When you know what you should do but choose not to (Week 3 as an entrepreneur)

This week was probably my least productive. I got hit by a spot of depression with my startups idea and business plan (more on that later) but I’ve come through it with a better understanding of myself and how to solve it when it comes up. Anyway on to the stats:

Stats

Meditation: 3/7 (Moved to a new app I don’t like as much)

Exercise: 2/7 (alas an operation mean’t doctors orders)

Code written: Not so much as I’d like (stats soon)

Paying clients/revenue: 0/$0

Time spent on YT/Video games: Too long (stats soon)

Time spent on side projects: 0 hrs

Time spent reading: ~15 hrs (approximately 2/3 of a book)

What went well (or badly)

After a relatively productive Monday, working on a business plan & getting through plenty of bugs & issues (including the ability to do 3 login types which is pretty cool) everything was going well. But then after a dinner with a friend who stated he saw some issues with the business, it made me question things in a way that made me uncomfortable.

The idea I’m building now is not exactly what I originally planned to do. I pivoted from a solution of something I wanted, to somewhere I saw value (making it less exciting to built but a perceived increased chance of success). So the idea of finding out there seemed to be flaws in the market really hit me (and lead to a day on the sofa playing video games… admittedly a few drinks the night before didn’t help).

I often think of myself as a solution driven person, especially with programming, which is to say that if I see an issue then I’ll think of a way that you could automate/solve the issue. However this has 3 potential issues as being the sole reason to go forward with a business:

  • Is this a big enough issue someone will pay for it to be solved?
  • Are the number of people that think its a big enough issue that warrant building out the solution?
  • Can I target those people and acquire them into the solution at a cost point that is low enough to make me profitable (including server costs, employee costs, marketing costs, servicing costs, sales costs…etc)?

I’ll be honest I often don’t think too much about the above. One of the reason I haven’t in the past is that I was part of teams at Google building business solutions out where:

  • I know my target market (often me or colleagues)
  • I was able to fully understand the issue by asking lots of questions, knowing the tools they use & also what the end customer is after
  • I could just solve the solution for them and didn’t have to sell it to them at a cost to them other than their time
  • I had easy marketing strategies as I could just email them, present at team meetings and even get their managers to force them to use it (especially as I could tell by their logins who used it or not)

This is where the importance of a business plan comes in, especially for me. It helps me start to think more about the market:

  • How big is it?
  • Is it expanding?
  • What are the issues for the people in their market and what is success (or often failure)?
  • If I solve this for them how much will this make/save them?
  • Do I know enough about the market and if I should go learn more!

Anyway, I did quite a bit of research (and finally created a more concrete business plan) and actually found the numbers for my initial markets were larger than expected. On top of this I was to find out the market seemed to have been untapped, it was expanding and the other solutions that are for other markets seemed pretty flawed in a number of areas (not to say my solution doesn’t have issues in other areas but you know…).

On Saturday I was able to go to a Startup Bootcamp called ‘Brand Entrepreneurs’. A free Bootcamp run by the amazing Christine Souffrant, which was phenomenal. Here I was able to tell lots of entrepreneurs the idea and was happy to hear quite a lot of them saw the value (both in terms of the market and their own roles). This reassurance from others was really valuable and I think key when I lose hope.

What I’ve learn’t

  • Taking feedback always takes work — While I was at Google I got pretty good at taking on feedback, as its well structured and really at the end of the day I enjoy self improvement and the products I was building were always going to improve and if they failed it wasn’t the end of the world. It took awhile to get there though. Taking feedback on my own business is even tougher. In this area, it was something I wasn’t great at or hadn’t done enough work in so taking feedback should’ve been something I should be able to do. I’m no expert so it’s not a criticism of me and my abilities. Feedback in my areas of development is important to me and I always want to be growing. After I was able to prove the value later I felt better. I’d attached his expertise to areas that he didn’t necessarily have which made me realise that taking on feedback isn’t a take all scenario and as a founder it’s important for me to get as much feedback and choose what I do and don’t listen to. I think this being so unexpected effected me more then I thought.
  • I need to push myself to meet others more — I went to 2 networking events this week and I realize this is a very important aspect of my life. I plan to, when things are up and running, spend about 2–4 hours a day meeting people, clients, investors, other founders…etc. But I have been focusing on product, which I think makes some sense but I need to ramp up meeting others and telling people more about the idea and trying to gain my first leads in both the client & investor world.
  • I have the magpie issue —Which is to say I see something shiny and want to work on it. I have major issues in the core product and seem to get distracted by adding little areas here and there, and its especially an issue when I can’t test the new features because without the core solution there is no way to go forward. This is going to lead to working on parts which may not get done (and I may forget). Having said that it is important when you’re not feeling it to find other areas to work on (something I mentioned last week), but there is a time when you need to focus.

This weeks goals

Next weeks goals

  • Finish the core functionality (Priority One)
  • Create a splash page and deploy it online (replacing the current site that is up on MerlinOnboarding.com).
  • Start adding a payment system into the app (or at least planned how it will all work).

Have a great week everyone, keep hustling and again any comments/suggestions appreciated!

Charles Douglas-Osborn

Founder of MerlinOnboarding & StartupPilots