Tracy Hazzard Helps Us Take Our Ideas Into The Real World From Cash Flow Diary Podcast With J. Massey
Entrepreneurs usually have tons of breakthroughs they want to achieve. However, realizing ideas from the deepest parts of their brains is easier said than done. Not every invention sees the light of day, but doing so will surely deliver outstanding results. In this conversation with J. Massey of the Cash Flow Diary Podcast, Tracy Hazzard delves into her work helping business owners and founders start strong. She talks about the seven-step process she uses when guiding investors on designing and launching products, guiding them in giving birth to sought-after and patent-worthy items. Tracy also opens up on her perspectives on failure, killing a product doomed to flop as early as possible, and managing a huge variety of concepts on her head every single day.
Listen to the podcast here
I’m glad that you are here. We’re going to be talking about business in a completely, different way. I’m talking about the purest form. Your straight idea. You have nothing but an idea and you want to go from concept to cash. How do you do that? You’ve seen these products appear out of nowhere and you’re like, “I got a great idea. I want to invent something and I would love to see it get to a store.” There are people who know exactly how to do that. We got one and I’m excited for you to meet her, why? We’re talking over 250 products, over a billion dollars for her clients.
She knows how to walk people through this process. She’s an Inc.com columnist. She’s writing about it and making sure that you and I can understand it. She has her firm, Hazz Design. Our guest is none other than Tracy Hazzard. I know this is going to happen. I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again. Grab a pen, pencil, iPad, something, because she’s going to drop some serious knowledge. You are going to want to pick it up because 37 patents co-invented. I think we’re going to learn a lot. Tracy, are you there?
Yes, I am. Thanks, Jay.
How are you doing so far?
Very good. I need to talk to your audience.
I know they’re excited to talk to you because not all of them want to do real estate, and they got great ideas. They want to build cashflow. They feel trapped, all these great things. I want to talk about it all.
Everybody’s got Shark Tank Fever. You see it, you think, “I could do that. I can make the next great thing.” I hear it all the time, people start telling me like, “You have patents. I want to talk about this. I think it’s a great idea.” That’s the trick.Never fall in love with a product concept so much because it's hard to get attached to something that might fail. #podcastinterview #CashFlowDiaryPodcast #JMassey Click To Tweet
Now, before we get too far into that, here’s what I want to do. I want to take you back a little bit because I tend to think entrepreneurs are a lot like yesterday’s superheroes. You can take Wonder Woman, Black Widow, The Hulk, Superman, Spider-Man, all of these people that are in comic books, etc. They’re a lot like entrepreneurs because they get dressed up. They put on masks occasionally, but they use their special skills to save people and help improve the quality of life of those around them.
Entrepreneurs do the same thing. Just like superheroes, we also didn’t start off with our capes, our systems in place, and everything that we now know. We had an origin story. Maybe we didn’t get bit by a spider or some radioactive juice, but at the end of the day, we became who we are now. What I want to know is, before the Inc. Magazine column, the products, billions of dollars that you’ve helped your clients generate, what I would like to know is who is Tracy Hazzard?
I was a modest designer coming out of art school. Went to work at some great companies, learn some great things about the basics of launching products and product development in general. One of those companies was Herman Miller, the Aeron Chair that is the iconic symbol of great office space. I got to work on that project and see what is involved. It’s extremely difficult to do it at a level of Herman Miller, Apple or those kinds of products. You don’t see that when you go out into the world, most of the products we’ve seen are not designed at that level, the ones we all clamor for, the one there’s a line around the building for, yes.
Most of the products that are made out on the market are merely sourced and shopped and there was no one designing there. My husband is my partner in this like little niche area of being able to help smaller companies put some of those good design practices in place. The difference is that when you’re competing against something that has no design process and we add that to it, all of a sudden, we were generating great success for our clients.
That’s amazing to me. You literally go from, “I have this idea in the middle of the night,” to a product.
