Why I moved on from BrainGain

Around 4 years ago I started my first company, BrainGain. A company that helped people find jobs around the world. Jobs in Marketing, Sales, Design, Software Development, Data Science and more.

I was more or less a recruiter. I found companies that gave me a job description, and then I recruited foreigners and expats from a variety of different methods. I was paid in the event a company hired one of the candidates I sent them.

I started with jobs in India, then expanded to Malaysia, then expanded to SE Asia, and then last year were placing people in places like Germany and Mexico. Throughout that time we helped nearly 100 people find jobs in different countries.

Around 6 months ago however, I decided that I no longer wanted to continue working full time on my business. While it made money and provided me the opportunity to travel around the world, and help others do the same, it wasn’t providing me with the same level of fulfillment that it previously did. Wasn’t allowing me to live my life to its full potential.

Most importantly I didn’t want to be working in talent sourcing and management anymore. I was looking for something new to sink my teeth into.

Alas, once you give yourself distance from your business you notice some of the glaring problems that you didn’t previously want to acknowledge.

Here are the reasons I ultimately decided to move on from BrainGain. These lessons were the writing on the wall for the decision. I believe that within these reasons there are important business lessons to be learned. I hope they help you on your path.

Long sales cycles and Small revenue per sale

A few months ago we made a successful internship placement ($500 or so).

This candidate applied for a job in April, was offered the job in July, and began working in November. Given our 90 day payment cycles, we wouldn’t be fully paid for this placement until February. That’s a 10 month sales cycle for $700 in revenue.

They were the perfect example of why our business model just wasn’t working. 10 months of waiting and work for $700. 

This was our story for the majority of my time with BrainGain. Our normal sales cycles are around 6 months in total. 90 day payment cycles. Cash flows were tough for us. 

We perpetually went through a roller coaster of having money in the bank, spending money to make placements, then right when we were down to nothing, more money in the bank again.

It’s basic business. If you have long sales cycles, you need to have a big sale at the end of it. If you have small sales, you need to make them frequently. Long sales cycles and small price? Recipe for failure. No business can work like that, and this was the business I was running.

On top of this, SO much could happen in that six month window. People accepted jobs only to drop off. Accepted jobs and then got fired. Accepted jobs and quit before the 90 day mark.

In all of these situations, we never made our money.

The sales cycles were too long, with too much uncertainty, and with too little upside in the event we actually did make a placement.

These factors are never a good recipe for a sustainable business. Thus, I decided to go my separate ways…

Seasonality

If you’re looking to relocate internationally, you will usually do it at two times/year. Shortly after the New Year, or around summertime. This was what our experience was with BrainGain.

When you add seasonality into long sales cycles, you put all of your efforts in throughout the first half of the year in hopes it pays off by summertime. If it doesn’t, you feel like you just spun your tires in the mud for six months.

I was tired of seasonality. I was tired of knowing that even if I put in all of my energy today, I wouldn’t see that fruit until the New Year.

I wanted a business that could make money year round, any day of the week, any month of the year.

BrainGain would never provide me with that. Thus, I decided to go my separate ways…

I wasn’t growing and learning the same way that I used to

Writing this story has been a valuable exercise in reflecting on my learnings and growth throughout the last few years. It’s given me the time and space I needed to evaluate where my biggest moments of growth have come from, and why.

When I look back on this time, years one and two were full of growth and learnings. I built a business from the ground up. I had to figure things out on the fly, make tough decisions, speak with investors, and manage a team of people for the first time in my life.

Every day was a new challenge. Every night was a new opportunity to reflect on what I had learned that day.

When I look at the last six months, and where I currently am, the learnings and growth have slowed down to a halt. I’m not growing in the same ways that I used to. I’m not faced with the same challenges and opportunities to learn from my mistakes. Or, I’m still facing the same challenges and I’m out of ways to try and solve them.

Either way, I’m not experiencing the rapid growth that I love and crave as an entrepreneur.

I believe that the most important thing in life is growth. If you’re not growing, you’re regressing. If you’re not finding a way to better yourself, you’re falling behind. I believe that we need to find ways to become the best version of ourselves that we can be.

