A journey in the startup world [step by step guide]
This article represents my view on the meaning of a business and a step by step guide to get things done, focused on those who are pondering if to start something, why to start it or what business to start.
Step 1 — I had an experience that changed me.
At first, it was an idea that I accidentally ran into. I liked it and tried to do it. It worked partially, but honestly mostly did not work, however liking something is a powerful feeling that continuously motivates you further. That something had a profound impact on me and my mind started connecting the dots, mainly scattered past experiences. Due to this new perspective, those experiences could have a different meaning, and they do have a different meaning for me, now.
This thing I found can change the way the world understands my business, experiences my business and above all, it helps people understand me — yes, me, a misfit, a social awkward and self marginalised individual, who is always in the pursuit of odd counter social current. In this way, people who do not know me, but are alike could see me, understand me, come and talk to me, do business with me.
People that know me and wonder what I do all day could see more of how, why and what I do.
This is huge.
It is huge for me at least, and is all that matters at this point. It fascinates me. I can not stop my mind thinking about it, feeling it. I want to start working on a prototype of my own. What is patience? What is weekend? What is Christmas? This is huge for me - leave me alone and start working. Why are you, guys, wasting your time & life on things that will be forgotten in 1–2–3 days, weeks from now?
This is step 1: when you have this feeling and this is not temporarily - it stays with you, it grows within you, it burns from the inside. Do not hunt this, do not mimic this: it is or it is not. It’s not something to be learned, or shaped. It is something to be experienced like love or pain.
Step 2 — I know that I want to share this with the world and recreate this experience for others, as it can make a difference in their lives.
Step 3 — How should I reproduce this experience?
This part is tricky as I understood there is one thing to go through something, even if repeatedly, and a whole different thing to structure, explain and make someone else understand it. Most of the times, there is no way to reproduce the exact way something happened so we find the next best thing. This depends on the skills we have: words, paint, music, coding, dancing, drawing, etc. usually there is a bit of more skills that each of us has and a crossroad of more is required to reproduce something.
This part of owning the necessary skills is mandatory. Some of them can be borrowed and I don’t need to develop nor possess them, but the borrowers should be predictable, otherwise I will end up with a huge pile of mess.
The crossroad of my skills is: systematisation of things (creating functional systems); motivating people (this particular one can be useful in so many directions, it’s like an umbrella skills or like a skill that gives me access to so many more), selling concepts. These 3 give me the opportunity to find the right people with the right set of skills (coding, design, video & pic production, marketing, etc), create a working system, and get the cash required for the business to work.
At least theoretically 😃
Step 4 — Test it immediately
The longer I had to wait to do something and see people’s reaction, the more probable was to fade away. The simplest way to do it is to constantly have a feedback loop for each new idea & development stage.
Does it have for them the same effect as it did for me? Understand how they perceive it. If not, go back and work more.
There are 2 directions here:
I do the reproduction for me to live it again and again and others’ opinion and experience are not relevant = this is a hobby or one misunderstood genius 😃
I do it for others — others’ experience is relevant and through feedback and the skills I have I adapt the product to their level, so they can experience it and obtain the same effect as I did.
Step 5 – 10+ people experience it right
This sums up to my ability to reproduce that experience for others, and it means I have found the system which will reproduce for others every time the same end result.
Step 6 — Cash in
If 2 or 3 out of those 10+ people are willing to pay, this can have business potential, as the purpose of every business is to make money 😃
Step 7 — Profit or loss
If the price I can get for 1 product is bigger than my total cost of production then it means my product could make me a profit (I shall come back to the total cost latter). You’d need some very rough figures, not a business plan, but it’s essential to understand the cost structure: How much does it cost me to make the product and for how much can I sell it?
Step 8 — Let the money in
Start cashing money and do it as easy as possible for as little effort as possible. When people pay, they make decisions, have expectations and provide real feedback. At this point in time, you’ll need to get a grasp of your customer and respond to questions as: What is the type of person that values what I create, how often does (s)he want it, where and how do I find this type of person, etc. These are heavy time and energy consuming actions. Focusing on anything else in this step would mean you’re not doing this right.
Step 9 — My new world
After selling enough to be totally pissed off by so many problems and annoying customers, and a lot of other bullshit I could not foresee, I draw the line and took a decision.
Do I really want this to be my world with all that is included?
I like this and see myself doing it for a lot longer because even with all the bullshit the feeling of doing it is worth it.
This is a big decision as the entire environment I was surrounded by in the last few months is going to scale and become most of my world. This is going to radically change and shape every aspect of my life. It is not something I can go in and out and escape after 18:00, on the weekend or during a vacation. It literally becomes my world, and shapes my vision, my behaviour, my language, the way I dress, the way I eat, where I spend my time and with whom, what type of information my brain consumes 90% of the time.
So this is a crucial step: Do I really want this to be my world with all that is included? No one else will do the work for me. Surely there are people with different skills and personality types that will complete me, and there will be people to whom I can delegate things in order to focus on what is more productive for my blend of time & skills & energy — but this does not mean I will delegate what I do not like. What I engage in becomes my world and will shape my thoughts, my feelings, and will pour into my family and friends and will either pull them into that direction or pull me apart from them.
Step 10 — Long live the business
The decision is made, I want to go forward. In order to scale, I have to research and get my “homework” done.
