Ep 8: David Dulany - Starting Your First Business

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  • Let's talk about the evolution of how you made that move from individual contributor to taking the leap to start your own business? [00:36]
  • How did you come to where you are today? How did you decide to go down the consulting route? [01:30]
  • Where you already thinking that the sales development space needed help? [4:52]
  • Would you suggest that people that want to start their own business should take their own skillset and leverage off that instead of coming up with something new? [06:09]
  • How do you decide to actually start a business? [10:07]
  • And your deals are all project-based? Like 3, 6, 9 or 12-month engagement? [12:38]
  • When you first started, did you have some sense of, if I can't sign a customer every quarter, this isn't working? Or is it, I have to get one every month? What type of metrics did you set up for yourself? [13:50]
  • You went into it headfirst. Can you tell us about it? [17:51]
  • How do you make sure you're on track for where you want to be? [19:30]
  • What were the first things you handed off to other people? [22:31]
  • How did you know how to branch out (media, podcast etc) and not just focus on your core business? [24:43]
  • Did you have the ability to disassociate yourself between you and the business's money or is it something you had to grow into? [28:08]
  • Bootstrapping a company, without financial investors, can be difficult at first. Now that your company is successful, is this definitely the career option you've chosen? [31:00]


Starting your first business


Meet our guest: David Dulany

My guest today was David Dulany from tenbound were we spoke at length about starting a company for the very first time. Most employees don't know what goes in starting a business. If you are considering stepping out on your own, this is the episode for you.


Let's talk about the evolution of how you made that move from individual contributor to taking the leap to start your own business?

Thanks for having me on the show. My name is David Dulany and I started a company called tenbound. For me, this is my third year of going into entrepreneurship.


Prior to that, I was working in Tech companies on sales development teams, leading these teams and building up these programmes. And this led to a natural evolution of doing training in consulting and running events and research projects on the sales and development industry with tenbound and it's been great. And Kyle you've been such a mentor to me and I appreciate you bringing me on.


How did you come to where you are today? How did you decide to go down the consulting route?

I wish I scored a grand slam at one of the companies and had a huge cushion but that's not how it happened. I had some great runs at a couple of companies and got in some not so great companies and found myself at a crossroads.


I had been a want-trepreneur for a long time, like for 10 years. Reading all the books. Watching all the videos. And fantasising really about going the entrepreneur route. Finally, I was in the market place looking for another director or higher-level manager position of sales development and I got an opportunity with a friend who was starting a sales development programme.


He was looking for someone who could consult and help with forming the programme and putting the processes together and doing some recruiting. And it was such a great match and I realised I was actually doing this thing that I had fantasised about for so long.


I give huge credit to my wife who also works and were able to help with the rough spots, financially. She has been an amazing support.


This gave me the opportunity of taking a high level view of the entire sales development industry to create information, products, advice and consulting that would help people just figure out what to do in the sales development space. And this has evolved in what we do at tenbound.


Where you already thinking that the sales development space needed help or did the fact that you got a bit of work open that concept open to you?

I got a bit of work and a few other gigs started to show up. I saw that there is actually a need for sort of a freelance, on the side, for people who need help with their sales development programme.


I didn't necessarily feel like a product that could be plugged in the market but what I do see is a need for research, information and advice that can be trusted in the sales development space. I saw the potential for a niche that could be built and it grew organically from that.


Would you suggest that people that want to start their own business should take their own skillset and leverage off that instead of coming up with something new?

I've been lucky because I find sales development interesting and seeing there is so much white space in this area there is much I can do in it. It reminds me of a story of Kevin Systrom. He was a photographer and always messing around with filters and trying to make pictures more interesting and that evolved into Instagram.


How did you decide to actually start a serious business?