You want to talk about the real origin part of the story. The origin part of the story is that we bought PalmPilot. That’s how old that is. I’m a lot older than I sound. I have three daughters and one’s 21. The Palm pilot, I wanted one for Christmas. I saw it, and I thought, “This is a life organizer. This is so cool.” To ask for something for Christmas was like a big deal. Tom was like, “I’m all they’re buying it.” Pretty quickly, I was like, “This is not a stylus pen. This is dumb.” We started talking about it, and Tom came up with this fabulous invention. Thomas, my partner and husband obviously, and a fabulous invention there.
He wanted to start a business on it. He said, “My mom’s willing to loan me $30,000 for me to start and tool for this and do this. I want to do this.” I looked at him, and I said, “I love you. I love that you’re an inventor. I love how creative you are, but you’re not capable of running a business on your own.” I’m going to step in front, and that’s exactly what I did. Do you want to talk about superhero? I’m going to step in front of this business so that we can do this safely and not destroy our family in the process. We made a lot of mistakes. We were young. We had a lot of failures. We got into an IP lawsuit with Palm Computing of all people. All of these things happen. We learned from all of those hard knocks’ things, but we also learned ways to be flexible and successful. Our design process at the end of the day has always, what has saved us and always helped us. Having a system by which we solve problems, we do things, and we apply it to every part of business, not just a product.
For everybody reading, so that we can catch them all up, a PalmPilot, imagine your iPhone, but black and white with virtually no memory. All it can really do is keep a calendar. Think about that and that’s where we were, and understand that’s where it started. Technology changes, and it changes very rapidly, but you brought something up that I think a number of people jumped to first. I know I get this in the real estate space all the time. They’re like Jay, “I would love to do real estate.” When I’m doing a seminar, teaching, coaching or what have you always asked people, “Have you ever said to yourself that you would love to do real estate? If you just knew where to get the money?”
You said something that your husband was able to go to mom. Now, if I go to my mom for $30,000, that isn’t going to happen. That’s what I know. I know there’s a whole bunch of people who were saying that exact same thing that I was like, “That’s great. He could go to his mom, but what about me?” What would you say for that particular person, who thinks they have a great idea but is going well, “I don’t have any money to make it happen?”
I hate to break it to you, but the reality is that you have to start there. You have to start friends and family. You have to tap debt, do debt financing. Hard products, hard non-text-based like software apps, they’re a little bit exception, but any hard products, especially one that’s going to go into mass-market retail. Target, Walmart and Costco, and those kinds of places are extremely risky investments for about any investment firm I’ve ever spoken to. VCs, Angels, everything they have to absolutely love it, it has to be amazing. Chances are good that you won’t be able to demonstrate that without spending some money to get there first.
We are going to have to find someone with some pockets or some way to generate some cash or ways to do it very inexpensively. That is what has changed over the last several years is that there were so many ways to do it at a much lower cost. Things like 3D printing and rapid prototyping, all of these things have made being able to prove that you have a product actually excitable at something that’s not hundreds of thousands of dollars, but something that’s a few thousand.
Basically, I’ve always maintained the position that real estate is great and accessible to so many is because it has POC or proof of concept, it comes built-in. I don’t have to prove that, “People would like to live in buildings.” That’s obvious. It sounds to me that what you’re saying is that you’re going to have to spend some money to get to that same stage to prove that people would want, use and pay money for whatever your widget is. Is that accurate?
It is. We have a process that we use. It’s a seven-step process, and I’ll share that with you. The first stage is prove it. Prove it before you ever even make anything. That is an unusual way for an inventor or a product designer to do it. Most people are shocked at the fact that I say that.
