Idea, Execution, Hustle

This is an excerpt from my book, The 7 Day Startup. It will be free when it comes out in a few weeks. You can join the list here.

“Things may come to those who wait … but only the things left by those who hustle.” Anonymous

There is so much business advice out there that it’s hard to cut through what’s needed, to get a startup going. Consider the following popular maxims:

  • Work on your business not in your business — impossible and impractical when you are bootstrapping a new idea.
  • Ideas don’t matter, only execution matters — well intentioned but untrue.
  • Optimize your funnel — pointless when you have no leads.
  • Hack your growth — difficult before you have customers.

The goal for anyone with a startup idea is to get from being a wantrepreneur, to an entrepreneur. That is, go from someone who has an idea, to someone who has a startup.

I chat with wantrepreneurs about their ideas all the time. Almost every time they are failing at one of the following three things, almost in equal measure. On the flip side, startup success stories have excelled at all of them.

I can’t think of a single entrepreneur that I’ve met, who does all of these things well. This is part of the reason why the vast majority of successful startups are teams not individuals. Be honest with yourself and if you can’t do all of these things, it’s time to find a co-founder.

Idea

A popular maxim in entrepreneurial circles is, “Ideas don’t matter, only execution matters.”

That advice is well intentioned, but wrong.

Just take a look at the trending startups on Angel List, the companies getting funded through Crunchbase or think about your successful entrepreneurial friends. They are all working on something that has some sort of unique quality to it. It might not be the next iPhone, but it is an idea that has successfully captured enough people’s attention to take off.

The idea is important. But it’s not everything.

It’s only one part of three elements required to successfully get a startup off the ground. And it’s where wantrepreneurs spend 100% of their time. They can talk till they are blue in the face about their idea, but when it comes to the other elements they fall flat.

Execution

Once you have an idea that has some merit, it needs to be executed well. For a new startup, the goal is to get something to market quickly. However that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s an ongoing process to continually execute your idea well.

Execution is your ability to present your idea as well as the best in the world.

You won’t be able to execute your idea inside 7 days to a level that compares to the best in the world. But that should be the goal in the medium term.

There’s no use complaining about being self funded and not having resources. Customers don’t care. They just make comparisons and make a choice. If you don’t execute as well as the competition, they will chose the competition.

Execution is a really big problem outside the big startup hubs. It’s very misunderstood and simply getting a brand and a website to look and feel like an exciting startup, is difficult.

I see so many local businesses that share 90% of the qualities of huge funded overseas startups. But they don’t share the ability to present something at the same level.

If you aren’t able to present your idea in a way that compares favourably with the best in the world, then look for a co-founder who can.

Hustle

The final element is hustle. I’m not necessarily talking about cold calling, or ‘getting out of the building”.

Hustle is relentlessly pursuing what needs to be done at the time.

Hustle is Marco Zappacosta from Thumbtack getting a “No” from 42 out of 44 VCs.

Hustle is Seth Godin getting 900 rejection letters in a row.

Hustle is Chris Sacca creating a company, a website and business cards just to be taken seriously at networking events.

Hustle for an early stage startup is generally about spending your time on the things that are most likely to bring you customers. That could mean “Getting out of the building” but for you, and your skillset, and your customers and your business, it might mean something totally different.

I built my business off the back of content marketing. I wrote 250 posts in the first year including 13 in one day. Our content is now a lead generation machine for my startup WP Curve, to the point where we don’t advertise at all.

For you it could be networking. It could be calling people and asking them to pay. It could be working on relationships. Whatever it is, it has to be the best way for you to spend your time right now, to solve your biggest problem right now.

If you don’t yet have a business, you need to launch and you need to do it fast. You have to not do the other stuff that you are naturally drawn to, and relentless pursue launching.

Once you launch, you need to get more people paying you. You have to relentless pursue your best method of getting customers.

Anti-hustle is what wantrepreneurs do. They do everything other than what needs to be done. They keep coding. They design new features. They optimize their site. They think up new world-changing ideas. They hang out at startup events discussing their idea. They go to startup weekend and launch a new idea. They do everything other than what they need to do — which more often than not is getting more customers.

Some people are not good at hustle, they just aren’t good at:

(a) filtering the noise and working out what their biggest problem is right now,
(b) figuring out the work that needs to be done to most efficiently solve that problem,
(c) relentlessly getting shit done.

Be honest with yourself. If that’s you, then find a co-founder who is good at it. Because you will need it if you want to have a successful startup.

Here is a list of some more content I’ve put out about The 7 Day Startup.