Joshua H. Davidson, the author of The Entrepreneur’s Framework, has been working as an entrepreneur since he was 16 years old, and today, he runs a company called Chop Dawg.They help companies develop apps and serve as a temporary CTO.
Josh has been named as a top 100 marketing influencer by Brand 24 and he was Entrepreneur of the Year by Philly Happening Magazine. In this episode, we talk about the pain points of becoming an entrepreneur and some of the misconceptions that people have when they go into the field.
We talk about Josh’s big mistakes and failures that he’s made and what he’s ultimately learned from them to set other entrepreneurs up for success using his framework.
By the end of this episode, you’ll have the myths and false promises of entrepreneurship brushed away in a practical framework so that you can have lasting success as an entrepreneur.
Joshua Davidson: I’ve actually been entrepreneur for a third of my life already so I started Chop Dawg, which is still my company today, back in 2009. I was 16 years old at the time and almost joked at the time that the book was going to be called The Axe Entrepreneur. It really didn’t really favor the purpose of my book which is why it’s called The Framework but being the Axe Entrepreneur is kind of how I became an entrepreneur.
I grew up loving website design. I used to play on AO Hell, Yahoo, GeoCites, Macromedia Fireworks, Myspace layouts and those things actually taught me how to program, how to design. When I was a kid, I actually created a fan site for Six Flags Great Adventure that, at its hey day, for a little theme park fan site from a 12 year old, was getting more traffic and was ranked number one than the corporate site itself. The theme park chain was actually contacting me and working with me like a 12 year old. It’s crazy, right?
In 2009, I only had one real job in my entire life which was a bus boy at a Red Robin and I hated it. I hated being an employee, I hated that my role was basically clean tabletops and open doors for people. I felt like I was going through the motions. I was 14, 15, 16, having this one real job.
“I loved website designing to death.”
I loved it, from doing a Six Flags theme park fan site to just making things on my own, building things for eventually what was Fireworks and Photoshop. I was obsessed with making something out of nothing and making this digital screen move these pixels around to do something that not only I could make myself but other people would use and love. I was obsessed with it.
I was in the childhood basement of my best friend at the time, who lived a couple of blocks from me growing up in a small town in South Jersey near the beach. Basically came up with the idea, why don’t I offer website design services to local small businesses, especially because they need it?
It was August and July and June of 2009, the height of the recession. The economy couldn’t be any worse. You’ve probably heard of Atlantic City, right? Atlantic City, its entire economic structure is based around entertainment.
What’s the first one that goes when people start losing their jobs our don’t have enough money in the bank or can’t make ends meet?
Charlie Hoehn: Leisure.
Joshua Davidson: Yeah, that’s entertainment 101. My hometown growing up got hit so hard. I forget the exact stats, I know it’s in the book, but something like I think 65, 70% of the workforce in my hometown worked in Atlantic City. You can imagine, things are shutting down, laying off everyone because they’re not essential.
I like to use these examples. Imagine you’re a bartender, imagine that half the bars in Atlantic City closed. Not only are you out of a job, thousands are out of a job, and they have one bar who does have a position open, it’s not the same as a good economy. You’re competing against thousands, let’s be blunt about it.
It’s very difficult to stand out, right? It’s like a numbers game.
I remember growing up with homes foreclosing, kids I grew up with moving, being forced to move, homes short selling, small businesses closing up shop, tax dollars going down, seeing my own high school teachers getting laid off and amenities not been added and extracurricular stuff being taken away.
I was kind of molded by that.
Living through this, the height of it, I came away seeing the absolute worst of the worst. Part of it is by bad fundamentals of the local economy. That’s just the truth of it. But you know, I witnessed firsthand what happened there.
In my stupidity I’m like, “I’m going to sell websites to small businesses” because somehow, back in 2009, no one had websites. They thought they could just replicate the yellow pages that you remember those as being online.
I couldn’t drive yet, I had a learner’s permit at the time, and I don’t know how much you know about South Jersey too but it’s hot and humid in the summer time. It’s sticky and it’s disgusting. I went door to door walking for over a month and a half, pitching to small businesses, and I had no experience doing this.
