Most things don’t work out. And that is the raw reality of business and entrepreneurship. All those people who were excited and did not call you back are just part of the flow of dealmaking. All those promising projects that did not materialize or play out could have been affected by factors outside your control.
Dealing with human beings is tricky business. I am sure when you look back at the past year, there are some heartaches and disappointments.
However, I keep in mind what Mark Cuban has said, which is both encouraging and realistic about business opportunities, “You only have to be right once.” The asymmetry of effort and results works both ways. While most things don’t work out, the reward of being right on a great deal can more than pay off.
Also, this is why persevering with more attempts is a great strategy to tilt the law of averages in your favor.
As the year closes, I hope you think about being right once. What does that look like?
What if you can sharpen the focus and get rid of the noise in the work you are putting out or the projects you are choosing to take on?
Maybe you have to change the game you are playing and the players you are interacting with. This could open up new kinds of opportunities and conversations.
Persevere and get smarter at the game you are choosing. Or change it altogether. If you have been trying something for a while, you can likely guess what will happen if you simply keep working harder. If your thinking can’t provide conviction that you will be right with a big reward, reevaluate. You’re looking for that lopsided reward for the effort.
When your business is you, operating it is a cinch. How you do things is simply in your head. You can develop and rely on your habits to get customers and deliver your service. Make calls with your friendly approach, send a proposal the way you are used to, and work the projects with your communications and updates based on what you have seen personally work over the years. It can work well without much need for upgrade.
When you have more people in the mix, the network effect takes place. Complexity comes at an exponential rate. If you have five people, the complexity is not simply 5x; it’s 25x. Everyone has to communicate with each other and be on the same page.
This is part of the reason many businesses fail when they try to grow. Running a business in your head because you know the care, technicalities and craftsmanship does not require any sharing or transfer of knowledge.
Start adding people, even one, and now you have to work hard at being on the same page to get quality and efficiency for your customers.
This is why a knowledge base is so important to build. It’s the place to run your business from with other people. You get the philosophy of why you do things, the way you execute and the step-by-step approach for delivering internal and external outputs in writing for everyone to align with. It’s how you get your business out of your head and into a system.
It takes work. But it forces clarity. When someone can’t follow your steps, then you have an unclear handoff in instruction. Thus, it’s a convergence point to clarify how the business operates.
I like to see what people have been doing their job for a while write down and share. When you put it down in writing, you can see how they think. Clear writing reveals clear thinking. And, if we are always talking or working alone, there’s little to no way to judge if the process really scales.
When you have to explain what you do and ensure others can follow the instructions, you are creating a system.
And as E-Myth is popular for sharing, “Systems run businesses and people run systems.”
You can’t take the knowledge out of your business. The many processes and jobs that exist are because of the knowledge mix that has been tried, tested and proven.
But, if you simply have a bunch of silos working without knowledge sharing, then you can’t grow effectively.
What would happen if you start writing down how you do things?
I heard from a friend that their big corporation just laid off hundreds of people. It could be from mismanagement, market downturns or simply another industrial age company ending their cash cow ride.
It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. If people don’t want what you offer, then your business is going to simply go away. Businesses exist to meet demand. No demand, no business.
But, new businesses can also emerge simply from new demand. That’s great news for entrepreneurs that can notice what people want. And, for those that already have a security blanket – a job or a business – it’s easier than ever to start a new business with low risk.
There’s no such thing as no risk. You can only lower it in the face of competition, uncertainty, complexity and market dynamics. And it’s critical to manage risk when it comes to new ideas and ventures.
It’s far easier to meet demand than create demand.
I have been in businesses that are innovative and the proof of concept, go-to-market strategy and target customer all have to be identified. This approach takes a lot of commitment to discovery and gathering feedback. You have to see what sticks and makes sense to a person you are in conversation with.
If you simply identify and meet existing demand, you spend little time in R&D trying to figure out what people want. People already buy services like accounting, HVAC, furniture moving and marketing. You are helping people with what they are already wanting. Helping people is the focal point and doing it pleasantly, consistently and with excellence is enough to drive revenues.
If you have a new service, then see if you can tell the story in terms of what is known. If you have to spend a lot of time educating people, it can be expensive and frustrating. We buy things we know.
Perhaps your invention does a better job cleaning a room than vacuums and disinfectants. You can spend a lot of time educating people on why your invention is innovative or you can open up a cleaning service and sell monthly service plans.
The idea is to look for existing markets that your use case markedly performs better with. Maybe make your are offering a tool to use within the business rather than a product everyone has to understand.
Convincing people they need something they have a hard time understanding can drain your bank account fast. Leave that to the infrequent world changer that comes along.
We have a ridiculously crowded market place. People are buying things all the time. Simply give them what they want.
At the end of the day, you either truly contribute and help people in specific ways, or are simply in the way, ignored and irrelevant. There’s so much content and information out there already. And with all that effort to create something new, it can be futile. I think it’s why a lot of people start activities like content marketing and eventually quit.
