Starting a new business is hard. Knowing what to call yourself is only the first part. Having a great idea, also only a stepping stone. In starting my own business, I’ve been researching/gathering information – I’d call it intell, but that implies a higher level skill and let’s face it, doing competitive research takes seconds these days…really, seconds would be pushing it.
In doing all this research, I keep hearing about all the mistakes entrepreneurs make. The problem with that is it focuses on the negative parts and makes mistakes seem like a bad thing. Errors are the things we know not to do and do them anyway, like walking in front of a car that is racing through the light. Those are bad.
So, here’s a different list – the top 10 things you should do to “course correct” – a hinge on correct mistakes before they happen:
1. Validate stuff with customers! Before you proceed to the next item, please answer the following question – do you have a surveyMonkey account? If not, click here. And then come back and read the rest. It’s like in grade school – you want to know something? Ask!
2. I’ll trade ya. Everyone is trying to make money, right? No. Money is only one form of currency. In fact, currency is “the fact or quality of being widely accepted and circulated from person to person.” So, the question really is, what do you have that’s valuable to someone else besides money?
3. Empty your pockets. You see it everyday in the news, “new start-up gets stupid amounts of funding to create the next app or the next gadget or the next widget”. What you don’t see is what they give up. Urban legends aside, all entrepreneurs that get money give something up. So, how can you build in pieces, slowly? Where do you have hidden change? Where else can you get change? Rich investment banker friends are nice, but if you want to keep them, figure out ways you can get smaller wins with less cash. You may find that you also gain small amounts of revenue that sustain you longer than you think…and do not require you to give anything up!
4. Get access to coaching. This one may seem slightly self-serving, but coaching does not have to be paid coaching. There are a number of free services out there too. What’s important is to find a “team” around you that can really help give feedback on your ideas. Being an entrepreneur is not the same as an individual contributor role in the office. You may be an individual in an organization, but you are not out there on your own.
5. New is not always better. Sometimes the best ideas are the ones that take current thinking and just do it better.
6. Got people? Networking is one way to do this, but the real key is building a community. This one might also seem self-serving as I work to create a community with my companies. But that does not mean it’s not right! The key is there is a difference between networking and building community – one is a set of resources and ideas, the other is the group of people you can turn to in a crisis or in great times and you can be human while doing it.
7. Focus, focus, shiny object. There is a difference between iterating on an idea and completely changing it to the face of something else. Learn to recognize the difference. Sometimes scrapping it and starting over is not a good idea. Ask the right questions as you are starting, so when you learn new things, you can add-on rather than starting over from scratch.
8. Change your mindset. If you turn your model upside-down and choose a different customer, does it still hold up? Do you sell in the same way? Does that customer become more interesting to you? You can even have a product already in mind, but there are 4 other Ps that might radically change how you bring that product to market, just by asking yourself the question.
9. It’s all about the experience. You may offer a product and have customers and a decent revenue stream. The question is what goes on in people’s lives around your product and your customer? How can you make their lives better? Easier? Faster? and Happier? Is your product just the product? Is your service just a service? If so, then what’s to stop someone whose further up the chain from integrating what you do and doing it better? [And by better, not just knocking you out of the market, but getting paid more for what you were offering]
10. “Who’s yur daddy?” Who is your bread and butter and what do they need? Not just what they want, but what they need right NOW? Rewrite the Rolling Stones’ lyrics – make sure your customers always get what they want AND what they need. (And I’m not talking just free stuff)
And as a bonus, here’s #11. Get coaching. It’s a repeat and a plug, but it’s true. You have a lot of passion and heart around your idea and your potential business. And you will be very creative with both. But you need someone who will help “light a fire under you” – to keep you thinking of other avenues and other iterations, but also someone who will keep you focused when you need to be.
Happy Business Value Creation!