In business, EVERYTHING you do is an experiment.

November 30, 2012

Doctors practice medicine, everyone else practices everything else.

I will never forget the first time my wife and I stepped out into the real world as a real business. We had burned the ships; we were all in. We were ready to conquer the world. The first battle was a wedding show.

Touting ourselves as “The Experts in Couples’ Finance,” we made signs and handouts and showed up to the wedding expo.

I want to share a moment with you that changed the way we think about what we do.

We hung up our sign behind us on the curtain that separated our booth from the booth behind us. The sign read, “Root of Prosperity, The Experts in Couples’ Finance.”

A few ladies stopped by and we overheard one say to the other,”Oh! Root of Prosperity, I have heard of them.”

My wife and I didn’t know if we should laugh or cry.

You have heard of “them?” I thought to myself. We just made all of this up a couple of months ago!

That lady’s comment to her friend was an important moment for me, my wife, and our business. I realized that I could “just make something up” and to others, it would be real and be taken seriously. WOW!

Years later I heard Steve Jobs explain what I had experienced. Here is the quote:

“Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact and that is everything around you that you call life was made up by people who were no smarter than you. The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually, if you push in, something will pop out the other side – you can change it. You can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing.” -Steve Jobs

To those ladies we were a real, legitimate, established financial coaching company. Little did they know, at the time, we were operating out of the living room of our tiny one bedroom apartment. Little did they know we didn’t have any products for sale yet. Little did they know that we had only coached a handful of clients.

We have come a long way since then. Workshops, products, a new book, email list, e-course, audio, video, and more.

All of which we “just made up.” 



Getting to the point…

Small business is an experiment, all day, everyday. A small business is a fragile, unpredictable creature. You only have so much control over your business; the rest is a pleasant surprise. Even the owner is sometimes surprised by the outcomes of the various projects and the business as a whole. There is always a hint of unknown and chaos lurking around the front door of a small business. Let that lurking creature in, and do your best to tame it and learn to live with it. Don’t ignore that creature, pretend that it doesn’t exist or chase it off.

Small business is a learning experience, all day, everyday. Always stay in tune with what your business is trying to teach you. A small business owner needs to embrace the fact that s/he isn’t really in charge. You aren’t teaching anyone anything. You are simply a conduit of knowledge and resources. The more you learn, the larger your conduit will be. Experiment and learn.

Small business is an opportunity for growth. If you are a successful business owner, you already know that you have to grow and change early and often. Growth is a requirement. Change is a constant. Change before you have to. Let change in; let change tell you when and how.

Small business is improvisation. This one gets to the root of my message. By definition, as a small business owner, you are “making it up.” You are always in uncharted territory because you are always doing something that has NEVER been done before. Even if you are doing something that has been done before, it hasn’t. It hasn’t been done by YOU, your way, and within your unique context. Get used to improvisation. Get good at making it up, and learn to enjoy it.

Are you making it up as you go, too? What have you created that didn’t exist before you came along and dreamed it up? Let us know in the comments section below. Two lucky experimenters will win a free copy of my new book The Four Week Financial Turnaround. (Go ahead and buy the book if you wish, winners who have already bought the book will receive a $20 Amazon gift card!)

-Derek C. Olsen. Author, Speaker, Coach, and Husband over at @DerekCOlsen

This guest blog post is part of the virtual book tour for the book The Four Week Financial Turnaround. Special bonus products included with purchase during launch week only, Nov 26 – Dec 2nd 2012. Bonus products available all the time too!

You Might Also Like

  • Budget & the Beach November 30, 2012 at 11:49 am

    I agree that you have to learn to go with the flow in small business. Most of us where many hats, most of the hats which we’ve had no training or experience, like marketing, or accounting. It’s definitely been a bumpy road for me!

    • Derek Olsen November 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      You are right on. I have learned more about marketing, branding, and producing than I even thought was possible.