From day one, I set up a payroll for myself and made sure I made it every month. It was about a quarter of what I made in the corporate, but I still had to make it. Secondly, have I banked enough money to bring someone in to help me out. Do I have enough business in the pipeline to get a contractor to help me? Thirdly, the book E-Myth Revisited teaches: Can I spend a little bit more time working on the business to create like a system versus always having to be on delivery? Once these three things come in place, it becomes more of a business than me going out doing consulting.


To bootstrap your business you bank cash so you can make payroll and pay all your bills. As you do that you continue to expand and you can sleep at night.


And your deals are all project-based? Like 3, 6, 9 or 12-month engagement?

We have a diversified line-up. It used to be only project-based but now we have training programmes that are standalone, we do bookshops with executives and a little bit of a media business.


When you first started, did you have some sense of, if I can't sign a customer every quarter, this isn't working? Or is it, I have to get one every month? What type of metrics did you set up for yourself?

First it was: do I have enough business coming through the door that I pay payroll because that means even if I'm not bringing in as much income as I was in the corporate world, I am contributing, I'm keeping my promise.


From a goals perspective, you've got to get back to where you were as an employee from a gross income perspective so we have to work towards that and at the end of the year hopefully there's something left over. Otherwise, what are we doing?


You went into it headfirst. Can you tell us about it?

Yes, we're in a time where the barrier of entrepreneurship is much lower than what it was 10 years ago. It is totally doable for people to make it happen. The flip side of that is we've been in a progression for a number of years. And the economy is really good right now.


If you've been an employee for a while and your boss is always telling you what to do and everything is structured, going from that environment to owning a business is pretty jarring. You definitely have to learn a lot about yourself in the process.


How do you make sure you're on track for where you want to be?

I looked at the gross revenue of 2018 and I said we need to go 10X, shoot for the moon now. I got this from a guy named Dan Solomon. He said, looking at your gross revenue and saying maybe the business will go 2X, why not challenge yourself to go 10X. But you cannot work a 120 hour week so you have to get smart about documenting processes, finding people to help you, finding new income streams, developing new products, meeting new people, going to more networking events and stuff like that.


What were the first things you handed off to other people?

The administrative stuff. I started working with a virtual administrator who had control over the calendar and could go into my email. When you have a dependable virtual assistant, you can have a 30min conversation where you talk through everything and you can empower them. Then, that minutia is gone.


How did you know how to branch out (media, podcast etc) and not just focus on your core business?

Having my wife as my business partner helps in this regard. One of the benefits of having a lot of investors and advisors are they can shoot down any crazy ideas. Being a bootstrap entrepreneur, I don't have that option.


What determines for me what works is the market plans. And I've launched a bunch of stuff over the last three years that just went: thud. But at the same time, there were other things that went really well.


At the end of the day, I realised there was a niche because there is a lot of confusion in the market place regarding sales development and we give them good, trustworthy information.


Did you have the ability to disassociate yourself between you and the business's money or is it something you had to grow into?

No, I still feel that way. I still look at it as: if I spend this money or hire this person or buy this advertising package; it's coming right out of my own pocket. I feel this holds the business back.


I would recommend setting up payroll for yourself and if there is money left over at the end of the year you could pay yourself more or re-invest it in your business. Re-investing in your business is the wise choice because it's going to make you more money in the years to come.


Bootstrapping a company, without financial investors, can be difficult at first. Now that your company is successful, is this definitely the career option you've chosen?

Yes. I don't want to do anything else. I can't imagine myself being responsible for other peoples money and being in that cooker pressure environment.


I feel like I'm a freedom fighter. At this point in my life, I'm fighting for the freedom and the ability to do what I want to do and spend time with people that I like about topics that I'm excited about and be able to do that on a daily basis. Every day is a blessing.


A big event coming up is the Sales Development Conference on 23 August 2019 with Kyle Morris is the keynote speaker with Greg Dalli as a co-speaker.


To learn more or connect with David Dulany check him out at his website: tenbound
and David Dulany or email him at david@tenbound.com or on LinkedIn or on his YouTube channel.


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