Kevin Bell

How To Leverage Your Strengths To Build A Thriving Sweaty Start-Up

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Let me get this out of the way from the start; when I’m talking about what this beta business might look like, I am NOT talking about a Fortune 500, $1B valuation company.

I’m not talking about a swanky tech start-up in Silicon Valley with pinball machines, beanbag chairs and a juice bar.

I’m not talking about a “quit your job and retire” business (at first).

I’m talking about a down and dirty, get it done, make it happen, blue collar hustle, sweaty start-up. Which if done right, can easily become your vehicle “out”.

This is where it starts.

Sweaty start-ups can take many forms.

Nowadays with the ease of content creation and global access to your potential clients, sweaty start-ups could be run entirely from your home. Or on your laptop as you travel the world.

Take rockstar entrepreneurs like Eve Arnold here on Medium. She’s found her avatar, and leaned into creating content specifically for them.

They can also take the form of an actual brick and mortar “boring business” that entrepreneurs like Nick Huber, Codie Sanchez or Young Han have become masters in.

These can look like Self Storage facilities, laundromats and even pool cleaning services. Businesses that are “evergreen”, have been working for years; with a little TLC and a modern day operations facelift can become “Cash Cows”.

But all of these are just concepts and hypothetical if you don’t do anything about it. The entry fee to a successful sweaty start-up is action.

Perfection is a trap. And if you don’t get off the side line, you’ll always be on this side of the article.

With that said, you want to direct that action as close to the target as you can.

You can do this by cataloging what you are doing already and how your unique skills and expertise might be valuable to others.

Each and every one of us has experiences and value to provide that nobody else has. Or at the very least, one that can be monetized. Determine that value and start there.

To give you an example, let’s rewind a couple of years:

I was in the weeds. I had been working my normal 9–5 and then coming home each night and grinding on the computer with deep research and lead gen for my self storage real estate start-up. Week nights, weekends, ANY bit of down time I had, I was working on SOMETHING.

At the time, it was just my business partner and I in the trenches, building our systems one messy excel sheet at a time.

The way it works with self storage is we are essentially looking for old mom and pop facilities across the US that fit our “buy box”, calling them, seeing if they’re interested in selling, conducting due diligence and closing. Simple enough right?


We come in and add value;

We’ll add a website and set up online payments

We’ll raise rent and add renters insurance

We’ll add value through cameras, gates, keyless entry, paved roads, even expanding the size of the facility to add more units.

But most importantly, we will simply answer the phone when people call. It’s amazing what just answering the phone will do to your sales… who knew…

And we were doing ALL of this. Just the two of us.

The hardest part of this grind was the lead gen. It just takes TIME.

TIME that we didn’t have.

TIME that we needed to be spending on high level tasks.

TIME that we needed to buy back

As Dan Martell says,

“If you don’t have an assistant, you are the assistant.”

We needed help. And if we didn’t get it, we would continue to spin our wheels until total burnout.

This was the turning point for us as we set out to hire a VA.

Two weeks later and a referral from a friend, we had a cold caller on staff and working.

Two weeks following THAT, we were without a VA… It didn’t work out unfortunately. But major lessons learned I’ll cover another time.

Back to square one. No more referrals from friends. We knew what we wanted, we just needed to hire the right person.

We slowed the process down, took about two months to document all of our SOPs, what we did, what we needed done, the tasks that were low, medium and high level and HOW to do each and every part of our business as if we were explaining it to someone brand new in the industry.

With this massive Google Drive jam packed with policies, procedures, screen recordings and spreadsheets, we knew exactly what we were looking for.

The hiring process was a piece of cake from there and within a few days we had our finalists in the application process and selected two to officially bring on the team.

And there we were. It wasn’t just the two of us anymore, we had a TEAM.

We had people that worked for us, relied on our success and in turn, took care of their families.

It just got real.

With this exciting dose of reality, we leaned into it to build the best team possible.

Months went on and we continued to grow.

Once we were able to offload the initial lower level tasks, we could focus on creating SOPs for the next level of tasks. We would train our team on those and continue that process with everything else. Learn. Do. Teach. has been our moto.

Before we knew it, we had 5 VAs on staff. Callers, researchers, operations managers, all absolutely crushing it for us.

This didn’t mean that we were just sitting back all day, this just meant that the work we were doing was THE MOST IMPORTANT work that needed to be done.

Word started to get around to our fellow investors and colleagues in the industry about the team we built and the systems we had to build the team.

And that’s when the light bulb went off.

This was the origin of our little sweaty start-up.

We now had five employees on payroll each month that we needed cash for. And while the self storage business is lucrative, we’re not hot shots yet. We’re playing the long game here with these assets. Our W2’s still pay the bills.

At this point, however, we had become an authority in the space of team building and VA hiring.

This was value that we used primarily for us and our team, but WHAT IF we used these skills and helped others build THEIR teams. For a fee of course.

We knew the ins and outs of the hiring process and the difficulty of filtering through the applicants. On top of that, we had systems for training that had been honed into sweet perfection.

Why not?

With that simple idea of utilizing the knowledge and skills we already had, we built the business out with the sole purpose to cover the expenses of the VAs that we have working for us. And that’s exactly what we did.

How We Gained Traction:

To start, it was all about networking.

Nothing was fancy, nothing was perfect. But we had value to provide and knew that others would pay for the convenience of our value.

People needed a solution to their problem and we had figured out that solution for ourselves and were willing to share it with others.

We put together a pamphlet of our service using Canva and sent it out to the masterminds and networking groups that we belonged to.

When we would hop on calls with other investors to catch up, we would work into the conversation about how awesome our VAs are and all the things they have been helping us do.

When a client was interested we sent over a Google Folder with contract, policies, procedures and banking info they needed to fill out and started the process.

Just like that.

We manually sent out an email sequence for onboarding both VAs and clients, and my wife (A Bookkeeper by trade) ran our payroll… and still does.

We were just making it work at all costs.

We had value, we saw an opportunity, we took action.

And THAT is what I am getting at here with all of this.

Think hard about this before you move on:

What value can you provide?

What opportunities do you see that are being underserved and what skillset do you have to serve them?

Are you a writer?

Are you a bookkeeper?

Have you worked in landscaping?

Are you a fast typer?

The possibilities are endless. But one thing is for certain, if you don’t start with that initial spark of action, there will always be that little voice inside you whispering “what if…”

You will always be wondering what could’ve happened with that wild idea for a business you had back in the day.

You might not ever admit to it, but you will always regret not giving it a try and betting on yourself.

The move you make to start doesn’t have to be big, but there does need to be movement.

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