“I have no idea how to dress, how to talk, how to sell.”
Even how to price a website, right? I’m being turned down left and right. One person tried to call the cops. That’s what I went through as a kid, and the very last day before I started my junior year of high school I believe.
I went down to the final shopping center that was within walking distance of me, covered in sweat, I have no idea how to talk and dress, I’ve been turned down left and right. I had a small business that said, “Yeah, let’s do this.”
I remember, I didn’t even know how to price them. I’m like, “How’s $200?” Thinking, is that too much, is that too little, I had no idea, but they said, “Yes.”
I didn’t have a legal business entity yet, I didn’t have a business card, I didn’t have a website, I didn’t have email, nothing. I managed to convince one business, made him a website and actually grew revenue.
Why The Entrepreneur’s Framework?
Joshua Davidson: We actually brought up to revenue by 30% the first month, or at least the website. When I used to go every day after school to take pictures, code, help them with content, and after that it was like a snowball effect. One went after the other, telling people about hiring me, all these business that said no to me once upon a time were now saying, “Josh, you need to do our website.”
People offered me thousands of dollars where before they were just laughing me out of the room, to a point where I had to have a waiting list.
I had to make the choice, do I bring on people, do I do it all myself? I made the naïve choice of saying, “Let’s go bring on people,” thinking it would be just super easy, right? Man, there’s a whole story to that. The long story short, two years, I was running actually a multimillion-dollar website design company at the age of 17/18 years old.
I thought I was like a god among men, the way I could just like touch something and turn it into gold. My ego caught up to me a few years later in 2012, 2013, and I again became bored of small businesses. I wanted to build apps, I didn’t know how to convince people that we could build apps. I know we were capable, we did it before of one client, decided to build our own, decided to be reckless, put every dollar that we saved up into actually building this internal app we called Subtle.
It blew up in our face, to the point half of them quit, half’s starting to quit, we had no clients in the pipeline, because I fully ignored the Chop Dawg side.
“I kamikaze’d a business model that was working.”
I was literally at the point of depression, anxiety. Not knowing what to do, and I was a college drop out at this point.
That’s part of the story. It humbled me. When people say what’s the biggest success in your life, I consider that failure to be the biggest success of my life, because it taught me everything I needed to know, which is I knew nothing. I need always to approach that way—I need to be a student of entrepreneurship.
I can’t think I know the answers, because I don’t. I can’t be some egotistical maniac, because it’s just ridiculous and absurd. I have to realize failure is so much easier than success. People think there’s there’s this fine line between failure and success? No.
“Success is much harder to obtain than failure.”
Failure is almost like a given that you have to chase away from. That’s just honest truth.
Charlie Hoehn: Let’s talk about why you really need a framework, is the framework the thing that really set you free and got you to the next level?
Joshua Davidson: Absolutely. What I’ve learned when I came up with the framework and identified is that every successful entrepreneur has a compass inside them. That’s like guiding to your north star. You need to identify what your north star is, and that comes from what’s your purpose. Why are you an entrepreneur?
Unfortunately, entrepreneurship’s just become very sexy in recent years, right?
Charlie Hoehn: Unfortunately?
Joshua Davidson: Unfortunately. I remember acting like, 2011, I recently stopped attending college, I ran into an old high school teacher, I still lived in my hometown till about 2012. See how school is going, I told her I dropped out, focusing on Chop Dawg full time, and I might as well should have told her I was taking heroin in a dark alley way because of her reaction.
Entrepreneurship today, “My goodness, you are so lucky.” Part of it is because, think about it, movies are made about it, these rags to riches story. I remember a couple of years ago, Instagram got bought for a billion dollars in like 400 days of being founded.
It seems so attainable. I compare it to like the modern day rock bands. In ’70s and ’80s, everyone thought they could start a rock band because it looked attainable.
I love music, I can play an instrument. They don’t see the natural talent between what makes someone actually successful or not because there is a real talent disparity.
