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Ah, the reality of being an entrepreneur.
You've got a great business idea and wrote a plan and got input from other people.
You pulled together your financing and spoke to your banker about possible future loans as you grow.
Now, it's time to get your business in full swing and get it up and running.
During my interview with founder Paul Davis and his business partner Jim Meyer of Hubber, a car-sharing company, I asked them about the reality of running a start-up business. As we started our interview, Paul had received a call about roadside assistance and was occasionally pulled away.
So you're both hands-on?
Paul: To say the least.
Is that what you expected?
Jim: I expected it. There's a lot of activities we didn't guess we'd be so hands on with and then there are other activities where we knew full well we'd be involved.
We're going to be working with customer cars and getting our hands dirty. We're going to be answering customer emails at 3am. That's all well and good.
In terms of issues with vendors, working with the website, I think some of those activities is what we didn't anticipate.
Paul: There are so many different facets. We have a 24-7 operation with international travelers coming in at 2am and leaving at 5am and they expect 24-7 service. It's answering emails around the clock and servicing cars.
I remember when the site first went live and it was a Saturday night and I'm at dinner and I get this call that there's a renter. I called Jim and said, 'is this legit?'
Sure enough we both went down to the airport to wash this car and turn it around and a few hours on some Saturday night. That's like, 'yeah that wasn't how we anticipated it being.' You know it's we're learning a lot.
It's like this roadside assistance issue. Every day we're learning a lot and there's a new issue or challenge that pops up.
We have to learn how to respond and deal with it on the fly as we build out these systems.
What's happening with the roadside call now?
Paul: It's someone who called the 800 number in to our dispatch but for some reason they called us direct.
Jim: Like we got a guy with a nail in his tire. Of course, he doesn't have a car with the nail in the tire in LA. He took the car up to--
Jim: Tahoe, right. Yes, we can have systems in place and roadside assistance but all of a sudden you get a call from Tahoe and I don't know what the response is until it's tested.
You know, we're in the battle [of running a company] and there's a language barrier since he's Swedish and he's in a mountain environment and I don't know the response time in Tahoe. We're not sitting with a hundred data points of another 99 nails in tires that have already occurred.
So while we planned it out on the front end but actually dealing with that situation so it doesn't take an hour to get back to the person and figure out a solution is very difficult and what ends up happening is you have to stop everything and jump on things. We don't have 25 years of experience dealing with that guy who randomly decided to head up to the mountains.
That's why experience helps but you can't get that experience until you start the business.
Jim: You're right. Your point about planning and what it takes for a 5-year start-up to get going, to a certain extent you have to get into it. The laboratory is all well and good but the practical world irons out your tactics.
Strategy is great but you've got to be on the ground and realize what you need to do.
In the next post with Paul and Jim, we talk about financing for a start-up business.
Click here to visit the Hubber website.