It Takes At Least Ten Years to Build a Real Business BONOBOS FOUNDER GOES THROUGH HELL

    I was listening to the Bonobos (clothing) founder on the “How I Built This” podcast yesterday, and he was discussing the overwhelming issues he faced while trying to get his company off the ground.

    Among other things, he ran out of money and could not make payroll, he had a major rift with his co-founder that almost destroyed the company, and he had a company-killing culture chasm between his techies and his retail people.

    He made two comments that, although somewhat obvious, resonated with me nonetheless: (1) It takes at least ten years to build a real business; and (2) the only reason businesses fail is b/c entrepreneurs give up.

    I loved both of those obvious reminders b/c they are so necessary for anyone trying to build a business bigger than themselves.


    We now see so many startups that shoot to massive valuations in a few short years that many entrepreneurs get very discouraged all too fast when they realize that they face much longer struggles.

    Examples of companies that shot to stardom seemingly overnight include Airbnb, Uber, Opendoor (the real estate firm), Instacart, and Instagram. I could list hundreds more too, as these overnight success stories are all over the news.


    But – what is not all over the news is the much larger number of companies that flameout, and/or the vast majority of companies that took far (far) longer to get off the ground.

    For example, Crate & Barrel (another “How I Built This” subject) was started in 1962 and floundered for 20 years, before hitting its stride. Phil Knight also started Nike in the early 1960s, selling shoes out of his car and not making money until the mid-1970s.

    (As an aside, I highly recommend Mr. Knight’s excellent book “Shoe Dog,” one of the best business books I have ever read.)

    Trader Joe’s started in 1958, and went nowhere for 20 years; In-N-Out Burger started in 1948 … and just sold burgers for years before expanding; and Southwest Airlines started in 1967 and didn’t even get a plane off the ground until 1971.

    The purpose of this blog is to remind everyone who is trying to build a team, a business, a practice, or anything else to not get discouraged no matter the obstacle. Almost all businesses go through hell trying to get off the ground, and it always takes far longer than most people realize.

    This blog is also a reminder for me, my wife Heejin (JVM’s co-founder), and the JVM Team, as we have all put in more than a few late nights and weekends adjusting to shifting realities in the mortgage industry.

    The Bonobos founder, like every other founder, said it was all 100% worth it b/c it felt so good to build something much bigger than himself, and b/c he can now reward all of the people that helped him along the way.

    Jay Voorhees
    Founder/Broker | JVM Lending
    (925) 855-4491 | DRE# 01524255, NMLS# 335646

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