Don't Pet Snapping Turtles, Plus 3 Other Things I Didn't Learn Until I Was 40

Business Management
January 17, 20236 min read

A couple years ago on the way to work I came upon several large turtles that had climbed up the riverbank to lay eggs in the gravel beside the road. 

I knew my children would love these classic turtles so I wheeled around and headed home. 15 minutes later I was back with the tribe. Any Wisconsin outdoorsman worth his salt would have known these were fearsome snapping turtles you should not get close to.

Unfortunately I am not such an outdoorsman. We were soon happily petting our new friend:

Even now I shudder to think what could have happened. The turtle could have swung its snapper at one of the children and caused serious injury. It was truly stupid. 

Thankfully, though, we all walked away without incident. It wasn't until I posted photos on our family group chat that I learned of my stupidity. 

It got me thinking:  I made it all the way to 40 without knowing you don't pet snapping turtles. What are some other lessons I didn't learn until now?

Unfortunately I could probably write a book. However, since this is a business newsletter, I'll focus on three business lessons. 

Hopefully these points spare you a few semesters at the School of Hard Knocks. 

1. Sales and marketing is worth more than you think 

In the heart of every entrepreneur, there is genetic desire to have such a good business that it succeeds without promotion. 

I am no exception.

Here's the thing.  Certain (especially small) companies have exactly that: a business model that requires zero promotion. From Day 1, customers form a line at the door, and the proprietor simply collects money.

Here's the other thing.  A few huge companies have possibly pulled this off as well. I don't know the backstory of companies like Google, Facebook, or Tesla, but on some level it appears they went viral with minimal promotion. Their offering was so novel and compelling, customers simply flocked to their doors through word-of-mouth. 

In between those rare outliers is a whole universe of normal companies who succeed through promotion. These millions of companies allocate significant marketing resources to grow their companies. 

And yet, deep down, there is still an inborn yearning to NOT need marketing. Why? 

I can think of at least two reasons:

  1. Many entrepreneurs believe their product or service is obviously superior. 

  2. People in general don't like to be "sold" something, and therefore it's natural to resist selling to others. 

Recently I met an entrepreneur starting a tech business. One of his stated goals is to not have salespeople. He believes salespeople are a key cause of his industry's problems. He wants his company to be different. 

I wish him the best, but I fear his own "Lessons I Wished I'd Learned Earlier" might have the same first point as mine: "Sales and marketing matter more than you think."

To be clear, by "sales" I'm not referring to high-pressure door-to-door sales. Good selling is largely based on building trust. 

For example, Elon Musk heavily promotes his businesses to his base of 100M+ social media followers. It looks easy but that group didn't materialize overnight. They were nurtured and inspired for years. 

For 2023, don't be afraid to invest heavily in promoting your company. It's a sign of strength. 

2. There is no "Perfect Way" in business

 You, me and Joe each have a business. We each need a vehicle. Surely there is one "best" vehicle all three should buy. 

Now that I'm over 40, I concede it simply doesn't work that way. 

You are in construction. You need a heavy-duty pickup. I do accounting, plus I'm a wannabe farmer. I 
think I need a lightweight pickup. Joe is a computer repair technician. He needs a car or work van. 

Even if we were all farmers, we'd still have different needs, philosophies and budgets. You might demand a 1-ton diesel for pulling sileage wagons. I might use a tractor for a job like that. And besides, I live in Wisconsin where diesels start hard in winter. I need a gas pickup. 

In my CFO work, it's common for a business owner to say "we want you to streamline our finance department. Look things over and make sure we're operating the best way possible. Can your team do that?" 

I usually say "Yes," but add the caveat that there is no perfect way. Many companies are already surprisingly near the best path for their situation. 

Instead of searching for the Perfect Way, spend your time understanding the options. Then pick the path that works best for you. Execute it well. 

It will be different from the company next door, and that's okay. 

