Want to Learn Awesome Startup Lessons at Our Expense?

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again.

Our Startup Story: Why We're Taking on a Boring Industry

Believe it or not, but we started our business for reasons other than ignorance.

Yes, that was a factor too, but not the only one.

The other reason comes from a personal experience I had working with the family business.

The time I spent working there was the most stressful in my short career.

From asinine growth strategies to my first time firing an employee, to nearly losing a multi-million dollar business. It was informative, to say the least.

Our story doesn't begin with multi-billion dollar valuations for creating the worlds first AI-powered lawn gnome. It starts with a shitty situation and an unsolved problem.

This is why we started our business in a boring industry.

Throwback Thursday

In 2013 I had just started working with my Dad at the family business. They have been operating in the printing industry for nearly 40 years, and like many others in the business, they had fallen on hard times.

My job was to focus on two main areas: Stabilize the company's finances, and figure out how to start growing again. I have to hand it to my Dad for showing such confidence in me because I was certainly underqualified for the job-- and probably still am.

Not wanting to rock the boat too much, I initially focused more of my attention on the growth side of the equation -- that was a mistake (among many others).

At first, there seemed to be a certain optimism in the air. We scored meetings with previous clients and even landed a few small jobs to boost our confidence.

However, after nearly seven months, growth was still slow, and things were about to get ugly.

The core printing business just had one of its busiest months in recent memory as we headed into the slow season. We received the final numbers for the month and were shocked. We lost over $70K.

We had to act fast, or there wasn't going to be a company left to grow.

I was tasked with figuring out potential remedies. I conjured up some consulting skills and ran a few financial scenarios.

It didn't look good.

One of the actual spreadsheets we used

At current levels, we had less than 6 months before we'd have to close down.

I scrambled to create money-saving schemes. Switching from weekly to bi-weekly payroll, selling equipment, drastic cuts to executive pay, and even a moonshot; moving the entire company to a smaller building - cutting rent by 60%.

It still wasn't enough.

It turned out we would also have to shut down all growth activities, and worst yet, say goodbye to some great people working for the company.

There was a chaotic urgency in the air.

I presented the proposals to management, and we made a decision on which we'd implement.

Over the next few months, we worked to put the rest of the plan into action; moonshot and all.

Crash Landing

Six months later, in the summer of 2015, we were about to process payroll for the period, but there was one small problem. We didn't have enough money to pay everyone.

The company was operating as lean as possible, and couldn't afford to lose anyone else. Except for one person. Me.

It was the only move that made sense, and would just barely allow the company to make it through the period.

I was disappointed to leave the business in such a situation, but I'd just have to take comfort in the fact that we still had a chance to save the remaining jobs of the people working there. People that I've known since childhood, and didn't want to see out of work.

Fortunately, everything ended up turning out okay, and the business pulled through. It's still going strong as I write this post.

The Realization

My experience working with the family business left me with the realization that there was a crucial piece missing from our toolkit. The ability to easily plan and manage cash.

A lot of the pain we experienced could've been avoided if I had done a better job staying on top of the bank account.

Imagine what we could've accomplished with a year and a half of proper management, instead of six months spent scrambling.

I was angry with myself and began thinking about what a solution to this problem would've looked like.

Cash planning isn't like accounting, with accessible software ready to go out of the box. It's often a technical, and time-consuming process done in spreadsheets. You could buy specialized software, but it too was highly technical, and quite expensive.

Why should small businesses have to choose between spending a ton of money, or being left entirely on their own?

The light went off. Suddenly, a boring software category looked like an opportunity to help the people who need it most.

Why We're Doing This

It's not always clear how to use our precious resources to create the biggest impact.

Should we invest more in marketing, or product development? How do these activities relate to ROI, and how do we know we're on track?

Unless we have access to highly trained professionals, these questions can be challenging to answer. This is why we're building Poindexter.

Our goal is simple: help businesses grow confidently.

It's easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of data available, so we want to cut through the nonsense by focusing on numbers that affect the most important metric of all. Cash.

We're building a tool that needs to exist. Every business should have access to intelligent, personalized guidance, and we won't rest until they do. This makes our choice of business exciting.

We have a long way to go, but we're working hard every day to bring our vision to life.

About the Author
Brandon is Co-Founder and CEO of Poindexter. He enjoys questioning his own existence and convincing strangers we're trapped in a simulation.