Metal Gear Solid. Your success and survival depends on you alone — kind of like in the very first Nintendo Japanese RPG. You might not believe it, but he’s part 1 of the 4 things Dragon Warrior can teach you about starting a business!
1. You’ll Be Amazed at What You Can Accomplish By YourselfDragon Warrior 1 is a really lonely playthrough. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="224"] ’80s videogames had to have epic covers and instructional-manual art to help you not worry about what the game looked like inside.[/caption] You have no party members, and you to undertake super long treks through dungeons and forests, and you have no one to talk to. It’s not something another human would want to hang out with you and watch you play, either. (Overclocked Remix even has a remix from DW called Journey of Solitude!) Even with mentors, peers and great family in your life, starting a business can be a lonely journey filled with peril and pressure. And you really have to understand both your innate skillset and limitations to thrive. One of the hardest parts about quitting my desk job and starting a business full-time was figuring out how to do “everything” myself. A lot of startups spend years working on their business plan and getting investors or grants before cutting ties with their day job. I didn’t have the patience for that. I was ready! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="673"] CATS had a whole army to fight ‘zig’. When you start a business, you’re mostly fighting your battles alone.[/caption] One of the hardest parts about starting a business is you might have little or no money to pay other people to do the things that will grow your business. And when you ask friends to help you out pro bono, understandably you aren’t going to get their full attention on that project. So whether you’ve quit your job or are just thinking about it, use your free time wisely on leveling up your skills. One of my mentors, Matt Radicelli who owns Rock The House Entertainment Group in Cleveland, said something I really reflected on when lamenting in mid-2015 that one of the hardest things about starting a business was it was too taxing to do everything all alone. “You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish all by yourself.” [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="250"] “Just me, baby. Just me.” – Ash Williams in Army of Darkness[/caption] That means you have to work smarter and harder than you ever have before to conquer the elements holding you back — until you can add more party members (Dragon Warrior II gives you a team of three — and once you become successful you can afford to pay others per project or hire them on!) [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="320"] Plan your long-term goals so you know when to add “party members” when your business hits the right milestones.[/caption] I don’t say that in a way to scare you off, either. My fiance thinks I’m “always working” but I love what I do. Writing this blog post isn’t work. I’m doing this over playing videogames or watching a movie. That’s the kind of momentum and drive you have to find for yourself, whether you’re out to slay a dragonlord or build a company. Kind of like the main nameless character in Dragon Warrior, find your purpose and you won’t need outside motivation when starting a business — you’ll want to achieve your goals because it feels like it’s what you’re meant to do. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="930"] “Make money playing videogames! And also kickstart this Nigerian prince’s indie RPG!”[/caption] Think about it like playing a videogame: You can collect coins and kill monsters all day to get money, but the money is just helping you achieve goals. At the end of almost every videogame, the money doesn’t even matter anymore because you’ve got everything you need to accomplish your goals. Money cannot be your motivator, you really have to believe in what you do and love doing it (kind of like you really have to love Dragon Warrior 1 as a kid to play it again now!) I’ve had dozens of people approach me with money-making schemes that revolve around videogames. I’ve given them direction to pursure their goal further but I’ve rejected every one of their offers, because none of their ideas had the combo of elevating the hobby of gaming combined with a sound business plan.
2. Success Is A GrindIn Dragon Warrior, you start with almost no money, no items and no party, at Level 1 (sound familiar, entrepreneurs?). Everyone sees talent in you though because you’re descended from the great hero, Erdrick. Your job: save the princess from the Dragonlord. [caption id="attachment_1715" align="alignnone" width="300"] Starting a business can feel like fighting a Predator sometimes. And you aren’t Arnold, you’re Danny Glover.
[/caption] How can you go from almost nothing to slaying a Dragon / having a big, successful company when you’re just starting a business? Especially when the smallest roadblocks (beating a red slime / convincing your partner to be cool with your new income level) seems like huge obstacles? As videogame players, we know how to get to the end of the game — you keep getting stronger. You keep learning spells. You conquer the dungeon and get the item that lets you do the thing in the next town. Eventually you reach the final dungeon, and now leveled up enough, you beat the final boss. It’s actually really helpful to approach your goals like it’s Dragon Warrior, because you have to really love the game to play it today — it’s super boring! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2737"] Don’t let all the boring stuff you need to learn as a new biz slow you in your tracks too much.[/caption] In starting a business you’re going to have to do a lot by yourself that isn’t “fun” (at least to me). Learning about tax laws. How to pay yourself. Setting revenue goals. Learning how to use Adobe Photoshop, InDesign or Premiere Pro on your friend’s computer because you can’t afford to pay someone for every big project or small edit. Some CEOs are good at tactics (e.g. beating a monster without getting hit) and others strategy (“If I level up enough to learn HealMore, the next dungeon will be much easier”). In the book The Ultimate Sales Machine the author explains that only the top CEOs learn to be both. You want to be both. If you’re starting a business, make absolutely sure that you have a path to success in the short and long term, and take the steps in the short term to start getting there. Think of it like a walkthrough to a Nintendo game: you have a start, an end, and a whole bunch of logical steps that build off each other to take you through the middle. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="512"] Here’s where you want to get to, in videogames and in life![/caption] For instance: I always want to book more corporate holiday parties and team-building activities, because I know their employees will love playing videogames together and will be wowed by a party they’ve been to before. So I need event coordinators to understand what Games Done Legit does and have our gaming ideas at the top of their mind when they need entertainment options. So like in Dragon Warrior, when you get to a new town, your goal is probably to solve some problem in the town and/or get through the next dungeon, your steps are probably:
- Talk to all the townspeople to figure out a plan to proceed (e.g. “This item that protects the town got stolen by monsters. When we get that back we’ll give you X item to open the next dungeon”)
- Get the tools you need (new weapon, armor)
- Go out and do the thing (find the item and get it back)
- Steps 1-3 lead you to the next logical project (journey to next town, then the next dungeon, etc.)
- Talk to East Side venue event coordinators to figure out a plan to proceed (i.e. what kind of entertainment they do now, and for what kind of events do they think gaming could work)
- Get the tools you need (We worked with a branding firm that specializes in entrepreneurs to design Games Done Legit’s Party Idea Sheets for every kind of event that we do. We brand them for each venue we’d like to do business with so they can benefit from putting our sheets in a client’s hands)
- Go out and do the thing (make and print out sheets for each event the coordinator was interested in and make an appointment with each of them. It’s been a lot of visits and printing!)
- Steps 1-3 lead you to the next logical project (talk to / visit West Side event venues, then Akron, then Columbus, then Pittsburgh, etc.)