Austin Basketball Training and Basketball CampsIn today’s insecure economy many of us have found an outlet for creative growth, extra income, and entrepreneurial spirit.  I often hear this referred to as “the side hustle.”  A place for us to enjoy hustling again.  Some place where our thoughts are valued and candid conversation does not mean a spreadsheet or a meeting where no one asks our opinion.  A place for us to grow mentally and to think: “what if?’

My side hustle began almost three and half years ago as I gave some basketball lessons to kids who wanted to accelerate their game.   Their success integrating our lessons led to a more formalized training program, referrals and more fun than one should be able to have.  Built a website, experimented with SEO, and content writing.   So how did it transition from a few “lessons’ to a full time business that permitted me to leave my cubicle?   So many stepping stones, failures, pivots, and conflicts.  And probably more to come.  Let me share a little about the mindset part:

1.  I realized it wasn’t work.

Every basketball training day was fun.  Looked forward to it.  And… would have done it for free.  Passion.  Unbridled passion.  Ever get the feeling you were born to do something, then you get to the actual grind part and you aren’t so sure?  Funny thing was that I realized I liked the grind part.

2.  People wanted to pay me.

shutterstock_59422417And refer me more people that wanted to pay me.  And book more sessions.  When I announced my rates were $50 per hour for private basketball training… nobody pushed back.  Very few negotiators.  Lots of people have business ideas.  I had checks.  Checks are validation of a business model.   The moral of the story is to spend less time on business plans and more time trying to get checks.  If people won’t write checks then you don’t have a business model to plan around.  Listen to your prospects.  The model is in the listening.  The plan is in what brings in checks.  Especially if you can nail #3.

3.  Alignment of goals.

Basketball Training GoalsI successfully aligned my client’s goals with my business goals… and still profited.  We were talking about the dreams of young basketball players.  While this was side hustle- I was not a hustler.  I did not want to sell – I wanted people to buy… and for both parties to profit.  This was my version of conscious capitalism.  My goal was to help young people work toward their goals with a sense of passion, purpose and power.  I was fully invested in the goals of my clients.  In a world of six sigma, systems, and commoditization, we went a different route.  Growth thru personalization.

4.  I developed a waiting list.

basketball business waiting lineDemand grew.  From a product that successfully delivered value.  Word of mouth and referrals became the overwhelming source of new clients (65% referrals / 25% internet.)  My Saturday morning sessions now had a waiting list.  A waiting list is a powerful validation of your business model.  A business model driven by referrals is even more powerful validation.

5.  The kids got better.

basketball training and resultsWe don’t produce McDonalds’s All Americans or promise college scholarships.  We will work with a kid in a wheelchair if they have the passion required to be in our gym.   But the improvement was significant in both statistical categories and anecdotal evidence.  Not only did the business margins work, but the product/service worked.

6.  Turning away revenue became painful.

basketball business competitorWe sold out 3 out of 4 camps last year (and the fourth did not sell out because of a glitch in scheduling.)  It became obvious that we could accommodate Christmas Break camps, MLK Day, President’s Day, Spring Break and more Summer camps.  The demand was there but my commitment to my full time job did not permit it.   I referred about 60 people to another camp last year.   My customers and leads to a competitor… it was painful.  I realized I was leaving about 25k on the table in revenues.   Forget about the fact that I could only venture to guess how my business would grow if I could instantly respond to prospect phone calls, be focused on my business (not just be in my business), etc.  Exploring new opportunities was not even an option.  Scaling proven business models was impossible.  I had run out of hours in a week.

7.  I accepted that life was risky.security and the cubicle

Corporate America was every bit as risky as being an entrepreneur.  Corporate America had become obsessed with the ‘least common denominator.”  Terms like “human capital” and “talent acquistion” had disappeared and group think had become the new standard of leadership.  My family deserved better from me.  And frankly I realized corporate America did not owe me anything.  We all owe ourselves.  I had a feeling I could do a better job looking out for the Corbett family than my boss could.  My boss had his own family to worry about.

8.  A funny thing happened at the supermarket.

My wife and I were shopping when the mom of one of my student/players approached us.  She had never met my wife so I introduced them.  Amy proceeded to tell my wife what an impact I had on her son over the past year.  (Her son came to us as barely making the C team in Middle school but loved the game.)  Amy cried as she told my wife her son now played on the A team at a prominent high school team and the life lessons I had shared with him.   Here we were standing in the middle of a supermarket and a grown woman was crying to my wife about me.  I, too, was tearing up.   My business purported to deliver passion, purpose and power to young basketball players.  Somehow they were delivering it to me.  Business validated.  Side hustle no longer.

9.  The Family

Corbett FamilySorry- none of it was possible without them.  This is a whole different post.  Stay tuned.


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