Dd Entrepreneur School: Lesson #2
How to be comfortable admitting you have no clue what you’re doing!
When Aaron and I first decided to contract out the manufacturing of our Barres (for various reasons, such as restricted space in our tiny galley kitchen, total lack of time, and cost-effectiveness, to name a few) we made some calls to local nutrition bar manufacturers. During my first conversation with the owner of our factory, right about the time at which he asked “what does your packaging look like?” and I replied “Umm…”, the façade of my knowing what the heck I was talking about crumbled (unlike a Barre, which is moist and gooey). We shared a chuckle, marveling at just how “green” I was in the nutrition bar biz, and he pretty much told me to call him back once I had a clue! Albeit a tad embarrassing, the conversation was crucial, because it revealed to me just how many steps away we were from actual readiness to manufacture, and it gave clues about how to start taking those steps. Like many conversations before and after this, I noticed that the more open I was to ask questions and be wrong, the more I learned and the more progress I made. Essentially, the willingness to shed (however unwittingly at times) the pretense of expertise, is what, paradoxically, eventually makes one an expert!
Conclusion: Follow that path of questions until they’re answered and the new crop of questions arises.
OK, I know this may all sound a little like elementary school basics of learning, or the famous “the more you know…” Aristotle quote (yes, Aristotle, not the NBC public service announcement!), or maybe something so obvious you don’t really feel the need to hear about it again, but hear me out. This sequence of not-having-a-clue-and-then-learning-a-clue/choose-your-adventure conversations begins before this; let me jump back a few steps to better illustrate my point.
I was getting physical therapy at University of Pittsburgh Sports Medicine complex in June 2010—right when we decided we wanted to pursue Barre—when it occurred to me that renowned sports nutritionist and resident PBT food expert Leslie Bonci had an office on the second floor of the very building I was doing my leg lifts in. While Leslie is super in-demand and thus notoriously hard to pin down, I casually asked my PT where her office was and, after my therapy session, proceeded to make a rogue expedition up to said office armed with my homemade Barre prototypes! Low and behold she was up there (score), and we sat and chatted for a while.
I had no idea how to start this business, but I asked if she had any ideas. She did. She pointed me to a food lab. Step one in the path. Aaron and I then went to the food lab. Barre was tested. We asked the owner where we could produce the Barres. He gave us the numbers of a few factories. Step two: check. I called George (factory guy), and had the crazy conversation about not knowing what I was doing, as mentioned earlier. Step three: that’s right, CHECK! Each incremental step so naturally gave way to the next step, and I learned what I was doing in the process. Step twenty (yes I bypassed a few steps but you get it): Relative expertise. Check! People, this is how the world turns and the business machine churns! And once you get good at admitting you have no clue it just flows—just ask Aristotle.
Next installment: now that we’ve established that no one knows what they’re doing (and they’re damn proud of it), let’s get down to business!
Unrelated fun picture: Our first ad in Dance Magazine appears in the upcoming April issue!