … that I was becoming a whole different person … and that maybe I liked that person.

julius-caesar-492483_1280I may start another business after I acclimate to my post-DVB-sale world.  The hands-on knowledge I gained, the proceeds from the sale (assuming I don’t lose my shit and buy a Lamborghini …) and the human need for growth would certainly help.

I mean, Caesar didn’t rest on his laurels, and he actually had laurels.  Alexander neither.

But I’m going to start with a few good hard looks in the mirror.  Whatever Ben takes the next step, I want it to be the real Ben.

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