In Search of Profits
While other middle school boys were playing video games, Tony Hsieh was out starting businesses. Yes, the plural was intentional. If you ever want to be humbled, here is a list of everything Hsieh did before leaving college:
- When Tony was 9 he bought a box of earthworm mud for $33.45. Tony set out to raise and sell the worms.
- In elementary school he set up a lemonade stand at a yard sale. The lemonade stand ended up generating more money than the yard sale.
- In middle school Tony quit his paper route to start his own newsletter, The Gobbler, which he sold for $5 per issue.
- Tony started selling Christmas cards door-to-door to earn points with Boy’s Life which he could redeem for prizes.
- Tony bought a $50 button-making kit from Boy’s Life and began taking mail orders for custom buttons. He was making $200/month during middle school.
- Tony volunteered at a local theater, eventually converting it to a haunted house and acting as a tour guide for $15/tour.
- In high school Tony was a video game tester making $6/hr. By his senior year Tony was a computer programmer at GDI making $15/hr.
- Later he paid $800 to take out a classified ad selling a magic trick he developed.
- In college Tony developed an electronic newsgroup which he used to create a crowdsourced study guide for his Bible course. He sold the guides for $20 a piece.
- Tony later took over his dorm grille and bought McDonalds burgers for $1, selling them for $3 a pop. Then he went on to purchase pizza ovens, excited about the prospect of a 500% margin on each pizza pie.
The beauty of Tony’s persistence is not found in the money made. He’s pretty blunt in admitting that many of these ventures flopped! What’s incredible to me is how committed he was to take action.
In the world of small business I’ve found that many opportunities come and go each day. Cultivating an attitude that’s eager to take those opportunities by the horns is something I’m working to develop in myself and in the rest of our team. I’m always excited when a teammate spots a unique opportunity to serve our customers or advance our business goals. This action-oriented thinking is invaluable in a rapidly evolving business environment and I’m really thankful for Tony’s example here.