An example I put in the book is, I know I can’t play basketball, you know? I could play it, I would never be a professional NBA plaster, right? I’m a five foot nine dude that weights 190 pounds. It’s not happening.
Too Good to Be True
Charlie Hoehn: It’s like the movie Rudy. I love that we as a culture loved that movie so much of this guy who sucks at football and then the climax of the movie is that he gets to play in one play. But he sucks at football, he shouldn’t have been spending all his energy, hard work is great but what is he doing there?
Joshua Davidson: Hit the nail on the head, which is entrepreneurship looks attainable, right?
I can’t tell you how many college students I hear like, “I want to be an entrepreneur when I come out.” ’m talking to these seasoned veterans in their industry. “You know, I’m thinking about starting my own thing.”
It’s not that I don’t think people have good intentions.
I feel it looks attainable and people are attracted to it because of the fact that they think that is what they want. They think that I want create something on my own or something I know, but that’s not what entrepreneurship’s inherently about. It’s how I kind of start the book a little bit, once again to the framework, which is the best entrepreneurs are solving real problem.
Problems that didn’t exist or people were doing too poorly to solve beforehand or because they just know, “This is what I’m good at, this is what I’m talented at. This is what I belong to do.”
Understanding that entrepreneurship is so damn risky.
I hate to be so blunt about it, but like, every day, I’m currently responsible for 25 team members, their livelihoods, their families, making sure I get paid and we’re coming in, I’m responsible for over 250 clients where I have to make sure we’re producing at the quality I expected so they can keep making money, they can keep generating revenue.
“As an entrepreneur, I’m actually now a role model, which is unbelievable to me, but it’s true.”
I want to speak the truth which is, it’s hard. Most people are not cut out to be an entrepreneur. If you go in for the wrong reasons because you think, “I get to make my own schedule or I think I might be able to make more, I’m doing this because I want to get rich or famous,” it’s all bullshit reasoning that you’re going to burn out and it’s not going to be successful.
The same thing as probably writing a book, right? Most people cannot write a book, they’re not naturally talented enough, they don’t have enough content to do it, they have something that no one would care about.
It’s the same thing there. I don’t talk bad about it, but I talk about the frameworks, the compass, to make sure you’ll be the best entrepreneur you could be, but that you’re meant to be an entrepreneur on top of that.
How to Use the Framework
Charlie Hoehn: How do we actually use this framework, and what is it exactly? I’m not sure if I’m clear on what it is specifically.
Joshua Davidson: In plain English, what it is first is eight principles that I believe you need to become the absolute best that you’re going to be a successful entrepreneur. I compare it to sports.
I’m going to go take basketball again as an example. It’s more than just being tall and being strong, it’s like, “What’s your work ethic? Do you understand the game? Do you understand the fundamentals? Do you understand the playbook? Do you understand your role and the league on your team? Do you understand XY and Z? Do you have the mental mindset to go through a game, a season, a career?”
These are all tangible to a game. Or in football, how’s your arm versus how’s your speed versus how’s your muscle memory—what are the tangibles?
The Entrepreneur’s Framework is broken into the entrepreneurial version of that content. I actually start off the book very straightforward saying, “Here’s an actual visual of the framework in a way to analyze yourself and identify from a score of zero to a hundred, where do you rank on each of these pieces?”
You can actually rate yourself saying, based on what you know about that principle, “Am I 80% of the way there?” I always talk about this throughout the book, it’s one of the biggest things, which is, you’re basically like a work of art, and you’re always working a craft.
The goal isn’t necessarily to be a hundred at everything, because I don’t think that’s possible. Someone’s always going to be better than you. Again, using sports as an example. You want to be the most well rounded and you want to try and keep going and keep trying to get better at it, keep using lessons you learned, to reinforce that framework.
It acts as a moral compass and making sure that you’re not too one sided, where I might be the most self-aware person in the world, I don’t even think about the short term or long term ramifications of my business or operations or what my purpose is behind this.
