Don’t over-think it. Just do it.
Why everything you know about starting a business is wrong
Some people talk, other people do. I’ve always been a do-er, which is why I suck at interviews and decided to go the entrepreneurial route.
I did everything everyone told me you should do to get a business off the ground. Draw up a business plan. Get a website. Register a company. Network. Do facebook marketing and invest in google adwords and PPC campaigns and increase the number of followers.
Yet, each step of they way instead of feeling closer to success, I felt that I’m going two steps back.
Looking back, I can see why but it wasn’t so obvious while I was going through the motions. I didn’t realize that what makes a great website — both according to google’s search engine optimization algorithm and users, was not the promise of what you can do, but evidence of what you’ve actually done.
It’s not the promise of what you can do, but evidence of what you’ve actually done.
I noticed that it’s easy to get followers on social media, but the majority was marketers like myself trying to increase their own following and not really interested in what I had to say. I found that it was better to have 50 (or 5) genuinely interested followers than 1, 000 followers who only cared about the numbers.
I didn’t know how to build traction to get an investor’s attention without an investment. It seemed like a chicken-and-egg problem. I needed money to build traction but the investors wanted traction before they would give me money.
So after making all these mistakes and more, I decided to screw everything and do it my way. Within 2 weeks I landed 3 paying customers and repeat orders after delivery. No website. No registered business. No nothing.
So what was different? Why suddenly did my business work whereas previously I did everything by the book yet kept failing?
Three little words. “Just do it”.
Nike’s famous tag line not only once inspired me to buy a pair of runners, but resonates deeply with me and evokes an emotional response that summarizes my mantra for what I believe business is all about.
In essence, business is about action. It’s about doing. It’s about results.
“Implementation is everything.” — Geoff Whitlock on Twitter after successful launch of his second startup.
So if you’re looking to do rather than talk, here are my 5 rules to get your startup off the ground.
Rule #1. Love it.
Most days I have at least 3 brilliant ideas before breakfast. None of these have resulted in a sustainable business (yet). I have found that the best ideas mean little if they don’t sell. Bad or boring ideas implemented well, however, results in profitable businesses around the globe.
Knowing where to start was probably the biggest obstacle in getting me started. If it wasn’t the sheer volume of ideas, it was the big-ness of my ideas that kept me back.
Until I decided to get a hobby that is. The key to any successful business is that you have to love what you do. So start with something that you do even when no-one pays you. The secret is to start. Anywhere really. Just start. And love it.
Love it so much that you won’t stop until you’re proud.
Rule #2. Give it.
In the sales process, the first step is awareness, and traditionally this happens at networking events where people talk. Mostly about themselves and their egotistical needs.
Actions, however, speak louder than words. An alternative to networking, and a much better one to increase awareness and build relationships, is to work for free.
Any investor will tell you that you need traction before they will fund your idea. By volunteering you gather valuable feedback, build a network and build a portfolio.
Choose strategically and decide how much you are willing to do and what you’re not willing to do. For me, I am willing to work 20% for free and only for companies or causes aligned with my personal vision. I’m not willing to be on call 24 / 7 and I’m not willing to be exploited or give all the credit away. If both parties don’t feel like they are winning, I don’t do it.
Give before you receive.
Rule #3. Sell it.
Screw google ad words, SEO and facebook marketing. There’s simply too much noise out there and the market it too vast to get results. This strategy might have worked in the past but google’s search algorithm for SEO has changed so significantly that even google themselves don’t know exactly how it’s optimized as it is run by artifical intelligence. On top of that, many users avoid ads with ad-blockers becoming increasing more popular. Facebook marketing is no better with even your closest friends not guaranteed to see your posts.
What social media marketing is good for is raising awareness, but in order to sell it, you need to go local. Place ads in local newspapers & magazines (even if you’re planning to go international), hand out flyers and find out where the locals go to when they look for something.
Fail fast, but keep going.
In the early stages focus on getting the product and pricing right.
Rule #4. Grow sustainably.
Expectation is everything. Under promise and over deliver.
Never grow with more than 100% in one go. Whether it is the number of customers, the price, the services offered, the time spent. Baby steps. Don’t run before you can’t walk. Most startups and small businesses fail because they scale too fast.
Change offer. Get paying customer. Gather feedback. Repeat.
Rule #5. Foster relationships.
Treat your customers like people, not numbers. Break the rules and give freebies from time to time. If there’s a genuine urgent order prioritize it and work a little overtime.
The two most important requirements for customer satisfaction, is firstly managing expectations,and secondly fast response-times. Respond immediately. Don’t make your customers wait. Ever. There’s nothing that makes you feel more insignificant than not getting a response.
Make your customers feel special.
In the age of the human, money follows passion. If you want a successful and sustainable business, do what you love, nurture it like a baby and make your customers feel special, as if they matter.