BrainGain is no longer providing me with that growth. I’m not becoming a better version of myself on a day to day basis…or at least within the context of the business. I’ve had to look elsewhere for opportunities to better myself and grow to my next level.

What I’ve also come to realize is that BrainGain isn’t going to propel me to the next level of my personal and professional development. I I’ve hit my plateau.

I’ve passed my minimum effective dose, and I’m now experiencing the law of diminishing returns. For every day I invested in BrainGain, I wasn’t getting the same return in my growth that I used to.

I’m hungry for the next opportunity that will provide me with accelerated learnings and growth. I want something that will elevate me to my next level.

BrainGain would never provide me with that. Thus, I decided to go my separate ways…

I want to be surrounded by people who can mentor me

I’m not surrounded by high level people who can help me learn and grow. While being a “digital nomad” is great and all, I feel very isolated. I’m leading a team, but I don’t have anyone to lead me.

While I have great mentors and advisors, I don’t have the access to working with these people on a daily basis. I don’t have their perspectives when trying to work through ideas.

I want to be in a position where I interact with high level people on a daily basis. I want to be surrounded by 40 and 50 year olds with a lot of experience. I want to work through problems and hear how they would tackle them.

I also couldn’t afford to hire these types of people. It’s one downside of a lifestyle business. What I gain in autonomy and freedom, I lose in access to working with great people.

It’s hard to hire a C-Level executive with 20 years of experience when you have a business  that gives you 2k USD/month in living expenses.

Moving forward to the next stage of my life, I want to be able to learn from people who are more experienced than I am. I want to be able to work with people who have already been through the challenges that I am facing. I want to be in a position where I’m not figuring things out on the fly, I have people to guide me through my decisions instead.

BrainGain would never provide me with that. Thus, I decided to go my separate ways…

Products > Services

Another big limitation of BrainGain was that it’s a service oriented business, rather than a product.

Services require person to person interactions more frequently. Results are tied to my involvement in the process. There’s never a final sale.

In product businesses, I have a physical product I can sell. I can set up a website where things sell, and that’s it. I might get some customer complaints and things of that nature, but they don’t require the same hands on approach.

A big learning from this process has been that service businesses are much more difficult. In the future, I would like to have a product business. Something I can physically sell. Something that helps me make money while I’m sleeping.

BrainGain would never provide me with that. Thus, I decided to go my separate ways…

No more passion

All of these above factors simply lead to me being discouraged and dispassionate. I didn’t have my heart in it anymore the way that I used to. I didn’t wake up eager to tackle the problems of the day in the way that I used to.

When I started out, I was always excited to get out of bed every morning. I loved what I did. I was fueled by my mission.

Over the last few months though, I would sleep in more. I wasn’t excited when I got to my computer. I didn’t have the same enthusiasm. I would have to motivate myself. It felt contrived.

When you’re continually pressing the snooze button and aren’t excited to get out of bed every morning, it’s something you need to pay attention to.

Personally, I’m someone who thrives off of my energy and enthusiasm. If I don’t have that anymore, I have a hard time working. If I have to drag myself to my work, it’s not the work I should be doing.

I’ve come to realize that my passion won’t come back. I still love the mission and believe that it could work, but I also know that I set up the wrong business to make that happen. The machine that I have built would never bring that vision to fruition.

Thus, I decided to go my separate ways…

What will happen to BrainGain?

It’s still alive and running in the background. I make some passive income from companies paying me to circulate a job description, links built into posts, referral traffic and the occasional paid writing opportunities.

Before I moved on I also documented everything I know about working abroad and finding jobs that help you to travel. All of that information is alive and hosted there on the website. Feel free to check it out, the information on there works.

Since then I’ve moved onto Business Coaching and Consulting. I’ve been working with clients to help them optimize their sales processes, improve communication within teams, and drive more growth. It’s been fun seeing how the learnings from BrainGain have directly transferred over to other businesses irrespective of the industry.

It’s been fun in this new transition window and I look forward to what the future holds from here.

Thoughts? Comments? Reactions? Let me know in the comments below! 

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