Charlie Hoehn: Tell me which of these principles you just listed tend to be the most surprising to entrepreneurs when they dig in?
Joshua Davidson: Have you heard the saying before, “Find your passion? “
I think it’s bullshit.
Passion is pretty fleeting. I mean I can be passionate about stuff for years and then one day it fades out. I had passion about theme parks as a kid. I am obviously not in theme park industry right now or building roller coasters or stuff like that.
Now I look at passion as a direction on the map that leads you to your purpose. I’ve found that the people who have purposes in their life, usually their passions are like a gravitational pull around that purpose. It helps you find that.
Charlie Hoehn: I want to restate what you just said because I have never heard it before. Your passions actually point you to your purpose. So they are your compass leading you to the North Star which is your purpose.
Joshua Davidson: Precisely, I mean that is legitimately the analogy in the book. I’ll use my own example as a kid, right? I fell in love with computers, I fell in love with building things. I fell in love with the theme park industry but in reality, I fell in love with the sense of community and being able to use that as an outlet for my own creativity, and it made me fall in love with what I realized in hindsight, all this led to this sense of community.
Building things is about helping others. In particular, helping others through the means that I love the most, which is building digital products, digital goods, things that can allow others to interact to find another and anything tangible of that nature. As a kid, I discovered my purpose pretty damn early.
My parents, I am very fortunate, they let me just go all in, find my purposes. I was very lucky. I had a computer as a kid which you know now all do.
But back in the ’90s, I wouldn’t have one. I did camera back as a kid and I learned how to take photographs. I got trial and error through building things on the Yahoo Geocities to understand as a kid what people would like and not like. I was an entrepreneur as a kid without understanding the word entrepreneur, and I probably would have just mispronounced it. I wouldn’t understood what the hell it was.
“Entrepreneurship has a natural talent.”
It has a calling to it that people don’t realize. I found my passion, and it led me to my purpose. In hindsight, I realize, I was always doing something on my purpose. I just never knew what that purpose was.
I use this rule of thumb which is, how many people do you know that probably worked nine to five since school? They have gone through the motions, completely not doing anything that is even a passion of theirs because they are trying to live day by day.
And they are so misaligned from what your life’s purpose is because they don’t explore what interests them because maybe they don’t have enough time or they’ll come up with whatever BS reason not to do it.
That is why the framework is there, because the idea is you don’t want your playing field to be found out—is this your purpose or not? Because as an entrepreneur, if it’s not and you get burned out, you just wasted time, money, and worth.
The actual risk and reward is so huge.
Charlie Hoehn: What is your suggestion for once they’re starting to find their purpose?
Joshua Davidson: I actually put in there, once you realize you know your purpose, there is only one answer, which is you need to go all in on it. Start doing it once you get it. One thing I have learned a lot, because I have asked this question years ago and covering the book is, “How do you know it’s your purpose?”
The answer is something distinct in you. It is intuitive. You feel it when you know you found something that’s your purpose and not a passion.
And for a long time, if you never feel your purpose, you think passions are purpose because you don’t know how to compare to different feelings, right? It’s not until you uncover that you know your purpose. Is there something in life that you are like, “This is why I get up in the morning. This is what I do”.
Charlie Hoehn: I am rarely caught off guard with this kind of stuff because I read a lot of books, but I haven’t heard it put this way.
Joshua Davidson: Well let us put it this way, what misaligns me, why I burn out, become egotistical, was because I was chasing artificial goals that weren’t even passions anymore. It just became bullshit ego filling stuff.
Back when I built Subtle, it’s because I was jealous that other people were building successful apps, and why aren’t we doing this? I sabotaged a good business model at the time because I was fearing about becoming complacent about.
Why was I becoming fear and complacent? I actually ask myself these questions and part of the book is actually understanding how to ask yourself these questions. If you don’t know how to ask yourself, or realizing to ask yourself, you never are. You’re going to fall into trap, and eventually it may all blow up in your face like it did with me or will go for half of your life until you realize “I don’t feel fulfilled.”