That would seem like it would remove a lot of the risk if you can do that way.Pursuing an idea means sacrificing and compromising a lot of things, but it should also make you more confident in the process. #podcastinterview #CashFlowDiaryPodcast #JMassey Click To Tweet
It does. That’s why when people are shocked at our statistics, we do 250 products and that’s pretty prolific for a couple of designers. We don’t have a big design staff here. It’s the success rate of those designs, that is the high. We considered an 86% commercialization rate, meaning that of all the designs we’ve done that got to the final stage of concept, 86% of them are in the market or have been successfully marketed at some way, shape or form by a client or by ourselves. For a patent, for instance, the average commercialization rate for the USPTO is about 47%.
This is better than Vegas. Keep going.
Our steps work, and it’s because what I say is, “We don’t patent anything, produce anything, do any of those things, jump straight to that. We have these screeners along the way that you’re going to spend some money. It’s not zero, but you’re going to spend some money and get some answers.” That proof of concept you were talking about that’s built in the real estate. It’s not built-in every time you do a product, just because there is a shelf to sell it on and people buying things doesn’t mean they’re going to buy your thing. You have to set. Our prove it stage is set to assess the market fit, product fit and the ease of access between the two. You can imagine that sometimes there’s a market for something, but our ability to access that market is so difficult or would be so costly. We also use that as a screener. It’s like, “Is it hard to get to that market? Is it hard to reach them?”
I told you guys, you grab a pen, pencil, iPad, notepad, something because this was going to happen. That was step one. We’re going to get to the rest of the steps. I am trying to delay because I know you’re scrambling to grab something to take notes. This is hyper interesting to me, and I got to be careful. I know what will happen is that you’ll give me an idea, and what’ll happen is I’m like, “Let’s go do this, Tracy.”
The problem is that we get all, and inventors are even worse. We get all excited by shiny objects and new idea. It happens to all of us. That’s why we use this process so that it grounds us so that we don’t get distracted with the shiny object.
If you’ve got 37, then that probably means there are 370 that started that, was there thousands? I’m looking at the ratio here.
Not everything is patentable. It doesn’t happen like that. Out of those 250 products, there are not even 37 of them. There might be a couple of patents per product on a couple of them. It doesn’t work quite that way. We don’t use patents as the crux of everything we do. When it fits, we do it. It helps us with competitiveness and being getting something acquired. If you want something to be bought out later, if you have an exit strategy for acquisition, you have to have some intellectual property. You have to have an asset that goes with it. You guys understand assets in real estate, but if there’s no asset-based to it, then it’s hard. You are always getting devalued.
The interesting thing about this is that it’s your process of building the asset that has me intrigued, not so much the process of selling asset. Although I’m sure there’s more there as well. As real estate people, you and I do the same thing. We have a different process. I mean, instead of a patent, I’m going for title. It’s the same thing. I’m listening to you, and I’m like, “This is interesting.” What happens when I wake up with a great idea? How do I prove something that doesn’t exist? It seems counterintuitive to me that my brain can’t even go to like, “What’s step two.” It’s like, “How do I prove it?” I mean, “Here’s test my widget that doesn’t exist.” I don’t get that.
Think about it this way. If you were to find a property that you thought was great, are you going to drive your mom, buy it and say, “Mom, what do you think?” No, you’re going to drive an expert by it. It’s the same thing here is that you have to think about, let’s say, I have an idea. We were working on one that. We have an idea for how to do a different bike helmet for girls. That’s the one we’re working on, my six-year-old who came up with this idea that her ponytails don’t fit in our helmet. This is her concept. I try to engender in my girls this entrepreneurial and invention spirit. When she says this to me, I say, “Let’s start solving the problem and let’s think about it.” But first, before we figure out the solution, let’s validate whether or not that is a problem for you, or is it a problem globally? We do things like, simply do a Google search. We check it on Amazon. We check for these things out there.
