This is Post No. 3 in How to Start a Business Series.
Dreams are easy.
Starting something is not that easy.
Once you start – you need to persevere through ups and downs, stick to your plans and at times change plans when the time demands. This is the challenging part.
Starting is not easy – because when thinking about starting something new we think of the destination, the end goal. You goal may be running a billion dollar company. You also know in your subconscious that billion dollar companies are run by large teams – thousands of people across locations.
Chances are you are dreaming about your billion dollar company sitting in your bedroom, in your cubicle or if you are lucky then you may still be a student and thinking about running a company sitting in your classroom. You may be dreaming with no more resources than your knowledge and a credit card.
What scares us in such a situation is the fact that with these little resources – how will we realize our dreams.
This line of thinking is the problem. Sitting in your bedroom you need not think about billion dollars and huge resources. They resources were built with hundreds of millions – that were made while building a billion dollar business.
All billion dollar business were an idea is someone’s mind – somewhere in the world. That person was human like you – with no more resources – in most cases – than you.
From that idea, emerged a product and then first set of customers and then more customers. So ideas, products and customers – with time and efforts – turn into a business that became so big that people looked at it with awe – thinking how this person managed to do this. Then comes up the discussion of overnight success and how this person got lucky.
To be a success, you for sure do not need a million customers. You just need to find your first 2, 5 or 10 customers. If you keep at it – soon you will be making a good living with your business. Dreams come true – even when you start with a small base and small target number. Your dreams may also come true like Joel Gascoigne, founder of Buffer.
If you have really big dreams – then eventually you will need tens of thousand of paying customers – or a million users. Chances are your billion dollar dream will not come true as fast as it did for Instagram. But that should not stop you from trying. Think about it . To be exciting enough target to be bought by Facebook for a billion dollar Instagram had 30 million (mobile) users in a segment that was and is important for Facebook’s future.
For Facebook itself – Mark Zuckerberg’s starting point was a simple page and a bit of code. At the core of Google there was a research paper that talked about a ranking algorithm. If you look around you will find big businesses, rich people who started really small. Almost everyone starts small.
Now you know.
So, sit back and relax. In your bedroom or a coffee shop or where you feel like. Think about things that you want to do. Bring a notebook and pen along – that’s what works for me (I am better without laptop or connectivity in such situations). Note down ideas, make lists. Pick one. See if there are people out there willing to pay for this idea. Once you identify people who are willing to pay, start working on it.
Work to a plan. Take daily action and move ahead. Dream is easy so dream. Dream big.
Break your project into small parts that you can manage. Decide on daily, weekly and monthly goals. Link these goals to one core metric. See that you are hitting it on a regular basis. Make sure that you are tracking actionable metrics and not the vanity metrics.
Be sure of Your Success
Make your starting point so small – that you are sure of success. Then move from small success to big success. When you do it you will move from credit card to your first sale and then your 10th sale and in months and years ahead you will have a million dollar business and you will be a million dollar woman.
Back to Starting Small.
You want to succeed. You want to make it big. It is cool. But many of your dreams are still dreams. Whatever be the reason, you have not been able to turn them to into reality.
The problem is not in your intent, it is right. You have all it takes to succeed. What is missing then? Chances are that daily action with some thought behind it missing.
Repeat with me. Daily action works. A little bit of planning helps. Starting small makes sense.
Here is why it makes sense.
Imagine you want to create a million dollar business. How do you do it?
How to create a million dollar business?
You are sitting and sipping a cup of tea or coffee – whatever you like, in your favorite cafe. An invisible lightning bolt strikes your mind and you shout at top of your voice, “Eureka, Eureka.” People around are surprised and ask you what happened. You tell them it is about your new business idea. You go back home and are hardly able to sleep. You wait for the night to finish. You wake up in the middle of night and start writing a business plan for “Your Billion Dollar Business”. You do well and create a 10 page document with enough details for investors.
First thing in the morning, you call your mentor and share your amazing idea with her. She sets you up for a morning meeting with a famous investor. You go to investor’s office with your business plan and reach there 10 minutes early. You chit chat with the super hot employees walking around. Soon the meeting starts. You start your presentation and while you are still at slide no. 3 – the investor asks you to stop. Your heart skips a beat, you are nervous beyond thought. The investor asks you, “How much funding do you want?” You hesitate and say $2 million. Investors pulls out a cheque book and writes a cheque for $10 million and asks her assistant to take care of the details. Voila, barely 2 days have passed and you already have a multi-million dollar business on your hand. So good – you can’t believe it.
Time for reality check. This only happens in movies. It may be a bit hyperbolic. But people dreaming big – dream a milder version of this. They think that with an idea in stealth mode for a while, in 4-5 months or a year tops, they will be BIG.
Now see how it pans out in real life.
You think of ideas. If you are experienced and if you know about the concept a bit then you validate your idea. You try to build a prototype and actually ask people to buy, who you surveyed during validation period. Now you have a business which you will need to nurture for months and years in many cases – with ideas, investment, daily action – before you create your million dollar business.
Keep the basics in place
Do not use starting small as an excuse to not do the work. Set ambitious goals and do the work. Make a plan to get to $1 million in first 18 months of business. For a first time entrepreneur it is a fairly ambitious goal. So have ambitions but focus first on making your first sale.
Focus on making $100 in first month or first week. Give yourself a goal that you think you can achieve. Make it as small as $10 in first month. Start there. Stretching yourself to reach for the moon and skies can wait.
The key is to – undersell yourself on your potential and then hopefully surprise yourself. If you think you can make 100 dollars in first month in addition to your job, give yourself a target to achieve 50. If you make 70 give yourself an ice cream treat.
Do not be lazy and do not stop after you start. Keep at it. If you can’t help being lazy – if you are like me 😉 – then you can give in to laziness once in awhile – but do not let a long bout of laziness of doing nothing take your dreams away from you.
Make your first 50 dollars. Then let 50 dollars become your new normal. Then make 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 50000, 10000 – and let each one of these numbers become a new normal for you.
If you see resistance hitting you like a log as soon as you start thinking about starting something new – then a long break away from work may help. Make such a break count – with no work and connectivity. You will come back refreshed and do a lot of more than usual.
Starting small and finishing what you start – will do wonders for your confidence and mindset. Problem for most people is not starting small, it is not starting at all – and for those who start – the problem is staying small.
Wish the success you deserve be yours.
Action for the day: Think about what you want your venture to be about. Decide on a goal that you want to achieve in a year. Figure to achieve your 1 year plan, what will you need to get to in 9, 6 and 3 months. Now think about what you need to do in order to achieve your goal for 1st month. Start there. If you are not sure what goal to choose. Start with a money/revenue related. Aim to make a specific time period (say 1 year) and then break that into monthly target. Start with first month’s target in mind.