Something is wrong or my company is not growing—so why not? I am doing everything I am supposed to do? That framework really comes into play. These are all the things I’ve learned. We just want to have a purpose.
A Feeling of Purpose
Charlie Hoehn: So what was the feeling that you felt once you found your purpose?
Joshua Davidson: So you know what’s interesting is I never had an epiphany, you know that one morning where you wake up and you’re like, “Holy shit this is it!” I never had that.
It’s a buildup over time. When you find your purpose, you realize that there is no way you’re ever not going to do what you need to do for the rest of your life. There’s just no way.
If you told me today, here’s the honest truth, the book flops, Chop Dawg goes out of business, God forbid. That is worst case scenarios here and I am out, game over.
I am dusting off the video game cartridge and hitting restart and going back in and do it again because I know this is what I am meant to do.
I have come to the conclusion with having this purpose, I almost have this belief that not that everything happens for a reason. I don’t necessarily believe we have some made up fate already happened. I do believe that failures and successes are all learning lessons for you to become better.
You are always working on that trajectory, and it is almost like a video game. You are going to keep leveling up, and that is the objective. The second you become still at whatever you are doing, something is wrong, because it means you are not doing something that was your purpose.
That is going to keep lighting the fire under you that will say what more can you do. That’s where I identified really early on, passions versus purpose.
You might have been wild fire for that goal, but now you move onto the next thing.
Purpose is a little different.
Here is the best way to describe it, when you find passion versus purpose, passion is having an end goal. Purpose is when all you are obsessed over is the journey. You care less about what the end goal is because you don’t think it exists. That’s how you identify purpose. The reason I wrote this book, one of the biggest single reasons is I just want to help as many people as possible.
And doing it through the means that I love to do, that is purpose.
“That is why I get up every day.”
That is why I run a company that helps people for a living, why I take so much pride in what we do and helping others and employing people and helping our community, why I give my time back to Big Brothers and Big Sisters. It is why I speak at seminars, conferences and events, universities. It is why I literally wake up from 9 AM and work until one in the morning.
Literally meeting after meeting, just helping entrepreneurs, helping business folks, helping individuals. I don’t lose energy. I get physically tired, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t have those days anymore where I am like, “I just don’t want to do this.” That is not a thing.
It doesn’t register in my head. It doesn’t mean you don’t do things that are unrelated to your purpose that you got in here. I still got to pay my bills, I don’t want to do that. Obviously that is not my purpose in life.
So it is not like you become like some robotic machine, but when you have 80% of your day, 90% of your day, your focus being around your purpose is the most ridiculously amazing feeling in the world. You realize nothing else really matters except these core things.
Success with The Entrepreneur’s Framework
Charlie Hoehn: I do want to talk about how this framework has helped entrepreneurs that you’ve maybe coached or advised or helped, do you have any success stories there?
Joshua Davidson: Yeah, I mean I’m going to use basketball as an analogy for an example because I think this will make everything sense. I wrote the book into two parts, why and how.
The first part you will read is why before how. How is, how do you use the framework. Why is, why you need a framework. It is almost like a drill book. So I am using basketball. It can be used as an analogy here, you know people that can do great lay up or free throw or hit a three pointer. It doesn’t mean you are destined for the NBA.
In entrepreneurship, if you are just good at sales or good at marketing or good at programming you might think you are made to be an entrepreneur. It is the same example as what I just gave you in basketball right? It doesn’t mean you are great at being an entrepreneur. It just means that you are great at one little facet of a whole game. So one of the big things I talk about in the book to begin with is understanding the rule book.
“It’s never been more affordable. It’s never been easier to build a business.”
I use real case study examples from back in the day to now, how economies change. I think people take for granted the fact that you can spend 10 bucks to register a domain name and you have a potential of a good business model and then just reaching in for infrastructure, all set and ready to go.
