Shake That Can
Growing up, my grandfather was a superhero to me. I would spend weekends and summers helping him and learning the lessons that can only be taught by quality time spent on a farm with an older and wiser generation. That man was the definition of tough. He could lift enormous tractor tires without breaking a sweat and was immune to things like cuts, bruises, and bee stings. But what amazed me the most was that he could build anything, from a simple wooden step stool to a treehouse with working windows and doors.
And deep inside my grandfather's garage, on a shelf next to his workbench, he kept his most magical item; a rusty old coffee can. As a boy, I was sure that the gods had bestowed it on him as a reward for some favor he had done for them in his younger years. Every time my grandfather would start on a project, he would take down that unassuming keeper of random parts and pieces. A few shakes side-to-side, and the heavens would open up, angels would sing, and my grandfather would reach in and pull out what appeared to be precisely what he needed. I was amazed at how that magical old coffee can could deliver every single time.
Fast forward 30 years, and I'm in my own garage, reaching for my own coffee can. And it hit me – for some reason like it never had before – that my grandfather's "magic" coffee can wasn't giving him exactly what he needed. He was simply using what he had and making it work. And I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes by the late, great tennis star Arthur Ashe:
"Start where you are.
Use what you have.
Do what you can."
This quote exemplified my grandfather's way of life to a T. and became my marching orders for my entire adult life - especially my business life. These simple words and concepts were (and are) the key to my company's development, survival, and growth and, I believe, hold the keys to success in almost any venture. But you have to move and put these principles into action.
EXAMINE YOUR EXCUSES AND START WHERE YOU ARE
The time is now, not:
-when you have more money
-when the kids get a little older
-when life is not so hectic
-when the economy is better
-(insert any other excuse here)
The time is now to do SOMETHING and start working toward your personal or professional goals. You can always do something, however small it may seem, to at least lay a foundation and start making progress.
SHAKE THAT CAN AND USE WHAT YOU HAVE
You can make a plan, commit your goals to paper, and begin doing research without money or resources, and that's good because I didn't have much of either when I set out to make my invention dream a reality. But here's what I did have in my "magical" coffee can: a great idea, a generous supply of determination, a garage, evenings and weekends to work on my project, a credit card, lots of local hardware stores, and a supportive family (an absolute "must" if you want your business to truly thrive).
After a few years of trial and error, my prototype, made solely from hardware store parts and pieces, was ready, and my business was born.
IMPROVISE AND DO WHAT YOU CAN
It didn't take long to see that our original B2B-only plan wasn't panning out how we had projected. So we decided to pivot and add B2C marketing to our strategy. We had little to no budget, but we were determined. One of our teenage interns set up social accounts for the business, borrowed his mother's camera, tacked an old bedsheet to a wall, and we were off! We proceeded to make some ridiculous videos and social content showing the uniqueness and durability of our product, and it worked. We started gaining attention, gathering followers, and increasing retail sales. Ultimately, this move led to Shark Tank™ producers finding us and inviting me to pitch my product on the show. All because we didn't let limitations deter us, and we just kept on doing what we could with what we had.
If you're willing to be honest with yourself about what's holding you back, you'll often find that the reasons are more likely fear-based excuses. And fear-based excuses are a perfect recipe for regret. So shake that can because there's something useful in there, even if it's not exactly what you're looking for.
Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can, and a funny thing happens; it almost always leads to getting what you need.
Joe Altieri is the Inventor and CEO of FlexScreen. His product – the world’s first and only flexible window screen - was featured on ABC’s hit show, Shark Tank, where he hooked a deal with the proclaimed “Queen of QVC,” Lori Greiner. email@example.com
BY JOE ALTIERI
Joe Altieri is a third-generation entrepreneur, inventor, speaker, and President and CEO of his own multi-million dollar company.
During his 20+ years in the window industry, Joe recognized the inherent problems with old-style aluminum window screens and dealt personally with constant customer frustrations. Always an outside-the-box thinker, he knew there had to be a better way, so he set up shop in his garage and got to work. After years of trial and error, FlexScreen, the world's first and only flexible window screen, was born.
Since its introduction into the marketplace, FlexScreen has gained international attention and earned multiple industry awards. Most notably, FlexScreen was catapulted to the forefront when Joe appeared on ABC's hit show, Shark Tank, in January 2020. Three of the five Sharks battled for a piece of FlexScreen with Lori Greiner, the Queen of QVC, ultimately winning the deal.
Joe is a firm believer in giving back, and he is generous with his resources and his time. Several years ago, he was honored and recognized as one of Pittsburgh's Volunteers of the Year. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife of 25 years, Alisha. They have four children, four grandchildren, and two very pampered Cane Corsos.
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