Episode-1518- John Adam on Starting a Business Starting with No Experience in Business — 20 Comments

  1. Lately we have heard Jack make comments on his podcast about “starting a business” as a survival topic. It is a very relevant topic especially for me. I went through a major job layoff five years ago when the company I worked for decided to close the aircraft manufacturing plant and transfer all the work to a larger facility in Kansas.

    Over 100 people lost their jobs! I saw the writing on the wall and decided to start a small business before I actually lost my job. I went into the commercial cleaning business (doing basic office cleaning work) and started by landing one commercial account which I could do during off business hours. My wife and I sacrificed many hours, worked weekends, we worked during the night while others were sleeping.

    We built the business one account at a time. Three years after starting the business we landed a major account with a manufacturing facility which now pays us over $75,000 a year to keep their offices clean. Our income, after 5 years, has exceeded $100,000 a year. We started with the family van and about $100 of cleaning supplies. We now employ 4 people, and are expanding the business into residential cleaning as well as commercial.

    Within the next 2 years we are projecting our income to exceed over $200,00 a year. Believe me when I tell you, all the hard work we had to put in was more than worth the effort. I now work about 30 hours a week compared to the 50 hours a week I used to work on my last job. I don’t experience the stress I used to. Now that I have proven to myself that it can be done, I will never go back to working a job again! Believe in yourself, roll up your sleeves, and just Do It!

  2. Jack, I love your show and all you do. But, after listening to your show from a couple of days ago and then this one, I kind of threw up a little in the back of my mouth. Crazy Californians!!! Not the best example of a Permaethos non-grad;-)
    Peace be with you…

    • You sound a little judgmental there. Are they crazy just because the are from California? I enjoyed the interview. He is doing some great stuff and is using permaculture to better his life. John keep up the good work!

    • I’ve always considered myself open minded but your comment doesn’t leave me much to reflect on. What exactly gave you such a visceral reaction?

    • @Scott Voigt, that is a pointless, distasteful comment with no real point. Might I suggest you do some self reflection. Basically, you can shove your opinion into your ass.

        • Shove it up my ass? Huh….would you make a law to make me do it? Would you enforce it with the threat of a gun?

          I am all for starting businesses, I have my own…I try to use permaculture principles in every aspect of my life, not just my business.

        • @Scott Voigt,

          I just slammed you with a comment and then removed it. Going back to my own belief that text is the lowest form of communication, I need to ask you something, if it is a yes, I owe you an apology.

          Was you initial comment, “throw up into my mouth” in reference to California politics and policy? If so please understand I and likely the guest thought your comment was in response to him.

          Now if your comment was directed at the guest, we have a problem here and one I may resolve not with a gun, but with a ban hammer.

          Again though if we misunderstood you, I am indeed sorry. If this is your case please read your comment and I think you will understand how we came to the conclusion we did.

  3. Jack,
    I haven’t had a chance to listen to this episode yet but am very interested in it. I am currently studying for my BA in Business Admin and seriously considering looking into opening my own business after I finish school.

  4. Great episode, I can relate. I think it’s important to showcase people transitioning from conventional “Merkan” life to permaculture in action. Could we get a series? It isn’t easy, that’s for sure. It’s encouraging and inspiring to know there are others working in the same direction.

    On CA: Yes it’s messed up. As a native son I freely admit it. Walk to freedom if you want, but those that stay on to begin to fix the mess should be encouraged.

    For those that write, attempt to write, or dream of writing, I came across this article in my quest to be better. Recommended reading.

    Thanks everyone, I enjoy this community.

  5. Jack are you having trouble finding successful permaculture companies that are actually making money? I seems that all the guest have started a company but have no paying customers. The point I’m making is that you should be hesitant to tell people to take a chance on a new venture and change there life when the proof of a actual sustainable business is small. Unless you own 1000 acres or are selling permaculture classes is there really money to be made being a designer? With everyone selling a PDC it is starting to look like a pyramid scheme.

    The people in neighborhoods that can afford $1000+ a day designers are most likely part of the Me Me crowd and wants acres of Bermuda grass.

    I think a better path would be for people to start infiltrating landscape design firms or civil engineering. I do remember you stating once that instead of taking AG classes a better path would be civil – I totally agree.

    • @Matthew, I think you are off base beyond words. You sound like the typical person that points to one person failing or one person struggling and says, “see it doesn’t work”.

      There are people making a living on 4 acres, there are people doing it on 1 and there are people doing in on say a half an acre that don’t even own the half acre it is called SPIN farming.

      Going with an “Edible Landscaping” angle is ONE good marketing tactic. Also this man has a full time job, he set up things and now has ONE paying customer, it always starts with one.

      Our company just did the FIRST of a multi phase design project, the fee wasn’t small, I won’t reveal it due to confidentiality but it was significant.

      I have multiple times referred design business to people some big names, some not so big that were unable to take the business.

      Also a PDC isn’t so you can go start a business and it has NEVER been presented by me as such, that is one thing you can do and a PDC can help you in that direction.

      I would find your comment insulting if it were no so full of ignorance as to render it simply that, based on ignorance.

      The truth is design clients are everywhere from the burbs to working farms. The fact that it is fucking hard to start a business from scratch is nothing new and the fact that people are more likely to fail than succeed is nothing new.

      Selling insurance is a profession, about 80% of those that try it fail but it isn’t because insurance isn’t a valid product, doesn’t work etc. My best guess is 60-80% of people that start a business “fail” in one way or the other the first time. It takes time and effort.