3. Think twice before laughing at conventional wisdom

I can still see myself sitting at my desk in the accounting firm where I worked in the spring of 2009. I was telling my soon-to-be ex-boss about my plan to start a fractional CFO business. 

"I don't think you'll find enough business in Central Wisconsin to keep bread on the table," he told me. 

As an overconfident 29-year-old I blatantly ignored his commentary, started the business anyway, and the rest is history. 

Except it's not. In that exact case, yes, my boss under-estimated the sea change coming to tech and finance. The remote freelancer movement was just emerging. Sites like Toptal and Fiverr wouldn't launch until the next year. The movement was like a tsunami running unseen through the ocean. I happened to drop my boat in at just the right time. 

I took that overconfident spirit and applied to many other areas:

  • If an expert told me, "Google Ads are a waste of money in your case," I didn't believe them. 

  • If an experienced creator said, "It's a hard slog to launch a newsletter or start a community," I thought, Just wait and see, you naysayer.

  • If a contractor told me it costs $300/sq ft to build an office, I thought, He doesn't know what he's talking about.I'm sure I can do much better than that!

Each of the above bullet points was conventional wisdom. I ignored them all. Each turned out to be true. 

If I were writing to scientists or university professors, I wouldn't emphasize this point. They probably lean too heavily on conventional wisdom. 

However, I'm writing to entrepreneurs like myself who believe they can routinely defy the odds. That audacity keeps America moving. It also can leave an entrepreneur in shambles. 

To defy conventional wisdom you need a valid plan. "We're just better" isn't a plan. 

Conclusion

I'll leave you with a bonus point I've learned since I turning 40: Just because I've learned something, doesn't mean it's true for everyone else. 

Take all three of my points with a grain of salt. Perhaps you truly will prove every point wrong. 

But don't let your children pet snapping turtles!

Scott Hoover

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Be Your Own

Don't Pet Snapping Turtles, Plus 3 Other Things I Didn't Learn Until I Was 40

Business Management
January 17, 20236 min read

A couple years ago on the way to work I came upon several large turtles that had climbed up the riverbank to lay eggs in the gravel beside the road. 

I knew my children would love these classic turtles so I wheeled around and headed home. 15 minutes later I was back with the tribe. Any Wisconsin outdoorsman worth his salt would have known these were fearsome snapping turtles you should not get close to.

Unfortunately I am not such an outdoorsman. We were soon happily petting our new friend:

Even now I shudder to think what could have happened. The turtle could have swung its snapper at one of the children and caused serious injury. It was truly stupid. 

Thankfully, though, we all walked away without incident. It wasn't until I posted photos on our family group chat that I learned of my stupidity. 

It got me thinking:  I made it all the way to 40 without knowing you don't pet snapping turtles. What are some other lessons I didn't learn until now?

Unfortunately I could probably write a book. However, since this is a business newsletter, I'll focus on three business lessons. 

Hopefully these points spare you a few semesters at the School of Hard Knocks. 

1. Sales and marketing is worth more than you think 

In the heart of every entrepreneur, there is genetic desire to have such a good business that it succeeds without promotion. 

I am no exception.

Here's the thing.  Certain (especially small) companies have exactly that: a business model that requires zero promotion. From Day 1, customers form a line at the door, and the proprietor simply collects money.

Here's the other thing.  A few huge companies have possibly pulled this off as well. I don't know the backstory of companies like Google, Facebook, or Tesla, but on some level it appears they went viral with minimal promotion. Their offering was so novel and compelling, customers simply flocked to their doors through word-of-mouth. 

In between those rare outliers is a whole universe of normal companies who succeed through promotion. These millions of companies allocate significant marketing resources to grow their companies. 

And yet, deep down, there is still an inborn yearning to NOT need marketing. Why? 

I can think of at least two reasons:

  1. Many entrepreneurs believe their product or service is obviously superior. 

  2. People in general don't like to be "sold" something, and therefore it's natural to resist selling to others. 

Recently I met an entrepreneur starting a tech business. One of his stated goals is to not have salespeople. He believes salespeople are a key cause of his industry's problems. He wants his company to be different. 