Demographics — how many people similar to the ones that bought my product I can find and where are they statistically?
Economic — what are the particularities of the economy and how does that influence the buying decision of my product? What are the cycles of the economy and how does this affect the buying cycles of my product?
Cultural — how do people perceive my product in their culture?
Legal framework (political) — this is crucial as it can change rapidly (over night). The other 3 can also change, but not literally over night. The legal framework establishes the way I can conduct my business and what resources are required to be spent on things that have nothing to do with the product and with its customers. Legal framework is established in policies enforced by politicians so understanding the trends is important as everything could seem great and then a law passed over night can put me out of business.
Direct costs: resources, labour hours
Indirect costs: setting up, authorisation, legal stuff, pre sale and post sale services, advertising, etc
This means a basic business plan. Have no fear — you are wasting most of your time here with predictions that will never occur, but this is not the point. The point is to have a clear structure, as once you have the structure the variables will change, but you have knowledge of the big components of your system and what needs to be changed, and how.
Step 11 — Learning how to scale
Until now I’ve done all the products manually, with my input. I know my customers in person, I receive feedback, I do customer service pre sale and post sale, I am a one man show. To scale means that with my capabilities I reach a point where I can no longer physically serve more clients and produce more. Therefore, I find a system which allows me to serve more people with the same experience. The key point here is to maintain THE SAME EXPERIENCE as you scale. Most times scaling means diluting the experience of the customer as it is damn hard to replicate yourself through systems, algorithms etc.
This is the make it or brake it step.
This step is the mother fucker. It is even harder than the first, as I go through processes of explaining others what and how I do it, and it does not come out right. I can understand that it is not very clear even for my how I do it, but how do I clearly & simply explain it to another?
This part is difficult as hell. I started doubting myself and I still do every time I explain someone else as I always find a different angle or nuance I did not see before.
It’s hard to get people to care or to get to the point where I make others understand the greatness of my creation. And when no one understands or cares, depression is starting to catch me. I know I am good, I know my product, my vision, luckily I have a partner with whom I share these and this keeps me afloat. But the whole world? Or the small world I am trying to build around me?
I need people to scale it: the programmer, the marketing, the PR, the accountant, the this, the that..
As I am a stubborn ass I succeeded in converting 3–4 people. But this means even more shit. They do not know how to put this into practice. They need constant feeding of the vision, otherwise it fades for them and the Summer kicks in, concerts, holidays and so forth. In my ideal world, all these are out of the picture as I focus strictly on what I’m trying to build. But life is life 😃 All these matter and all these issues are now my issues. It sounds childish .. I wish someone would have prepared me for this. I thought I can spend time developing the product that I love and interact with the people that I like, to change their world for 1 sec or for a lifetime. No no no, I refuse to spend my time dealing with all this back and forth, but who will if not I?
It all comes down to me. Here are the moments I feel like quitting every day, luckily there are only 1–2 days when I pull away and the passion, the vision and all the factors that built up in time come back 10 fold and push me back in the game even more willing and eager.
This is the make it or brake it step. It is not heroic, it is not poetic. Either I fail miserably, either not and I have no clue what either not means. Theoretically it’s business, the good feeling of accomplishment and achieving something, but practically I have learned that life never is what I thought it would be. My inner map changes and what appears to be an achievement can be a total misery wrapped nicely that draws people like an exotic car with a beautiful woman driving. It makes me feel even more miserable.
To what end? Realistically, I have no clue. Why am I in this and why do I keep going? But it is not for the purpose, it is just the way I am.
Step 12 —Still alive
wow I have not killed myself, did not suffer any major strokes, diseases. Minor episodes, but nothing crippling. Customers pay money for a product that replicates the experience for them not by my doing, but through processes, systems that require other’s people input.
Am I proud? The whole universe is not enough, the infinite is not enough. Is it ego? Hell yes. wait there is something else there… money do not matter that much, social acknowledgment neither, something else: The only thing that remains is the feeling of doing a good job by my own terms.
Crawling into or out of bed and looking my loved one in her eyes, knowing I did not quit, I did something which makes me proud of me, this is what matters more than ego, people, companies, money, etc. This feeling of being psychologically and emotionally naked in front of her and being ok with how I reflect in her eyes.
Emotional shit ? 😃 Get used to it, because it is real life. It is a big part of what I do, and what everyone does. And as things get more intense, all fears and demons will also get more intense. Not from the outside, but my fears, my demons. The same energy that feeds the growth, feeds the malignant part in equal proportion. It grows from within. A therapist helps, a coach helps, sport helps, pills help, anything that can help should be in your reach.. anything.
Step 13 — Product market fit
I scaled through systems and the work of others while maintaining the experience consistent. I know it can be replicated without my input. This is the product market fit.
Step 14 —Who’s your god?
I even make some money 😃 but cash positive, still no. The numbers need to grow, the client base needs to expand and back to the business model (business plan done earlier) redo the variables, with the new numbers and now I have a different picture and a more real one. The structure is good and it will take me 200 clients to be cashflow positive and turn a buck for my effort and this would be possible if the government does not screw up and creates other taxes or if the economy does not hit a recession …
But at least I have a pattern, which is more predictable than nothing.
Can I reach 200 clients with the team and processes I have in place? If there is a God and a magic formula.
The god is the investor, the magic formula is called raising capital, and the incantation is the pitch.
Step 15 — to be continued