      That said I feel MOST people that take a PDC do so for the knowledge and they simply want to use it for themselves and perhaps work with some family and friends as the opportunity comes along.

    • The pyramid scheme comment is off base. Is there more and more people offering PDC’s then ever before? Yes, because taking a quality PDC inspires you to want to do great things in both the field and teaching others. Most of the PDC certified people in the world have no interest in creating their own certification program. Out of the ones that do the teacher who signed their certification get no kickback so to use the term pyramid scheme is completely unfounded.
      If a college teaches pottery and upon graduation students open businesses in teaching pottery is that a pyramid as well? People take classes on all kinds of topics with the intent to further their education in areas that interests them. If they decide to take it to another level and try to earn an honest living at it then they need to be encouraged. Most of these businesses cease to exist within a few years. I avoided the word FAIL. As long as the business owner learned from the experience and applies that knowledge to his next endeavor then the chances of success only increase.
      Jack talks alot about permaculture , but his message of inspiring people to start their own business has more to do with taking control of your own life and carving out a way of life in an area that you are passionate about.
      You mention getting landscape companies and engineers on board with the sustainability of permacuture. I can say that is slowly beginning to happen. I recently ran into an old high school friend who is a local civil engineer and was excited to find that he was familiar with designing most of the concepts that a property design would include. This man had never heard of permaculture. The techniques used in permaculture are not new. Its how those techniques, combined with ethics that set permaculture apart. I also received an e-mail from a gentleman who is incorporating permaculture into his already successful land scape business. Successful permaculture is about transforming your mindset as well as your back yard.

  6. Its common knowledge of the failure rate of new businesses. I was asking is there really a business of permaculature design outside of farming 1000 acres. Do you believe that you can go into a middle class neighborhood and sell people on transforming there yard? You lived in suburbia before – these are the people that love there HOA’s.

    I’m not too to ignorant to see the paths of making money through permaculture. Just from the anecdotal evidence I’ve read and heard the market is not mature. Can you make money through design alone or do you need to sell physical goods to supplement?

    I don’t think I was the first person to see PDC this way:

    I understand the value of a PDC but I think people take them are thinking: PDC->Business->Money

    I’m not try to insult you and wasn’t looking for a debate (that I would lose). Get us a interview with someone designing 3+ systems a week and how entered they market, what hardships where there, funding, cost analysis, etc..

    Please understand its winter and I’m looking at foot of snow outside 🙂

    • First yes there is business in the subburbs. Contrary to your beliefs there are shitloads of burbs with no HOA, yes I lived in three different Burbs style homes all were absent HOAs. Not to mention a good designer could transform a back yard with little head aches from MOST HOA. The more restrictions the more elegant the design.

      Again the pyramid scheme comment is one of ignorance so I am withholding being insulted, but at this point just fing barely.

      A pyramid scheme, is you get two people, and they get two people, etc. and everyone makes money. No one that I know of has ever sold a fing PDC that way and if you find me one, I will call them out for it, if you can’t you kind of owe the entire industry an apology in my view.

      Perhaps instead of reading crap by others who are bitter you should read this?

      Lastly if anyone is thinking, PDC->Business->Money I can’t help that, no one sells a PDC that way, again show me someone who did or admit that it is bullshit.

  7. Just like my link stated the comment is likely to ruffle feathers. Every permaculature website on the internet has a link to “take our PDC”. I’m sure you can find one that doesn’t but can you concede that point. I hate resorting to logical fallacies such as “every” website but plug permaculture into google and all hits but wikipedia are trying to sell you a course.

    I’ll agree that I maybe ignorant to aspects of business/permaculture that Is why I posed the questions this morning. You don’t have to attack ad hominem. Hopefully you can change my mind or thought process.

    • One? Joel Salatins site doesn’t teach PDCs. Most farms that sell what they grow don’t. I mean the problem with your fallacy isn’t that it is a logical fallacy, it is actually a fallacy fallacy. Kuffel Creek sells grafted trees, they don’t do PDCs. One? My site,, we make an income, we don’t teach PDCs, sure I run workshops because they are in demand. Other than with PermaEthos I have not sold a single PDC.

      Curtis Stone who does SPIN farming made a good living with it for a lot of years, now he does teach that (after proving the model) but no PDCs.

      Jean-Martin Fortier has a ten acre micro farm, based on Permaculture, no PDCs, he did write a book but only because people kept asking him how the farm worked.

      These people are 30 miles from me, they don’t even have a real website, likely they don’t know what a PDC is but they are definitely doing a permaculture style system,

      I will concede nothing except that you don’t know what you are talking about.

      Again you speak in complete ignorance. On a good note, I am about to start todays show, you inspired it.

  8. The people you list are selling goods not designs. The point of this whole conversation was that I believe there is no money in selling only design. The few companies that sell design that you had on are always “we are just starting out”. The one permaculture landscaper you had on was only trying to sell “designer rocks” and felt like a infomercial.

    I’m always a few episodes behind but will definitely check it out.

  9. @Matthew, what you said is PDCs were a pyramid scheme and I said you spoke in ignorance. You simply continue to prove that.

    Okay making money is design,

    Now yes he teaches PDCs but anyone that doesn’t provide what customers want is likely to fail anyway.

    And, core business is design and installation, our partners in the Arkansas deal.

    One of these folks is a small business the other does large scale design. I am not even trying, at this point you are starting to bore the shit out of me.