“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 Busywork, noise, outdated commitments – these have to be pruned out decisively.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.
Social can make you feel like something is happening. But, it’s hard to find a lot of testimonials of a complete stranger doing business through a social post.
We don’t have 5 different Facebooks with equal power. We have one that dominates. It’s still to be seen if it persists or if the world flips from privacy issues or attention fatigue to sink the ship.
Automation can be alluring and you can bring in so much technology that noone buys into using it in your company. Whether you move the needle of ROI can become overlooked by technology and the perceived power it holds.
Anyone can make their world more complex. And most people do. What if you could take a step back and remove what you have built up in your life. See what matters and doesn’t matter? The guys at Yes Theory deleted social media for 30 days and the outcome was life changing.
Maybe you find out that you can consolidate platforms. Perhaps you see a lot more time returned to you so you can put it to things like creativity and strategy.
We tend to like to add things to our lives rather than subtract. As technology consolidates and some platforms die or limp along painfully, I think of it as natural evolution on a hyperspeed pace. Our collective groupthink helps to filter and see what matters and doesn’t matter – what adds value and what does not.
In our own work and lives, we should speed up our decision-making so we can enjoy the outcomes of what is better at the end of the long cycle of technology darwinism that eventually weighs itself into our lives. Whether we are strategic or intentional can make the difference on reaching our goals faster.
When we are buried in the details of our work, it’s hard to look around and see connections to worlds outside ourselves. We can be talking to the same people within our crowd, read the same blogs, and look at the world through a myopic lens.
Some of the big ideas of today such as taking software platforms, connectivity, mobile and cars can produce inventions like Lyft.
A company like Stripe took their expertise in coding and made connections into financial tech and banking. It was daunting, but rewarding as they brought their lateral thinking to the problem of making online payments easier.
If you straddle different worlds, know the culture and nuances of different segments, you can powerfully introduce solutions that connect the dots that might escape a specialist’s trained mind. Lateral thinking is value add in this increasingly complex and polarized world. There’s extreme efficiency and speed occurring on one end of the spectrum. On the other end, there’s high complexity which requires creative, consultative solutions.
Bringing outside, fresh perspectives can change the way a problem is solved. If you are a lateral thinker, you can open up the conversation to new possibilities.
You can notice and exercise a few approaches in your work and interactions:
Be sure to play in different worlds deeply rather than invest fully into one area of work day in and day out.
Meet new and interesting people that think about their fields intensely. Ask great questions and learn.
Keep great notes and think of how new perspectives create new solutions for your problems. Test them out and see what comes of trying different approaches. Then share them to help others.
If you can connect the dots you become valuable to others that are conventional in their practice. Your contribution increases.
Think about your domains you invest in. How can they merge or collide in a way to create even more value?
The world is getting more efficient on the whole. But, the creativity and lateral thinking opportunity is there to be applied to multiply those efficiencies.
The romantic idea of creating something innovative and new can get us sidetracked quickly in entrepreneurship. There are 28 million small businesses in the United States as of this writing. You are competing with all those businesses, minds and offerings. The likelihood of being original is difficult against such staggering numbers!
Think about how you buy. You likely buy the same groceries and try one here and there for kicks. You spend money at a lot of the same places – restaurants, gyms, haircuts, etc.
Heck, we largely have the same phones in our pockets. Could you invent a new phone the masses would buy?
Instead of seeking to be original, give people what they want. Be valuable. Be understood. Allow your message to be clear. Take what people want already and compete on being “cheap, fast or good.”
You can build on viability and find where the innovations are while actually working hard to meet known expectations and needs.
There is definitely a place for inventors and pioneers. We need dreamers and challengers. But, you want to be around and be relevant. And that takes empathizing, observing and being industrious. Meeting people’s needs and building the conditions for doing business together are no small feat.
Giving people what they want places you in the game. Being good at giving people what they want is hard enough. Trying to invent or find people to want what you offer can be a relentless slog. Perhaps you can innovate, dream and be original in an art form. Do your business by meeting needs and being valuable in business. If you must act on your originality and dreaming, build a non-profit, perform art or give away your ideas in a whole other context. That might be the better mix for underwriting your ambitions.
The temptation for businesses, especially after they have success, is to overreach. You have the choice of price, quality and service as your focal points in the marketplace. But you can only have two. We are tempted to be all three. But we live in a world of natural trade-offs.