In my opinion, it’s better to be generous, specific, and real. It’s about caring and truly helping people solve the problems they are seeking solutions to. See if you can be valuable and share what solves real problems with real people. It’s a strategic way of standing out and making your content count. The resource should help you with a process to make your content matter.
When you are small, you can run and grow your business in your head. In the early days, it’s hard to think that you play many different roles because you do different jobs yourself. You can be the salesperson, accountant, marketer, product development manager, HR administrator and many other roles without calling these out as you move from task to task.
But, when your demand grows, you can’t do it all. You need more people to help grow the business and make your customers happy.
If you are under $1M, most of your effort should be on selling. If you are past $1M, you have to make the business work. Either way, your business is about knowledge. How things get done to create a customer and deliver your product or service consistently becomes harder when you scale up.
A knowledge base is a place that organizes the knowledge that’s in your head. It helps everyone on your team understand how to do their job clearly and interact with other people doing their respective jobs.
Furthermore, a knowledge base has the following benefits to growing a business:
1. Facilitates Onboarding and Training
It is a systematic way to help a new person get started and be productive in their hired job. It also provides professionalism, job satisfaction and clarity for new employees that could otherwise be disoriented, overwhelmed and frustrated in a new role.
2. Makes Information Sharing Efficient:
A place that is structured and searchable makes it easy for your team members to get what they need, when they need it. If you have to keep answering the same question many times, rather than allowing people to find answers for themselves, you are the bottleneck in your business. It’s not a great use of time. Document it once and let it be consumed many times.
3. Increases the Value of Your Business
If you want to sell your business, what will you sell? Having systems that are clear and a methodology for growing easily and rapidly is extreme value to a buyer who wants to know how to operate the business. If you don’t have a knowledge base, then the information required to execute consistently is in your head. You can’t step out. You are the business.
4. Forces Clarity
How you do things now may change later. Having a system that is continually living and updated helps everyone stay clear for their own job. And information that is documented and does not make sense in context of your business goals or handoffs to other jobs can be debated, clarified and updated. You can push on refining your methodology as new realities emerge during business growth.
5. Helps You Lead
A large complaint of employees is that they see dysfunction from management or ineptitude. You can lead with clarity and conviction when your team sees commitment to systems, process and order. Furthermore, you can open up ideas and ways of doing things through continuous improvement to a knowledge base that should welcome better ideas and ways of executing from the people doing the work. Your leadership can center around knowledge rather than charisma. It takes the pressure off you and focuses it on business systems, where it should be.
Growing Your Business
The more people you get involved the more complexity you have to manage in your business. Clarity becomes a bottleneck to growing your business because you have to take time to explain, manage and oversee how things get done.
Furthermore, the jobs that have to get done are continually changing. You want the best ideas and approaches available and clear for everyone in a system that is repeatable and continually improving.
“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson
The great thing about business is that you can test ideas quickly to see if what you think or want to do is valuable. Small tests done quickly to get feedback from customers will go a long way towards pursuing or developing an idea further.
Yes, make a plan. Then try it out quickly to see if it resonates and creates interest and engagement.
Most things we see today are needed and businesses exist to give people what are known established needs. Things such as:
There is historical demand among the millions of people out there consuming such products and services.
If you are innovating on a new type of product or extending a concept, think about how to test your idea quickly by proposing and putting it in front of real customers. You can find out quickly via feedback how to further develop your idea or abandon it altogether.
Yes, you could have done that after you have seen it done. We get that benefit today watching how people put together solutions by benchmarking what others do first.
The Egg of Columbus story where Columbus challenges his mocking critics to make an egg stand on its end highlights the perception of others’ success.
If you discover something and share it or bring a solution that was not readily apparent, it becomes common, likely underappreciated, knowledge.
I think humility all around helps a great deal. We benefit from seeing something done and using it in our work and life. Watch a Youtube video, research a topic or simply ask a neighbor how they did something. The insights can save you pain and time.
At the same time, you are contributing when you figure out and share your knowledge. Others can take a look at your creativity or determination and integrate it towards their pursuits.
Learning and sharing can save a great deal of cost when we are trying to do hard things. We should simply appreciate those that make the egg stand.
“It is more productive to convert an opportunity into results than to solve a problem – Which only restores the equilibrium of yesterday.” ~ Peter Drucker
I am a sucker for solving problems. And I have to take heed to the wisdom in this quote. Which one makes more impact? A new opportunity or an old problem?
If my goal is to contribute, be useful and make an impact, then making space in my life for opportunities to present themselves and be acted upon is the priority. Busywork, noise, outdated commitments – these have to be pruned out decisively. Otherwise, like weeds, they clutter the landscape and opportunity for new growth.
Creating value for others comes down to solving the right problems. And the right problems tend to be coupled with timeliness.
Perhaps you have a lot of balls in the air as well. Simply cutting out what doesn’t make sense creates space for the new.
Maybe you’re measuring success by how busy you are rather than how much free time you have. The latter can be an indicator of your capacity for taking on new opportunities.
I have found that there are plenty of opportunities that cross one’s path. But working on old problems allows no space for those to be recognized, entertained and acted upon.