A lot of investors believe that they don’t want to invest in something that they’ve never seen before somewhere. If you don’t see it anywhere, a lot of times, that’s a big flag. If you see it, but you know that it’s inferior, it doesn’t have this feature, then you might be on to something. The next stage and that is to validate that special thing. What is special about what you want to do? That’s the concept you’re testing. You’re not testing a thing yet, you’re testing an idea. You’re testing where that might play. Who’s the market for that? In our helmet example, if I couldn’t get to moms, then if it only would sell to girls, how am I going to access them? They aren’t online. They don’t have credit cards. If that was who you were marketing it to, then that’s not a fit. But you knowing that moms are the ones who buy these, do moms care about these? Do they know that’s a problem? These are questions you can ask.
You could do it simply the way that we did it, which was simply ask the question in a survey. There are lots of online and mobile devices that have a network of people that in any demographic you can ask them questions, and a quick survey. For a couple of hundred dollars, I can find out whether or not what moms do when their daughter’s hair doesn’t fit in their helmet? Do they let them not wear a helmet? Do they change the hairstyle? Do they make them suffer with how it hurts? What do you do when that happens? You give them ABC choices, and you see what occurs. That’s the simple way to go about it. The problem is a lot of inventors get scared that they’re letting their idea out of the bag. We don’t believe that. We think that if an idea is good, then you need to validate it. The challenge to anyone is taking that idea to market. That’s the hard part. If you’re on a running path to do that, and that’s what we do is we try to do it fast, no one can catch up to you.
You bring up a couple of things that are going through my head because my frame of reference is always real estate. That’s what I’m thinking. It sounds like you’re doing your due diligence part on the front end before you actually produce something. Whereas I like to do it after I’ve got something under contract. I know like I could cool now it’s time to do the work, to validate that this building, this apartment is commercial property is good in some way, shape or form. It sounds like you’re doing that on the front end to trying to eliminate the idea before you get too far down the process. Am I close?
You’re exactly right. There are two reasons for that. The one is that, in your case, you’re still not bound. If there’s a problem in the deal, you can still get out of it. In the case of a product design and an idea that you have, you will have to spend money to make it. You have to spend money to get to that stage of due diligence. We want to avoid that as much as possible in the process. Any way we can do that very inexpensive loop, we try to do that. The second part of it is that I think about it this way. What if you fall in love with the property?
I tried not to. That’s a bad thing.If it's impossible to make a product anywhere close to a specific cost range, kill it. #podcastinterview #CashFlowDiaryPodcast #JMassey Click To Tweet
You start to fall in love with your idea. It becomes your baby for many people. Now, for me, 250 products later, I can take or leave about any one of them. You lose that sense when it’s your first or when it’s in there. You fall in love with it. We don’t want to fall in love with something because then we’re going to get too attached to something that might fail.
How long has that process, though? Like to go, “Mom, I’ve got this idea.” I don’t even know what the next step is. I don’t even know what to say. In my head, I’m like, “I’m always ready to sell something.” It was like, from the time I’ve had the idea, I’m like, “Let’s sell it tomorrow. That’s my proof.” There seems to be so much more before I get that far. I’m like, “How long is this?”
That’s a great question. It depends on the product and what it is. Our process applies to services. If you were doing like a coaching or service package, and we actually did this when we started our show. I did all the research. I did all the look. I checked out the niche. I checked in with all the people and said, “Is this something you want? Would you be interested in this topic?” We went through all that early screening process, didn’t have to spend any money. Then within six weeks, we had launched a show, gotten it started. We set up such a system. I mentioned to you off air before we do five shows a week. You couldn’t do that if you didn’t have a process, a plan and a system in place to be able to handle that, and we do that.
The second phase after prove it is to plan it. That’s where pick your timeline. A timeline is also dependent on your accelerators. Good service providers are accelerators. That’s one of the choices we make because you have to trade-off between accelerating and money. When you don’t have enough cashflow, when you don’t have enough money, you don’t have enough to hire someone who’s going to make it go faster for you. In the end, if that’s a detriment, if it’s speed to market, that is essential because technology’s changing, things are happening or it’s so timely. If we don’t have the money to do that at that planning stage, we also cut it off.