      No one ever has the “required” experience when first starting out. I believe that you NEVER have what it takes when you first start, but you will finish with what it takes. This is what prevents some people from take the leap. The secret is, no one really knows what they are doing when they first start, but you won’t realize that until after, when you do figure out what you are doing.

      The road might be bumpy, but the journey is worth it.

      -Derek C. Olsen
      Author of The Four Week Financial Turnaround

  • Lance@MoneyLife&More November 30, 2012 at 11:57 am

    I created my blog Money life and More. While I am not this first it is uniquely mine.

    • Derek Olsen November 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm


      Thanks for stopping by. I looked at your website, very cool!
      Contact me if you are interested in having me drop by your blog in Jan on my next book tour.

      -Derek C. Olsen
      Author of The Four Week Financial Turnaround

  • John S @ Frugal Rules November 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Great points! My wife and I run our own business and have found many of these to be so very true…especially being an opportunity for growth. Change is going to happen, look for what’s changing and try to stay ahead of it. Improvisation is vital as well as you’re wading into uncharted waters. Grab that and take it by the horns and you’ll be thankful you did.

    • Derek Olsen November 30, 2012 at 2:06 pm


      Your reply reminds me of the idea that in business it is a smart idea to “change before you have to.”

      Keep making it up buddy!
      -Derek C. Olsen
      Author of The Four Week Financial Turnaround

      p.s. contact me if you are interested in hosting me as a guest blogger in Jan on the second leg of my book tour.

  • Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals December 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    I agree, there’s a large element of “making it up” with any new venture – as a writer, that’s my whole JOB. I have to come up with the ideas, the presentation, etc. Sure, the facts are real, but the framework is my own, and helps me create my niche.

    • Derek Olsen December 2, 2012 at 5:04 pm


      Keep making it up. The world needs new and creative ideas.

      -Derek C. Olsen
      Author of The Four Week Financial Turnaround

  • DC @ Young Adult Money December 2, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    I started a spreadsheet consulting side business. I currently only have one client (but a great one as far as references go) and haven’t actively pursued others. I do plan on setting up a website and setting up everything needed for it to be viewed as a legitimate business, even though it will be a totally side/part-time thing.

    Hope I win the giveaway 😉

    • Derek Olsen December 2, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      Good luck with the new side business, sounds interesting.

      And, good luck winning a copy of the book.

      -Derek C. Olsen
      Author of The Four Week Financial Turnaround.

  • savingadvice December 2, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    I think that this is the case in most aspects of life, especially when you are aiming for goals and still not sure how you are going to achieve them. The most important thing is having the courage to get out there and keep going through the obstacles that will surely find their way in front of you, as well as the changes in course you will have to take when you realize that how you thought you were going to get where you wanted is going to have to take a different path. And maybe the most important thing is being able to recognize when these situations arise so that you can make the needed changes rather than plow through on a predetermined path that no longer makes sense.

    • Derek Olsen December 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm

      Very, very good advice.

      You will have to change directions along the way, stay flexible. Being open to changing your path can be difficult when you are so determined for things to turn out how you want them to. But keep in mind that if you hold on to an idea too tight, you could be missing a greater opportunity.

      Very good advice.

      -Derek C. Olsen
      Author of The Four Week Financial Turnaround Workbook

  • My Money Design December 3, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    I remember when I was small, I used to think that everything was so thought out and planned by adults at their jobs. Now that I am one of those adults, I now know that even the brightest minds are simply guessing at solutions for the world’s problems. No one really knows if their idea will work or be well received; so perhaps we all have just as good a shot as any at making it happen!

    • Derek Olsen December 4, 2012 at 9:41 am

      Back when I had a “real job” I hardly ever planned more than 20 minutes ahead. Now that I am an entrepreneur, I plan a LOT more. But part of that planning includes making it up as I go.

      I suppose the making it up part is much more intentional then it used to be.

      -Derek C. Olsen
      Author of The Four Week Financial Turnaround Workbook