[Advice] The Realities of Bootstrapping

Here’s what the eponymous “they” don’t tell the massive, faceless “you” about bootstrapping a project.

Jesan Job Hunting

The most stressful part of bootstrapping is that the creditors call all the time:

  • They call about the mortgage payment that’s late.
  • They call about the credit card bill you haven’t paid yet.
  • They call about the 10,000 other little bills that pile up in a life because you “needed” that thing, that one time.

Or your kids did.

Or your neighbor needed to see that you had it.

One of the most telling examples from a film that parallels a bootstrappers’ existence, was from The Company Men, starring Ben Affleck (yeah…we know) and a few other actors.

Ben plays a guy who got laid off from a nice cushy, corporate job, and won’t take a step down in lifestyle, so he keeps driving the luxury vehicle, even as his much clearer wife sells everything around him to make the mortgage payment.

And then, they sell the house and wind up sleeping in his parent’s basement.

That’s the reality of bootstrapping. Except with a lot more “I-Told-You-So’s” from your relatives in who’s basement you may be eating ramen.

There is a growing amount of attention being paid to entrepreneurs who commit suicide. Or die early. Or get divorced. Or have substance abuse problems.

Bootstrapping means that you get the creditor phone calls, but you also get:

  • The looks from your wife as you try to explain that spending money on this piece of equipment was worth missing a meal
  • The experience of deciding that your kids need to eat this month, and so liability insurance can wait another month—hopefully no one sues you and takes the house
  • The moment when you’re at a networking event and you’re eyeing the salad bar closer than you’re eyeing the potential client in front of you because you haven’t eaten today—and might not eat tomorrow.

And no one cares. Not your creditors. Not the bank. Not your kids. Not your parents. And we won’t even get into your own grinding self-doubt about your own level of responsibility for all of this.

This isn’t the stuff that makes it into the business books.

This is the face of bootstrapping.

And after you’ve started down the road to building a project, your pride, ego and a stubborn, bull headed belief in your project is the only thing that allows you to ignore the ringing phone, put the ear buds back in, and go back to grinding out another product

  • Or sales call
  • Or mini-project
  • Or marketing strategy

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: hsconsultingandtraining@gmail.com
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