I'm not sure if I was just too young at the time to know better or just incredibly eager to start a business out of what I saw as a need in college recruiting.
But I jumped in with two feet and started my first business with an idea I had way before the digital age of recruiting services that are around in abundance today.
It was 1991, I had just returned to the states after playing American Football in Europe, got a position coaching college football and discovered that making seven thousand a year coaching wasn't going to cut it in the short term financially.
Although I loved coaching, but wanted to get married and start a family with my college sweetheart Margaret.
So I had a to make a decision or create an opportunity for myself to start a career or business.
What I did love the most about coaching was the recruiting process and helping athletes.
One of my responsibilities coaching college was recruiting Junior College transfers and my assigned territory was California. Which if you know the business is loaded with talent and schools.
But during that time without the internet or recruiting services, the challenge was how do you find and evaluate talent without having to call every coach and shift through how is a fit for your school efficiently.
It's obviously doable but by being 3,000 miles away was certainly a challenge.
Until one day I met a retired Juco coach and athletic director from Santa Barbara community college.
He already had established what I was looking for that helped student athletes and colleges looking for those athletes.
However in those days his service wasn't very sophisticated for the times nor was it a business, it was his passionate to help connect people together.
So out of his garage which sat high in the hills next to the Santa Barbara Community College Campus, overlooked the Pacific ocean with this amazing post card view, he had this wonderful set up of a row of TV's, VCR's, grease board, a desk and an endless supply of home made California red wine.
He knew ever kid and coach on the West Coast. It was a one stop shop. Get your prospect list, drink a bunch of wine and listen to all his incredible stories. Plus he was an East Coast old school Italian. I felt like I knew him forever and trusted his evaluations.
So in 1991, recently married, living in a small apartment, Margaret was pregnant and I was volunteer coaching at my old high school and working odd jobs, I had the epiphany to start a my own high school recruiting agency from our kitchen table modeled after my Italian California friend.
Armed with a wall dial phone, a stack of index cards and a thick directory of every college in the US, I picked up that yellow phone, standing next to the wall, I started dialing.
I called every college and sent out hundreds of letters.
Although it was Connecticut overlooking our small apartment living room and not the Pacific ocean, the positive response I received from college coaches was encouraging.
Encouraging enough to eventually move out of the kitchen and into my own office.
I wish I took a picture of the place. You actually had to pass through an empty set of offices that had wires hanging from the ceiling and the lights didn't work. So at night I had to blindly go through a maze of wires, boxes and lord knows what else to escape that office every night.
My little wood paneled office in back had a mis matched furniture that I pieced together from left behind tenants, folding lawn chairs from Walmart, a two thousand pound metal desk that had to be there twenty years unable for any human to move, old TV's, VCR's, grease boards and a small fridge filled with Bud light.
But to me it was big time. I had my own business.
That dingy office hosted many college coaches passing through town, sharing stories, laughs and cold beverages.
We discussed prospects, talked about their families and the war stories of finding those diamond in the rough prospects.
I wanted to help and knew there was a need to connect the coaches and athletes who I felt were under the radar geographically.
Even though I had zero business experience, as a criminal justice major in college, I didn't take business or finance courses but was suddenly thrown into accounting, marketing, sales and operating every single aspect of my business.
The valuable lessons I learned from just doing it out of necessity, was invaluable.
I had no one to blame but myself and the pressure of providing for my family was certainly a motivator to work harder and harder. That right there was so vital to setting the bar for my career.
Those lessons starting a business from scratch taught me the most valuable business lesson I could ever learn about real life practical experience.
If you have an idea, see a need in the market where someone will actually pay you for that service or product and you can bring value to someones life, you need to figure out a way to start executing that idea right now.
Don't over think it, or wait to have the perfect logo or website, you don't need anything fancy to get started, just start. The market will tell you if it's a good idea by the revenue you bring in.
Starting and operating my own business at such an early stage set a foundation for truly understanding how business really works. Managing cash flow, balancing a budget, driving new business development, servicing clients and building relationships were so vital to my long term career as it gave me an appreciation and curiosity of how it all works.
I understood the value of both sides of the table. Not just whats in it for me, but how can we both benefit.
I eventually merged my little college recruiting agency with a more establish agency that was primarily sending pro baseball players to Japan and we eventually started recruiting for American Football leagues and teams in Europe and Australia.
So the business evolved and I had a massive sense of accomplishment from having an idea and taking that to market.
So from that cool garage in Santa Barbara to our kitchen table to that dingy office, ideas and businesses are born everywhere, be curious, follow your instincts but more import, execute on our ideas.
By the way, there is still a two thousand pound metal desk somewhere waiting for you!
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