It’s interesting, how similar, but yet different this process is when it comes to getting it done. I still think you guys are superhuman for being able to produce a show five times a week. That is impressive. I don’t care who you are, prove it, plan it, then what?
How on earth do you figure that out?
It’s because we don’t do by cash basis costing. We don’t look at it that way. We don’t look it as, “This is a product, and it costs us this much to make it.” It’s not a cost basis. It’s a market basis. When we look at the market, and we say, “We want to make a helmet.” The average helmet is $29. Can we do what we want to do that special and keep it in that price range, or what we have is special enough that we can add 20% to it and go for a higher-end market? Is it not special enough at all, it has to be cheaper than the market price? We look at it from that perspective and we have to validate it, but we essentially set a target price and cost. We also have a cost of goods sold.
That is the tricky part because if you’re pricing out a service package, this is where I see people go so wrong. Entrepreneurs blow this all the time. They say, “It would be great if I made a hundred bucks an hour. That’s awesome. It’s okay, that’s what I’ll charge. That seems like the right thing to do,” or they come out of the world of where they were working in house, and they know what their essential hourly rate is for their salary. They charge that on a freelance basis. It’s such a mistake. That’s not a sustainable business strategy. From a product standpoint, it’s not a sustainable business strategy if you haven’t built in for the profit properly, sales channel, operations of a business you don’t yet have. You want to build it in for what it needs to be in the future. If it’s not viable now, it will never be viable later. That’s what we look at. That’s another screening point. If it’s not possible to make it anywhere close to that cost range, then we kill the product.
It sounds like lots of product murdering is going on over there. It’s like, “Wow.”
There are many new ideas. Sometimes products can come back up like ideas. We don’t throw them away completely. They’re there pinned up somewhere, stuck in a sketchbook there. They still exist because sometimes technology changes and make it possible for us to be able to do something we couldn’t do several years earlier.
Even this conversation, when it comes to technology and distribution.
It could happen that you had a property in the neighborhood resurged, and now it’s viable. It wouldn’t have been before. You don’t shelve anything. You go back if you really liked something and you thought it had potential, you’d go back to it.
I’ve just got to ask. Do you wake up one day and say, “I know I want to help inventors get their products to market,” like really?The best consultant is someone who will warn you of the things that might go wrong on your path. #podcastinterview #CashFlowDiaryPodcast #JMassey Click To Tweet
It creeps up on you. You’re talking about being a superhero. You find out that is your superpower. I could sit there and look at a product and go, “It’s not going to make it. I’m sorry.” We call it the ugly baby syndrome. I am good at telling someone that your baby’s ugly in a nice way. When you don’t believe me, I’m good at giving you a place at which you’re going to go and get the same answer that I already came to. Don’t ask your mom, friends, and family because either they’re going to say all say yes are all saying no. It depends on how supportive they are of you as an entrepreneur. When they’re afraid for you, they say, “No, that’s a bad idea.” When they love you, and they support you, they’ll say yes, no matter whether it’s a good idea or not. You have to find a way to get somebody to tell you objectively.
I’m going to ask you the question I get like four times a week, if not a day, which is difficult to answer, but is a question that happens all the time. How does anybody know? This is a “good idea.” “My idea is great.” I mean, “In our head, it’s wonderful.” Is there a way that any person like on their own can just go, “That one’s good, but should I try something else different?” Is this process the only way to figure this out?
I haven’t found a good way because every time we do products, it’s always in a different category for different clients. One moment it might be in the juvenile section of the store, and the next moment it might be in the high-tech section. You can’t be an expert in all areas. I think that we use the criteria development. We design from it, we use it as a screener, but we also use it as a way to say, “Is this keeping with the brand integrity? Is this keeping with the design integrity? Is this still expressing all the specialness about?” If all along the way you start sacrificing those things and there are compromises being made, you’re going to miss the mark. If you keep it going and all of those things keep validating it, you should be feeling more confident in the process.
