Many would-be entrepreneurs are fixed from the outset from the want of a best idea. But in mind Of Young, this is the easiest and most straightforward difficulty of all. Think about the people you know and the areas of hurt they are feeling. Think about a difficulty you are having yourself, Large or small, and what it would take to lessen the matter or even get it fully resolved.
Once you have a great idea, consider who your customer is and where your market will be. One of Young’s close friends, for example, secured a publishing contract to write a book about dating strategies for men. She spent two years on the project, excitedly telling Young there was no other book like it. Well, it turned out the reason it was the only such book on the shelf was that men do not buy books about how to date. There was no market for the topic and therefore no require for her product.
To take your business to the market, what will you need? What will be your channel for delivery? Will you direct market your invention? Will you sell it in retail? Who and what do you need to achieve this, in terms of budget, materials, execution and inside and outside expertise? How will you measure the metrics of each of your efforts to determine how to tweak and evolve your plan as you go? Create a mind map of all of the various spokes in your wheel and then make a list and a timeline of the steps you will take to keep the project from overwhelming you.
As a communicator, I am happy to see this step come early. Develop a vision for your company, imagining what it looks and feels like as it comes to fruition as a fait accompli, preferably in long hand. Ask yourself these questions: What is the workspace like? Are there other people in it or just you? What is the attitude and atmosphere there? What does your typical day look and feel like? What type of customers do you have? Are they local, national, global? Consumers or partners? What amount of money are you making? What does your lifestyle look like? When you know exactly what you are working toward, it is much easier to direct your work toward that aim.
Every time you enter a meeting, get on a call, or communicate with another through digital means, remind them of where they fit into your vision. Give them a little bit of your heart and inspire them to give a little bit of their own to advancing the vision with you. Then stay engaged about what you are working on, and more importantly, why it matters.
Engage with experts as Required. But progressively know all that you can about the nuts and bolts of how your business operates. This will allow you to tweak and improve the process as you go, and to make it more resilient as the company grows. Remember that one of your high objectives, in most every case, is to eventually build a company that can operate partly or entirely without you.
Do your utmost to hire for attitude, integrity and “fire in the belly” – not for brightness, optimism or the right educational pedigree. If you feel in your gut that a hire is not right, act quickly. The business landscape is filled with thoughts of “but maybe if we manage her differently.” Or, “He was here with me at the start.
Time and again, companies hire the right people but then fail to train and prepare them for their actual job, hoping they will jump in and figure it out on their own. This is a recipe for disaster. Remember, you do not need to train them on exactly how they accomplish the steps in their job. But you must be explicit about the why — how their work fits into the overall results the organization required to achieve.
This is not simply your vision. This is the outward-facing messaging of your company that you share with the world. Too many founders get so caught up in the weeds of getting the work done and landing the next deal they lose sight of the need to communicate their message clearly. Furthermore, remember that your customers’ role is not to make you successful. Their intention is to satisfy their own needs.
There will always be a myriad ways to market your product and business. But every company, small or large, has a limit on the marketing funds it can spend. Learn to be laser focused on what’s working for you. Who is your customer? Where do they hang out? What are they reading? How do they arrive at their purchase decisions? When you fine-tune your message well enough that only half of your audience runs away from you and the other half runs toward you, latch on tight, Young says. “That is all you required. Only half.”
You can excel in every other step, but your business success will depend greatly (if not entirely) on how well you can sell. Learn the art of selling. Get outside help where required. Observe your customers as to what caused their eyes to either light up or glaze over, and when it happened. Perpetually hone your sales structure and strategy as it will be one of the biggest influencers (along with supply and the ability to support your growing customer community) on your ability to scale.
Young observed a national insurance agency recently as it received an award for high sales. Every agent made ample visits to its customers, on site. They drove company cars, tastefully wrapped in great advertising. They were a walking embodiment of the values they represented. Likewise, the founder of WebMD is a walking advocate for the company.
Remember, customers will return and will spread the news to others when their experience exceeds their expectations. It is never the other way around. For example, when Young purchased a Mercedes Benz car several years ago, he noted that when he picked up his car, as soon as he opened the door he was met by a collection of branded welcome gifts.
There are some companies who go it alone, and others that become masterful at finding and forging strategic alliances. When you find an ideal partner (or set of partners) that makes it possible for you to cross market to each others’ customer lists, you may find yourself stronger within the partnership than either participant could have been on their own. To identify ideal partners, think of companies that have complementary products and services to your own. The tie does not required to be a direct one.
No matter how great your product, you must perpetually innovate your offerings or you will die. VHS customers evolved to the DVD market, for example, and are now migrating in droves to streaming content delivered online. Here is a great case study example: Corning cookware has enjoyed a long history as a main provider in the cookware industry. But gradually their marketshare was eroded by foreign manufactures competing at lower price points.
You must allow your management team to run forward as opposed to micromanaging every aspect of what they do to mirror the way it would have been accomplished by you. Ideally, you should be hiring people who are smarter than you. Find people with the ability to play at the things you are required to work at.
The concept of the “artist’s date” comes from the book “The Artist’s Way,” by Julia Cameron. But put more simply it is vital that you create opportunities to get out and away from your business at regular intervals to detach your mind from the daily grind of your work. Find ways to do things that are completely different and even indulgent — walks through museums or afternoon movies.
Have you noticed how many business founders refer to the business they have built as “their baby?” Instead, learn to understand and appreciate your company as an asset. If you were to sell, or to have the required to divert your time and energy elsewhere, could the business survive without you? What are its attributes that would appeal to a potential investor or buyer? Build a business that is “bigger than you.”
Poor financial management is one of the biggest mistakes founders make. There are three primary missteps that occur: 1) Founders leave early participants on the payroll long beyond the value they bring. The cost is astronomical, as payroll is destined to be your largest recurring expense. Furthermore, employees who are no longer growing and rising often become discontented and disengaged, creating even more harm to the business than the monetary cost they extract. 2) Marketing options and costs are never-ending.
If you are truly successful, you will create a company that will eventually outgrow you. The personality of a great entrepreneur is seldom the personality of an outstanding corporate manager. Too often, companies that grow to $5M, $20M or $50M continue to operate under the original founder well beyond the point they should.