I wish him the best, but I fear his own "Lessons I Wished I'd Learned Earlier" might have the same first point as mine: "Sales and marketing matter more than you think."

To be clear, by "sales" I'm not referring to high-pressure door-to-door sales. Good selling is largely based on building trust. 

For example, Elon Musk heavily promotes his businesses to his base of 100M+ social media followers. It looks easy but that group didn't materialize overnight. They were nurtured and inspired for years. 

For 2023, don't be afraid to invest heavily in promoting your company. It's a sign of strength. 

2. There is no "Perfect Way" in business

 You, me and Joe each have a business. We each need a vehicle. Surely there is one "best" vehicle all three should buy. 

Now that I'm over 40, I concede it simply doesn't work that way. 

You are in construction. You need a heavy-duty pickup. I do accounting, plus I'm a wannabe farmer. I 
think I need a lightweight pickup. Joe is a computer repair technician. He needs a car or work van. 

Even if we were all farmers, we'd still have different needs, philosophies and budgets. You might demand a 1-ton diesel for pulling sileage wagons. I might use a tractor for a job like that. And besides, I live in Wisconsin where diesels start hard in winter. I need a gas pickup. 

In my CFO work, it's common for a business owner to say "we want you to streamline our finance department. Look things over and make sure we're operating the best way possible. Can your team do that?" 

I usually say "Yes," but add the caveat that there is no perfect way. Many companies are already surprisingly near the best path for their situation. 

Instead of searching for the Perfect Way, spend your time understanding the options. Then pick the path that works best for you. Execute it well. 

It will be different from the company next door, and that's okay. 

3. Think twice before laughing at conventional wisdom

I can still see myself sitting at my desk in the accounting firm where I worked in the spring of 2009. I was telling my soon-to-be ex-boss about my plan to start a fractional CFO business. 

"I don't think you'll find enough business in Central Wisconsin to keep bread on the table," he told me. 

As an overconfident 29-year-old I blatantly ignored his commentary, started the business anyway, and the rest is history. 

Except it's not. In that exact case, yes, my boss under-estimated the sea change coming to tech and finance. The remote freelancer movement was just emerging. Sites like Toptal and Fiverr wouldn't launch until the next year. The movement was like a tsunami running unseen through the ocean. I happened to drop my boat in at just the right time. 

I took that overconfident spirit and applied to many other areas:

  • If an expert told me, "Google Ads are a waste of money in your case," I didn't believe them. 

  • If an experienced creator said, "It's a hard slog to launch a newsletter or start a community," I thought, Just wait and see, you naysayer.

  • If a contractor told me it costs $300/sq ft to build an office, I thought, He doesn't know what he's talking about.I'm sure I can do much better than that!

Each of the above bullet points was conventional wisdom. I ignored them all. Each turned out to be true. 

If I were writing to scientists or university professors, I wouldn't emphasize this point. They probably lean too heavily on conventional wisdom. 

However, I'm writing to entrepreneurs like myself who believe they can routinely defy the odds. That audacity keeps America moving. It also can leave an entrepreneur in shambles. 

To defy conventional wisdom you need a valid plan. "We're just better" isn't a plan. 

Conclusion

I'll leave you with a bonus point I've learned since I turning 40: Just because I've learned something, doesn't mean it's true for everyone else. 

Take all three of my points with a grain of salt. Perhaps you truly will prove every point wrong. 

But don't let your children pet snapping turtles!

Scott Hoover

Back to Blog

Scott Hoover, CPA

About The Author:

Scott lives in Wisconsin with his wife Priscilla and their active family of eight children. 

He has worked as a CPA and part-time CFO for over a decade, and draws on this experience to provide practical, down-to-earth guidance to his clients.

In addition to his CPA day job, he and his family have a small farm where they raise calves and produce.  In his "spare" time, Scott enjoys writing articles on finance and faith.

Send any comments or feedback directly to scott@beyourowncfo.com.

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