There should be more people you’re tapping along the way too. As I mentioned those accelerators, when you’re tapping them, their job is to watch out for landmines to make sure that you’re not stepping into something you shouldn’t be doing. That’s the best consultant you want to bring in is someone who’s going to warn you of all those things that might go wrong on your path. We call it not having a lot of runway. You’ve got a launch with a very short runway when you don’t have the cashflow. When you got that short amount of cashflow, your decisions have to be tighter. You have to make every decision right because not making those correctly is fatal. A big company can make tons of mistakes. They can hire rookies. Their systems in place can fix them. They have double-checked systems. Or they throw more money at it, and they can advertise and market on the end and make it right.
An entrepreneur can’t do that. You have to trust that the process is going to work for you, and that along the way, you’re going to feel more confident in it. When you don’t, you have to listen to that intuition. I think that’s the problem. Most people, they get siloed, they get like blinders on. They think, “I’m going for the school.” I said, “I was going to do it. I’m going to keep going on it.” They’re not taking enough of that feedback in. I’m not saying take it all in and say, “Oh my gosh.” You have to take it in and say, “Does this resonate? Does this fit with? Do they understand what I’m going for? Are they missing it?” If they’re missing it and you still believ
e in your product idea, then you have to take that as assigned to do something different. Re-engineer, remarket it, re-message it because they’re not getting it. If you still strongly believe in it, you do still have to take it as a criticism and constructively do something with it.
You said something that I thought was interesting. I want to pick up on that. This doesn’t apply just to a physical product, but it also could apply to a service offering as well. Could you expand on that a little?
We do it the same way all the time. When we offer a consulting package, we actually do the same process for us. We’re figuring out how are we going to package something together as if it’s a seminar course, a webinar, whatever those might be. We look at them as the same thing because you always have to go through it. The only great part about it is it’s always a lot more flexible. You can always just make a few changes and then see if it’s right. It didn’t cost you as much. It’s a lot easier to do. Use it the same way. We still make sure that everything is meeting its brand and product integrity and is fitting what we’re doing. When we find that happening, we always know there’s a great market fit. When there’s a great market fit, stuff’s out.Fear is a good thing because it keeps you from burning your hand and doing stupid things. #podcastinterview #CashFlowDiaryPodcast #JMassey Click To Tweet
I think you’re going to have an interesting perspective on this next idea or concept that I’m thinking about. I believe it prevents a lot of people from moving at the speed that they should. More importantly, it gets in their way, but I’m betting that you have a different perspective on failure or failing, in failure events than what most people do. There’s got to be so many iterations to everything that you ever bring to market. I’m interested to hear your perspective.
I have a high tolerance for it. What happens over time is you have a high tolerance for failure. You have a high tolerance for the speed of discard as you put it, throwing ideas away. You have to have a high tolerance for it. There’s a famous quote that Edison said, “He figured out a thousand ways not to make a light bulb and only one way that worked.” Design iteration and invention process work like that. We call it iterative. We do it again and again, and we refine it constantly in the process. For us, failure is learning. It becomes that way, and it is something that we’ve been doing since we were educated in college.
You get to a stage at which you just can accept that. That doesn’t mean I like to fail. That’s a big failure to my life. We’re not too happy. I owned a retail store, and as much as I could, I couldn’t make it work from a cashflow perspective. I had to shut it down. There are failures in there along the way. You learn from those, though, how to do something different and how to do it in a way in which most people will imitate? You can try to model someone and try to learn it, but you don’t understand, why it happens? I believe that you should absolutely follow in somebody’s footsteps. Who’s done it right before, but when you start to deviate, you have to know that you’re putting yourself up for failure risk because you don’t maybe have the information on why they did what they did.
