10 months without a job, here is what I have learned.
So about 10 months ago I decided to do something I have always wanted, quit my job and start my own business. And here I am 10 months later yet still trying to figure out a way to make it on my own.
However, I have learned many things and I would like to share those with you or anybody who wants to start their own business.
Starting a business is much more than just a brilliant idea and you do need a plan.
Because my background as a software engineer, I have always thought building a successful business is just to build an amazing App, launch it and prepare to receive millions in my bank account couple months later.
Now, I am pretty sure I was 100% wrong. One of the biggest problem I found was that I didn’t actually have a plan. Despite to the App idea I had, I had nothing else, no go to market strategy, no specific target market, not a clear customer pain point, no idea about my competitor and etc.
Thus, I don’t really know where to go after I built the App. At that point, I realized that an idea, despite how brilliant it is, may worth nothing without a solid and complete business plan. Sure, every plan will change and eventually may become a complete different plan after a while. But you will definitely need a solid one before you start your business.
You need to have one goal and stick to it.
“Stick to your goal.” It is much easier said than done. Everyone knows it would be rough at the beginning and things will get better if you stick to your goal.
However, as engineers we have been told to try things fast and fail faster. For instance, build an App and if you don’t have 100,000 users in the first three month then the App idea must be a failure, always explore different ideas and test them in the market with a MVP as soon as possible. I think as a software engineer, I would say these strategies are great and highly efficient when you are working in an established company. But when your start a business, too often you will not have the luxury to do these things because your budget and resource are highly limited, and you will run out of fuel very quickly after your second or third try.
As an example, my initial plan was to launch my receipt organizer App while taking consulting job on the side in order to earn some cash flow. And I have already got a major client that will bring me enough cash flow at this stage. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, it turns out my App was not much of a success after three months and my client has deferred their project so the contract was delayed as well! I saw this as the failure point of the plan and started to look for other opportunities. Then it was meeting after meeting, brain storming after brain storming and market research after market research. Another three months passed by and I still yet had to get anything done. When I look back, what I should have done is to stick to one single goal, either kept promoting my App or used it as a portfolio to attract more clients.
So, working with my business partner we have clearly identified ourselves as a software consulting company and our major goal is to build our client the software with industry best practice and quality. After sticking to this goal for about 5 months, things started moving much faster, now we have had multiple clients and more are on the way.
Solving problem is not enough.
I think this one is particular for engineers who starts their own business. Because as engineers, our passion is to try our best to solve all the problems in the world. However, it turns out with all the business problems in the world, not all of them are worth solving. If you cannot convince your customers the problem you are solving offers them value, then they will not use/buy it, it is that simple!
I know this does not apply to Steve Jobs and his amazing iPhone, but if you are not Steve Jobs, this applies to you.
So, before you start solving the next big problem or pitch your perfect solution to your client, ask yourself whether this provides my client with much value in anyway? List them all, and confirm these with your potential customers/clients. You want to really make sure you are solving the right problem for the right people. Remember, solve a problem may be hard, but finding the right problem is much harder.
There is no magic, everything is hard work.
Before starting my own business, I always thought there were some tricks and magic which you need to do the right thing, then your sales will go straight up. You can do all sort of things to optimize your strategy, but in the end, it is all about the secret sauce which not many people know about.
Well, I was wrong again. For the past 10 months, I have tried every possible way to find this secret sauce. I have read countless blog posts and articles about how one can market their company and sell their product. At the end, after taking a sales class in University of Toronto, the professor points out something very simple yet powerful, “there is no magic and everything is hard work”. I realized the magic I have been trying to figure out has always been there. All you need is to learn the correct way of marketing and sales, which you can find in almost every book about marketing and sales, then you need to keep doing them until you succeed. Sounds pretty boring, right? But that is it, that is the secret sauce in almost every successful product/business.
So, what’s next.
I have learnt so much and experienced so many first times in the past 10 months. And I believe there are more to come. I will keep posting to this blog to share my thoughts and experience with others who want to make it on their own. In addition, I am planning to post some programming related blog series.
So, stay tuned, subscribe and send me a message if you want to learn more about my company or just want to have a chat.