That has been unheard of. Go back 20 years ago, how much would it cost you to buy land or to lease a spot, get a name, get your store front open, advertise like social media is free, domain names are 10 bucks, hosting can be free depending where you go it is website builders, you don’t even need to hire a programmer. It’s never been easier, but it also makes it so much harder than ever before because anyone can do it.
That leads you into the framework and ideas like you need to understand the rules of the game and then you need to understand how to play the game. That is how I have broken down why it’s about the new economy and then it is about the framework and to give you success stories.
Here is probably the best example I can give you right here, where it is not a multibillion-dollar company. Or even a multimillion-dollar company, but it is the definition of the framework and success.
We worked with a client a few years ago, he was actually on Wall Street, and he was a typical investor you would see. They live very high stress, high urgency lives, literally working non-stop, making a killing. It is just a very grinding job. He gets a call one day that both of his parents, his mom and dad, were involved in a car accident and died instantly. He’s responsible for the funeral.
And he’s in his late 20s early 30s. You are burying your parents, you lost them, you have to catch your love ones together, you have to plan the funeral arrangements, all while you are dealing with very high stress high urgency job. He actually hit a breaking point. He couldn’t handle—he was calling funeral homes, waiting for a callback.
He is doing price gauging and caskets, trying to reach family members, trying to balance the job, and all of this, he couldn’t just do it al. He literally hit a break down, and a year later, he said “I don’t want anyone ever to go through that again.”
He actually left his job and he said, “There has to be a better way in the funeral industry. I don’t want to be planning someone’s funeral. That’s the last thing I want to be doing, especially if it is your own parents. All I want to do is have it handled and just grieve because that’s what I need to do”.
That is the healthy thing to do. All of this other stuff BS and he’s like, “Why isn’t there a way where I can really put at 5K? They’re just religious preference, they live here, recommend me everything and let me just hit a check out and I am done and I don’t have to worry about it.” He realized this doesn’t exist, and he dealt with this pain point and realized his purpose was to make sure no one ever goes through that damn problem again, because it destroyed him.
He’s like, “This cannot happen, how is this a thing?”
It’s like here is your funeral home, here is the plot, here is the casket you need, here is the travel arrangements, here is the obituary, you’re done. Five minutes, one check out, go back to grieving, deal with what is important, everything else is already fully automated and ready to go for you.
That is the example of the framework, right? It is one of those things where you don’t want to go through it, but I understood it from the entrepreneurial context like that pain, that misery, that breakdown made him realized there has to be a better way. It rewired his entire brain to realize this, this is what I am here for. Make sure no one goes through this again.
That is an example where they make thousands of dollars a month. He is saving people money, saving them time, and most importantly giving them back the grieving process, a little bit of sanity in their lives when they need it the most. I mean if that is not entrepreneurship, what is?
Charlie Hoehn: What is the name of his business, just out of curiosity?
Joshua Davidson: PLOT. Yeah, so you can literally go to planlifeontime.com. They are also going by plot.co, but they changed it to the planlifeontime.com.
Connect with Joshua Davidson
Charlie Hoehn: I’ve got a couple more questions for you as we wrap up here. The first one is how can our listeners connect with you and potentially follow you?
Joshua Davidson: Yes, so on every social network, you can find me under the username @dasjoshua. My company is called Chop Dawg. So chopdawg.com. If you want The Entrepreneur’s Framework, it’s going to be available on Amazon, and I am not making a single dollar in profit. All of that is going to Big Brothers Big Sisters here in Philadelphia, PA, called The Independence Region.
Charlie Hoehn: Awesome and the final question I have for you is give our listeners a challenge. What is the one thing they can do from your book this week that will have a positive impact?
Joshua Davidson: I’m going to back because it was definitely a big theme in this podcast here, find your why. Really take the time, no one does this and they should.
I shouldn’t say no one—most don’t do this.
Or ask yourself, what are you passionate about? Do you give your passions enough time to flourish and have you given your passions enough opportunity to help you identify which purpose is? And if the answer is no, at the bare minimum, don’t feel bad you don’t have a purpose but start exploring some passions and just going all in and seeing where they’ll lead you.