I totally get that. I often ask people to imitate before they innovate for that very reason. You don’t know what that failure of it waiting around the corner as for you. It could be quite an interesting experience. Now, there’s something else that I’m picking up from you that I often tell people, especially when in their marketing, developing relationships or hunting for investors and all these things that we have to do as real estate entrepreneurs. I want to find the people with the big money or they think that has more to do with the amount of their success is tied to how much money somebody has or they have to invest in something. You are talking more about processes and sequences. That’s something I tend to focus on a ton. It’s not so much what you’re asking people to do. It’s when and what order that makes a huge difference. I’m sensing that you’ve got a similar philosophy.
I do because, actually, we took investors when we had our stylus pens for handheld computers back in the late ‘90s. We did have angel investors at that time. It wasn’t just Tom’s mom, we had thirteen other investors. It was a difficult, high-pressure situation for me because I’d never done it before and had to go and get an SBA loan on top of it. There’s a whole bunch of things that we learned at that time. What we learned about it was that it’s so risky. Since then, the market of investment has changed so much that people are just diversifying their portfolios and trying to do too many things. I think that’s the way I see it. They don’t believe any of it it’s going to hit.
When you look at a venture capital firm, their success rate is less than 10% for the most part. It’s that 10% that happened to be such high risk that had such high rate of return that is keeping them going. To me, you might as well play the lottery or gambling. That’s not acceptable to me, and I want to fix that like that. That’s where I would get in with. When you look at having the right set of investors, I think they all have to believe in your system, process, the way that you’re going about doing it because the trust in that has to be high. There’s that level of connection to that and putting in a system in place that demonstrates that you can do that.
Every property I’m sure you go into is different, if you had, let’s say you were returning and going to refurbish them or whatever. But if you had a system by which you did that, that guarantee that they would be done on a certain timeframe, and you said, “We won’t take a property that can’t be done in that timeframe.” We’re already setting in constraints that will lead you to success and give you or your investors a higher confidence level with you. Those systems are just so critical in the process, and not enough investors have the discipline to expect them.
In fact, they don’t even know that they should have them let alone what they are if they do, which is the whole foundation. Everything that we try to do is to help people have some of those before they get started. This is absolutely fascinating to me because I mean, the world must look completely different to you because there’s opportunity around every corner. How on earth do you actually turn it off? I know my brain. Every time I go and visit another country or a different city, I can’t turn off the opportunity that I see in real estate everywhere. Now, we’re talking about just ideas. How on earth do you manage to sleep? I can’t even get it because I know my brain. I’m assuming you’re not too dissimilar. What’s your secret?
Interestingly, I wrote an article in Inc. about how creatives don’t sleep enough that we’re genetically predisposed not to sleep might be similar. I always joke that my family realizes that I don’t sleep enough. They gave me two copies of Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive for my birthday. They recognize that I don’t need it, that I don’t get enough, but it is hard. It’s hard to not do it, but that discipline I’ve learned is the only way to get anything done. At the end of the day, my regular business isn’t profitable. If I’m not able to float all that, then I can’t do the successful, exciting futuristic products and projects I want to do if I don’t have a strong base center underneath me.
Having the discipline to make sure that you have that constant cashflow is critically important. It’s taken a long time for us to get to a stage at which we recognize that, and that’s actually why we started our show and our 3D printing venture. Why we started that was because that would be steady income all year round, where the rest of our business was still very cyclical. We found an alternate cash source, we made it a project, we made it a priority, we built it in place, we had a one-year plan for it to happen, and we met our goal because we took on our first advertiser for our show.
We are on pace to do exactly what we need, which was to even out our yearly cashflow. It wasn’t that we didn’t have enough money and we weren’t successful. It wasn’t always coming in at the right time, and it felt stressful. We put a plan in place. When you recognize what your goals are and why you’re doing something, it also makes it a little easier to say, “That’s a great idea. Let me just write that in my sketchbook.” It is part of the reason why I started writing for Inc. Magazine. The show is a great way for me to get out ideas and talk about them and then let them go.
I’m just thinking about this process that you’re going through. It’s got to be like giving birth every 30 seconds or something.
