They say youth is wasted on the young…
And while I wouldn’t go that far, I’ve definitely made my fair share of mistakes.
I was recently reflecting on an interview I had with my friend Moiz Ali, founder of Native, where we discussed some of our hard-learned lessons over the years…
So in this article, I want to give you valuable wisdom I wish I’d known when I first got started as an entrepreneur.
This is the first post of Smart Marketer’s new Smart Summer content series, where we dig through our favorite interviews to give you nuggets of wisdom to use during the summer months.
I hope you enjoy it!
#1 RENEGOTIATE… AND OFTEN!
First, I have a confession to make… I have fallen prey to the “Streaming Service Trap”.
You know, when a new season of Ted Lasso or Succession drops and you think, “Ah, I’ll just sign up for this streaming service for a month, binge it, then cancel.”
But do I ever cancel?
Nope! I sure don’t. I forget, and I nickel and dime myself into cable prices for services I’M NOT EVEN USING!
So, what does this have to do with helping your business?
CUT THE METAPHORICAL “STREAMING SERVICES”
These small, unnecessary expenses aren’t a huge deal in our personal lives, but they’re harder to manage in business.
Because it’s not just your expenses; its hundreds of moving parts and people.
So you have to cut out the metaphorical “streaming services”, because those costs add up! And by periodically assessing your spending on services or SaaS, you can drop what you’re not using or what simply isn’t working.
It keeps you lean, present and productive.
Moiz was far better at staying on top of this finances than I was, and he actually attributes a lot of his success to it.
In our interview, he shared that he made time to go through Native’s credit card statements every month and ask:
- What are we paying for and what are the random expenses?
- What are we using and is it worth its price point?
- Where are we thriving and what can I negotiate down to cut cost?
It wasn’t just staying on top of spending that led Native to the Deodorant Promise Land. Every 3 months, Moiz went through his contracts and would renegotiate.
In his mind, if scale had gone up, costs could come down.
If their vendor was now paying less for production BECAUSE of Native’s volume, then they should share some of those savings.
That way, not only were his vendors and manufacturers benefitting from his company’s scale, but his company would be benefitting too!
The only thing is, vendors aren’t just going to offer you more money unprompted…
ASK FOR A CUT
What’s the secret to getting a bigger slice of the pie?
You simply HAVE. TO. ASK. (I know, it’s not revolutionary advice, but it can be hard to implement.)
As you get more volume, remember that you have more leverage in negotiating.
Just because your vendor or manufacturer is getting more, doesn’t mean they’re handing you a plate. Trust me, I started implementing this after knowing Moiz and I was surprised by the amount of savings I got simply by asking for it!
SO… ASK, REASON, NEGOTIATE.
As Moiz said:
#2 – FIND YOUR PURPOSE IN THE MESS
Have you ever had a huge part of your identity completely disappear?
I’m not talking about a midlife crisis, necessarily — I just mean the experience of not knowing what you have until it’s gone.
Sounds deep, but where am I going with this?
Well, when Moiz sold Native, he got what I like to call “CASH, CASH, MONEYYY!”
Plenty of people work their whole lives for that taste of financial freedom, but when you get it, it’s often not as satisfying as you imagined. (I know, first-world problems, right?)
It certainly wasn’t for Moiz.
When he sold Native, he enjoyed the buyout money at first, but I remember him saying, “Business was such a huge part of my identity and my life. But I sold this thing, so what next?”
REALIZE WHAT YOU LOVE
I think that question is huge in life.
It’s what we ask when we graduate, when we lock eyes and notice a warm fuzzy feeling, when we hit a bump in the road and get back up again.
So I asked Moiz, “You built this thing up, you put your whole world into it. You made it more successful than you ever imagined, and then you sold it… for cash, cash money! Then what?”
Moiz’s life revolved around business for so long that it became a core part of himself. It was how he related to the world.
His dad and siblings are also entrepreneurs, and as they would sit around the table for dinner, what do you think they would talk about? What was working in their businesses, what wasn’t, their investments, etc.
Business was also what he built his friendships and mentorships around; it was what he related to most people in his life about, and now Native was gone.
When you live and breathe this stuff, it becomes a part of you.
In fact, there was a study done that had mothers look at their baby and business owners look at their brand logo, and the same part of the brain lit up. owners simply LOVE the businesses they create.
So when we say, “This business is my baby”, yes we’re exaggerating — but not by much!
There’s a deep connectedness, an emotional attachment and sense of identity inherently at the heart of it,
STAY CONNECTED TO PEOPLE
Let’s get existential for a moment.
As humans, it’s hard when the thing that connected you to your community disappears (even if you were paid a lot of money for it).
Because more than ANYTHING, as humans we want to:
- Feel connected to a group
- Be in a relationship with that group
- Be part of something bigger than ourselves
We need things to relate over.
Sure, the payout is great, and for a moment you think you’ll drink your way through France and enjoy the spoils of all your hard work.
But after a few months, you begin to realize what Moiz realized here in our exchange:
“[Money is] a tool for happiness,” he said. “If you’ve always been a car guy and collecting cars makes you happy then it gives you access to accomplishing that dream.”
Moiz spent his whole young and mid-adult life chasing business success and then he obtained that success.
But what he REALLY found was that he loved building things, operating things, being in the action, running teams. What he loved was the game of it all; what he loved was being in the mess.
So, what was next for Moiz?
He got back in the game! He started investing in multiple companies, getting back to his purpose.
Now, he helps build teams, projects, people and companies just as he did with Native. Because a core part of being human is being a part of that production cycle (relationships – intimacy – connections – contributions).
What’s my advice?
Dive into what you love and let it reveal what stokes a fire in you!
Sometimes what you thought you loved about a person or business isn’t what you loved at all, but you have to go through the process. You have to just DO IT!
Maybe you’ll find yourself in a similar position to Moiz, maybe you won’t; maybe you’ll find your “thing” in the absence of it, MAYBE YOU WON’T.
But in the mess, there’s one thing I urge you not to lose – the ability to fight for what wakes you up.
Because it won’t just be status, money, and business… those things may give you resources, but rarely are they what satisfy you in the end.
Instead, try to create a product that serves a purpose for your community — because in doing so, you might find our own.
And ultimately, here’s what I learned later that I wish I learned sooner: be connected to people.
Because we want the mess — we want to build, connect, and ideate!
So, whether you sit with your payout, investments, or new business… let me ask you this question: