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Editor’s note: James Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and several-times entrepreneur. His lachạy thử books are I Was Blind But Now I See and 40 Alternatives to College. Please follow hyên ổn on Twitter 
jaltucher.

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how this was the year you had to quit your job. I gave the reasons why. It wasn’t a gung-ho “you have sầu to be an entrepreneur” article. It was more: bad shit is happening in the corporate world & bit by bit you’re going to lớn feel the urge lớn quit.

Correctly, many people asked, “Well, what’s next? What should I do?”

I’ve begun asking people who did it. What did they do? How bởi vì you quit your job and basically, make a million dollars?

Not everyone is Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page. Not everyone is going lớn drop out of college & create an iPhone or a time machine or a toilet that resizes itself automatically depending on who is sitting on it (although that would be pretty cool).

Some people would simply lượt thích khổng lồ quit their jobs and make a good living. Some people would simply like khổng lồ quit their jobs và make a million dollars. In that movie (the Justin Timberlake vehicle), JT says, “A million’s not cool. A BILLION is cool.”

Well, actually, very often a million is pretty cool. Not everyone is going lớn be a VC-funded $100 million hotshot. Sometimes it’s nice lớn make a million dollars, be your own trùm, và use that financial freedom khổng lồ catapult to success.

So I called Bryan Johnson, who started a company called Braintree. You might not have sầu heard of Braintree but you’ve heard of their customers. They provide credit thẻ transactions or payment services for companies lượt thích OpenTable, Uber, Airbnb, etc.


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Completely ripped from the OpenTable blog. Apparently they were using OpenTable.


I’ve never spoken with Bryan before. I am not an investor in Braintree. As far as I know I’m not even an investor (unfortunately) in any of the clients of Braintree. I like lớn Hotline people who I think have sầu interesting stories và hear what they have sầu to lớn say. That’s the way I build my network of not only financial contacts but potential friends. I’m shy & ugly & don’t have sầu many friends.

But I knew Bryan had an interesting story of how he set up Braintree and I figured it would fit this category of “what bởi vì I vị next?”

In 2007, Bryan was a manager at Sears. He quit his job và within two years was making over a million a year. Eventually Braintree grew much bigger & raised $70 million from Accel & others, but that wasn’t what was interesting lớn me.

“How did you vày it?” I asked him. “What are the initial steps.” And he told me. So I will tell you.

“I really disliked my job,” he said, “& I never believed in the idea of getting a fixed wage. I had been a salesman before in the credit thẻ processing business where I would go out và get merchants like restaurants và retailers to switch their business to the company I was selling for. So I figured I could bởi this but work for myself instead of another company.”

Rule No. 1: Take out the middleman. Instead of Bryan going bachồng khổng lồ the company he used to lớn sell for, he cut out the middleman & went straight khổng lồ a credit card processor, worked out his own reselling agreement with them, & did all of this BEFORE leaving his job at Sears.

Many people ask me, “I”m at a job, should I raise VC money yet?” NO, of course not! First you have sầu lớn hustle. VCs want lớn baông xã someone who shows a little oomph!

Rule No. 2: Piông xã a boring business. Everyone is always on the lookout for “the next big thing.” The next big thing is finding rare earth minerals on Mars. That’s HARD WORK. Don’t vị it! Bryan picked a business that every merchant in the world needs and he also knew that it was an exploding business because of all the online stores that were opening up. You don’t have sầu lớn come up with the new, new thing. Just bởi vì the old, old thing slightly better than everyone else. And when you are nimble & smaller than the behemoths that are stuông chồng with bureaucracy, you can often offer better sales and better service, and higher touch khổng lồ your customers. Customers will switch khổng lồ you.

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Rule No. 3: Get a customer! This is probably the most important rule for any entrepreneur. I’ve sầu written about this before (“The Easiest Way To Succeed As An Entrepreneur”). People want lớn go the “magical path” – i.e. get VC money, quit their jobs, build a product, & then suddenly have millions of customers. It NEVER works lượt thích that.

Bryan found 10 customers (out of the first 12 he approached) who would switch their credit thẻ processing to lớn hyên ổn. He figured he needed to lớn make $2,100 a month to lớn quit his job. With his first 10 customers he was making $6,200 a month, so he had margin of safety. He quit his job & suddenly he was in business.

Rule No. 4: Build Trust While You Sleep. This rule is often “Make Money While You Sleep.” But Bryan already was making money while he slept. He was making money on every credit card purchase with his first 10 customers.

“I didn’t want lớn be going up và down the street looking for customers,” Bryan said. “I needed to find a way khổng lồ get online businesses as customers. Someone suggested that I needed lớn blog. And to lớn blog well you need khổng lồ be totally transparent or it won’t work. So I started blogging about what was really happening in the credit thẻ industry, including all the unscrupulous practices và how merchants were being taken advantage of. Then I’d put my posts on the top social sites at the time: Digg, Reddit, & StumbleUpon, và sometimes the posts would get lớn the top of these sites & my website would get so much traffic that it would crash.

“But I became a trusted source about credit card processing. So before long all these online sites that had previously had a hard time navigating this industry would start contacting me to lớn switch their payment services.”

So a couple of things there.

Rule No. 5: Blogging is not about money. Blogging is about trust. You don’t sell ads on your blog (rarely), you don’t get the big book giảm giá (rarely), but you vị build trust và this leads to opportunities. In Bryan’s case it led lớn more inflow, rather than hyên going door lớn door, và it also led to lớn his biggest early opportunity. My own blog has made me a total of zero cents but has created millions in opportunities for me.

“Basically, OpenTable called me & they wanted a software solution to lớn handle storing credit cards, handing the data khổng lồ restaurants, và being compliant from a regulatory standpoint. I signed a three year khuyến mãi with them that allowed me khổng lồ build a team of developers và we built them a solution. We now had more services to lớn sell khổng lồ customers.”

Rule No. 6: Say YES! He started out just connecting merchants with a credit thẻ processor. Then OpenTable asked hyên to lớn vày software development when he’s never developed software before. He said YES! He got software developers, built a great product, và quadrupled his income or more. And then it put his business in a whole new stratosphere of services he offered customers. Suddenly, word of mouth was spreading & other online companies started using Braintree’s services: Airbnb, Uber, etc. And the VCs started calling because all of their clients were saying Braintree was providing all of their payment services. It’s not that easy for startup online companies to lớn get payment services.

“When I first started, for each new customer we’d put together an entire package for our credit card processor on why we thought the customer could be trusted & would be a legitimate merchant.” Which leads to…

Rule No. 7: Customer Service. You can treat each customer, new and old, lượt thích a real human being. “We intuitively sort of knew what we didn’t like in customer service everywhere else: automated calling trees, slow response times, poor problem solving, etc., so we made sure there was as little friction as possible between the customer contacting us và actually getting their problem solved.” When you are a small business, there’s no excuse for having poor customer service. Your best new customers are your old customers, và the best way khổng lồ touch your old customers is khổng lồ provide quiông xã help when they need it. Customer service is the most reliable touch point to keep selling your service khổng lồ them.

By year 2 two, Bryan was making over a million a year and was doubling every year. They couldn’t hire fast enough.

In 2011, after four years in business, Braintree took in its first dime of money – $34 million in a Series A round. And right now, according to CrunchBase, they process over $8 billion worth of credit thẻ transactions annually.

Not bad for someone who quit his job và just wanted khổng lồ figure out a way lớn get his bills paid.