In 2010, during the Great Recession, my dad and I decided to start a business. I was still in grad school and realized I had little chance to land a good job because the economy was still recovering from the financial crisis.
As a minority, getting a job was even more difficult. I looked at the job market, the economy, and my little experience, and figured I had little chance of getting a good opportunity.
My dad was working at a major linen cleaning service, an industry that was cutting costs really fast. As a manager, he had to fire dozens of people, and my dad just didn’t see himself working for that company anymore.
So we both saw the necessity to start a business. And because the urgency was high, we got off to a good start. We worked seven days a week to get the business off the ground.
We got into the business of buying and selling industrial laundry equipment, and we needed space for that. My dad’s mentor and friend helped us to get a loan for a large warehouse.
The first year, business was decent. We were a new player, had low overhead costs, and we supplied used equipment—something that was in demand because the laundries we were targeting were all trying to save money.
The art of always showing up
About a year and a half into the business, we noticed a slowdown. The economy was starting to do better, and our customers were shifting their focus to other projects.
There was a period of about four to six months where we had NOTHING to do. No business. No sales. No customer inquiries. Nothing.
Our facility was about a 30-minute drive from home, and during that time I felt it was pointless to show up at the office.
I thought, “There’s nothing going on today. Why go into the office?”
That was a hard time because as a business, you need sales to operate. No sales, no business.
When you run into challenges, it’s important to stay positive and keep moving forward, and not give up. The moment you give in to one bad habit, it’s the start of your downfall.
First, I started waking up later in the morning. Then, I would get into the office around 10 am instead of 9. After a while, I came in at 12 pm. Two months later, I wasn’t coming in on some days at all.
But my dad had none of that. He went to the office EVERY DAY. And it also happened to be winter, which made things even worse. The warehouse we had was pretty big, which made it difficult (and expensive) to heat up. In the winter, going to work became more and more uncomfortable.
But my dad just showed up every day. I asked, “Why do you go when we have nothing to do?”
“Because that’s what you do.”
No reason. If you’re a professional, you just show up. That’s it. He would just keep the place clean and reorganize things.
A few things about showing up
Here are a few things I learned from that time.
- You show up for yourself, not for others. Sometimes people dress up or get in shape just for other people. It’s important to them what others think. What matters more is what you think of yourself. If you’re someone who’s consistent with good habits, you will stay ready for any opportunity that comes on your path.
- You never know when opportunity knocks. But when it knocks, you need to be ready to make use of it. If you’re in bed, you can’t say yes to anything.
- Things usually improve eventually. When the economy isn’t doing well, it’s usually a matter of time before things pick back up again. The reverse is also true. If things are going exceptionally well for a period, don’t expect that it will stay that way. Just make sure YOU are consistent.
- Keep yourself busy. When you have nothing to do, make something up. When you do useful things, you feel better.
- Stay proactive. If things don’t work out in your life or career, you don’t have to keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. You can try something else. You can adjust and try other ways to succeed.
I’ve learned many lessons from starting a business with my dad. It helped me to form good habits that served me in my career as a writer.
I’ve been publishing online since 2015, and I’ve had many periods of success. There were times a lot of publications featured my articles. I’ve had many articles on Medium that reached hundreds of thousands of readers. Other times, only a fraction of that would read them.
Everything happened in cycles. Some opportunities came, and some went. Some came back, others never did.
But all the while, I’ve kept doing the exact same thing: Write and serve my readers. I never panicked or got scared when some channels slowed down.
Overall, things have worked out well. My blog keeps growing. And for my next book, I have a deal with Portfolio Penguin, a great publisher that has worked with many of the authors I respect.
Without showing up, none of that would be possible.