I’ve recovered from all failures by planting enough seeds so that some would grow and make me forget that 90 percent of them did not.
Benjamin Jarmon is the founder and CEO of Joorney, a leading business plan consultancy and Inc. 5000 fastest growing company. He worked in the fast-paced world of commodities trading before giving up his visa and financial security to follow a dream.
He knew he could use his experience in international trade and finance to help small- and medium-sized businesses — all while undergoing his own investor visa process — and discovered all entrepreneurs and companies need consulting help at various points of the immigration and startup process. Joorney has helped thousands of businesses launch and plan their growth path.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I’ve always known I wanted to be an entrepreneur. It stems from a couple of different factors. First, an external one: My dad and people I admire have always been entrepreneurs who are full of ideas — that entrepreneurial mentality stuck with me.
But there are also internal forces that drive me. I never understood the politics needed to really grow in a career or to please the established systems and I’ve always come up with disruptive business ideas and have been successful at launching small projects and identifying opportunities.
When I was an exchange student in San Francisco in 2006, I spent part of my monthly stipend buying a car on craigslist for $500. A month later, I was selling the car for $1000 and buying 2 cars, for $500 each, one to drive and another one to sell. I started the semester in a beat up Honda Civic and ended up with a Saab with leather seats and A/C!
In 2008, I was hired for a six-month internship in a Hotel Fund in New York. The offices were in Soho and the owner of the company had his 4000 sq ft loft right above the office. He mentioned to me that he never used it and was always travelling. I asked him why he would not rent it; he was off 3 weeks every month and it was tough to rent for short periods. I said leave it to me and I’ll get you $15-20k per month from short terms by renting it on craigslist. I ended up being the rental manager for two lofts in Soho, selling furniture for his other lofts and clubs they owned and making a lot more money than I made during my entire New York internship.
Right after this experience, I finished my Masters in Finance in Boston and got hired as a Sugar Trader in a commodities trading house in Miami called Sucden Americas.
I realized in my first job that I spent my time trying to optimize the efficiency of the work, and my colleagues ahead of me were just doing the work itself. I needed to find an angle to be my own boss without having to execute, and it worked. They asked me to install a whole ERP for the company and I was always working on large-scale business development projects. At the same time, I was also trying to launch a website very similar to Upwork, but where freelancers would exclusively be U.S. Students. I spent 2 years on it and almost came to launch, but was not able to structure it entirely.
By the time I quit my job to launch my business, I had tried to launch two apps, one website, and had 10 ideas in my back pocket.
So, the entrepreneur in me was definitely always there and ready to come out!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day is spent on checking the financial aspects of the business, HR needs or issues, looking out for abnormal fires that need to be put out, immediate and ongoing projects requiring my attention and then going to my favorite part and my obsession: Strategic business development projects. I use the old fashioned list of to-dos to make my days productive — that’s where I organize my thoughts.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I get and refine ideas through talking to people. Whether in my personal network or in my company, my good ideas come from sharing with others. I’ll always come up with a few ideas when I think by myself, but these are worth nothing until I share them with someone else. The actual process of verbalizing them turns them into something entirely different. Sometimes, it cancels the idea — but other times, it molds it into a much better version of the idea. New ideas can come immediately on the spot, or they can build up and arrive later while I am laying in bed at home. Regardless of when they come, they always stem from the process of discussion.
The second step is to validate them and model them in Excel, which means looking at the competition online, market, demand for the idea, and then building a simple model on Excel with a few assumptions on how the business model could work out with different scenarios. That immediately tells me how smooth or complex that idea really is when turned into a concrete business model.
Once the business model is built, it’s all about funding, execution speed and decision making.
What’s one trend that excites you?
In general, it’s living in a world where differentiation needs to be honest and authentic. Most marketers will say new leaders have to have more empathy and new brands have to have an ethical and social plan to be sustainable. It’s exciting to me because I am not good at playing roles, so this works in my favor.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I keep 12 to 24 month projections on my business that I look at every month to every quarter. That allows me to be more productive because:
— It helps me understand what didn’t work and what I want to avoid
— It validates my new ideas and developments economically
— In sum, it allows me to make faster and better decisions.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t overthink things — just make decisions one after the other and move forward.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Most small businesses in the U.S. would be saved or performing much better by maintaining live financial projections every month for the next 12 to 24 months.
Your business plan analyst should be outsourced just like a CPA or lawyer is, but only to consider your strategic projections for the next year or so on a quarterly basis.
Most people I know don’t agree small businesses have time for this, or would allocate a budget, or gain value from this, but stepping back and looking at the big picture every month or quarter could make them money and save them from potentially destroying themselves.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Try new marketing/sales methods, products/services, and avenues. Marketing and sales have to be permanently renewed to reach new growth all the time. Every month I try something new, or try to look at how and why we can do better from a sales and marketing perspective.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Focusing our business on customer experience has been the biggest growth factor in our company.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We’ve had many failures: We’ve opened offices in different locations that did not work out, spent money on digital strategies that had no return, hired top people that did not work out, and invested time in targets that did not want my service.
But, I’ve recovered from all failures by planting enough seeds so that some would grow and make me forget that 90 percent of them did not.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
To be extremely concrete, I recently read from Mark Cuban that he would recommend businesses related to installing fully connected homes with Google Home and Alexa, Temperature, Alarm being connected now. And I agree with that — jumping on the back of new industries like IoT and making a service business out of it is scalable and promises high demand. Same for building an Amazon delivery franchise, buying a few trucks and operating them for Amazon. It may seem like a simple small business but getting in early enough and scaling may represent a great opportunity.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
To be honest, $100 is best spent on donations. But, for my pleasure or business, it would be on a subscription to automate Linkedin invitations.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Dux Soup – to automate LinkedIn invites.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Fountainhead. It’s an old book in the US, but, as a French guy, it was a revelation when I read it. It’s about being able to hold yourself to extreme levels of integrity in the face of power, money and desires. Although it’s romanticized, it is really similar to the entrepreneur journey: You may be lucky or take some shortcuts, but when you face failure — or reality — you have to hold yourself to a certain standard to be sustainable.
What is your favorite quote?
Don’t have one.
- Marketing and sales have to be permanently renewed to reach new growth all the time.
- Focusing our business on customer experience has been the biggest growth factor in our company.
- I’ve recovered from all failures by planting enough seeds so that some would grow and make me forget that 90 percent of them did not.