I have spent a lot of time thinking about the steps that we entrepreneurs (mind you I said entrepreneurs not successful entrepreneurs) take that others don’t.
And aside of the common concepts like taking risk or being visionaries, etc – there are more real, tangle steps that we take that are the catalysts for our actions.
I spent some time this summer in Europe and worked with Google for Entrepreneur’s Campus Madrid program where I mentored a few founders and taught a few workshops.
And what became very clear to me was this lack of understanding that too many had (not all, of course) around what to do to launch an idea that they had. And what is universally common is that everyone has ideas however so few of us actually do anything about them -- and keep them in our heads.
Now I get that Madrid, Spain does not yet have the ecosystem that Silicon Valley has; in fact nowhere else on the planet is like the bay area; however I found myself explaining the importance of not necessarily taking risks and being brave alone, but even more granular steps.
Over one weekend I went down to Seville, Spain to indulge in Andalucían cuisine and visit family friends when I met the husband of a friend of a friend.
Once we began chatting about I did for a living and vice versa his eyes lit up and he began sharing his startup ideas.
I thought his ideas were solid and asked him why he hadn’t pursued them. His reasons were of course valid and logical. He just got married and his wife was not crazy about him taking risks. He was also unclear about quitting his job, was 35 and had responsibilities etc; again, all very valid reasons.
However, what was very clear to me was this guy’s passion and desire for something more. After a few classes of amazing wine and probably the best Spanish tapas that I had had in a while, I requested a pen and piece of receipt paper and began writing down tangle steps to help him understand what he had to do next to move forward.
I explained to him that he didn’t have to quit his job and bet it all. That he could use the Internet to gauge interest and demand for the product and that it would not cost him much at all. We also figured out a B2B angle to the business that made a lot of sense for what he was doing and would be a great go-to-market approach.
Within two hours or so, on a piece of receipt paper we had some very real actions that would drive him forward. And the best part was that he saw the path. What were worked on were the steps to get started, to move forward, not the steps to a successful business (we were very far from that).
And then it hit me what I found myself always doing at the beginning of a venture. Here are a few tips that I’d like to share that came to mind that night:
Declare Your Intentions
There is something powerful that happens when you say or declare your intentions to do something. We all need to be held accountantable to things and by verbally declaring that you will be pursuing a business idea you make it more real than it was. This is a step forward.
Not to mention the pressure that you now place on yourself to deliver some action around your declaration. And of course there is the slight desire not to look stupid in the eyes of the person/s that received your declaration.
For me this was always my mother. I also often text or call friends and say something like “I am going to work on the XYZ concept. Let’s see if it has legs or not”.
I guess have been doing this kinda stuff for so long that the fear of failure it’s really there for me.
The downside of the declaring your intentions is that you might run through so many declarations that your friends and/or family think you are crazy! – I personally could care less.
Take Micro-Steps Forward
You don’t have to write a 200-page business plan. In fact, there is no way that you follow that plan anyways, as markets change daily, and you must be agile enough to adapt.
Take what I think can be looked at as micro-steps. Plan out what you will accomplish in 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month. Once you have accomplished your initial goals, this will build confident, make it more real, and continue to move you forward.
Don’t take on too much too soon. The fact is that you don’t even know what a year looks like and you shouldn’t because every venture is different. It’s impossible to predict exactly.
Give Yourself a Budget and Timeline
Especially if you are bootstrapping (self-finding) a business and focused on validating the concept, which is essentially conducing research and experimenting, you don’t want to burn through your own money and hit zero.
Once thing that my good friend Jim Payne always cautioned me about over the years was the fact that once you hit zero in the bank it was over. Of course, I didn’t listen to him in that moment and hit zero a few times. I can assure you the show is over when you are broke.
Give yourself a budget. Say I am willing to lose lets say $5,000.00 and not die if the venture doesn’t work.
Also give yourself a timeline. Say I am going to spend 6 months on this idea and if it doesn’t show signs of success and I going to reconsider and move on to a new idea.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up If Your Idea Proves Your Wrong!!!
Lastly, these things are REALLY ,REALLY hard. The chances are that you will indeed fail many times before you succeed. Its kinda a universal law for some reason. It’s important to TRY to keep level headed and not beat yourself up if your idea proves to be a bad one or doesn’t work out.
I can’t tell you how many times I have fallen into a depression in the past due to a failure. And as evolved and experienced as I think I am these days, I am still deeply effected by failures or when ventures lose steam.
The key is to give yourself time to heal and get back in the game.