To me, for it to be that painful is something that you don’t want for anyone. That’s why we set the way we do it, talk to people the way that we talk, try to help inventors and mentor them because we just don’t want that to happen to them that it is as painful as that every time.
Here’s what I know. I know there’s more than one person reading, they were taking notes, and then they were just like, “I can’t keep up, but I want more.” How can they find out more of what you guys are doing? I know there’s more than one person who wants to explore the concepts, the ideas that have been stuck in the back of their head and figure out like, “What’s my next step, Tracy.” I know they want to know that. Tell them how we can get in contact with you.
Well, that’s great. Mentors2Inventors.com that’s our website, and there’s a Facebook group that we started. It’s a membership group, and every two weeks, we’re doing a coaching call. You can get on and ask us questions. We have a different topic every other week. In the next one, we’re bringing in an Amazon Private Label Expert because that’s one great way to accessible way to bring products to the market and test them out. We try to bring people in to do that. There’s a show, blog posts. I mean, there’s a whole bunch of things coming as it goes. That’s the best way to get information and also you can find out all about me. My company, Hazz Design, that way as well.
Thank you a lot. I know that if I keep talking to you, we’re going to make a company or something. I’ve got to ask you this final question. While we’ve been discussing, going back and forth, I know that there’s more than one person who’s been considering mulling it around in their head like, “I want to put on my superhero outfit, I would like to become one of those entrepreneurial people too.” They have in the back of their mind, Tracy, that voice. I know you know that voice. You’ve done battle with that voice that comes up probably with every one of your clients and you have mentored people and help them squash that voice, or at least still make progress in spite of it. What would you say to that person who still has that voice in the back of their head but thinks that they’re ready to finally make this happen? You knew the keywords they would follow through. What would you tell them?
That voice is fear. I believe that fear is a good thing because it keeps you from burning your hand and doing stupid things. You have to listen to that and say, “Is this truly fear? Is it fact? Is it fiction? Is it in my head? Is this true?” You have to take an objective look. I have a great coach who always says, “You put fear in the trunk, you can take it along on the ride with you, but fear is in the trunk. It’s there, and it will start banging and yelling at you when you’re going to do something stupid, and you just have to then listen to it over all the noise in your head, but it’s not driving the car.” That’s what holds a lot of people back. I do see it all the time. The inventors get into this cycle of, “It’s not ready yet. It’s not perfect yet. It’s not proven yet. I need to make another prototype. I need to make another model.”
That’s where I say, “No, you need to say, does the market even want this?” When you start asking the questions outside of yourself, you can discern that fact from fiction, but it does. It takes a tremendous amount of confidence in yourself to step out there and be an entrepreneur. It takes even more confidence to be able to say, “I know that I’m not okay with running my company. I know that I’m good at inventing and coming up with ideas, but I need somebody to help me with operations.” Asking for help is even a harder thing to do but critically important.
I love everything that you’re doing. You’re making ideas possible. You are the essence of capitalism as far as I’m concerned. I am glad that you have taken the journeys, the lumps, the bumps, and have decided to share your genius with so many and help things come to market. I can only imagine some of the things that have come to market or that will come to market simply because you will help somebody bring something that someone needs. Thank you for all that you guys are doing.
Thank you for having me. I certainly enjoy talking to you.
Ladies and gentlemen, you know what time it is? It’s time for you to move at the speed of instruction. What does that mean? Now you heard her say Mentors2Inventors is currently free. That’s called, do it now. You’re already reading on a mobile device. Yes, you’re on the treadmill. I get that, but when you take a break in between reps, go right on over there. Get started because your idea needs to be in the marketplace. I want to see it. I probably actually want whatever it is that you are thinking of making. I know this. I have daughters who have hair, and the hair definitely doesn’t fit under the helmet. That’s all I’m going to say. Nonetheless, it’s up to you to go make it happen. It’s been fun talking to you. I look forward to talking to you soon until next time.
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