While I’m a firm believer we can achieve more as entrepreneurs than we can as employees, there are some damn good lessons we can learn from corporates. One such thing that large companies tend to do is strategy planning. Annual or quarterly events, where time is taken out to sit down and plan the future. So my question is this:
When is the last time you did this for your most important startup: Your household?
Yes, the startup that is the people who live in your home. It seems ever so weird that we spend an inordinate amount of time doing strategy for the companies we work for, and yet fail to do it for ourselves and our family. My household is a 5 year old startup which is clearly the most important in my portfolio – the capstone of all the matters to me. Within it, we have two other startups, otherwise known as children. So my wife and I are investing a few days where our entire focus is what we want out of life for our family, and how we might go about achieving it.
So what might we include in such a day? Our approach to health, loving, learning, sharing, housing, career, finance and our community. We’ll ratify our guiding philosophy on how we invest the 24 hours in each day. We’ll decide how we allocate our resources to maximise happiness. We know that the major asset in life is time, and the people we love. The financial part of our strategy day – our plans for income and investing – is last on the agenda. This should serve what we want as people, and so setting numbers before we know what we need, would be back to front. The outcome will be an operations plan for a happy home.
We often go through life thinking that if we earn enough money, and do well in our career, the other life stuff will be ok. Turns out the opposite of this is true.
I’m a strong believer in the importance of setting written goals. However, it does seem as though for every person I meet that agrees with their ability to influence life outcomes, there are an equal number of people who dismiss the concept of goal setting as having an impact on achievement.
So here is the simplest explanation I can provide for how goals work: Setting a written goal creates selective perception. Written goals subconsciously program our mind to be aware of opportunities relating to the goal as they cross our path. All of sudden we see how things might work. This does two things: Firstly, it reminds us of the task we’ve set. Secondly, it helps us find ways to make it actually happen. After that, it’s just a question of effort and tenacity.
It’s kind of like your car: Have you ever wanted a new car, or just bought a car only to notice how many of them are driving around on the roads? This is selective perception at work. It’s a beacon for stuff that matters to us – for what is relevant in our world. We only see what is out there once we purposely place ‘it’ into our life or desire it.
One of the most powerful things we can do is set our brain to work in the background – and if we know it works on simple things like noticing cars, imagine what it can do once we set it to notice opportunities.
Multi-tasking is a hoax. In fact it’s one of the worst developments associated with the personal computer revolution. It robs us of time, reduces focus, and has a negative impact on reaching deadlines adn getting stuff done. So here is my top 10 list of ways to avoid the multi-tasking hoax:
- Only have one computer application open at a time
- Only check your emails at 2 designated times of the day (say 9am and 3pm)
- Don’t write long to do lists (guilty). Instead write down the answer to this question: ‘The one thing I must finish today’
- Close your eyes while taking phone calls to ensure you listen to the other party.
- Learn to say ‘no’. Tell the other person why, you can’t do it, or offer for them to pick something to drop off.
- Meditate daily. Think about long term goals
- Focus on depth of activities, not number of activities completed. Do less things, better.
- Never tell anyone you are busy. We are all busy. It leads to pin balling around stuff instead of finishing.
- have defined goals for the year. Ask yourself each morning how your are moving towards them.
- Add your item for number 10 in the comments.
Startup Blog says: Multitasking is your enemy. Avoid it.
It’s what we create for the people who care. The truth is we never know how hard it was to deliver the right product, at the right place at the right time. We only care that it was.
What we (the entrepreneurs, producers, marketers) had to go through is not part of the consideration set. It isn’t charity, it’s about them. So if we nail it and deliver the project quickly, we needn’t feel guilty or less deserving. Likewise, if it took us 5 years of hard working weekends and nights, that’s also no reason to feel a level of entitlement. We need to feel what they feel – underwhelmed or overwhelmed with what we deliver, how we got there is far less important.
Once upon a time I used to think that entrepreneurs had to be smart enough to develop a niche strategy. A nice smart strategy which will keep them hidden from the big ugly and powerful incumbents and other startups. A strategy to extract sneaky revenue.
I learned how wrong I was the hard way. I was way to clever with my first startup 1-bil (an anti stress drink). We developed an incredibly clever niche distribution strategy aiming for 5 star hotels, business class travelers on airlines and airports. What we called a ‘sneezer strategy’ of niche distribution to grow from. The category influencers.
Turns out niche strategies limit the number of doors we can knock on. It limits the number of people we can sell to. It limits the angles of success we can have. It limits the number of rejections we can have (and we’ll get plenty) When we get a rejected from our core strategic market, we lose confidence, we count how many points of distribution we have left and start to struggle and lose faith. We invent our own failure.
The niche market is great for well resourced companeis doing innovative stuff. Not so for startups. It’s very counter intuitive. Entrepreneurs need to learn the truth about niche marketing. And the truth is this:
Gaining traction with any new product or company is inherently difficult. We ought sell to anyone who’ll buy our stuff. Get the message out to as many people as possible. Take all the revenue we can get and what will transpire is a niche strategy anyway due to natural startup dynamics. We’ll get rejected 9 out of 10 times on average. We’ll end up in a market niche, from which we’ll have to grow and expand from anyway. Starting with a niche in mind, really just limits our probability of success.
The startup lesson is this: Find your niche through market dynamics, don’t target it.
It’s well documented that I’m not a big fan of business plans. Mainly because we live in a world of flux. But if you must use one – which I’ll call a 1 page mud map – then here’s a template. I’ve used this and I’d recommend it for ‘real entrepreneurs’ – that is non VC seeking bootstrappers.
What is it?
Describe your business or service in a single sentence. If you can’t do this, you don’t know what you’re doing.
Who is it for?
The audience who need or want this thing you’re about to create. Define them in whatever terms you please, demographically, socially, behaviourally, geographically. Just be succinct and tight in your clustering.
Why do they need it?
How is it better than the current substitute options?
How will they find us?
Where will we gain distribution? Maybe we’ll leverage a strong retail chain. A singular high traffic location. If web based strong SEO / brand awareness will be required. Maybe we already have an audience who we’ll bring a product to. This should be the most detailed part of the plan. It should include brand awareness activities and promotions. It still should only be a round 1 paragraph long.
Cost to build Version 1.0
Just estimate it – then double your estimate. Now this is the bare bones version, the absolute minimum required for launch. Outsource every element of production were possible, unless you are the major factor of production. Keep the cost low. It enhances speed, and reduces fear of failure and inertia.
There is no such thing as ‘Free’ – just a delayed revenue model. Ideas include: Sell item for price, Percentage of sales, memberships, premiums, selling advertising among others. Your plan is not finished unless you can answer this in a way your mum can understand.
These steps are related to launching the product. We stop typing and start prototyping. Here’s where we have 3-5 bullet points on how to get to version 1.0 The quickest possible route to being live in market. The steps to when you can out there and start selling & promoting.
That’s it. In fact you final plan should be as short as that we see above. Print it, put it up in your office and get to work.
I am on Twitter – Click here to follow me
Small tip for startups for today.
Trim the ‘to do’ list and actually deliver on something.
All to often we get caught up in ‘options’ and priorities and a simple solution is to have 1 priority, and 1 thing to do.
Then do it.
Take your to do list and put everything which isn’t number one and file it in a digital format somewhere to return to later. This way you’ll ensure that the ideas and projects aren’t lost.
I know, you know this. I know you’ve heard this idea before…..
But if you’ve forgotten it, or you don’t do it – do you really know it?