Did you know that MS Excel has a hidden, life altering Easter egg? This is a story of how I found it and discovered joy. Read on.
Almost an year ago, I have quit my job with one of the leading IT companies in the world, to embark on an uncertain but very exciting journey. I have started my own business around MS Excel – creating & selling awesome Excel products & training programs [visit our online store].
This is a continuation of the Chandoo.org Start-up Story posted around the same time last year. Grab a cup of coffee and read it in leisure. Do not expect any Excel tips. 🙂
What is it like to run a small business
When I wanted to leave a stable & well-paying job & start a business several things bothered me. What if my business never picks up? What if I do not generate enough money to sustain my family? What if I grow complacent & make mistakes? What if I get bored or lonely or get demotivated? What if I cannot handle the thousand little things that go in to running a business?
They say, leap and a net will appear. And leap I did. And just as if a switch is turned on, I found answers to all my doubts one by one. I discovered the joy in running a small business around my passion. I made mistakes, but I kept learning. I found help from friends. I made new friendships. I learned how to reduce, automate, outsource areas of work that are not critical. I hired people to help me with customer service & emails. And not one moment, I felt tired, bored or demotivated. In fact, I feel excited every single day about what I am doing.
How is my business doing?
Here is a quick summary of the business:
(April 2010 to March 2011)
- Total paying customers: 2,175 (Repeat customers: 175)
- Revenues: ~$200,000
- Top products – Excel School (743), PM Templates (1148), Dashboard Training (199)
- Consulting clients – Microsoft, Wao Marketing, eNor and more.
- Speaking & Training – Office 2010 Launch Event, International Excel Workshop @ Maldives
- Total Visitors to Chandoo.org – 2.5 Mn
- Visitors who spent more than 15 minutes on site – 787,000
- Number of comments received – 7,790
- Number of articles written – 217
- Press Coverage – MSN, Economic Times etc.
What did I learn in one year of doing this?
Many things. Hardly a week goes by without picking up some new skill or idea. But the most important things have to be,
It is not risky: I had this notion of taking huge risk by leaving a plush job. But then, the risk magically disappeared on day 2. Instead, I see immense opportunity for fun, knowledge, satisfaction and profit. All of which were not possible with my day job beyond certain extent. [Related: Is it scary to start?]
It does not take 80 hours per week: During the first 6 months, I used to work a lot. Most of the time I was inefficient. Then, I analyzed my time (in Excel, what else) and found that I could reduce the number of hours spent on e-mail and other activities to focus on what I love most – Excel, interacting with people and sharing new ideas. Now, I am spending <6 hours per day and I am happy with the results.
You need a supportive family: At least once a day, my son or daughter would walk up to my office-cum-guest-bedroom and knock on the doors, often violently, and scream – “daddy, da.” (meaning, Come out Daddy). Although, my heart would race to go out and hug them, I would say no and continue working.
There were days, when Jo (my wife) would feel lonely as I was locked inside the office room for a product launch or marathon recording session or crafting a dashboard etc.
But, thankfully, I have an understanding wife. So, they would be all smiles when I walk out. Also, I have learned to structure my working hours around my kids sleeping hours. For eg. I would get up at 4AM to do recording.
Saying NO is 100 times tougher than saying YES: While I feel immensely thankful for the growth in my business, it has also bought in a new challenge. There were too many opportunities. So many more than I can handle. I get requests for consulting, training, product development, testing, collaboration and more. Initially I used to say YES to everyone. Soon, I had a pipeline of things to do, with no clear plan on when I will finish everything. Then, I started being picky. I started accepting consulting work for projects which are challenging. I started collaborating with one company at a time. This reduced the workload. But the challenge of saying NO is so much more than YES.
Taking it easy is not so easy: When this blog was my side-business, I used to take it very easily. But during the initial months of making the switch, it was hard for me to take this easily. I would freak-out when my site went down, when a customer dis-liked my product or when I get an email with “Urgent” in the subject.
I learned to slow down things. For eg. I reduced the number of posts per week from 5 to 3. I also roped in more people. Hui, Paramdeep & a few guest authors to write on this blog. Ravindra to help me with emails & customer service. Naturally, this restored my sense of humor and ability to learn new things.
Ask and you shall receive: This is the most important lesson. I used to worry whether anyone would purchase my training or products. But then I realized that by just asking you to purchase, you would consider it. This is how I was able to generate revenues from Excel School, PM Templates and other products.
I am excited about the way my business has turned out. While I generally avoid from making long-term plans, here are a bunch of things I would continue to do,
- I would like to grow this business slowly and learn new things all along.
- I will continue to share my knowledge, mistakes and ideas with you.
- I will spend a great deal of time with Jo and kids. I love taking long walks with Jo, playing with kids.
- I like connecting with people all around the world and will continue to do so.
- I will continue making awesome products, training programs.
- We (our family) will continue to spend less, live meaningfully and give back a portion of what we make to society.
- I will continue to treat you, my dear reader, as my top-most priority.
Wishing you a happy Easter
I found an Easter egg in Excel. Instead of finding it on Easter day, I find it everyday. And I feel excited, fulfilled, grateful & honored.
I wish you will find your Easter egg. It might be in your profession, hobby, religion or community. I wish you will discover the same joy as I did and continue to spread it.
And if you have already found it, then I feel very happy for you.
Easter Egg photo from tillwe.