Part of being in business is knowing what you are committed to and will deliver to your customers. You can go broke fast when you muddy the water with perfectionism.
If you are good and fast, but not cheap, then expect to turn away prospective customers that are not a match. It’s not a fit for what you are about. You can wait patiently for the people that will come your way that want what you are offering.
If you are in the business of being fast and cheap, keep that habit, message and approach day in and day out. There are plenty of people that are looking for your offering and can live without good. It’s good enough.
I know restaurant owners that own two types of restaurants. One is fast and cheap. They have a steady flow of traffic. It’s a volume game.
The other restaurant looks nothing like the first. It is fast and good.
They don’t comingle the two concepts. They are different businesses with different patrons.
Perhaps you want to get bigger after you see successes. How about focusing on leaning in further to your success and be better instead. Deeper focus and commitment to the two service items that make you who you are will go a long way towards growing your business.
What two are you? How can you get clearer and more committed?
Entrepreneurs are heroes in our society. They fail for the rest of us. ~ Nassim Taleb
Yes, entrepreneurs are indeed heroes. Ultimately, entrepreneurs are about initiative and responsibility for risk.
However, at a fundamental level, entrepreneurs are problem solvers. They own the difficult problems others are reluctant to carry. There are a sea of ambiguous problems that entrepreneurs solve:
Securing property deals
Managing difficult people
Upholding a reputation
When you decide to start or grow a business, the challenges will be endless. Your plans will meet adversity. People won’t play along. Things can get difficult quick.
Ultimately, your ability to solve problems is what creates progress in the midst of chaos.
Here’s what is important for the journey:
Lead yourself first. Establish health routines. Take care of your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self. Every day without skipping. You need to be dialed in and ready for problems with creativity and stamina.
Always be growing. You need a varied amount of skills that are largely dynamic, perhaps non-descript. Learn to be adept with people. Take care of details. Manage sales and projects.
Be a master recruiter. A bad hire will send your business completely sideways. Hire slowly and fire quickly. Don’t rationalize.
Always be clear. Your clarity matters more than everyone else’s. It also keeps you going towards a goal with perseverance and energy. This is a continuous process.
Create systems. Systems keep your output consistent. They are not flippant or inconsistent. You need people systems, sales systems, personal systems and financial systems.
In the end, an entrepreneur knows they are in the business of problem solving. If you’re not welcoming or anticipating problems, then you won’t make it as an entrepreneur.
It’s a heroic, and many times, thankless journey. But the rewards are immense.
If you want to grow your business, you have to have good people to delegate functional work to. Otherwise, you become the bottleneck and risk making customers unhappy.
Many years ago, I remember learning the lesson of delegation early while working an engineering project. I had a designer working on new revisions for drawings of a machine assembly I was engineering. We talked about what changes needed to be made. I repeated and reviewed the specific changes with him.
Well, I thought by talking through those modifications that professionals get their job done because that is inherent. I had not learned to trust, but verify.
A few weeks later, after we went to prototype and fabricate of the parts, the assembly did not fit together. I was perplexed. I frantically measured all the components and to my dismay, I found that we produced parts from old drawings. There was a mix-up in what was communicated to the toolmaker.
I thought the designer had handled the updates, but that was an assumption. It was a very expensive retooling because the revisions were not communicated to our manufacturing partner.
We had many other revisions that were managed fine previously. This happened to be one of those that did not get communicated, though the work was done.
My business education benefitted though the project budget ballooned from my mistake. I learned a very hard lesson to trust, but verify. When you have teams or disinterested parties, the risk is high for a bad handoff or miscommunication.
Trust, but verify is risk management. We need it because, despite good intentions, humans are fallible. We are terrible at executing consistently. When there’s a handoff, I like to:
Explain what I need
Have the person let me know they understand by explaining back
Documenting it with an email
Reviewing if we met the spec/requirements of the handoff
Provide praise and gratitude for a job well done
I think that last point of gratitude is important because it makes working together easier the next time based on trust. Also, I like letting people know what they did well. We all need encouragement and honesty as feedback.
You may have heard the phrase, “Trust, but verify.” Usually, people learn this lesson from pain. Hopefully, you can create your own approach that consistently makes handoffs and delegations a core, robust way you grow your business through delegation.