Let’s play a game. Assume all you have is a computer and a cell phone. OK, it’s not much of a game. Everyone has these today. They are commodities. Consumers and business people have them.
On with the game analogy. Let’s assume you have something that everyone has to some degree as well – passion. Let me put it another way – the desire to win. Why is this needed? Because building something means that there will be adversity to your goal. You won’t be able to do it as a straight line path without failure. Show me someone that has, and I’ll treat you to a nice steak dinner.
Learning Not To Quit
Business books are filled with the success stories of people who had passion, the desire to win. They are stories of perseverance and opportunity.
There are always obstacles to getting what you want. If you cannot keep going after getting knocked down, then building something will be elusive, if not altogether impossible. Look in the mirror and start pushing yourself to develop new habits of intolerance towards quitting. If you have been used to quitting, then you are going to have to learn a new script. You are going to have to learn what winning is about.
I am assuming you have some passion and know what winning is about. You may have learned it playing sports in high school or college. You may have had an upbringing in it. Then you can play the game I am proposing.
If you lack passion, then the game is not for you. One of the three legs of the stool won’t stand and it will fall. Plenty of people have a laptop and a cell phone. They aren’t making money with them, however. They are toys, not assets for building something. Too bad. Many lost opportunities abound, unfortunately.
If you just give me a person with passion, then the other two tools, are inconsequential. They can figure out how to get a computer and a cell phone. They can play the game.
Thinking About Building
So here you are with your three assets. What can you build? It’s not a world of bricks and mortar. It’s a world of bits and data. Having a constraint helps you focus. Shakespeare had iambic pentameter. The Japanese love Haikus. Twitter allows 140 characters. Constraints focus our otherwise random, scattered outputs.
How do you build something with just your passion, a computer and a cell phone. Well, first and foremost, it will be a system of some sort. Here are the types of systems which would be eligible:
- Software system. This is a project requiring a tool which solves a problem. You will need strong project management skills to drive the requirements, delivery and budget of this project. Keep it flexible because it will change when users start to use it.
- Marketing system. If you have special knowledge of a market, then this may be a great system to build. It means building a hub where marketers are willing to pay you money for exposure to customers. You have to create something of value for customers and make the deals on the back end.
- Professional services system. You are in the problem solving business. You can bring ideas, strategies and execution. Making the pieces work means heavy leadership and project management skills. You have to get talent to help deliver on time and on budget.
- Content system. This is about creating and packaging content. This could be the catalyst for your marketing system. It could also stand on its own. Ultimately, you are selling books, e-books, workshops and subscriptions.
- Distribution system. With this system, you have users that can buy and sell using your system. Amazon, Ebay and Craigslist are distribution systems. You get a piece of the transaction.
I have built each of these types of systems. They all have their challenges. Here are some things to consider for what kind of system you want to build:
- Time to market. How long before you can get your first customer? Is it a year’s worth of work first? What if you miss?
- Your leadership. Can you push to get what you want and influence when objections arise? If you have a hard time making deals and working with people, then a software or professional services system may have more failure than for the person who leads naturally.
- How many players can coexist? Creating a second Ebay does not matter. Nor does having another Gmail system. They are the leaders. Users or customers are entrenched with their data and accounts. If you are not the leader, then you are not in the game. For certain categories, be the leader or don’t waste your time.
- How many potential buyers? Define the number of potential customers. Niche markets only have a defined number of potential people that can say, “Yes”.
- Is it a large transaction? If you win a customer, is it a lot of money per deal or a little?
- Is there a high frequency of transactions? In a given month, would there be 10, 100 or a million transactions?
Certain systems lend themselves to certain advantages and disadvantages. Ideally, you can build something that allows you to launch quickly and learn as you go. You have a large potential market with the opportunity for a high number of transactions repeatedly with many potential customers. Either you are the winner, or there is plenty of room for niche players. Be sure to think it through clearly.
Assuming you have a market opportunity identified where you can either be the leader or one of many successful players servicing a lot of customers, then it’s time to choose your systems. I would advise on using cloud computing technology to build your systems. Here are the reasons why:
- Cash flow. Instead of building something or buying something for cash, you can preserve cash with a monthly subscription. This frees you to try things and take them down if they are not an ideal fit. Cash flow is critical to your microbusiness. Don’t drain it in systems.
- Customization. The old days of building software were costly and filled with frustrations. You had to be perfect in your requirements. Change was expensive: Tell a software developer what you wanted, they coded it and it came back for testing. You could have systemic issues if the requirements lacked forethought in design. Cloud computing is typically built on platforms that can be customized and adapted to do your jobs.
- Scalability. As you build your business, you may need talent along the way to help you for temporary or permanent roles. Adding users is easy, and they can access your system from anywhere in the world. This will be key to growing your business.
- No IT. You don’t want to be in the IT business, unless that is your business. Be in the money-making business. Tinkering with the plumbing of a client-server architecture or some proprietary homemade systems burns a lot of cycles that should be spent on getting customers.
- Accessibility. You should be able to work from anywhere, anytime. You may be on vacation, and you get a call from a customer. Walk up to the hotel’s lobby computer and open up your systems to resolve the issue and check on how your business is running.
- Integration. For specialized requirements, most cloud technologies have an Application Programming Interface or API. This allows a developer to create scripts to drive the logic of your system as well as let other systems talk to your host system. So if you want your website to push information into your CRM system, then using the API can automate the process.
We have not built anything yet. You need maximum flexibility to try things as the market helps you to mold how your systems will work. Steve Blank said, “No plan survives first contact with customers.” Anticipate you will need to change things. Your customers will tell you how your systems should be designed. What you need right now is a starting place.
We can go into a lengthy discussion on what cloud technologies to implement. You can go to my site, dondalrymple.com, and post a question to get some direction. This book is not focused on those specifics. Just know that you want to anticipate change.